Early next year, Japanese car major Honda will launch the diesel version of its bestselling sedan, the City, which among other things will become the most fuel efficient car in India with a mileage of 26 kilometres per litre (kpl).
While in the past it was the petrol small cars that dominated the heap, thanks to advances in diesel technology it is the sedans led by Honda’s City and Amaze and Hyundai Verna that have pipped smaller cars, challenging traditional wisdom that big means more expensive to run.
In these times of runaway fuel prices, the running cost of a car has become the prime consideration for new car buyers, and the stakes on fuel economy are getting higher. In the last two years, the share of diesel cars has risen in a sluggish economy, thanks to the lower price of the fuel and more offerings on the table.
The rise in diesel price this year — it has been revised 11 times since January — has seen a revival in petrol car sales, but at 55% of total sales, the share of diesel cars is still dominant.
“In any segment, fuel economy is the most critical factor in decision making for a new car buyer,” said Kumar Kandaswami, senior director, Deloitte India. “For similar sized cars diesel will always be more fuel efficient than petrol.”
The bar is expected to be raised another notch when Tata and Maruti launch diesel versions of their entry level cars, the Nano and Alto respectively, in the coming years. The diesel Nano,which has been under development for quite a while, is expected to return a fuel economy in excess of 30 kpl. Maruti’s parent company Suzuki is also working on a small 800cc diesel engine that may be used in the Alto and Wagon R.
“Fuel economy is a core area for all manufacturers today,” said IV Rao, executive advisor, Maruti Suzuki India Ltd. “The attempt is that every new car or even a model change should be more fuel efficient than the existing version.”