My dad decided to follow the “western culture” and decided to buy a beater car for me.
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Owning multiple cars in a family is usually predominant in western culture. In india, even families with 4 or 5 members are satisfied with one sedan, or an suv. Owning two cars is highly impractical in today’s day and age, with the fuel prices going north of 100 bucks.
In such a scenario, my dad decided to follow the “western culture” and decided to buy a beater car for me. My dad’s Nissan Kicks is his queen and he rarely lets me behind the wheel. With lot of nagging and begging, my dad decided that it is best to let me beat the living hell out of a beater car, before earning the rights to drive his car.
The sweet irony here is that, the family consists of 3 people. I am the only person who has to go out everyday, with my dad polishing the chair. IT, wfh, you get the idea.
My run is generally 60 kms a week. With some short extra drives and whatnot. Its the same route, same destination, same time. AkA, College.
In short, this is the background. The thing that seemed unnecessary, churlish and expensive, turned out to be necessary, unchurlish and comparatively cheaper.
I actually wanted a nice bike. Like those FZ-X, Classic 350 or even Pulsar for that matter. Doctor ruled out riding bikes and my dad decided to look for a second hand car. After about half a year of searching (nonchalantly), i spied upon this spinny spinoff, Truebil. Long story short, I noticed this A-Star VXi in pristine condition for a price that was way under budget. At 1.8 lakhs and some change, i drove the 13 year old car home.
The car odo read 70k kms and for the day and age, it was very well maintained. I twisted the key and drove 20 kilometres, alone, for the first time ever. After that, i have never looked back.
This was roughly 6 months ago. The journey has been full of ups and downs. I picked up a pen (my laptop) many times to write a comprehensive review. Something or the other always kept interrupting.
I also had a lot of doubts as to where to park this thread. I cannot give a new car review. I cannot give a long term ownership review since ive had it only for ~6 months.
That is when it hit me. Can i not open a new thread, for beater cars alone? A review for second hand cars that are as old as mine. I recently read about an octavia that a fellow youngster like me managed to purchase. With the rising number of youngsters in this group and whatnot, i think this thread would fit in perfectly and one day, with enough content, i think this can become a sub forum by itself !!
And now, onto mine.
Mine is, as i said before, Maruti Suzuki A-star, VXi, non ABS version. It is a manual since i wanted some form of mechanical connection to the car and that it is the best form of driving (except for B2B traffic).
It has a 1 litre engine that spits out 66 and some change horses and is by no means the fastest on the road.
I got the sunlight copper that only gets better with age. One colour that MS nailed, is this sunlight copper. We previously owned a Swift with the same colour and i absolutely loved it.
The rest of the spec can be easily sourced and learnt with the aid of Google. This one is aimed at the long term reliability. You see, there are many reviews that say
“I dont know how it will hold up 10 years in the future”
Right now, it is 10 years in the future.
With that rampant rant, let us get into a detailed description/review/likes/dislikes/niggles/quirks etc of this car.
By now, everyone would be familiar with the K series of Maruti, with the increasingly boring engines today. But back then, the K10 series packed something of a punch. All forms of environment issues were put on back seat while these engines delivered raw torque. Of course, not your F1 torque, not even your S-cross 1.6 ddis torque. The type of torque that lets you push ahead of any modern day car, in a drag pull.
I am not joking. I am not fibbing. This one houses the K10B engine, that has an increased compression ratio of 11 to 1. Now, i dont know what that means. I do know that combined with the low weight of the car, acceleration and low end torque is something that is not to be missed.
All this is superficial. Does it hold up today? Yes. Even today, in the right gear, lower ones, pushing the A surges the car forward. Ive had cases where i decided to gap a Hybrid Brezza on a short stretch. The Brezza however, overtook me when the torque fun ended. This one is best for quick city drives and short bursts of power. In the highway, where the displacement matters, this one lacks.
I have not had a chance to go on long drives. The longest ones are reserved at 20km journey with 5 km of open roads, intermittently. I couldnt test the highway capability. But with the short experience i could fathom that the car gets to 90 pretty quickly, but has trouble going upwards or staying there. The car was settled, but you dont get the confidence you get from a newer car.
And oh, combined with the lack of ABS and Airbags, it is usually heart in the mouth situation.
The car has a lot of low end torque as i previously mentioned, yet, it refuses to pick up at times, without the aid of the A. This might be the age issue and the fact that it is 70k kms old. But it is what it is, for the price. However, this is very rare. Given the actual low end torque i have been able to pick the car up from ridiculously low speeds. You can practically crawl and move the car from a stand still in the second gear itself. The third gear also has enough surge to pull from as low as 20. The fourth gear is when the engine starts to run out of huff as the power in 4th and 5th is barely noticeable. I use the 5th gear in the city only if i have a long coasting situation. Acceleration is practically null in 5th gear. If you have to reach 90 or 100 without having to depend on the last gear, you will have to shift a little late and push the car a bit. I wouldnt say it is a sedate car. Its just that the car wont do anything to surprise you, unless you do something first.
Mileage has gone to waste. With my daily 10km of running, i manage to scrape 12 or 13 per litre. Given the major chunk of B2B traffic, it sometimes drops to 10. I must say however, it never goes below 10.
As far as the noise, vibration and harshness is concerned. Yes, Yes and Yes. Come what may, Noise will tear your ears. This engine is by no means refined. It vibrates like hell and growls like a bear. All this is on the inside. On the outside, i have been surprised by the lack of noise. I once let the car idle when i stepped out and heard nothing. And that was after a pretty hard run too. I mean, it seems the definition of comfort has been altered.
But then in between all this, i have begun to like the note. In the middle gears, the sound mimics that of a classic muscle, albeit weakly. It is kinda good, when you have the windows down.
Shifting is smooth. The gearbox is by no means slick. It is hard and sometimes it does not fall into place. Tying two logs together sometimes requires lesser force. The problem however is only with the 1st and Reverse. Otherwise it is smooth.
Hard, smooth? As in, the shifting part sometimes gets stuck in places and a little bit of effort is required to push it into the slot. But then, the gear rarely falls out of place. Rarely, the R falls out, giving that big grinding noise.
The brakes are, there. Nothing great, nothing bad. It does the work and that is it. I have found it a bit too hard at times. Surprisingly, the brakes hold up even today. I dont know if some sort of replacement or repair was done before my purchase, but the performance is good. Works well even in wet situations. The lack of ABS, although alarming, has never found a way to creep into a real incident. Even at high speeds (read as 45 or 50, very rarely 60, if i am in a jolly mood, 70), i have braked hard to a complete stop without the horrible screeching noise, which makes me question the model. It was pointed out that doing this is highly dangerous in a non ABS model, so i manually pump the brakes intermittently, if i am ever in a similar situation (which was only once after.)
Handling is not bad. The steering wheel is extremely light and going from my car to my dad’s feels like driving a truck. There is some understeer in tight curves at 40-50, but nothing that a little bit of engine braking will fail to manage. Didnt change the tyres, they do have tread, so i will change them once they wear out. As of now, they are grippy and only once i felt lack of grip. That is alright though.
You can very easily drive this car with one hand. And the size of the horn …plate? and the stalk orientation helps.
I would have loved it if the gear ratios are a bit more refined, coming from new cars. For example, the 2nd and 3rd gear are so overlapping that, it is next to impossible to correctly guess which one is the right gear for the scenario. Of course, there is a major power change, but 3rd also pulls from 20, 2nd also pulls from 20 without too much rattle. I am just a newb, maybe that is how it is supposed to work. It is often a question between too much power and too less power.
Something a bit more recent. In Chennai, there is a 40kmph restriction everywhere. The problem is, i have to upshift really early, to be able to coast in the 4th gear, at 40. Otherwise, 3rd gear has too much power/ high rpm, causing the car to start braking using the engine. It is a trouble and a half.
Speaking about engine braking, i rely quite a lot on engine braking if i am on big roads or roads with minimal traffic. I am not really sure if it is good for the engine. I wouldnt rate mine as excessive engine braking, but i would be lying if i said i use it minimally.
And did i mention, this car can launch out of a corner, if you can shift down before the corner at the right moment to get the rpm down enough. If it is right, the car just yeets itself out of the corner.
End of the day, this car can do both. Sedate driving if the day is mundane, fun driving if the music is fast. I dont know about this, but i heard a particular 1L turbo venue was giving mileage in single digits. Compared to that and other similar 1L turbo cars, i should say that it is a fair tradeoff for me.
Also there is no tachometer. So for the first few weeks i had to rely on the speeds and depend on engine behaviour to know when to shift. I would recommend this for new manual drivers. This has helped me drive any type of car, without having to rely on the dash. With 5 minutes of information gathering, i am able to shift at the right time without having to look down.
Well, the interior is drab. It is the dumbest combo of two tone ever. Atleast for me. Surprisingly, the garnishes show no signs of wear and tear or discolouration. Thats a win. The knobs for the Air Conditioner are physical dial types that you find even today in entry level MS cars. The hazard lights button is placed at the bottom. I should commend the ideas of the design team that thought of this completely inefficient placing.
There are no cup holders on the side of the front doors, which i deem to be a stupid decision. I always keep a water bottle with me, in case the car requires it and now, it is in the back seat. Kind of lame design choice. There are two cup holders in front of the gear box. That one is also completely useless. If you keep anything bigger than your local tea cup, it will block the gear shift and the inner cubicle. They could have removed it and kept something else there.
This is one thing that feels like “features on paper”. There is a hollow segment on the passenger side which is supposed to be a “mini dash” as such. Of course, yesterday’s nokia phones would have had a party in the amount of space available, but today’s samsungs would have to cram in and worry about falling. You could keep just about anything, but one tap of the Brake pedal and those things would experience what falling feels like. A small lip would have helped a ton.
Coming to the AC. It is busted. It was working when i bought it and then slowly, it lost force and then finally it gave out. I am looking to replace the condenser, based on a report given by the MAS service techie. When it was working, the cooling was efficient. On a warm day, level 2 chilled the cabin quickly. On a sunny day, the AC struggled. At level 4 it is just noise. Again, at the time of launch, weather was not as horrible.
Onto the seats. They also have this weird geometric dual tone cover. I am liking this dual tone concept as such in a mid variant car. Today, dual tone is something that is mostly reserved for higher variants. However, the choice of black and grey seems a bit dull. The seat is not very comfy, underthigh support is non existent and in the 6 months of ownership, i have never placed my rear end in the back seats. Based on passenger reports, it is not a jolly place to be in either. It does the job and nothing more. There is a bit of throwing around but it is not out of hand. Given the FWD and torque-ey engine, i would expect nothing less.
The seats are showing signs of age, nothing out of the ordinary. Once i get some time, i am thinking of replacing the cover, or installing those off market ventilated covers. I have no idea how it is going to ventilate a normal seat, but then, it is cheap and comes in a variety of colours.
The car has full power windows and this surprised me when i looked at the car for the first time. When my dad said he was getting me a car, i mentally prepared myself for the incessant cranking of windows. This was a sweet bonus. The right side rear window gets stuck at times however. Its usually me in the car. Occassionaly i drop a few of my friends. The rear seat is often unused, so yeah.
Central lock, works. I dont use it. Given the fact that the car is so old and the fact that there are no airbags, i dont want to waste precious seconds if (god forbid) something happens. I lock it if there are kids in the car. That is it.
If you read the reviews, you should recall that in many C2 cars, the sentence.
“The rear seat can host two healthy adults and a kid” appears frequently. In this one, remove the two healthy adults. The back row can host kids. Not even your adolescent freakbombs that grow up a foot everytime you blink. I am talking about the sweet sub 12 kids. Forget two healthy adults, even malnourished adults wont be able to fit in, given the very low knee room. Only the ones that are vertically cursed, may be able to fit in.
Boot. I have no idea how many Aquafinas (litres) it can hold. But then, for a small car the boot is alright. I rarely use the boot because i am the only one who uses the car. Even if there is another passenger, the rear seats act as boot and that is it. I am yet to load up the car but then for a small family, two or three suitcases and two travel bags should fill the boot.
This is not a usual segment when it comes to reviews. I am still learning how to drive and i thought, this would be a good segment to convey how well the car can manoeuvre around town.
Like i said, this is a tiny car. I have taken this car through the tiniest of roads. I have parked it in the most unimaginable places. All you need is 3.5m long space and 2 metres wide spot and you can just crawl in easily. This car also turns like a champ. Not the smallest, but i was hardly forced to do a 2 point u-turn.
This is the perfect car to learn to drive. It is not sporty and does not jump at every tap. You need to master the car to be able to do that. Parking is easy, so you dont have to question your life choices while trying to parallel park. (I was in and out in a second. Didnt have to shift between R and 1 multiple times)
Sometimes, due to its tiny size, bigger cars don’t care. But, this car has one of those huge trumpet like double horn, confusing people into thinking that this is a van of sorts. In the end, people move out of the way and the horn gets through the headphones of jaywalkers, so im happy.
Steering feel is something that i wanted to talk about. In recent cars, the steering feels a lot more detached from the car, than not. If you dont get what i mean, the new cars, their weight, the steering feel, steering weight and response are not mated to each other. It often feels a bit virtual, handling a newer car and i know this first hand because i drive one 2022 car and a 2013 car. The beater car, has good feel. It weighs up and down according to speed, you can feel a lot more of the road while driving, the steering feels a lot more connected to the car. Maybe this is because of the lack of insulation that is creating some sort of non cocoon effect, but it is what it is, and i prefer it.
For example, in my dad’s kicks, i find it very hard to judge how much the wheels have turned and what response i can expect, when i turn the steering wheel. I have to rely on how much the car moves. This is not a problematic situation, but in tight spots, it can be quite irritating. But, in my car and other older ones, i can feel the movement, when i turn the steering wheel. Almost as if, the wheel sends the signal back to the steering wheel.
I dont know if this makes sense, i really hope it does, though.
Onto the Lights. The ones that were once a good fit for the car, are not now a good fit for the society filled with eye blinding, tear inducing LED lights. This is particularly infuriating for me, with my astigmatism. One flash of light and i am largely blinded for a signinficant amount of time. Bigger cars like Thar, Bolero etc, have their headlights in line with my IRVM, so when they decide to tail me, i have to spend the time with eye pains, because of their powerful beams. Due to this particular reason, my dad decided to install the three coloured LEDs for his High beam. I am yet to install one in mine. All in all, those high powered LED’s should be banned. Or, tech like adaptive light by Volkswagen or Audi, should be mandated. It is almost like bullying someone into giving you space.
If you have these blinding lights. Atleast have the empathy to turn those abominations off, if there is a car coming towards you, in two way lane or tiny lane.
That said, VFM? yes. Considering the cost, fuel prices and everything. Yeah. I spend about 2000 a month on fuel, no major problems. Once, the synchromesh gearbox gave out. Turns out, a small bush was the reason for the whole thing. It was promptly changed, although i had to pay 2000 for it.
Attached below are:
The only addition in the car, glow in the dark knobs
The size of the car, compared to a two lane road. This road can host a bus and another car adjacent to each other.
Well, that was the short (long) review for this car. Read on, for some afterthought and rants.
After the review, i didnt know where to park this one. So penning it or typing it under this.
This car is actually very comfortably sorted for its age. And the practicality it offers is also i think, unmatched. I know there is espresso and that ignis, but then think of this.
I have driven the Alto and Celerio but then they dont offer the performance this does. I am not saying that this one offers neckbreaking performance, but then it is superior.
This is what i was contemplating. Maruti should renew this model. Take this Engine, refine it, add some zazzy body lines, some more black and red and slap a turbocharger in there. I am able to extract 13 kmpl with some spicy driving, in the city, even with B to B traffic. This car in pristine condition would have unequivocally fetch 20.
Maruti could make an affordable hot hatch actually. It would totally attract teenagers like me who have an affinity towards performance. I dont know if this is viable, but then this car seems like a perfect family car that can offer some pretty good speed. If someone from Maruti is seeing this, please take it seriously.
On to some other things:
I was a serial co passenger for atleast 10 or 12 years before i got my hands on the wheel. I should say, i was one of those pro co passengers who was always vigilant, signalling the driver wrt to blind spots. We used to go on long drives often and it was my duty to look for lingering trucks on the left lane while overtaking. As a child i took it as a very big responsibility and even before i started driving, i used to tell my dad (the man with 20 years of experience) when it was best to overtake.
Now that i have had my beginners share of driving, i look at the drive itself in a different manner. I am now a bit alarmed when others drive too close, am able to judge side distances way more accurately and even once told my dad to change gears because i “felt” it was not the right one for the situation. Lets just say, the things you look out for changes drastically, once you have some experience behind the wheel.
For example i used to implore my dad to cut between two lorries (when there is sufficient gap) and used to be angry when my dad doesnt do it. When I drove, i realised, it is not as easy as it seems. For a co passenger, it is just flicking the steering wheel to and fro, but for the driver, it is different. At 100+ understeer, oversteer, body roll, weight, control everything comes into place.
But then, in the end, driving has become my stress relief. Aux cable in, windows up, blowers at three and my usual route- bliss after a stressful day.
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