Snapshot – 2014 was not the best of years for the Indian car industry in terms of sales. However, new segments were created and innovative cars were launched no less. Today, we take a look at the 10 most influential car launches of 2014, and what these names mean for the car industry as a whole in India.
Maruti Celerio AMT
AMTs were unknown to the car buyer in India until the advent of the Maruti Suzuki Celerio, the first car in the country to offer an automated manual transmission. The AMT equipped Celerio was positioned as an affordable automatic car, without the mileage drop and high cost associated with regular automatic cars. The Celerio’s big success has prompted the launch of two new AMT cars in India, in the form of the Zest Diesel AMT and the Alto K10 AMT. In the coming years, AMTs are expected to replace the conventional automatic transmissions in most budget cars sold in India.
The Datsun Go represented Nissan’s first stab at challenging dominant operators in the entry-level budget hatchback space in India. The first Datsun badged car in India, the Go offers more for less in terms of space, engine capacity and performance. However, the car has not found too many takers in India. Even so, the hatchback has set the ball rolling as far as the Datsun low cost car brand is concerned and in the coming months, two new Datsuns will be launched in India. The Go also signalled the advent of “Bring-Your-Own-Entertainment-Device” to the budget car space by means of its innovative phone mount.
Hyundai Elite i20
The Elite i20 has demonstrated that a high quality car priced at a premium will find takers in India. The Elite i20 has been a success right from word go and the car is one of Hyundai’s best lookers. In terms of features, the Elite i20 actually offers a smaller set than the version it replaced. However, the quality levels of the Elite i20 have been ratcheted up significantly and so has the ride and handling package. Hyundai has made significant improvements all around and the ensuing vehicle has turned out to be a well rounded package with enough cred to command big sales.
Tata Motors’ big comeback vehicle, the Zest has demonstrated that the Indian automaker can build a high quality car that is stuffed with features. The Zest has outsold the Honda Amaze in the compact sedan segment and is poised to become the second largest seller in its segment. Through the Zest, Tata Motors introduced the first AMT on a diesel car in India. The car also comes with a host of segment leading features, at a hugely competitive price tag. Post the Zest, every new Tata car comes with heightened expectations and this is one of the best things that has happened to the brand in recent years.
Renault Duster AWD
The Duster AWD is one of the most capable SUVs under 20 lakh rupees and the Renault vehicle has established a new segment in the compact SUV class by offering in segment leading features such as the all wheel drive layout, traction control, cruise control and ESP. The Duster AWD has opened the floodgates for all wheel drive units on compact SUVs and in the coming years, expect to see more of this feature in cars under the 15 lakh rupee mark. The Duster’s badge engineered sibling, the Nissan Terrano, will also feature the AWD system soon.
Toyota Corolla Altis
The Toyota Corolla Altis, in its 11th generation, has reconquered the top spot it had lost in India last year, to the Hyundai Elantra. The car does not make the most power or torque in its segment, or for that matter isn’t the largest or most feature laden. However, bomb proof reliability, the Toyota badge on the bonnet and low running costs have meant that the Corolla Altis continues to outsell every car in its class, many times over. The Corolla Altis’ latest generation version is based on a brand new platform, with a totally refreshed design.
Mahindra Scorpio Facelift
Mahindra’s biggest launch of the year, the Scorpio Facelift, is a hit despite its love-me-or-hate-me looks. The SUV, in its most comprehensive facelift ever comes with a revised exterior design and major changes on the inside, which take a premium route. The Scorpio Facelift has also received a slew of engineering improvements to make it a much better handler than its previous iterations. The 2.2 liter mHawk turbo diesel motor also receives new aggregates to boost reliability while fuel efficiency is also raised.
The Honda City, is back, and back with diesel power. The car is the best selling C-Segment sedan in India and the 1.5 liter i-DTEC turbo diesel engine that Honda has introduced in this car is a major reason for the strong sales. The car is also available with a 1.5 liter i-VTEC petrol engine, famed for its reliability and smooth performance. The City sedan, in its 4th iteration for India, is larger than ever, and has a generous backseat to please the chauffeur driven crowd. The car also offers the buyer a slew of features and creature comforts.
Maruti Suzuki Ciaz
The Ciaz is a bold effort from Maruti Suzuki, which has never really hit bulls eye in the segments above the Ertiga’s. The Ciaz has started off very promisingly, what with the car overtaking the City sedan in its first month. The Ciaz is much larger than the car it replaces, in this case the SX4. The Ciaz also gains a bunch of new features, many of them seen for the first time on a Maruti Suzuki C-Segment sedan. A sportier, body kit equipped variant, dubbed the Ciaz Sport is in the works for a launch in the next few weeks. If the Ciaz continues its initial success, the car will finally break Maruti Suzuki’s jinx.
Ford Fiesta Facelift
Underrated but not really understated. An enthusiast’s choice that isn’t aggressively marketed by its maker. A driver’s car whose specifications belie its actual performance. That is the Ford Fiesta sedan facelift for you. One of the best diesel engined driver’s cars in the country, the Fiesta packs in a great build and useful features. At the new price levels at which it sells, it is also great value.