Which Indian cars have been the most durable over the decades

The initial brands India started with were Fiat, Ambassador (including its older models the Hindustan 10, 14 and Landmaster), Standard and Willys for four wheelers.

BHPian anjan_c2007 recently shared this with other enthusiasts.

India was used to fully built units (FBU) or semi knocked down kits (SKD) of imported automobiles. Thereafter we had completely knocked down kits (CKD) sometime since the 1950’s. The imported SKD and CKD kits would be assembled in the plant of the manufacturer in India. After the Tariff Commission (set up in 1951) report became effective in 1957, it put an end to imports and only the selected, licensed manufacturers having a long time commitment to stay put and manufacture in India were allowed under the “LICENCE RAJ”.

We would like members to vote for the most long lasting car/s in India ever since the Indian manufacturing took off. The initial brands India started with were Fiat, Ambassador (including its older models the Hindustan 10, 14 and Landmaster), Standard and Willys for four wheelers. Hence restricting ourselves to four wheelers only we exercise our vote for the durable cars that have outlasted their longevity and still lug on. The winds of change sweeping our markets since the mid 1980’s and since the 1990’s and early 2000’s when full equity participation by foreign automobile manufacturers were allowed are also taken care of. Quite many of the brands and common models (old and current) get listed here.

The moot point is to get an idea about the great survivors. Comments, justifications and elaborations are invited in posts by members.

Here’s what GTO had to say on the matter:

In terms of durability – whether India or abroad – nothing touches a Toyota body-on-frame diesel UV. Think Qualis, Innova, Prado, Landcruiser and the like. These are indestructible machines and kept well, will easily cross 500,000 km. A well-maintained Landcruiser could also outlast its owner .

I wouldn’t really term the Padmini & Ambassador as durable. Like my ’97 Classic, they are just easy to fix, cheap to repair and have their own fan club. Which is what keeps them going. But they also age really fast, are rust-prone, parts wear out quickly and continuous niggles are a given.

Here’s what BHPian V.Narayan had to say on the matter:

This thread should allow for each voter to vote for 3 cars because each generation had its own durable favourite.

Back in the 1950s I would put the Fiat Millicento at top. A lot of parts came from Italy and Premier as a company had not fallen into the poor quality ways it did by the 1970s and 80s. The Landmaster would vie for top slot here. Also these cars were easy to repair which added to their longevity.

Cut to the 1980s when India had its first auto revolution I’d pick the Maruti800 SS80. Again the early ones were almost half Japanese and that made a big difference to quality.

Cut to the 2000s by when the 2nd auto revolution was in full form and auto manufacture in India had reached a global manufacturing standard. Here I’d pick the Toyota Qualis which like the Duracell battery advert just goes on and on and on. The Innova is its spiritual successor. In this quasi-utility, people mover category I’m tempted to squeeze in a M&M somewhere but unfortunately my personal knowledge on M&M is zero and the numbers that run in rural India forever must count for something!

Among the foreign cars not made in India I would pick the Mercedes W124 series which was the last Mercedes built like a Mercedes. Maybe the W124 was assembled in India for a short while in the 1990s but my recollection is hazy.

Sadly no car from the Tata family is being selected by me. especially sad for me as I sold Tata trucks once upon a time and like funsters @funkycar knew how to drive 407s.

Here’s what BHPian Candy$Cars had to say on the matter:

My vote goes to the Matiz.

It was my father’s 1st car bought in 2000. For the next 6 years, the cute little car hauled our family of 5 all the way from hilly terrain of remote Sonebhadra to Lucknow, a journey of well over 13 hrs in those days. Next 8 years were also spent in sub-urban areas.

With the closure of Daewoo and we living in remote locations, the car received just shoddy maintenance from unknown mechanics but it chucked along.

It was as if the car had emotions. Not once in entire 14 years, did it breakdown midway. During the last 4 or odd years it suffered some breakdowns but always after taking us to our destination. We would come to know it had broken down only the next day – this with questionable maintenance and unknown spare parts. Finally we sold it in 2018, the new owner was still using it and managed to maintain it better than us the last we checked!

I know it won’t win this poll mainly because very few would have kept a Daewoo for long and maintaining them was tough but to us it turned out to be very reliable.

I wish Daewoo was alive today, it would have been the only Korean i could have trusted with my money.

Here’s what BHPian Sanidhya mukund had to say on the matter:

Only three cars come to mind:

Toyota Innova, Qualis and Fortuner.

These are the only cars that I have personally seen running trouble free even after lakhs of kilometers. All the other enlisted models, including the Bolero are highly niggle prone, even in the initial years of their lives. Even the body on frame Tatas suffer from quite a few electrical gremlins. (Early Sierras and Estates were even worse).

The average Innova or Qualis would have started life as the dependable companion for a family. As the years go by, they change multiple hands, going from taxi cab operators to breakdown assistant vans, Ambulances, and even load carriers. The interiors and body may perish with heavy use, but the robust engine, gearbox and underpinnings keep going on and on. Needless to say, they do need their timely oil changes and belts etc., but other than that, things rarely go wrong.

A construction contractor I know bought a new Qualis for family use in 2004. The car saw its fair share of road trips, school runs and movie outings. It still lives today, carrying tiles, bricks, cement bags etc. The interiors are all gone, the lights and grilles all broken, the body out of alignment, but the car still runs with 3.8 lakh kilometers.

The W124 is known to be extremely durable, but I personally feel that in the Indian context, it doesn’t fare all that well. Parts are also not that easy to find and not all mechanics would agree to work on this car.

I find it quite ironic that the venerable Amby is called durable. It was one of the most breakdown prone, poorly built cars that was extremely susceptible to rust. If the body itself rusts, what else is left to be called durable?

The only thing that worked in its favor were the simple mechanicals that allowed it to be fixed by anyone with a brain and a toolbox.

Here’s what BHPian PaddleShifter had to say on the matter:

Durability: It should be measured both in terms of years of running as well as the odometer.

If a car is driven mainly on the highways for say 200-400km daily, any car would do 3-4 lacs km or maybe more. Drive the same car in city for 5-10km daily and part replacement will come up in much less than 1 lac km.

Cars with modern gadgets, sensors and electronics can’t compete fairly in this race. So that leaves us with cars from 90s and 2000s.

I have voted for Maruti Alto (2000ish models). Reason for voting are as follows:

Quite a lot of them are still running on the roads (unlike few Ambassadors, Contessa and Fiat 1100s). Most have got basic components such as power steering, AC, power windows. Unlike the Maruti 800 from the 90s which was a pure mechanical package. Most of these are being used for shorter commutes (in contrast to Innovas/ Qualis/ Tavera from that same period). Still, they are aging well.

I haven’t voted for classics for the reason that only a few exceptional ones are running. Moreover, these cars were never run the same way that we run cars today. Most cars in those years never touched 1 lac Km odo. Same goes for Santro/Matiz etc. Very few from late 90s and 2000 are running on the roads to be considered for voting.

Here’s what BHPian CFF_Beasts had to say on the matter:

IMHO, it’s the Innova ( & Qualis) that has stood the test of time, and are extraordinarily durable due to their strong mechanical fundamentals.

Although, I’m not denying that other similar vintage cars haven’t stood the test of time. Just that for me it was the Innova.

We had a 2005 Petrol Silver Mica Metallic Innova, which was sold in 2014. Our car was the G4 Petrol variant, one below the top-spec V at that time. It was out of the first 500 Innovas to be delivered in India.

It’s the car that I have traveled as a kid to till I was a teenager. The bond that the car had with me was something indescribable!

Being a petrol, it was extremely silent on the outside and miles ahead in terms of performance compared to the 2.5L Diesel Innova, Scorpio, Sumo, Safari, and Taveras of that vintage, a 12.xx second 0-100kmph from an MPV in 2005 was unheard of.

With a very smooth ride quality, excellent stability at highway speeds and brilliant brakes, it was a proper highway cruiser.

And in those 8 years that the car was with us, not once did it strand us in the middle of the road, this made my parents true believers of Toyota’s reliability standards and we will continue to be their customers, even if it means we have to get a base variant of their “true” car due to the massive price hikes in today’s day and age, basically a no-nonsense point A-to-B car.

Towards the end of our ownership ie. 2013, diesel car sales had sky-rocketed and a petrol Innova at a petrol-pump would be admired by all fuel-attendants. I recall a incident where a fuel-attendant asked 5 times what diet the car had, and shouted to the other attendants “dekho Petrol Innova ayi hein” (see a petrol Innova has come to fill fuel). Fuel efficiency in Mumbai traffic was 7-9 kmpl.

It had run 92,000 kms in 8 years it was with us, in 2014 we decided to upgrade to a Fortuner, and had to bid good-bye to this wonderful car. The person who bought the Innova which we sold to Toyota U-Trust, has added a CNG-kit and is enjoying the epitome of reliability and durability.

Now the Fortuner was not the perfect upgrade to the Innova, which we have understood overtime, but that discussion is for another day. The ride quality being the major negative of the Fortuner compared to the Innova.

My friend has a 2005 Red Mica Metallic Petrol V Innova, and he has still kept his car with him. He upgraded his to the type-3 model and is still using it like it was since day 1.

Several other first-gen type 1 Innovas still exist on the road, one Diesel Innova in Kerala has completed 9,99,999kms and is still continuing, just speaks about Toyota’s durability. And the Qualis is another Toyota that continues to be seen on roads, compared to it’s similar vintage competitors. FYI, Toyota still sells spare parts of the Qualis. The Fortuner will also join this league in a few years. The legendary D-4D engines will continue to live on.

PS: The Innova is the car that got me my T-BHP membership, it was the car I wrote about while registering. A car that will always be in my heart.

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