Sunday drive by Hormazd Sorabjee: Top five cars of 2019
For the automotive industry, 2019 is a year best forgotten. Car sales fell off a cliff in a market that’s witnessing the worst slump in recent memory, a raft of new regulations has made cars costlier and in big towns, where there’s no dearth of Uber and Ola drivers, sharing a car is becoming easier than owning one. All of this has no doubt dulled the appetite to buy a new car but it’s not all doom and gloom.
In a country, where there are only 22 cars per thousand people, the desire to own one is still strong and proof of that is phenomenal demand for certain models that have not only bucked the trend in a declining market but have hit it out of the park. So what’s the secret? It’s hygiene today for cars to have good looks, a comfortable and well-equipped cabin, fuel efficiency and all of it at a great price, but it’s how these ingredients are mixed that is the recipe to success.
Fresh out of the oven in 2019, these are the cars that are my top picks, the ones that stood out head and shoulders over the others.
Ticking every box is an overly used cliché but there’s no better way to describe what Kia has done with its maiden product, the Seltos SUV. In fact, the Seltos is hard to fault. It’s the perfect size, is brilliant to drive thanks to strong engines and easy handling, it has all the latest gizmos and reeks of quality. All of this at a very aggressive price. It’s no wonder Seltos sales have skyrocketed to make it the most popular SUV in India and win the 2020 Autocar Car of the Year Award.
Just when you thought there were no more niches left in a saturated car market, Renault cracked a new one wide open with its ground-breaking Triber. Like the Kwid before it, the Triber is a triumph of design and there’s nothing quite like this innovative seven-seater, which feels so much bigger than it actually is. The amount of space carved out of a sub 4-metre footprint to house seven adults in acceptable comfort is sheer wizardry.
The rough 1.0-litre engine is the chink in what is otherwise a brilliantly-conceived product but the good news is that a more powerful engine is coming with an automatic option to make the Triber a more complete package.
Look at it as a scaled down Creta and you’re looking at another smash hit from Hyundai. The Venue has all the virtues that made the Creta such a huge hit and lots more. The suite of ‘connected’ features bundled into an easy-to-use screen and interface is aimed at wowing today’s digitally-savvy consumers. Petrolheads can play with the punchy 1.0 litre turbo, whilst the practical buyer will be happy with the strong and refined 1.4 diesel. The rear seat is a bit cramped by class standards and the all-black cabin can be a bit drab but there’s no doubting this is the best compact SUV around.
An XL-sized SUV at a not so XL price is the best way to sum up the MG Hector and the reason why this unknown brand has stormed into the market and beaten established SUVs. It’s outstanding value for money and to put this in context, just calculate what you pay for this car in terms of square feet! The 4.6m long Hector is massive with a huge cabin and spacious boot. The Hector also goes to show that Indians are not afraid to try out a new brand even if it has a few flaws. The infotainment system has a few bugs and the dynamics fall short by class standards. But the overall ownership experience still gets a big thumbs up.
Hyundai Kona EV
The future is electric and that future in India is best represented by the Hyundai Kona EV. It’s fair to say this is India’s first proper electric car with a decent range, good performance and practicality. Yes, at Rs 28 lakh it’s still pricey but then saving the environment is never going to be cheap.
Hormazd Sorabjee is one of the most senior and much loved auto journalists in India, and is editor of Autocar India
Sunday Drive appears every fortnight
From HT Brunch, December 29, 2019
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