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Diesel Hatchbacks Flooding Indian Auto Market

Updated: September 1, 2012 5:30 pm

Are you tired of the headlines threatening a hike in petrol prices every month? Then it is the right time for you to think about switching over to a diesel hatchback, which has stormed the ‘B’ segment of cars as never before.

In the market there are twelve cars from the stables of well-known auto brands trying to woo prospective buyers. Diesel engine technology, over the years, due to sustained research and development has improved radically. Old problems of vibrations, slow pick-up and recurring maintenance are a thing of the past. What we have around us are the models flaunting world class patented technology of internal combustion engines.

Leading auto brands are offering technologies like DDIS (Diesel Direct Injection System), TCDI (Turbo Charged Diesel Injection), CRDI (Common Rail Diesel Injection), Quadra-jet, Multi-jet and TDI (Turbo-charged Diesel Injection). These engines, beside their amazing performance are also proving to be more efficient than their gasoline cousins-delivering an amazing mileage ranging between 15 and 25 kmpl.

Undoubtedly, petrol remains the king of auto fuels, but its rising prices and faulty system of pricing has made it out of reach of the common man. Even two-wheeler (100-125cc) owners who normally derive 50-80 kmpl are shy of using their vehicles. In 2000, petrol and diesel were selling at Rs 25.94 and Rs 14.04 per litre respectively; today; these fuels are priced at Rs 70.70 and Rs 41.29 respectively. A ride on even most fuel efficient ‘B’ segment petrol car would cost you at least Rs 5-6 per kilometre. “People are moving away from petrol cars. Their replacement vehicle is always a CNG or diesel car,” says Dalip a sales executive in a car showroom in South Delhi.

The diesel cars are priced (fully-loaded top-end models) Rs 50,000 to Rs 100,000 higher as compared to their petrol versions. Options in diesel hatchbacks those are available in the market range from our very own desi Tata Indica-Vista to Volkswagen-Polo. Prices also oscillate from Rs 450,000 to 750,000 in the Capital (ex showroom price).

Coming to the old myth that diesel cars usually do not have the tyre-scorching pick-up, there is some good news that cars like Maruti Suzuki-Swift, Volkswagen-Polo and Fiat-Punto can attain a speed of 0-100 kilometres in an amazing timing between 13-19 seconds, quite impressive for a diesel machine.

Brief descriptions of all available diesel hatchbacks along with their main features are given below to help you in selecting the best options for yourself:

Maruti Suzuki-Swift: It is the most popular model of diesel hatchbacks in the country. It also sells in Europe and Japan. Due recent labour unrest in Maruti’s Manesar plant, its production has been disrupted. Swift’s availability in the market will be doubtful unless the production recommences and previous bookings are cleared.

Swift has a 1248cc engine, which generates 75 PS power. Its technology is patented as DDIS. Its interiors are standard, but comfortable. It is a safe car, providing good riding comfort. The car gives a decent average of 15 to 18 kmpl. Maruti has recently introduced Swift in its new avatar which has attractive styling and looks as compared to other cars in its class. Due to better after sales service network and cheaper spares, Swift and Ritz are strong contenders in the segment.

Fiat-Punto: Punto has all the qualities of a winner, but it is an underdog in the segment. In India, Fiat had an agreement to sell and service their cars through TATA Motors outlets, which has expired. Punto, despite being a good car has not been able to sell like other cars due to poor marketing. Its multi-jet engine which is comparable to Swift generates a whopping 90 PS (maximum in its class) of power. The fuel efficiency of Punto is 14 to 18 kmpl. Its design is aerodynamic having typical European look of a city cruiser; the interiors are little traditional. It is a robust machine; worth the money. Incidentally, Fiat may be having problems in selling its cars in India, but its 1300cc Small Diesel Engine powers many cars like Maruti’s Swift, Dzire, Ritz and Ertiga and TATA’s Indica Vista and Manza. If Fiat could improve its after sales service, it will certainly lift the sales volume of Punto.

Chevrolet-Beat: This hatchback is from the General Motors’ stable. It has a small ultra light engine (1000 cc), the smallest in its class, giving incredible mileage of 25 kmpl. It has also been smartly priced between the starting range of Vista and the Swift. Beat has the jazziest looks one can get to see in the segment. Though little crammed from inside, its manoeuvrability on city roads makes it a favourite choice amongst youngsters. It comes in a variety of vibrant colours. Beat is a good option for your first car.

Hyundai—i20: Equipped with a 1400cc CRDI engine, i20 churns out 88.74 PS of power. It does 0-100 kilometre in just 13.56 seconds. The manufactures claim a fuel efficiency of 21.9 kmpl. The i20 has been liberally designed with aerodynamic shell and spacious and aesthetic interiors. Its stability on road is good. It offers good safety features. Hyundai has a good network of service centres in the metros and small towns. It is the longest car of the pack. If you do not mind shelling out a little more for quality and comfort i20 is a good option.

Volkswagen-Polo: Polo was the most awaited vehicle in India as it’s an internationally acclaimed hatchback. It was launched in Europe two years ago. It has a unique three-cylinder 1200cc TDI engine, churning out 75 PS of power. It does 0-100 kilometres in 16.10 seconds. The fuel efficiency is 15 to 21 kmpl. Polo has a sleek design, good spacious interiors and safety features.

Ford-Figo: It the first small car from the Ford’s stable. It houses a large 1400cc TDCI engine generating 69 PS of power. It does 0-100 kilometres in 16.7 seconds and offers a decent mileage of 14 to 18 kmpl. Figo disappoints on styling as its shell is old fashioned and interiors are rather rustic. It is a low silhouette design, which tires you on long journeys.

Toyota-Etios Liva: Toyota launched Liva at a right time. It is priced between Rs 577,000 to Rs 677,000. It claims a mileage of 25 kmpl. Its 1300cc engine does 0-100 kilometres in 18 seconds. Liva wears a sporty look. The dimensions are comparable to Hyundai i20. Its interiors are spacious and aesthetic in the entire category. It provides good riding comfort. Its console is in the centre—little awkward for those accustomed to steering consoles.

Nissan-Micra: Nissan’s first hatchback in India. It has a 1461cc diesel engine under its bonnet. It has been priced in the Rs 592,000 to Rs 637,000 bracket. The mileage is 16 to 19 kmpl. Micra claims to be the fastest amongst all the hatchbacks attaining 0-100 kilometres in just 13.7 seconds. It has tall-boy structure, very sporty interiors and a push button start.

Maruti Suzuki-Ritz: Engine-wise it is the replica of its much popular sister Swift. It is priced between Rs 550,000 to Rs 620,000. It does a 0-100 kilometre in 15.43 seconds. Its average is between 18-21 kmpl. Ritz came out of the shadow of Swift due to recent labour unrest at Maruti’s Manesar plant halting latter’s production. Its sales have increased substantially. Its looks are exactly the same as the Suzuki Splash (available with a bigger engine in Europe and South East Asian countries). Its bold outlines give an impression of a mini SUV. Overall a good car for city and highway driving.

Tata Indica-Vista: It is the only Indian car in the entire segment, with a 1300cc engine. Vista is undoubtedly most strong and sturdy machine of the pack. Unfortunately, car lovers do not prefer it due to its excessive popularity and use as a commercial vehicle. Otherwise, a fully-loaded Vista costs Rs 625,000—about Rs 100,000 cheaper than its closest rivals like Polo, Pulse and Fabia.

Renault-Pulse: The only French car in the segment launched by Renault to feel Indian market. It has 1500cc engine-biggest in the entire segment. Pulse is priced rather steeply between Rs 600,000 to Rs 670,000. Its styling is most attractive with plush interiors and riding comfort, it has the traits of a winner.

Skoda-Fabia: Fabia runs on same engine as its cousin Polo. It derives 75 PS power from a three-cylinder 1200cc engine zooming from 0-100 kilometres in 16 seconds. Its mileage under standard condition is 21 kmpl. Fabia gives a compact look with well-defined contours. Its interiors are plush and ergonomically designed. It is quite stable on road. For car lovers who can spend a little more, Fabia is a good choice.

Nearly all safety features which we find in high-end cars are available in the B segment. Various variants of these models offer an assortment of safety features. Considering the number of road accidents in India and the fatalities, one must not cut cost by saving a few thousands on safety features. Bare minimum safety feature of a car, irrespective of segment classification are front air bags. Some features are described hereunder.

►  Anti-lock Braking System (ABS): The ABS works as a safety mechanism for cars while travelling on hilly roads or cruising at higher speeds on wet surfaces. The system prevents the vehicle from skidding.

►  Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD): The EBD is a step ahead of power assisted brakes. In EBD system an on-board computer distributes the brake power to wheels as per requirement, making emergency braking easier, effective and safe.

►  Airbags: The most important safety feature needed in today’s cars. The mechanism reacts to a relatively heavier impact on the car’s body by opening the airbags. B segment offers maximum two front airbags.

One of the most reliable organisations working on the individual assessment of cars for judging their safety quotient is European New Car Assessment programme (NCAP). NCAP organises crash-tests and provides motoring consumers with a realistic and independent assessment of the safety performance of some of the most popular cars sold worldwide. NCAP safety ratings of these cars are given in the table.

By Raunaq Rathore

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