If the Ambassador was the matron of Indian automobiles (spacious, comfortable, sedate and soothing), the Indica was a real upstart; a whiz-kid with the confidence to upstage Maruti Suzuki. There was a great deal of secrecy surrounding her conception and the anticipation intensified to a fever pitch by the time the 1998 Auto Expo took place (over 20 years ago, when times were different). When she was finally unveiled, she was greeted with rapturous applause and it was an emotional moment for many. She carried her heritage in her true name: India + Car = Indica, and Ratan Tata would have surely felt vindicated as over 1 lakh orders racked up in no time. The Indica was the first indigenously manufactured car and it broke the mould of the sort of mindset that sneered at the possibility that great consumer vehicles could be manufactured within the country.
In an interview with Businessworld magazine, Ratan Tata once famously said, “It would have the size of the Maruti Zen, the internal dimensions of an Ambassador and come at the price of a Maruti 800 with the running cost of a diesel.” This was high praise indeed and though she was a precocious kid with a great deal of promise, there were a few growing pains. Adolescence is always a difficult time and for the Indica it was no different. Popular opinion began to shift as more and more glitches and design faults began to be exposed. In 2001, the Indica was given a major facelift and the Version 2 arrived. This inaugurated the golden age for Tata Indica and she enjoyed undisputed sovereignty from 2002 to 2007.
Tata Indica might have been an instant classic with her petite good looks and undeniable functionality, however, with the passing of years, her fading beauty has been eclipsed by that of some of the newcomers, many of whom are her own descendants, such as the Tiago and the Nexon. The Indica is still one of the most ubiquitous vehicles on the roads of India and has gradually come to be re-purposed from a family car with a big heart to a taxi of mulish countenance, capable of navigating narrow urban spaces as well as the open highway. This is a change she has accepted with grace and good form and even if those golden years have turned a silver-grey, at the very least, her children and grandchildren will proudly carry on her legacy.
Tata Indica, for 20 long and glorious years you have been an inextricable part of our lives. Ferrying us from school to home to market to even distant cities. You have accommodated much more than your seating capacity without so much as a word of complaint. You have given us great mileage reasonable leg space and loads of memories. You are and always will be the car of the junta, a real crowd-pleaser. You may have been discontinued, but in our memories you will always stay gold!