Snapshot: 2014 will be the year that will see a new segment emerging in the Indian hatchback market, of that of crossover styled hatchbacks. The segment, which hosted a solitary car last year in the form of the Volkswagen Cross Polo, will see two more launches in the coming months: the Fiat Punto Cross and the Toyota Etios Cross. We’ll profile all three cars in this report.
The crossover styled hatchback segment was pioneered in India by Fiat with the Palio Adventure model. The car promptly bombed, but not before being highly rated for its tall ground clearance, good driving dynamics and a high degree of practicality. Many years elapsed after the Palio Adventure’s discontinuation before Skoda took a stab at this segment with the Fabia Scout, another slow seller that has since been discontinued.
Although this segment has traditionally been a laggard in the Indian car market, car makers continue to show interest due to the inherent advantages a compact hatchback with a tall ground clearance brings to Indian roads. That the Indian car market is warming up to compact SUVs in a big way has only served to increase car makers’ optimism for the crossover styled hatchback segment.
The incumbent: Volkswagen Cross Polo
Though the Skoda Fabia Scout came up a dud at the hustings, the Fabia Scout’s failure didn’t stop Volkswagen India from launching the Cross Polo, a crossover styled version of the B+ segment Polo hatchback. Available in a solitary variant armed with all the bells and tinkles that are standard on the diesel powered Polo Highline variant, the Cross Polo is powered by the 1.2 liter-3 cylinder turbo diesel engine (75 Bhp-180 Nm).
This diesel engine drives the front wheels of the Cross Polo by means of a 5 speed gearbox. The Cross Polo features butch styling elements that give it the look of a crossover. However, the 175 mm ground clearance remains unchanged, making the car more of a grease and paint job than a full fledged effort to handle the badder roads of the country.
Challenger 1: Toyota Etios Cross
While named the Toyota Etios Cross, the car is actually a Liva hatchback armed with body armour. Featuring design cues such as bumper inserts and side cladding, the Etios Cross has already gone on sale in the Brazilian car market with a 1.5 liter petrol engine in tow. For India, expect the 1.4 liter D-4D turbo diesel engine (68 Bhp-170 Nm) to be the power option of choice, along with a 5 speed manual gearbox driving front wheels of this hatchback.
Like the Volkswagen Cross Polo, the Toyota Etios Cross is likely to sit at the top of the Liva hatchback line up in terms of price and positioning. The car is likely to be showcased at the 2014 Indian Auto Expo given the fact that the TVC shoot of the Etios Cross is already in pr0gress. The Toyota Etios Cross is not likely to feature a higher ground clearance, with the changes limited to the body kit.
Challenger 2: Fiat Cross Punto
The Fiat Grande Punto is known as the SUV of hatchbacks in India, what with its SUV shaming 190 mm ground clearance. So, it is only apt that Fiat has chosen this car to spearhead its entry into the crossover hatchback segment of India. The first test mules of the Fiat Cross Punto have begun doing the rounds in Italy and the car’s Indian launch will happen by the middle of the year.
Likely to be priced and positioned above the Grande Punto diesel variants, the Fiat Punto Cross could use the 1.3 liter Multijet diesel motor as its solitary engine option. A front wheel drive layout and a 5 speed manual gearbox will put the torque to the ground. Apart from a body kit with flank cladding and new bumpers, the Punto Cross could also get bumpers that sit taller than those on the Grande Punto hatchback.
Render courtesy LeoAndradeDesign
Spyshot courtesy Quattroruote.it