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Zen Again

Suddenly the Zen looked more staid than stylish and began to lose ground. This time round, it’s planning to make up for the shortcomings of the old version.

The Maruti Zen has been synonymous with value-for-money since 1993, especially for those middle-class Indian who aspired higher than the ubiquitous Maruti 800 but could not yet afford a sedan, costing upwards of Rs 5 lakh. Its USP was that it was significantly more powerful, good build quality, an AC that chilled, more space and a great resale value. And it worked like magic, right up till competitors Santro and Wagon R hit the roads.

Suddenly the Zen looked more staid than stylish and began to lose ground. By March this year pundits were penning its obituary. The industry was rife with speculation that this hatchback would be the first car from the MUL stable to be discontinued despite having sold 7.60 lakh models until March this year, including the export of 1.22 lakh units. No wonder MUL was unwilling to let go of the brand entirely. Voila, eight months on, the Zen is back in a new avtaar.

This time round, it’s planning to make up for the shortcomings of the old version. So understandably, the Estilo’s USP is style, but does it have enough substance too? Sure it comes with all the trapping of being “suitable for desi roads”—loud horn, extra ground clearance, stronger suspension, et al. But is it as much fun as the original? See for yourself.

The bottomline: The cheapest variant of the Estilo is cheaper than the earlier Zen but packs more punch—it offers 6% more mileage and its engine is marginally bigger. However, all these changes are more cosmetic than eyebrow raising. To be fair to the company, there is little room for manoeuvrability given that the Estilo is boxed between the Alto, Wagon R and Esteem. So they have gone all out for looks. And there is no denying that the Estilo is a very stylish car.