Snapshot – The annual union budget of India often dictates terms on what you can me can buy from the car market. The compact sedan is one such creation. In 2013, the Indian government’s budget declared that all cars that are longer than 4 meters, that have a ground clearance taller than 170 mm and whose engines displace over 1.5 liters are SUVs.
A funny situation was created, where a luxury sedan such as the Toyota Corolla Altis suddenly finds itself classified as an SUV. Worse still, this change in classification came with a higher rate of taxation. SUV makers responded in ingenious ways. Mahindra cut the ground clearance of the XUV500 by adding a front bumper insert, which pushed down the original 200 mm ground clearance to 170 mm.
This brings us to the topic at hand, 5 sedans that feature SUV like ground clearance.
The Toyota Etios sedan was developed specifically for emerging markets such as India, Brazil and South Africa. Toyota designers considered the less than perfect road conditions in India, and came up with a 174 mm ground clearance for the budget sedan. This car also benefits from a stiff suspension set up that prevents the suspension from bottoming out. A 2,550 mm wheelbase coupled to the tall gound clearance means that the Etios is one of the better equipped sedans in India, as far as handling potholes and speed breakers is concerned.
The Chevrolet Sail sedan has Chinese origins and although the roads in China may be much better than those in India, General Motors didn’t skimp on ground clearance even in the China-spec variant. In India, the car is endowed with a 174 mm ride height, with wheelbase measuring in at a short 2,465 mm. This combination gives the Sail the ability to sail across speed breakers without a damaged underbody to show for. The car is sold with petrol and turbo diesel engine options.
The Tata Zest is a compact sedan that actually looks tall. So, the 175 mm ground clearance is not surprising at all. The Zest seems designed for India, by an Indian automaker that is desperately seeking to turn around its image and boost sales. The Zest has also received suspension tuned for sharper handling. This results in a set up that is stiff enough to effectively handle potholes and speed breakers. The car’s 2,470 mm wheelbase also helps matters. The Zest is sold with turbocharged petrol and diesel engines.
Toyota Corolla Altis
The 11th generation Toyota Corolla Altis sees its wheelbase stretched to 2,700 mm, in keeping with the trend of D-Segment sedans getting larger with each passing generation. To compensate, the automaker has increased the ground clearance of the car to 176 mm. The car is now a segment leader when it comes to putting space between its underbody and the ground below. That Toyota has tweaked the Corolla to suit Indian conditions well is telling in terms of sales, with the car being the best seller in its segment.
The Fiat Linea C-Segment sedan now comes with a 185 mm ground clearance. This wasn’t the case previously, when Linea owners had to gingerly maneuver the car across speed breakers to avoid scraping their cars’ underbodies. During the 2012 refresh, the Linea gained ground clearance to become a sedan that no longer kisses the tops of speed breakers. The car’s superb suspension set up dispatches potholes with elan, making it one of the better bets as far as poor roads are concerned. With the Maruti Suzuki SX4 discontinued, the Fiat Linea is now the king of the hill, as far as ground clearance goes.