The automotive market is full of ups and downs. We have cars (and carmakers) that were once topping the sales charts, but now, they’re barely able to survive. There also are cars which once looked very interesting (and promising) but their future had different plans. And then there are products which made a splash when launched, soon subsided, but eventually returned with such a loud bang that we couldn’t help but notice. Here are five of those:
Once upon a time there was a Suzuki van called Every Landy. Maruti brought it as the Versa. It seemed promising, but the market wasn’t interested. You see, if someone tells you that whatever MSIL launches will end up selling in huge number, he/she doesn’t have any idea of how the market is. Maruti has had a couple of good products which turned out to be disasters in terms of sales figures, and Versa was one of them.
So what didn’t work as a domestic vehicle should work as a people mover, shouldn’t it? Or so MSIL thought, and they weren’t wrong. Positioned above the ageing Maruti Omni is now the Eeco. Think of it as the Versa but less premium and more commercial. The car averages about 5,000 units every month, which is not bad for a car that was once branded ‘flop’. It now draws power from a 1.2-litre petrol engine that makes 73 hp and 101 Nm of torque. It can be specced in either a 5-seat or a 7-seat version, and like the Omni, the Eeco too is rear-wheel drive.
When Honda first launched the Jazz, it seemed like an expensive hatchback but one that had a lot to offer – think City but without a boot. A couple of revisions later, the Honda Jazz was soon found to be competing with this almost an entirely new bunch of cars, together constituting the premium hatchback segment. The Jazz unfortunately didn’t have a diesel engine, absence of which was dealt supremely by the City but sadly, the Jazz wasn’t as strong.
A couple of years later, Honda brings back the Jazz. And like most other cars in its line up, the Jazz too gets a diesel engine option. Well, that solves it, then! Launched in July this year, the Jazz has been quite a popular choice in the premium hatchback segment, again averaging about 5,000 units per month. It’s too soon to say whether the Jazz has got it right this time or not, but as a comeback, it appears to be headed in the right direction, surely.
The Hyundai Verna always played second fiddle to the Honda City. It still does. But 2012 changed status quo, by quite a bit. The Verna Fluidic came along that year, and diesel car sales were on a high. The City was banished. The Verna Fluidic is the only big success that Hyundai has had in the C-Segment sedan space, and the Verna finally shrugged away the slow seller title that has afflicted previous iterations.
Talking of the same premium hatchback segment, there was the Hyundai i20. A massive overall improvement over the Getz that it replaced, the i20 was one of the milestone cars of the segment. Not only did it manage to prove that the market was (and still is) a sucker for premium interiors, it also successfully showed its prowess. But while it gave tough competition to the Swift, sales of the i20 started to taper. A facelift tried to inject some momentum, but it wasn’t until the introduction of the Elite i20 that the car became relevant again.
Engine options have remained unchanged, although the Getz’s super punchy diesel is still missed. Also, the earlier 1.4-litre petrol is no longer available. But still with a class that cars twice as expensive cannot have, with an interior that feels straight out of a midsize sedan, and the exterior styling that’s more European than what other European hatchbacks offer, the Elite i20 is a winner.
Back in 2013, when Skoda relaunched their D-segment car with a familiar name, the hashtag ‘#TheLegendReturns’ was more than just a Twitter keyword. It actually meant the return of the legend that you and I know as Octavia. Earlier Skoda had decided to use the name Laura for two generations of Octavia to keep the first generation car alive in the market. But with the first gen Octavia discontinued for some time, it was time to bring back the brand and the glory.
The new Octavia is light, fun to drive, and more or less the kind of car we expect a modern day Octavia to be. It’s still front wheel drive, but the engine range is stronger than before. And while sadly there’s no vRS, the regular models are exciting to drive, be it the base 1.4 TSI, the 2.0 TDI, or the petrol powerhouse – 1.8 TSI. Currently, in terms of sales figures, the Octavia manages to linger around the 2nd and 3rd spot in the segment.
And one car that looks really promising, but it’s just been a day old:
Maruti Suzuki Baleno
Do you remember the original Baleno sedan? Well, it was larger than the Esteem, and positioned above it. The Esteem was also called ‘Swift’ in certain markets. Fast forward to 2015, and you have a Baleno that’s larger, more premium than the Swift, and fittingly positioned above it. Simple.
While it’s too soon to say how big a comeback this one’s going to be, but looking at the very competitive pricing for a product that’s not just feature-rich but probably a more sensible buy than the Swift, the comeback could be huge. Possibly way bigger than what the original Baleno could manage in terms of sales.
The car’s available in both petrol and diesel engine options, comes with premium features, but is the only car with ABS and dual airbags standard across the range. That seems like a good start for the Baleno.