The legacy of Suzuki Mehran

Published: September 19, 2010

Suzuki Mehran, one of the most popular cars in Pakistan

When I heard Mr Ratan Tata introducing the Nano, I was surprised to hear that he cared about the people so much that he built a car just for them. But Tata was not the first person who took an oath to provide a car to people, who either use public transport, or motorcycles that will protect them from the scorching rays of sun or rain or dust or the rich-blind-drunk-drivers who want to kill you.

Visitors with vision

Years ago some clean shaved kind hearted Japanese men come down to Karachi – better known as the ‘city of no-lights’ located in the ‘country of no-lights’   with the same aim as Tata. In 1982 Awami Auto Limited began the production of the Suzuki SS80 or Suzuki FX as we call it and the very next year Awami Autos Ltd was renamed Pak Suzuki Motor Company Ltd which in 1988 ceased the production of FX and brought in the second generation Suzuki Alto which in Pakistan is called Mehran.

I would like to make one thing very clear that when we talk about new generation or new models of cars, we expect the whole car including its design, safety standards, engine, fuel mileage, comfort, drive, etc to be upgraded to newer technological standards. However, nothing like the aforesaid happens here.

The Mehran which we have today is one of the only cars in the whole world which to this date uses a carburetor engine. The SS80 FX  is basically the name of the engine which was developed by Suzuki in the early 80’s. The very same engine is used in the Mehran.

How the Mehran began

Mehran was a cheap car initially when launched in Pakistan with comfortable seating for five skinny family member, five gears with their lever, a steering, plastic dashboard and panels, four tires, two front and two rear lights, a horn (which is a necessity in our traffic!), two front disc brakes and two rear drum brakes, windows, pair of bumpers one for the front and the other for the rear and last but not the least – the 796cc engine from the past which is a blast.

It is by far still the cheapest car to maintain (although it did not remain the cheapest car to buy due to the economic situation.)

I hear owners of Corollas and Civics complain each morning that their side-view mirrors were stolen for the third time and that they are expensive. The owners of Mehran however fly by in their cars since many don’t care whether their car has them or not! Most people don’t need them and even if they do have them, they don’t use them. In case someone wanted to use them, they only cost around Rs40.

Low fuel costs

The ultimate attraction for the buyer is the amazing fuel mileage. I have met people who say that they fill their Mehran’s with fuel after a set number of days, not through how much the cars been driven or what the meter shows. How cool is that?

Especially for students and people who earn under Rs 20,000 per month. Unlike the Civic or Corolla, assume that your car breaks down in the mountains where there is no reception available, even if you do find a mechanic, there is no guarantee that he would know how to fix your car unless it’s a Mehran. It is a fact that it is indeed the cheapest and easiest car to fix with everyone claiming to know how to fix it.

The resale value of Mehran is pretty impressive. Hard cash as many would say. A Mehran in mint condition (or not), will sell since there are buyers of every kind looking out for them. Most households want a Mehran to just buy groceries and fetch the kids from the school.

One could say that one buys the Mehran as if it is a faithful friend due to its natural elements. The Mehran is a tool which everyone likes to keep. Hence the legacy of Mehran shall live on with its presence on the roads of Pakistan undisputed and justified – except its price.


Baber Khan

An automotive enthusiast working as assistant editor at Pakistan's leading automotive fraternity, with the aim to set up quality 'Motoring Journalism' and 'Automotive Industry' in Pakistan.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Muhammad Umer Asif

    i am just lovin it….good car for middle income groups with low maintenance cost however all this qualities have to be enjoyed on the cost of non luxurious nature of this vehicle…. Recommend

  • parvez

    Baber although your article was posted 3 hours ago I think I’m the first to comment.
    Now this is understandable, because when you have Musharraf, the floods, crooked cricket, the burqa, the media under fire and the ever popular shenanigans of our ruling lot it was an effort for my mind to say ‘lets read this Suzuki thing’ and I wish to say that I was pleasantly surprised and enjoyed the read.Recommend

  • Ammar

    20 years, 1 car with barely any change in shape etc. and yet the most popular car in the country. Such obsession with archaic stuff this country has.Recommend

  • Hamza

    Hmm…good insight. Will definitely give it a thought.Recommend

  • Khurram Zahid

    Indeed, Mehran is the best…Recommend

  • Muhammad Ahmad Madani

    As a journalist, I suggest you get your facts right. The launch car was Suzuki 800, the Suzuki FX came later. Pak-Suzuki was the name of the company from the very beginning. The “Awami Auto” concept came when General Ziaul Haq insisted that it should be an Awami car priced at
    Rs50,000. This did not happen as the introductory price was higher. The newer version (in which the body was changed) was called Alto. This was renamed as Suzuki Mehran. You should also mention that despite it being cheap, it is also one of the most unsafe cars on the road owing to its light frame and poor quality of materials. It is also a car that comes without seat belts!Recommend

  • Patriot

    @ Mr. Madani…you have just hit the bullz eye on the perception i had been developing about the blogs written on ET…they are way too amteurish and are written without any prior research…may be this dude babar was too young to remember the original “Alto” which was later renamed as “Mehran”…i certainly do. Plus the safety element needed some mentioning…indeed mehran with all its pluses is a dangerour car to drive…but then who cares about the lives in pakistan?Recommend

  • Khadija Masood

    I enjoyed reading this!Recommend

  • Anoop

    In India its called the Maruti 800 or Maruti for short. It looks the same when I see the picture above. Wonderful car. Nano is now called the new Maruti of India. So proud that its coming out of a country which not too long ago used to export cars.

    I hope Nano’s are allowed to be sold in Pakistan by the Pakistani govt. It’ll generate great revenue for India and it’ll be very cheap considering its manufactured right next door to Pakistan, in Gujrat. I can already see it’ll sell like hot cakes.Recommend

  • Uzair Javed

    I think i could, as opposed to Mr. Madani and Patriot, feel the sarcasm in this blog! Or may be that my mindset has been so ‘anti-mehran’ that i feel even a pro-mehran thing to be sheer sarcasm!Recommend

  • Faizan

    Agreed! Any ‘justification’ of a Mehran is axiomatically a sarcasm!

    About the facts, the FX was initially imported 1981-1983 from Japan. At that time it was called the 800 (these cars are usually recognizable by their black dashboards). When production started in Pakistan we renamed it the FX. Similarly, the Mehran was initially imported from Japan in 1989-90, and during that time it was called the Alto, which was its name in Japan (you don’t expect the Japanese named a car ‘Mehran‘ do you?). Again, it was renamed by Pakistanis. The same goes for the old Cultus (Khyber) and Swift (Khyber/Margalla).

    And talking about the archaisms, apart from the carburettor, the Mehran is probably the only small passenger car still in production in the world employing (non-composite) leaf springs (known in the local lingo as the Kumani), which make for an exceptionally stiff ride!

    Oh and before the latest model, I believe even your local Corolla didn’t have rear seat-belts. How’s that for safety!Recommend

  • Mariam

    I loved my “white Meharan”. Had it for 18 years and it was perfect till the time we sold it last year.Recommend

  • Nasir

    @Madani: you should also get your facts right.The launch car was not Suzuki 800 but it was 650CC & was called Suzuki Custom.It was Japan assembled.FX superceded it with 800CC engine.Recommend

  • Umair Mirza

    i hate you for having so much praise for this car. please check its price bhayya !!! 6 lacs rupees !! its a piece of crap for that price. but then we are so dumb.. this cherry q q which miserably failed for NO REASONS is may be the same price . and has every thing … every thing that suzuki’s million rupee swift hasRecommend

  • Farooq

    @Muhammad Ahmad Madani:
    Dear Madani

    Please correct: It has seat belts…I have a Mehran and it has seat belts for front seats


  • Imran

    Has anyone bought a Mehran recently?

    A new Mehran is full of faults, it starts giving noises within months of use. It costs them less than 2,00,000 Rupees and they sell it for 5,00,000+ rupees.

    Pak Suzuki is looting Pakistani people.Recommend

  • Muhammad Ahmad Madani

    My facts are right. Suzuki Custom was the car that was imported from Japan.
    Suzuki 800 was the car that was made locally. Custom resembled a spaceship
    and made as much noise! 800 was succeeded by FX.Recommend

  • Salman Hasan Khan

    I love my Mehran! She has been an awesome companion during my student life, load as many guys as you want during those bunk trips and it would not hit those speed breakers unlike most reconditioned and new cars today!
    Cheap running and maintenance as the author already wrote, does not pose much of a parking headache, handy in traffic jams when you require to improvise and go on lane maneuvering :P
    Easy to fix or more of a DIY car, apart from major mechanical faults I can fix most of the reasons for the breakdown or the least is that you can somehow start it and take it to the nearest mechanic :D

    Mehran rocksss !!!Recommend

  • Farhad

    I loved the concept of the article in its highlighting the Suzuki Mehran, which is super old school and a real success in Pakistan. In fact I would say that it is easily the most successful car that ever reached the countries shores. What blows my mind though, is that despite soaring demand, production cost for follow up models seems to have skyrocketed. I would have thought that by now mass production could counteract devaluation of the ruppee but apparently not. Great topic though. Thanks for putting this out there.Recommend


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  • salahuddin khan

    do theses car manufacturers of pakistan import parts of their cars from japan & then assemble it here or they accually make the whole car here? i have heard the material they use in pakistani cars are of poor quality. in that case these cars must be “Made in Pakistan” ?Recommend

  • muji

    i like you information about mehran that in india its called maruti ……Recommend