Snapshot – Horses for the courses. Nowhere is this adage more apparent than in the Indian car market, where there are a myriad of vehicles to suit every budget and every preference of an individual buyer. SUVs are now extremely popular here, mainly for their ability to take the rough with the smooth, which is essentially what Indian roads are all about. However, picking the wrong SUV could really make you regret your decision rather than reveling in the wide capabilities that these vehicles bring to the equation. We’ve picked out six top SUV options and the biggest deal breakers associated with each one of them.
Tried and tested Bolero mechanicals with the classic Jeep shape means that the Thar tugs at the heart strings of many a hot blooded male. However, looks can only get you so far. After the initial infatuation with the classic Jeep looks wanes, reality beckons. The Thar is bare basic and has plenty of rough edges. If you’re someone hoping that the Thar can replace your ultra reliable Japanese hatchback or sedan, you need to seriously reconsider your decision to bring home the very handsome looking Mahindra off roader. The Thar is best used as a second vehicle, and a recreational one at that. Buying this lifestyle offering as one’s primary vehicle is riding on luck and there are no two ways to it. If you’re a family woman/man, having the Thar as a primary vehicle isn’t a wise option and this for many, is the biggest deal breaker when it comes to this highly capable on-off roader.
Drawback: Too bare-bones
The sub-4 meter Ford EcoSport is affordable, compact, reliable and fuel efficient. With a hefty ground clearance to boot, the EcoSport is a fantastic tool to take on the rough and tumble of urban Indian traffic. On the highway too, the EcoSport benefits from Ford’s sorted ride and handling package. Now, all’s well until you buy the Ford EcoSport for what it is – a urban crossover that can hold its own on the highway. Don’t let the tall ground clearance and water wading ability fool you. The EcoSport sold in India is a front wheel driven vehicle and should not be used for anything more than mild off road trails. Do so at your own peril as the EcoSport, for all its SUV pretensions, could get beached off the road, as it doesn’t have a four wheel drive system to back its otherwise decent off road credentials. The lack of a four/all wheel drive option is therefore one of the biggest drawbacks of this vehicle.
Drawback: No 4WD option
The Renault Duster on the other hand can handle more than a decent pounding off the road courtesy the Haldex clutch equipped all wheel drive system that this SUV now brings to the table. Also aiding the Duster’s off road prowess are features such as traction control, an electronic stability program and hill hold assist. However, the monocoque bodied Duster is a compact vehicle that simply doesn’t have the street presence of say a Mahindra Scorpio or the Tata Safari Storme. The Duster also does not have the commanding driving position of the other ladder framed SUVs and this is a big deterrent to those who want the feeling of towering over other vehicles on the road. So, if you belong to this category of SUV buyers who like their vehicles big and imposing, the Duster is simply not the one for you. If car-like ride and handling is your cup of tea along with more than adequate performance on mild trails, the Duster ticks all the right boxes.
Drawback: No commanding driving position compared to other SUVs in this price range
The Scorpio is a ladder frame chassis equipped SUV that’s extremely popular among buyers in India, for this vehicle offers a rugged demeanour and a tough build, apart from its ‘bully image’ too. In India, might is right and the Scorpio is one of the mightier SUVs to roam the roadscape here. While the Scorpio benefits from the 2.2 liter mHawk turbo diesel engine that puts out 120 Bhp-280 Nm and that is quite responsive, the SUV is simply out of its element when pushed around a corner. You have to understand that the Scorpio is a tall, top heavy SUV that needs you to slow down adequately for corners. No sportscar this. So, if you want a car-like ride and handling that is quite forgiving, the Scorpio is not the vehicle for you. You’ll be much happier choosing the Ford EcoSport or the Renault Duster.
The Mahindra XUV500 screams value with a capital V no less. The crossover features a monocoque body and is one of the best sorted utility vehicles in Mahindra’s range, dynamically speaking. While the XUV500 has decimated the entire D-Segment sedan market in India, don’t be under the illusion that the vehicle offers the same kind of refinement as say a Toyota Corolla or a Skoda Octavia. And if you can live with this, also be prepared to handle the niggles that the XUV500 will subject itself to now and then. If you’re a stickler for fuss free performance, day after day, and absolutely abhor going to the service center frequently to fix minor niggles, the XUV500 is simply not the ride suited to you. You’ll be happier in a Toyota Corolla Altis.
Drawback: Minor niggles and service center visits
The big, butch Toyota sells an average of 1,500 units in India each month and for a 30 lakh rupee SUV, this is nothing short of phenomenal. A fuss free performer that is reliable to a fault, the Fortuner is a typical Toyota and luxury SUV buyers in India simply can’t get enough of this vehicle. However, most folks spending 30 big ones expect high quality interiors and a ride that isn’t jarring, especially the ones who sit on the back seat and let their chauffeurs do all the driving. While many clench their teeth and excuse the Fortuner, looking to instead focus on the SUV other virtues, some simply drop the plans of buying this Toyota. So, if a plush ride quality and interiors that don’t seem to be lifted off the much cheaper Innova matters to you, the Hyundai Santa Fe is what you should be seriously considering.
Drawback: Boring interiors