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Which are the best performing SUVs in India is a question commonly asked by CarToq community members. So here’s a comprehensive list of the best performing SUVs, rated in terms of power to weight ratio, handling, ease of driving and off-road prowess. Only all the SUVs below Rs. 15 lakh are a part of this list, not including crossovers such as the Tata Aria or MUVs like the Innova.

Looking at all these parameters here are India’s top-performing SUVs below Rs. 15 lakh, after rating them on a scale of 1-5 (five being best):

Overall best SUV: Renault Duster. On a mix of parameters, the best overall SUV is the Renault Duster with an average score of 4.00 out of 5.00

Most powerful (power to weight): Renault Duster 110PS. On power-to-weight ratio, the Duster 110 PS trumps all others, putting out 85 bhp per ton!

Best handling: Tie between Skoda Yeti and Renault Duster. The ride quality, precise steering feel and sporty driving characteristics, tied the Yeti and Duster on this parameter.

Ease of driving: There is no clear winner here, with almost all SUVs scoring a 3/5 as each had good and bad points when it came to ease of driving.

Best off-road prowess: Tie between Mahindra Thar and Maruti Gypsy. When it comes to hard-core offroad ability the Thar and the Gypsy can go beyond where most of the others can go.

Here is the detailed comparison of how each of the 10 SUVs under Rs. 15 lakh fares on each of the parameters listed above. Also read: Best performing SUVs between Rs. 15 lakh and Rs. 25 lakh

Maruti Gypsy

Overall rating: 3.25

Research Maruti Gypsy

Gypsy-autopsyche-photo

Image courtesy: Autopsyche.com

The Maruti Gypsy is a bare-bones, utilitarian off-roader for those on a budget and who want great off-road potential, but not really bothered with on-road manners. The vehicle is priced between Rs. 5.6 lakh and Rs. 5.9 lakh.

Power to weight:  4/5

The Gypsy is powered by a 1.3 litre petrol engine that puts out 80 bhp of power and 103 Nm of torque with a 5-speed manual transmission on a vehicle weighing just 985 Kg. That translates to a power-to-weight ratio of about 81 bhp per ton, making it quite nimble. However, the Gypsy puts out just 103 Nm of torque (105 Nm per ton), on short gearing – which means it accelerates decently, but lacks top speed.

Handling: 2/5

The Gypsy has a very stiff suspension. This makes it bouncy and cumbersome, not great for everyday use. It does not have much body roll, but its lightweight and narrow track mean it can rollover if pushed hard.

Ease of driving: 2/5

The Gypsy is a handful to drive as it does not have power steering. The gear throws are long, but precise and there are no creature comforts, except for a blower.

Off-road prowess: 5/5

The Gypsy is one of the best vehicles for off-road use. It has 210 mm of ground clearance, a stiff suspension on a rigid ladder frame chassis and a part-time 4×4 system with a low-ratio gearbox. It’s light weight means it can also handle desert sands easily.

Also read: Top 5 SUVs for off-roading in India

Mahindra Thar

Overall rating: 3.5

Mahindra Thar research

mahindra-thar-review-1

The Mahindra Thar is a rugged off-road vehicle that also offers some creature comforts for on-road use. The Thar is priced at Rs. 6.9 lakh ex-showroom and has a host of add-ons to customize it, such as a hard-top and alloy wheels.

Power to weight: 3/5

The Thar is powered by a 2.5 litre diesel engine that puts out 103 bhp of power and 247 Nm of torque, with a 5-speed manual transmission. It is fairly heavy at 1,750 Kg, giving it a power-to-weight ratio of 59 bhp per ton. But it has plenty of torque (141 Nm per ton) for off-road use and good pick up.

Handling: 3/5

The Thar has an independent front suspension set-up, rigid leaf springs at the rear and a ladder-frame chassis. It is better than the Gypsy in handling. It has some amount of body roll

Ease of driving: 3/5

The Thar comes with power-steering and an air-conditioner. It is quite easy to maneuver, although the stiff suspension keeps throwing it around a bit.

Off-road prowess: 5/5

The Thar has 200 mm of ground clearance and a robust part-time 4×4 system with a low-ratio gearbox, with a rigid steel body. It can take quite a beating off-road and traverse any terrain. Also see: Mahindra Thar road test

Premier Rio

Overall rating: 2.75

Premier Rio Research

Premier-Rio-front-photo-1

The Rio is a compact city SUV that can seat five. It is priced between Rs. 5.6 lakh and Rs. 6.7 lakh.

Power to weight: 4/5

The Rio that’s available in metros is powered by a 1248 cc diesel engine that puts out 72 bhp of power and 183 Nm of torque, with a 5-speed transmission. It is a two-wheel drive only with a kerb weight of 1145 Kg. This translates to a power-to-weight ratio of 62 bhp per ton, that’s not bad at all!

Handling: 3/5

The Rio has a tall-boy design with a narrow width and tall wheels. This makes it a bit ungainly and slightly vague to handle, with some degree of body roll. One needs to slow down on corners.

Ease of driving: 2/5

The Rio’s problem is that it is too compact and can’t seat tall people comfortably enough. It is like a hatchback on stilts. It has hydraulic power steering and gear throws are long. Suspension is quite stiff.

Off-road prowess: 2/5

The Rio does not have a 4×4 system, but its 200 mm of ground clearance means it can handle a fair bit of bad roads with ease.

Mahindra Bolero

Overall rating: 2.75

Mahindra Bolero research

The Mahindra Bolero is India’s largest selling SUV (it’s an MUV really). It is based on the original Jeep design and has evolved over the years. It is a vehicle that can take quite some abuse.

Power to weight: 4/5

The Mahindra Bolero that sells in metros is powered by a 2.5 litre engine that puts out 97 bhp of power and 255 Nm of torque with a 5-speed manual transmission. It has a kerb weight of 1615 Kg, giving it a power-to-weight ratio of 60 bhp per ton, which is quite decent.

Handling: 2/5

The Bolero has a stiff leaf spring rear suspension and independent front suspension. It has an old school ladder frame chassis with body bolted on. There’s a fair amount of body roll and it is also quite bouncy. Steering is quite vague.

Ease of driving: 2/5

It has power steering and a gearbox with a fairly long throw for the gear lever. The seating position and the steering position are a bit offset, and one needs to get used to the vehicle. It’s not too refined as well.

Off-road prowess: 3/5

There are variants of the Bolero that come with an electric-shift 4×4 system, but those are not sold in the metros. The one available in cities has a rear-wheel drive system, with 180 mm of ground clearance. It is fairly capable off-road and on rough roads.

Renault Duster

Overall rating: 4.00

Renault Duster research

Renault-duster-side-photo

The Renault Duster is a compact SUV that is a good alternative to sedans. It has all the traits of a car, with the image and ground clearance of an SUV.

Power to weight: 5/5

The Renault Duster comes in three engine choices. For this comparison we’re taking the top-end variant, the RXZ 110PS. This has a 1.5 litre diesel engine that puts out 109 bhp of power and 248 Nm of torque, with a 6-speed transmission driving the front wheels. It has a light kerb weight of 1280 Kg giving it a power-to-weight ratio of 85 bhp per ton!

Handling: 5/5

The Duster has a multi-link rear suspension and independent coil springs in front. It is fairly stiff and its handling is excellent. Since the overall height is low and the vehicle is wide, it can be thrown around corners easily.

Ease of driving: 3/5

The Duster has a fairly precise electro-hydraulic steering system which gives a driver a precise feel of the road (almost too precise). The gear shifts are a bit notchy, but sure slotting.

Off-road prowess: 3/5

Light kerb weight, front-wheel drive, large wheels, good ground clearance of 205 mm means the Duster can handle quite a bit of rough road terrain where 4×4 would otherwise be called for. It is quite nimble off-road and won’t bottom out. Also read: Renault Duster review

Mahindra Scorpio

Overall rating: 3.00

Mahindra Scorpio research

Scorpio front

The Mahindra Scorpio is one of the largest-selling SUVs after the Bolero, selling over 4,000 units a month. It provides a decent mix of rugged utility and comfort for a variety of driving conditions and uses.

Power to weight: 4/5

The Mahindra Scorpio is powered by a 2.2 litre common-rail diesel engine that puts out 120 bhp of power and 290 Nm of torque, with a 5-speed manual (or 6-speed automatic) transmission. It has a fairly heavy kerb weight of 1850 Kg, giving it a power-to-weight ratio of 65 bhp per ton.

Handling: 2/5

When it comes to handling, the Scorpio is one of the worst, as it has plenty of body roll and is quite jittery through fast corners. The steering feel is also not very precise. City driving is easy though.

Ease of driving: 3/5

The ergonomics of the Scorpio are quite good with controls falling easily to hand. It has a tall seating position giving the driver a good view of the road and all-round visibility is good. The clutch is a bit hard and gears have a long throw.

Off-road prowess: 3/5

The Scorpio has three 4×4 variants on offer, LX, VLX and VLX AT. These come with an electric-shift part-time 4×4 system with a low-ratio gearbox and 180 mm of ground clearance. It is fairly capable off-road although it can damage some of its dangling plastic bits. Also see: Mahindra Scorpio review

Tata Safari

Overall rating: 3.25

Tata Safari research

tata safari

The Tata Safari has been around since 1998 and is among the oldest SUVs in this list. It is spacious and has tremendous road presence, but its sales have dropped.

Power to weight: 4/5

The Tata Safari is powered by a 2.2 litre common-rail diesel engine putting out 140 bhp of power and 320 Nm of torque, with a five-speed manual transmission driving the rear wheels, with a part-time 4×4 system on the top-end VX variant only. It has a heavy kerb weight of 2,040 Kg, giving it a power-to-weight ratio of 68 bhp per ton.

Handling: 3/5

The Safari, just like the Scorpio suffers from body roll with a stiff ladder-frame chassis and tall body bolted on. The steering feel is also quite vague and not too precise. But it’s slightly better than the Scorpio at speed. It has a bigger turning radius, which is a bother in the city.

Ease of driving: 3/5

The Safari has plenty of space, a tall seating position and large glass area giving the driver a good view of the road. The gear throw is long and clutch is slightly heavy. But for long trips, it’s quite easy to drive.

Off-road prowess: 3/5

The Safari VX has a Borg Warner 4×4 part-time system with an electric shift just like the Scorpio’s. It is fairly capable off-road and has 205 mm of ground clearance. Its only downside is its heavy kerb weight which is a disadvantage in sandy terrain. Also read: Tata Safari Storme first drive review!

Force One

Overall rating: 2.75

Force One research

force one

The Force One is one of the largest SUVs in its price range. It, however, is quite niche as it does not have a large dealer presence and service network is low. Its claim to fame is its Mercedes-derived engine.

Power to weight: 2/5

The Force One is powered by a 2.2 litre diesel engine that puts out 139 bhp of power and 321 Nm of torque, with a five-speed manual transmission driving the rear wheels. (A 4×4 variant is coming soon.) It has a heavy kerb weight of 2,510 Kg that gives it a poor power-to-weight ratio of 55 bhp per ton.

Handling: 3/5

The Force One uses a ladder frame chassis with body bolted on. It has a long wheelbase which makes it fairly comfortable, although throwing it around corners does induce body roll. It’s better meant for sedate, long-distance cruising.

Ease of driving: 3/5

The Force One has a good driving position and all controls fall easy to hand. It could do with better sound insulation and the gearbox has a long throw to it. Overall visibility is quite good.

Off-road prowess: 3/5

Being a heavy SUV and lack of a 4×4 system work against making the Force One a good all-rounder. It has 205 mm of ground clearance, which is great for bad roads. Also see: Force One review

Mahindra XUV500

Overall rating: 3.50

Mahindra XUV500 research

The Mahindra XUV500 is one of the most popular SUVs in its segment for a reason – it is loaded with features not found in most other vehicles below the Rs. 15 lakh price band. It sells over 4,000 units a month.

Power to weight: 4/5

The Mahindra XUV500 is powered by a 2.2 litre common-rail diesel engine that puts out 140 bhp of power and 320 Nm of torque with a six-speed manual transmission driving the front wheels or in one variant – all four wheels (all-wheel drive). It has a kerb weight of 1840 Kg giving it an overall power-to-weight ratio of 76 bhp per ton.

Handling: 4/5

The XUV500 has fairly decent handling as it comes with ESP and a fairly stiff suspension set up. The steering feel is quite good and the vehicle can take fast corners with poise, although there is some body roll.

Ease of driving: 3/5

The XUV500 has some restrictions in rear visibility and the glossy plastics hamper a driver’s focus on the road slightly. Controls fall easy to hand, but the gears are stiff and the clutch is slightly hard. The host of features it has, however, compensates for some of this.

Off-road prowess: 3/5

The all-wheel drive XUV500 has fairly decent off-road prowess, having been proven in recent rallies. It has a ground clearance of 200 mm which is more than enough for bad roads. The all-wheel drive system is good for snowy, slushy or sandy terrain, but not for hard-core off-road use. Also read: Mahindra XUV500 full review!

Skoda Yeti (4×2)

Overall rating: 3.75

Skoda Yeti research

The Skoda Yeti is a versatile, compact SUV, that’s great for all-round use – in the city, on the highway, or better still a fast mountain drive. It drives like a car with the capability of an SUV. The 4×4 variants are slightly above Rs. 15 lakh, so we’ll take the Yeti 4×2 as a comparison here.

Power to weight: 4/5

The Skoda Yeti is powered by a capable 2-litre diesel engine that puts out 110 bhp of power and 250 Nm of torque. The 4×2 variant powers the front wheels. It has a kerb weight of 1,543 Kg, giving it a decent power-to-weight ratio of 71 bhp per ton.

Handling: 5/5

The Skoda Yeti is a great vehicle to drive and handles like a car. The steering feel is precise and there is no body roll. It is very sporty to drive.

Ease of driving: 3/5

The Skoda Yeti has a car-like driving position, in which you sit closer to the ground. Controls fall easily to hand. The clutch is light and gears slot in easily. In cities or on the highway, the Yeti always feels easy to drive.

Off-road prowess: 3/5

The Skoda Yeti 4×2 loses out on off-road capability because of the removal of the 4×4 on-demand system. It has a ground clearance of 180 mm and comes with underbody protection for bad roads. It’s performance is quite good because of its light weight and nimble handling. Also read: Skoda Yeti review

This is how these 10 SUVs below Rs. 15 lakh stack up against each other, based on our collective assessment of these vehicles. However, we would like you, the CarToq community to share your feedback and ratings for these 10 SUVs as well. Do share your ratings and reasons for them with us the rest of the community.

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