Superhit formula: Why compact SUVs make the most sense for India

It’s the rainy season and the roads are flooded. Your average hatchback or sedan isn’t going to make it. Reason enough for a compact SUV? Scenario two. You take a trip through rural India. Tarred roads are non-existent. Potholes are big enough to swallow any average hatchback or sedan, scratching their underbellies. Reason enough for a compact SUV?

The reasons may be many and it’s pretty evident from the growing demand for compact SUVs in India. Ford has had an unprecedented run with over 30,000 bookings for the Ford EcoSport in just 17 days. The Renault Duster too has had a good year with sales of over 54,200 units in one year, far more than what Renault expected.

What is it that makes these compact SUVs desirable and which are the ones you can put your money one in the coming months? Here’s a look. Also read: Should you buy an SUV or a sedan?

Ford EcoSport

The Ford EcoSport is proving to be one of the most successful compact SUVs in India. It comes in three engine options and a total of 10 variants including an automatic. Engine options include a 1.5 litre petrol (with manual and automatic transmission), a 1-litre Ecoboost (turbopetrol) engine that’s the most powerful in the line-up, yet one of the most fuel efficient as well and the 1.5 litre diesel that is known for its fuel efficiency and drivability. Prices for the Ford EcoSport range from Rs. 5.6 lakh to Rs. 9 lakh. Also read: Ford EcoSport vs MUVs, SUVs, sedans and hatches

Renault Duster

The Renault Duster got a headstart in the compact SUV market, virtually creating the market for compact SUVs and milking the initial demand. However, after the Ford EcoSport has come out the sales of the Duster are likely to be effected even more as the Duster is about Rs. 2 lakh to Rs. 3 lakh more expensive than the Ford EcoSport variant for variant. But it’s also a bigger SUV compared to the EcoSport. Prices for the Renault Duster range between Rs. 7.7 lakh and Rs. 11.7 lakh. Also read: All you wanted to know about the Renault Duster 

Maruti XA Alpha

Maruti is reportedly moving full steam ahead with development of the XA Alpha compact SUV that shares its underpinnings with the Maruti Swift platform. This concept vehicle was showcased at the Auto Expo 2012 and is likely to make a debut in India at the end of 2013. It will be under 4-metres in length, like the Ford EcoSport and will come with a 1.3 litre diesel engine and 1.2 litre petrol engine. Prototypes are apparently being tested at Maruti’s plant in Gurgaon. Expect the XA Alpha to be highly cost competitive and priced aggressively against the Ford EcoSport.  Also read: Maruti unveils XA Alpha compact SUV 

Nissan Terrano

The Nissan Terrano is Nissan’s version of the Renault Duster. It is no-doubt a badge-engineered product, but with some significant cosmetic changes. The grille will be a trademark Nissan style grille. Headlamps, bumper, fog lamps and tail-lamps are different and there’s even a subtle sheet metal difference in the crease of the doors. The Terrano is likely to come only in a diesel variant, with the 1.5 K9K Renault-Nissan engine doing duty in it in possibly 85 PS and 110 PS states of tune. The vehicle is being readied for a launch in October 2013 and will apparently be priced slightly higher than the Renault Duster (to avoid scuttling the good run the Duster has had so far).  Also read: Nissan’s compact SUV based on Duster to be called Terrano

Mahindra S101

Photo: Motor Vikatan

The Mahindra S101 has been spotted testing in Chennai. This is Mahindra’s version of the compact SUV and is based on the XUV500 platform. This vehicle too would be under 4-metres in length. The vehicle will likely come with the Quanto’s 1.5 litre diesel engine, which would make for an interesting, powerful compact SUV. Mahindra is also reportedly working in a small petrol engine, but there’s no confirmation if that would also be offered. The S101 (codename) is likely to be launched by mid next year. Also read: Mahindra speeding up S101 compact SUV testing

Honda compact SUV

Honda is also going to cash in on the compact SUV craze, moving ahead with plans for a Jazz-based compact SUV for Asian markets including India. The vehicle is likely to come with the Honda Amaze’s 1.5 litre iDtec diesel engine that currently is the most fuel-efficient diesel engine in India. It will also be offered with a 1.2 litre petrol engine and would again be priced quite aggressively against the Ford EcoSport, at least against the top-end variants. Also see: Official photos of upcoming Honda SUV leaked

Hyundai compact SUV


Recently Hyundai has been spotted testing a compact SUV in South Korea, which is likely to be launched in India sometime next year. This compact SUV, at least from spy pictures, does look quite sporty with Hyundai’s trademark family style showing through. It may look like a baby Hyundai Santa Fe when it finally comes out and it would likely be the size of a Renault Duster rather than a vehicle that’s under 4 metres. Also read: Spyshots of Hyundai Compact SUV emerge

There are a few more compact SUVs planned for the Indian market, but with no official confirmation of when they would come in. One that has been speculated about quite often is the Chevrolet Trax from General Motors, which has been launched in Europe. However, the company has said it won’t be launching it anytime soon in India and is still “studying” the market. Also read: Chevrolet Trax makes debut at Paris Motor show

Another vehicle that will likely come into India is a compact SUV from Fiat based on the Punto platform. No further details have emerged about this as well. And then at the absolute low end of the budget there are two more compact SUVs that already exist, although they are not really seen as SUVs – the Mahindra Quanto and the Premier Rio.

Which of these compact SUVs interest you? Let us know.