Snapshot – First time car buyers are usually constrained by limited budgets. This means that their buying options are largely restricted to entry-level hatchbacks that offer a great mix of affordability and fuel efficiency. Apart from the low initial purchase price, these cars are also compact enough for hassle free driving within crowded city conditions. Some even feature the Automated Manual Transmission option, which makes city driving a breeze. Today, we round up a dozen cars that the first time car buyer in India can seriously consider. While some cars are already available in the market here, others will make their debuts soon.
The Nano is the most affordable hatchback in the country, with a starting price of under 2 lakh rupees for the air conditioner equipped CX variant. Though the car features a small, 624cc twin cylinder petrol engine with 37 Bhp-51 Nm on tap, the well matched four speed gearbox does a fantastic job within the confines of the city, or upto say 80 Kph. After these speeds though, the Nano loses steam.
The car is a tall-boy, and offers plenty of room on the inside. In fact, the Nano is more spacious than pricier cars such as the Maruti Alto and the Hyundai Eon. We recommend the power steering equipped Twist variant of the Nano, as the CX variant can get hard to park due to the heavy, non-power assisted steering. The main reason for the Nano not selling well has to do with the image.
People don’t want to be seen in a car that’s the lowest priced in the market as a personal automobile is a sense of pride for many, an aspirational purchase if you will. If you don’t subscribe to this somewhat elitist mindset, the Nano is a brilliant package as a city car. Why, many young couples can be seen packing their Nano with a weekend’s worth of luggage and hitting the open road. This is one car that you can take to Khardung La and back.
You get the Maruti Alto in many flavours, but that’s not the reason why the car is such a big seller, in fact the biggest selling car in the country. The reason has to do with the Maruti Suzuki badge on the bonnet, a badge that assures a first time car buyer reliability, fuel efficiency, affordable spare parts and service, and then there’s that unrivalled nationwide service network, and good resale value.
The Alto 800 may be more cramped than the Nano, but beats the Tata hatchback when it comes to performance. The car is powered by a 796cc F8D triple cylinder motor that makes 47 Bhp-68 Nm. A five speed manual gearbox comes standard. If you want more power and torque, you have the Alto K10 variant, with 67 Bhp and 90 Nm. The Alto K10 is available with 5 speed manual and AMT gearbox options.
The K10 variant also gets a driver’s airbag, but only on the top-end variant, which is twice as pricey as the Nano. The Alto range is definitely more aspirational than the Nano, another reason for better sales. The car does have good pep for better highway speeds but we recommend that you stay under 100 Kph in this car as its body doesn’t have a reputation for holding up when things go wrong.
The Hyundai Eon is that entry level car whose USPs are its fresher design, and upmarket interiors. The car feels much more plusher than both the Nano and the Alto. In terms of pep, the Eon has things covered with two engines – with 814cc and 1 liter capacities. Both motors are triple cylinder units with power and torque ratings of 55 bhp-75 Nm for the smaller engine, and 68 Bhp-94 Nm for the larger one.
The Eon is marginally pricier than the Alto but Hyundai is yet to match Maruti Suzuki’s sheer reach in terms of dealerships and after sales service centers, especially in rural and semi-urban parts of India. This is an area that Maruti Suzuki and the Alto really score in. For instance, slowing down sales of the Alto on account of poor monsoon predictions indicate the car’s well entrenched position in semi-urban and rural markets of the country.
However, for someone who wants to be a little different from the crowd and wants to drive a car that feels more luxurious, the Eon cuts the ice.
Datsun Go and Go+
The Datsun Go is an entry level hatchback from Nissan, a Japanese automaker trying hard to score big in India. The Go is a cut price version of the Micra, and this shows in terms of the sheer size of the car, which puts it a couple of sizes larger than the Alto and the Eon. Also, the Go has a more powerful triple pot petrol motor, good for 67 Bhp-104 Nm.
The car also rides and handles better than the other entry level offerings, another pointer to its larger car underpinnings. However, the sales and service reach of Nissan is no match to what Maruti Suzuki, Hyundai and Tata Motors offer. This is a major stumbling block for the Go hatchback, which is a pale shadow to other entry level cars, as far as its sales numbers are concerned.
The Go also has a larger variant, dubbed the Go+. The Go+ is a station wagon variant that offers plenty of luggage space. The car also has a third row of seats that can fit in a couple of kids at best. Sharple priced, the Go+ delivers good value. However, both the Go and Go+ suffer from bare basic interiors that feel low rent. Also, many glaring instances of corners being cut make the car’s innards look and feel cheap.
Tata Nano GenX AMT
The Tata Nano has received its most comprehensive facelift ever, in the form of the GenX variant. The car represents a massive jump over the pre-facelift Nano in terms of features. An open-able hatch lid, a revised exterior design, fresher interiors and an automated manual transmission option are the changes on the car. Here’s our first drive review of the Nano GenX, a car whose launch will happen on the 19th of May, and whose bookings are now open.
Renault Kwid (formerly Kayou )
On the 20th of May, Carlos Ghosn will unveil the Renault Kayou, which will be the French automaker’s lowest priced car for India and the world. Based on the CMF-A platform, the Kayou will be powered by an 800cc, triple cylinder petrol motor to begin with. A 1 liter petrol engine may be offered later. 5 speed manual and AMT options are also expected to be offered on this car. The Kayou will start from under 4 lakh rupees, and will come with a significant amount of localization. Renault is also betting on big exports of this car, from India. Update: Just unveiled, the Renault Kwid!
Maruti Celerio Diesel
Due for a launch in months from now, the Maruti Suzuki Celerio Diesel is all set to be India’s most fuel efficient diesel hatchback, and the most affordable one too. The car will use a 792cc, twin cylinder turbo diesel motor, with about 48 Bhp-125 Nm on tap. The near 30 Kmpl fuel efficiency number will the Celerio’s major selling point. Dealer dispatches will begin soon, and bookings are expected to open shortly at a Maruti Suzuki dealership near you. The car is a bold experiment for Maruti Suzuki and the Indian car industry as a whole. The Celerio’s success of failure will have major implications on how small cars evolve in the country.
By the end of this year, the Kite code-named hatchback from Tata Motors will soon replace the Indica in the budget car market. The Indica is likely to continue as a taxi-only offering. The Kite will be offered with petrol and diesel power, and is likely to start from under 4 lakh rupees. A fresh design and good quality levels are two thrust areas that Tata Motors is focusing on for the Kite, which will also spawn a compact sedan sibling. The car is said to be lined for production at Tata Motors’ Sanand manufacturing facility.
The Datsun Redigo will make its India debut early next year. The car will be the least priced Datsun car, sitting below the Go in terms of positioning. This will peg the car’s price tag at under 3 lakh rupees. The Redigo will share its CMF-A underpinnings and the 800cc triple cylinder petrol motor with the Renault Kayou. In terms of features, and fit and finish levels though, the Redigo is likely to be a couple of notches below the Kayou. This is in accordance with Renault cars being priced and positioned above those of Nissan and Datsun, in India at least. The Redigo will share parts and its production facility with the Kayou.