In recent times, Indian car buyers have shown a preference for SUVs in almost every price segment, leading to their widespread acceptance. However, there have been some premium SUVs that failed to make a mark in the Indian market, despite possessing certain strengths. Here is a list of a few such SUVs:
The Renault Captur aimed to provide a more premium alternative to the rugged and utilitarian Duster. While it retained the Duster’s tough B0 platform and 1.6-litre petrol and 1.5-litre diesel engines, its European crossover design did not resonate well with Indian buyers, who prefer SUVs with a more upright stance.
Similar to the Duster, the Renault Koleos failed to replicate its success. The Koleos boasted French styling, a potent 2.0-litre diesel engine, and a comprehensive list of features, including a BOSE sound system. However, during its launch, Indian customers were highly brand conscious when purchasing expensive vehicles, which affected its acceptance.
The Nissan X-Trail, akin to the Renault Koleos, aimed to provide Indians with a taste of their global lineup of premium vehicles. While it had an appealing upright design and a torquey 2.0-litre diesel engine, its premium pricing and maintenance issues limited its appeal.
Despite being a well-engineered and well-packaged product, the Nissan Kicks struggled to compete with popular rivals like the Hyundai Creta and Kia Seltos in the Indian car market. Sharing its B0 platform and engine options with the Renault Captur, the Kicks featured a distinct international-spec design and good features.
Volkswagen introduced the flagship Touareg SUV as an exclusive, limited-run model in the Indian market. However, buyers gravitated towards equally-priced SUVs from more premium brands, while the Touareg faced reliability issues.
The Chevrolet Forester was a niche exercise in rebadging, as it was essentially a rebadged version of the Subaru Forester, a crossover that was never officially sold in India. Despite featuring Subaru’s proven mechanicals and unique frameless doors, its thirsty petrol engine deterred buyers.
The Trailblazer was Chevrolet’s last all-new product in India before the company exited the market in 2017. As a flagship ladder-on-frame SUV, it boasted a strong diesel engine and imposing looks. However, Chevrolet’s departure shortly after its launch resulted in its significant failure.
The Mitsubishi Montero arrived in India as the fourth-generation Pajero, following the relative success of the second-generation Pajero (sold as Pajero SFX). Despite its robust road presence and proven 3.2-litre diesel engine, the Montero felt outdated due to its late arrival and high pricing.
Considered the first sub-four-metre compact SUV in India, the Premier Rio preceded the Ford Ecosport. It was a rebadged version of the Chinese Zotye 2008, offering Peugeot-sourced petrol and diesel engines at a decent price. However, poor after-sales service, crude fit and finish, and reliability issues deterred car buyers.
The Mitsubishi Outlander had a long stint in the Indian car market, with the second-generation and third-facelifted versions available in petrol-only variants. Lackluster marketing efforts, weak after-sales support, and poor fuel efficiency of the 2.4-litre petrol engine contributed to its failure.
Force Motors launched the Force One with great enthusiasm, even enlisting Amitabh Bachchan as its brand ambassador. While the SUV had a commanding road presence that garnered attention, it was plagued by several issues that overshadowed its strengths. A sluggish diesel engine, faulty electronics, and Force Motors’ lack of interest in sales and marketing contributed to the unfortunate downfall of the Force One in India.
Maruti Suzuki Grand Vitara 4×4
Before the current-generation Grand Vitara became a success story for Maruti Suzuki, the automaker sold the globally available fourth-generation Grand Vitara in India for nearly a decade. Serving as the flagship model for a significant period, the Grand Vitara was exclusively equipped with a 2.4-litre petrol engine and a four-wheel drive system. However, Maruti Suzuki’s perception of the premium end of the market at the time hindered the Grand Vitara’s success, resulting in its failure in India.
After establishing a strong presence in the mass market with models like the Santro and Accent, Hyundai sought to make a similar impact in the premium segment with the Sonata sedan and Terracan SUV. The Hyundai Terracan marked the brand’s entry into the SUV market in India, offering decent road presence and mechanicals for its price. However, Indian consumers were reluctant to pay a high price for a premium SUV from a brand like Hyundai, which was relatively new and perceived as more budget-oriented in those days.
First-generation Hyundai Tucson
In the mid-2000s, Hyundai replaced the Terracan SUV in India with a smaller but rugged offering, the Tucson. Despite the stylish appearance of the first-generation Hyundai Tucson, which is familiar to most of us, it had a forgettable history in India. The initial model of the Tucson was sold in India before the Santa Fe arrived. However, it failed to appeal to buyers in this segment due to its lack of the premium feel and stature expected from an expensive SUV.
Hyundai Santa Fe
Hyundai introduced the second and third generations of the Santa Fe SUV, which served as the flagship offering from the Korean carmaker in India for over a decade, preceding the arrival of the third-generation Tucson. The Hyundai Santa Fe boasted an appealing design, a powerful diesel engine, and a desirable set of features. However, buyers in India sought SUVs with a stronger and more imposing road presence, such as the Toyota Fortuner and Ford Endeavour, leading to the Santa Fe’s failure.
Ssangyong Rexton was Mahindra’s initial foray into offering a premium and luxurious SUV. Introduced in India around the time when Mahindra acquired Ssangyong, this Korean SUV arrived in its facelifted first-generation form. Equipped with an impressive 2.0-litre diesel engine and premium features like a sunroof, the Rexton had potential. However, it was plagued by issues such as faulty electronics and problematic transmission, which significantly impacted its reputation and sales in India.
Mahindra Alturas G4
Having learned from the shortcomings of the Ssangyong Rexton, Mahindra replaced it with the Alturas G4 in 2022. Essentially a rebadged and improved version of the second-generation Rexton, the Alturas G4 excelled in various aspects, including mechanicals and features. Despite being more affordable than competitors like the Toyota Fortuner and Ford Endeavour, the Alturas G4 failed to gain traction in India due to Mahindra’s lack of an effective marketing approach.