Actually we have planned for this article at very last post of 2013, but due to the technical problem on our website we have postponed the article for today. Among the 130 car launches in India last-year, I and 2 of our writers Stephen & Raeez have chosen – a Top Five list of the cars that more than caught our attention this particular calendar year.
In this article, we’ve set the marker at five, not because we have anything against going the usual route of 10, but to select five out of a host of new arrivals in any calendar year means having to be more selective about things – when first initiated, the idea was to be more specific why we have chosen the particular product.
With that, here are the individual picks from the team, what each thought were the cars that got them going and stuck in the memory long after the music stopped. As always, we hope you enjoy reading it as much as we did writing it!
Stephen Neil Gershom:
The year 2013 was really a mixed bag for the Indian automobile industry. Fuel prices went up like never before, taxes on vehicles too touched an all new high. SUV’s suffered the most as the government imposed taxes in a never seen before manner, on bigger vehicles, but on the upside, the government promised to reduce taxes imposed on electric vehicles and smaller vehicles too had lesser taxes. Amidst all these up’s and downs, the Indian market saw quite a good number of launches, there were a few manufacturers who had a good run in 2013, Honda had the amazing Amaze, Ford had the wonderful EcoSport and Mahindra came up with the green E2O and there were many good updates or refreshes to many cars too.
Out of all these updates and new launches, we loved a few and so we went ahead and compiled our list of the top 5 cars, which in our opinion were the best.
1. Volkswagen Polo GT TDI
The Volkswagen Polo was not at all a bad hatch to start off with, it had all the right boxes ticked and had that urban, chic look that every hatchback owner would want. To top it all off, it handled extremely well and had an amazing build quality too. The only downside was that, it came with a puny 3 cylinder diesel which we felt, was a little too underpowered for a car like this. And so, when Volkswagen announced that they would be making a diesel GT version, we knew that it would be fast and amazing, and boy were we right. This hatch has every right in the world to be called a hot hatch, because it is!
Volkswagen plonked in the diesel engine that was earlier being used on the Vento, and so the Polo now comes with a 1.6 liter, four cylinder turbo-diesel engine with an output of 104 PS@ 4400RPM and 250 NM@ 1500RPM which is best in class and which also means that this car is no slouch. This engine, coupled with a 5-speed manual transmission makes it a joy to drive indeed and this drive-train is the very reason this car made it to our list.
2. BMW 1-series
It is raining hot hatches in the Indian market, and this too is one of them, but this is on a different level. This is a premium hot hatch and is a BMW in every way we can think of. As expected, the pricing is very high and so is the quality of the materials used, but what impresses most about this car is, the way it drives. The 1-series is available both in petrol and diesel guises, the petrol engine is a 1.6 liter, naturally aspirated petrol putting out 136 BHP and 220 NM of torque, but the diesel engine is the one to watch out for. It is a 2 liter, four cylinder turbo-diesel with an output of 143 BHP and 320 NM of torque. These figures, in a hatchback, will surely make for one SWEET ride, and it is that, more than that in fact.
Any petrol-head would jump up and down with joy when they hear that it is rear wheel drive! The only rear wheel drive cars in the market today are the ones which cost more than 30 lakhs ex-showroom and rear wheel drive hatchbacks were extinct before the BMW 1 series came along. The combination of that excellent diesel and that 8-speed automatic and rear wheel drive, makes it one the best handling hatches in the world and also, the best part of this car will be the grin in the drivers face while going sideways. For that reason, this has ended up on our list.
3. Ford EcoSport
When Ford first showcased the EcoSport concept at the Indian auto expo in 2012, we all knew that Ford clearly had a winner on their hands and we were proven right again when Ford launched the EcoSport and the waiting periods for delivery of the car crossed 6 months. Indians clearly loved the car and there was a reason for it. The EcoSport had the right amounts of everything that Indians crave for in a car. It looked stunning, it handled excellently, the interiors looked very futuristic and it came with a host of features. The best part was that, the EcoSport came with three engine options, one diesel and two petrols.
It is available with a 1.5 liter naturally aspirated petrol with an output of 109 BHP and 140 NM; a 1.5 liter turbo-diesel putting out 89 BHP and 204 NM and the best of the lot, the award-winning 1 liter Ford EcoBoost engine. This engine is a masterpiece from ford, it is a 999cc 3-cylinder turbo-petrol engine with an output of 123BHP and 170NM. This figure from such a small engine, in a mass-production car is an amazing feat by Ford and they have managed to pull it off without any kind of hiccup. Ford has given us an all-rounder and for that reason this car has made it to this list.
4. Nissan Terrano
The Renault duster was the car which single handedly brought Renault to the forefront of the Indian motoring scene, Renault received thousands of bookings and as a result, waiting periods went into many months. All this while Renault was selling badge engineered cars, so the Nissan Sunny became the Renault Scala, the Nissan Micra became the Renault Pulse and the Dacia Duster became the Renault Duster, but this time around, the tables have turned. Nissan has filled a huge gap in their product portfolio by launching the Terrano. The Terrano is basically a badge engineered Renault duster and this means that it has the same underpinnings and drive-train as the duster, but the engine is in a different state of tune. And by different, we mean better.
The reason that the duster sold so well was because it was different from other SUV’s. It performed well, handled well and had a robust build quality, but the reason that the Nissan Terrano is selling better is because, along with performing well, handling well and having good build quality, it looks much better than the bland duster and the quality of materials used too, is much better in the Terrano. Nissan has used its global design language on this car too and has worked out very well for them, and works well for us too and for these reasons; the Terrano has made it to our list.
5. Skoda Octavia
The Octavia was the car that originally established the Skoda brand in India and in the process, created its own fan following. The Octavia had monopoly over the market when it was launched, because it brought to the Indian customers features, which were earlier unheard of in this segment. It came with quite a powerful engine (for that time) and in vRS guise, it was unbeatable by other cars in its segment, as well a notch above its segment. So, its successor would have to be much better, and it looks like Skoda has pulled it off. The new 3rd gen Octavia is much better in every possible way, it looks better, drives better, has cleaner emission levels and most of all, it performs better. Most of all, it scores on the looks, there are clean chiselled lines all over the car and the headlamp cluster is one of the most beautiful ones out there today. It is no wonder this happened, because the designing was done by Josef Kaban, the same person who designed the Bugatti Veyron.
The Octavia comes with options of a 1.4 liter turbo-petrol, a 1.8 liter TSI turbo-petrol and a 2 liter turbo-diesel engine and all the enthusiasts know that the 1.8 liter TSI engine is the one to go for. This engine is known worldwide for its mind boggling performance figures, this is an all new engine, which was developed, based on the older engine and during the process of development, gained an additional 20 horses, and more HP means more smiles, and this has lots of that. The small 1.8 liter engine puts out a not so small 178 PS and 250 NM of torque. And for these reasons, we reckon it is one of the top launches of 2013.
Quite a number of cars were memorable for me and for this site, last year. But five is where the bump stops, and so an compact sedan, a compact SUV and 2 hatches make up my selection. All have certainly impressed, one way or another.
1. Honda Amaze
Honda launched the Sedan version of the Honda Brio named as ‘Amaze’ in the month of April 2013. This was the first car in the diesel segment by Honda in India. Honda’s Amaze is in fact now the most fuel efficient car in the Indian market providing 26 kmpl. The aerodynamic design of the Honda Amaze certainly helps the car during the drive and delivers easy controlling to the driver.
It is featured with ABS, Electronic brake force distribution system and brake assist, dual SRS air bags, central locking system, 2-Din audio system integrated with USB, Aux-in and iPod interface. Coming to the interiors, it has been provided with dual tone beige and brown color with a touch of silver to the door handles also dashboard has been inherited as it is from Brio.
Amaze is available in 1.5 litre i-DTEC diesel engine or 1.2 liter i-VTEC petrol engine. The 1498 cc diesel engine produces a maximum power of 86 BHP at a maximum torque of 6000 RPM. The 1198 cc petrol engine produces a maximum power of 98 BHP at a maximum torque of 3600 RPM.
2. Ford EcoSport
Ford finally launched the much awaited Ford EcoSport in mid 2013, after which it has been observed that Ford EcoSport has become the strongest competitors to the Renault Duster and the recently launched Nissan Terrano. It was aggressively priced at INR 5.69 lakhs at the time of launch.
Ford EcoSport has a refined diesel engine making it much less noisy and covers 0-100kph sprint in 13.72 seconds. It is featured with a lighter steering wheel, aggressive look, sporty elements, tail gate mounted spare wheel and new stylish alloy wheels.
Coming to the interiors, EcoSport features a modern, angular design, dominated by the V-shaped centre console. It also features rectangular AC vents in the dashboard, large leg and head room along with excellent back support and fantastic driving position along with 346 liter boot space. EcoSport is available in both petrol and diesel engines. The petrol version has been equipped with a 1 liter turbocharged VCT petrol engine which delivers a maximum power of 118 BHP at a maximum torque of 170 Nm whereas the diesel version features a 1.5 liter diesel engine which delivers a maximum power of 90 BHP.
3. Maruti Suzuki Swift RS
Maruti Suzuki, the no. 1 selling car and the largest manufacturer in the Indian market launched a limited edition Swift RS, featured with an additional body kit and stylish body graphics in June 2013. This attractive package launched by Maruti Suzuki was infact available only in VXI (Petrol) and VDI (Diesel) variants and costs around INR 30,000 additional to the cost of the respective trims.
Maruti Suzuki launched the limited Edition RS celebrating Swift model as it moves towards the “1 million” cumulative sales mark since it was launched back in 2005. The exteriors of the limited edition Swift RS comprises of roof spoiler, signature RS 3-piece body kit including front and rear bumper enrichment, signature theme blue color outside rear view mirrors (ORVMs) and black wheel caps.
Coming to the interiors, the limited Edition Swift RS featured illuminated Swift emblem at the sill of all four doors, combination of black and blue colored art leather upholstery, rally RS theme inspired floor mats, a high-end music system with CD player integrated with AUX-in and USB facility.
4. Volkswagen Polo GT TDI
Volkswagen launched the Polo GT TDI on 13th September 2013. It is the performance version of the Polo which sits beside the recently launched crossover version Polo GT TSI entering into the range of cars offered by Volkswagen in the Indian market.
Coming to the changes, Volkswagen’s Polo GT TDI is featured with almost same level of equipments already equipped in the recently launched Polo GT TSI. Apart from this, Polo GT TDI also features dual tone interiors, GT badge, sporty pedals, rear spoiler, GT TDI scuff plates, dual tone sporty seat, 2 din audio system and climate control. Unfortunately Polo GT TDI would not get hill hold assist and ESP.
Coming to the technical specifications, Polo GT TDI is powered with a 1.6-litre TDI engine coupled to a 5 speed manual transmission producing a maximum power of 105 BHP at a maximum torque of 250Nm making it the most powerful hatchback in the Indian market. It covers the 0-100 kmph sprint in around 10 seconds and is priced at around 9.4 lakhs INR (on-road price, Mumbai).
5. Hyundai Grand i10
Hyundai being one of the best selling passenger car manufacturers after Maruti Suzuki in India had recently launched the all new Grand i10 in September 2013. It has received an overwhelming response as it enters the charts of top 5 selling car brands in India. Hyundai has already delivered 33,000 units of Grand i10 across the country in just 3 months after its launch.
It features rear A/C vents, integrated 2-DIN MP3 audio with in-built 1GB memory, diamond cut Alloy wheels- unique 2 tone design along with smart key with push button start and stop, Bluetooth connectivity, multi-function steering wheel with Bluetooth, audio and trip meter controls, auto folding outside mirrors with electric adjustment function, rear parking sensors, turn indicators on outside mirrors and cooled glove Box.
The all new Grand i10 is powered with 1.2-litre Kappa petrol engine generating a maximum power of 79 BHP at a maximum torque of 112 Nm. The 1.1-litre three cylinder diesel engine produces a maximum power of 69 BHP at a maximum torque of 160 Nm.
Last year has not been the most active ever for the automotive industry and but been good for the our website. A record number of car launches took place in 2013 and, most interestingly, we saw some massive improvements in terms of pricing and/or equipment level in a lot of the cars that arrived. Here are the five cars that I experienced last year that stood out the most.
1. Nissan Terrano
I’ll start off my list with the latest Nissan Terrano, which I clearly loved. But looking at its superior design and advanced features, the price seems like a little worry for me. The interiors of Nissan Terrano are much better and appealing in comparison to the Renault Duster. Overall, this SUV seems like a good combination of luxury, space, engine performance, safety, style and sturdiness and just looking a little down in its fuel economy and a little steep price range.
2. Ford EcoSport
Ford EcoSport is a sub-four metre compact SUV with stunning looks that was first unveiled in 2012 at the Auto Expo in New Delhi. It immediately created a stir in the SUV market of India. It was launched in June-2013 in India with great enthusiasm and also got overwhelming appraisal and positive reviews. The EcoSport is the best car (SUV) in its segment. With its striking design, brilliant fuel efficiency and power packed performance it’s undoubtedly a complete value for money car.
Several customers across the country who have already booked a specific variant of EcoSport at the time of launch are asked to wait for the delivery of their vehicle till August this-year. One of the reasons Ford has been unable to supply enough EcoSports to match the demand is its limited monthly production capacity. Additionally, the company has been exporting the EcoSport to various countries across the world, which could have resulted in the domestic market being neglected.
3. Honda Amaze
Based on the Brio platform, the Amaze has been a runaway success since the time it was launched in April-2013, even now selling in good numbers. Honda India has priced Amaze very aggressively at INR 4.99 lakhs for the basic model of petrol and INR 5.99 lakhs for the basic model of diesel. This segment is soon to become the most popular segment of cars in India and to mark its strong presence; Amaze has an acceptable price tag.
The Amaze comes with either a 1.2-litre i-VTEC petrol or a 1.5-litre i-DTEC diesel engine. While the diesel is available with a manual gearbox only, the petrol is available with a choice of a manual or an automatic transmission.
4. Mercedes-Benz A-Class
Mercedes-Benz India has launched an entry-level car and an premium hatchback, the A-Class in May-2013. In terms of looks, A-Class is a winner with awesome styling and very pleasing front and rear end. 2013 model of A-Class was unveiled in March, 2012 at Geneva Motor Show. The A-Class is also very sporty from inside and will set new standards in terms of styling and overall comfort. It is slightly bigger when compared to BMW 1-series hatchback, which is head-to-head competitor.
The A-Class diesel variant is priced at Rs. 21.93 lakh and the petrol variant costs Rs 22.73 lakh (prices mentioned are ex-showroom Mumbai). Interestingly, the diesel is cheaper than the petrol. At this price point, it will be the first choice for those hatchback buyers who want premium features with superior build quality but don’t want to buy a sedan or SUV. The car is currently fully imported as a CBU, with local assembly scheduled for this-year.
5. Hyundai Grand i10
Hyundai Grand i10 looks like a dream hatchback that is specially designed for Indian market. It has all the essential ingredients of a successful hatchback which includes power, performance, safety, style, space, economical and speed. The Grand i10 also won the reputation by winning half a dozen awards and entering the top 5 selling car brands in India.
Hyundai Grand i10 definitely looks much better than its predecessor and its strong character showcases Hyundai “Modern Premium” brand direction, the exterior of the Grand i10 has the blend of fluidic design elements of the i20 and also has the aggressive appeal of the Eon. The new diesel engine planted at the heart of the Grand i10 surely will draw a large crowd towards it, the car looks to be a winner.
Also see – Top 10 things you need to know about cars