Maruti Suzuki SX4 106 bhp version and automatic soon

There is one thing to be said about Maruti Suzuki – they do not give up easily. Every time Maruti has tried to sell something in the mid-size segment, they have had to struggle. Whereas, bring in a Honda – any Honda – price it a lakh rupees above a similar car, and sales shoot up. Such is fate.

Thus was the fate of the Suzuki SX4, when Maruti launched it in India. After an initial peaking, sales bogged down and the company never quite caught up with Honda. Now Honda’s Honda City models – since the first version was introduced in India in I think 1996 – were superhits. The successful run continued with the next generation Honda City which has just been upgraded including an automatic variant. Honda SIEL has sold 37,600 of the new generation City models till August 2009 since its launch in November 2008 while the SX4 could only manage sales of 9,763 units.

The Fiat Linea, which is seen as an extremely value for money car, as well as the recently refreshed Ford Fiesta SXi has also hit the SX4 hard.

Currently, Maruti has put a temporary halt to the production of the SX4 to change over from the current BS3 engine to the new BS4 engine.

Maruti plans to relaunch the Suzuki SX4 with a new Bharat Stage-IV, 1.6-litre engine that will produce 106 bhp. That will be just 8 bhp less than the all-new Honda City. Maruti has always positioned the SX4 as an uber-macho car; and the company hopes the extra power and performance will make that claim more credible. Torque would be 165-175 nm. More details would be available only at the time of the launch.

The new 106 bhp SX4 will also come in an automatic variant during the upcoming Diwali festive season. Automatics are quite popular in India at the top-end of the market. Automatic transmission is getting more popular in India, and Maruti hopes that the SX4 automatic will offer some competition to the automatic Honda City.

The new Maruti SX4 will sport some cosmetic changes as well, both on the outside and inside.

As to the price, the new Maruti SX4 is likey to cost more than Rs 7.5 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi), the price of its top-end ZXi variant.

As part of its strategy to lend some dash to the ageing SX4, Maruti has roped in Bollywood actor John Abraham to be the brand ambassador of the revamped Maruti SX4. John Abraham is also the brand ambassador of Yamaha motorcycles in India, and he was present at the launch of the Yamaha V-Max recently.

The Maruti SX4 was launched in May 2007 in three manual variants.

Whether the 106 bhp SX4 would be able to do the job for Maruti, only time will tell. Honda enjoys excellent brand image in India, and that has helped them sell larger cars easily in India. The logic for the average buyer is that if you are spending above Rs 7 lakhs, it is better to spend it on a car that gives them more prestige, and that is where Honda scores big in India.

Maruti’s other cars currently sold in the Indian market are the A-Star, Ritz, Swift, Swift DZire and the Grand Vitara.