This one is not for the image conscious but for
those who have an extremely tight budget and need a car that can
squeeze in more than five people.
Few people are aware of this fact, but before the tall boy battles
began here in India between the Santro and the Wagon R, the humble
Maruti Omni was the second-largest selling car after the Maruti
Condemned now as a breadbox on wheels, the Omni is the cheapest
car that money can buy — yes, it’s marginally cheaper
(by Rs 2,000 to 5,000) than the 800 in the used car market. The
Omni or Maruti van, as it is more popularly known, shares its engine
with the 800. This means that the motor is reliable, frugal as well
as easy and inexpensive to repair.
If you are looking for frills, then look elsewhere — the Omni
is not for you. This is a basic vehicle; there’s no air con
or power steering and some earlier models didn’t even come
with radial tyres. There are two versions on sale — the five-seater
and the eight-seater, called the Omni E.
While buying one, take a close look at the condition of the door
panels. Pay special attention to the rear sliding doors, which have
a tendency to jam at the rear hinges. The suspension holds up well
to the 60,000km figure. The rear suspension has leaf springs and
this, coupled with the fact that the rear passengers sit on top
of the wheels, makes the rear seats a bouncy affair. Also check
the condition of tyres. Radials usually last for around 45,000km,
while cross plys have a life of around 30,000km. In case a car comes
with cross plys, make sure you change them to radials as the latter
go a long way in improving driving dynamics as well as ride quality.
Pre-2000 models came with a carburettor, but we advise you to opt
for one with a fuel-injected engine. Not only is this marginally
more frugal and powerful at the same
time, but also better in terms of driveability.
take a look at the engine bay under the front seats. If you encounter
telltale signs of a shunt, then walk away from the car. Remember,
there are plenty of Omnis in the market to choose from. Moreover,
a bent chassis will make the vehicle more dynamically unstable than
what it already is.
engine puts the driver in the hotseat, especially if
facility for six in the eight-seater version.
Also open the radiator cap to see if there is any rust floating
along with the coolant. If so, chances are that the radiator has
rusted and might need to be replaced. The optimal cooling of the
engine is even more important in the Omni than in other cars as
the engine is below the front seats. An overheating engine could
well mean sweating front passengers. So make sure to double-check.
If the floor pan inside is rusted, the amont you would spend on
repairs would negate the whole cost-effectiveness of buying an Omni.
Plastic quality inside the Omni is bare-basic. Keep in mind that
seat fabric is not amongst the best in the business either. However,
the electrics are as reliable as most other Marutis, and will cause
you no concern. Do check that the fuel gauge is showing the correct
amount of fuel in the tank — some cars have gauges that aren’t
entirely accurate and go up and down with the engine revs. So if
the fuel gauge goes up with a foot on the accelerator and dips again
when the engine is at idle, then it is faulty.
Remember that though the Omni might be a cheap buy, it’s not
a very safe vehicle to own — there is no bonnet/hood in front
to protect the passenger and driver in the event of a frontal collision.
The best place to hunt for a used Omni is at Maruti’s True
Value outlets, which offer a warranty and free service as part of
the deal. Keep in mind that while the Omni is priced close to the
Maruti 800 in the used market, it will lose depreciate faster than
its hatchback cousin.
For space and utility, the Omni comes at a price that is unbeatable.
What it might lack in design, class and on-road manners, it more
than makes up with its totally utilitarian nature — at a pinch,
it can double up as reliable transport for goods.
Sharing the 800’s engine as it does also means that living
with an Omni is a hassle-free and pocket-friendly experience.
those cross plys for radials.
Rear sliding doors ease ingress, but tend to jam easily
1 Carries upto eight and cheaper than an M800.
2 Opt for MPFI rather than older carburetted variant.
3 Floor pan rusted? Just walk away.
4 Leaf springs at the rear are great for load-lugging, not so
comfy for people.