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Saturday, December 31, 2011

Cars of 2011: The Good and the Bad Ones




2011 has witnessed the debut of many varieties of cars, from affordable passenger cars to pricey SUVs and luxury ones. Some cars have been in the news for all the right reasons but some have not been so lucky. This year has seen the ups and downs of these cars and industry experts have given their opinions regarding these. Jagdish Khattar, MD Carnation Auto; BVR Subbu, Former Head Hyundai India and Hormazd Sorabjee, Editor Autocar India were asked by Economic Times about their opinion of the best and worst cars of 2011 and these were the names they took –


THE GOOD:


1) Hyundai Verna:

The new Hyundai Verna is a 7th generation automobile and is deemed to be the best of the Verna models till now. Its new features are to die for, say experts and users. Some of its stunning features are as follows - a sturdier chassis, which meets the U.S. and European standards, making it safer in case of collisions. Its ‘Fluidic Sculpture’ design gives it a superior look. Though it doesn’t have much cabin storage room and under-thigh support due to low positioning of seats, Verna still bags the list for one of the top cars in India. The Indian Verna has 2 varieties each- petrol and diesel. Gamma petrol and U2 diesel motors have 1.4 and 1.6 litres capacities respectively. The winning aspects of the diesel variety are its 126 Break Horse Power (BHP) and 26.5 KGM of torque, which are like no other in the market. Its features and performance make Verna truly deserve a spot among the top.


2) Mahindra XUV 500:

The Mahindra XUV 500 is any sports and outdoor lover’s paradise because it has the latest technology to help it become one among the top. It not only challenges other SUVs in the Indian market but also meets international standards and quality. Its stylish looks and strength are incomparable, at least in the Indian market. It has various features which make it note-worthy – it has projector headlamps, LED lights for daytime, a bigger front bumper with air dams and recessed fog lamps, excellent pick-up, speed and steering. Its bonus feature is a tidy and well-designed under-vehicle region, which is excellent for snow covered roads. It has a transverse engine and a 4-wheel drive layout. It also has a 2.2 litre diesel engine, apart from other dizzying features, which keeps it ahead of other SUVs in the Indian market. Though highly priced, this car is worth every penny.

3) Luxury Cars:

Luxury cars have slowly but steadily made their way into the Indian market. The list, though not exhaustive, consists of the best cars from all over the world, like – Mercedes Benz, Honda Accord, Audi, Maybach Exelero, BMW, Toyota Corolla, Renault Fluence and many others. Attractive EMIs for car loans have roped the Indian class to add a bit of snazz to their lifestyle. These high in class and comfort cars also come with diesel engine varieties, as preferred by current Indian market. Also, diesel engine cars provide better acceleration, speed, fuel efficiency and torque, when compared to petrol cars. According to ET, about 80 percent of the cars sold last year were of the diesel variety, including that of BMW, Audi and Mercedes. CRDi technology has made the diesel cars sales go up and are still growing. Also, various SUVs and luxury car manufactures are providing only the diesel varieties for the changing tastes of Indian customers.

4) Audi:

Audi is India’s 3rd biggest luxury car manufacturer, with speculated 40 percent increase in sales in 2012 and for good reasons. The Audi is ranked among the top luxury cars in India because of superior German technology and unmatched performance. Apart from obvious stylish looks and class factor, Audi is much more than just a pretty face. The newer models are more spacious, fuel efficient, with improved safety designs and better suspension symptoms. The 2.7 and 3 Turbo Diesel (TDI) engines are sure to keep diesel engine lovers happy. The diesel variants are no slow coaches for they give excellent speed in no time. Features like - Anti-theft Alarm System, Electronic Stability Program, Anti-lock Braking system and Servotronic for enhanced control over the car make Audi an unmatched player in the luxury car segment. Needless to say, this car is highly priced. The newest variant of Audi is going to be featured in the 2012 Delhi Auto Expo.

5) New Maruti Suzuki Swift:

New Maruti Suzuki Swift is available in diesel variants and perhaps is the best car in the passenger car segment, available at an attractive price. The newer version has improved features like – better looks and fuel efficiency. It is giving good competition to other hatchbacks, like Chevrolet Beat, Ford Figo and Volkswagen Polo. Fiat provides the 1.3 litre Multijet diesel engine, which provides great speed and torque. The K-series engines, with Macpherson strut suspension system, have been revamped with five manual gears. The interior is just as good as the exterior, with better shoulder and leg room.  The safety features are improved too with airbags and ABS (Anti-lock Braking System), EBD (Electronic Breakforce Distribution) and fog lights for misty times on the road. Maruti Suzuki cars occupy about 45 percent share of the Indian car market. The diesel variant of Swift has exhibited a 30 percent increase in its sales since its launch, which only indicates that diesel cars are here to stay.

THE BAD:


1) Hyundai Eon:

Hyundai Eon has all the features to entice any Indian car lover because it has almost all the right features required in the concerned car segment. It has stylish looks and features but it lacks one very important element. It lags behind in the diesel engine section because of the small size of the car. Hyundai has recently launched a diesel variant but it will take time to test its metal. Since, Indian car lovers are looking exclusively at good diesel cars this year, it is difficult for them to wait for the new variety to be tested and tried. They have other diesel cars as alternatives, like – Swift Diesel and Indica Turbo Diesel DLX. These cars give Eon strong competition because of their strong brand presence in India. Hence, Eon will have to prove itself next year.

2) Honda Jazz:

Hyundai Jazz has features, with performance, to make Indian people buy it. However, this was one car that faced tough competition primarily because of its price. The diesel version of Jazz was a whopping 7 lakhs, which was a bit too much for the premium hatchback segment. Even after slashing its price down, the sales did not improve much because of the damage which was done. The Indian mind was made up against this car as it was too pricey for its segment. People, of course, had alternatives they could look forward to and hence, Jazz suffered. Also, Ford Figo and Nissan Micra gave Jazz tough competition this year. However, it still might have a chance to fare well next year.


3) Honda Brio:

Honda Brio was the alternative provided by Honda for its blunder of a car, Jazz, mainly because of its pricing. Brio was launched as a cheaper version of a hatchback by Honda but it clearly ate the shares of its team-mate, namely that of Jazz. Brio had the looks, feel and performance of Jazz at a lesser price. However, this too did not make an impact on the Indian car market because Brio is not available in a diesel variant. Since, 2011 has been a diesel car lover’s paradise; Brio clearly took a back seat. Not only does Brio compete with trusted names but also suffers because of lack of diesel engines. So, until Honda can improve upon this feature, Brio will not succeed in the Indian car market in the coming years.

4) Suzuki Kizashi:

Suzuki Kizashi was deemed to be a failure from the very beginning, say many experts. Unlike Swift, Kizashi was not properly thought of before being manufactured and launched in the Indian car market. Kizashi is a CBU, which means that it manufactured entirely in Japan and then shipped to India, thus raising the overall cost. This made Kizashi get priced at  18 lakhs in the Indian car market. Also, people started perceiving this car as a chauffeur driven one, making its positioning even more vague in the minds of people. Thus, its sales have been terrible. It also is not available in a diesel variant, which is the rage right now, again keeping it at a disadvantage. It superior looks, quality and performance have been overshadowed because of its price and lack of a diesel engine.  Hence, Kizashi needs to tackle these in order to regain its sales.

5) Ford Fiesta:

Ford Fiesta seems to have been confused not only with its design but also its price. Ford is a trusted name but it seems to have not worked its magic in Fiesta’s case. Both its interior and exterior are disappointing. The diesel variant is priced at 9 –11 lakhs, which again acts as a disadvantage. It also lags behind in fuel efficiency and speed. Also, people have better choices when it comes to the Sedan and hatchback segments, like – Honda City and Volkswagen Vento. Car lovers might shirk away from Fiesta at the first glance but it still delivers good performance, like any other Ford car. However, it needs major design changes and also price cuts to appeal to the Indian car market in order to fare well in the coming years.