The world is recovering: not only from a debilitating pandemic but also from the ruinous effect it is having on the economy. It inevitably sent the world’s fourth largest automotive market into a cautious crawl — an industry that accounts for almost half of the country’s manufacturing GDP. But the good news is that if reports from last month are any indication, the signs are of a steady recovery, albeit slow. From what was a dismal 40,000 in May, the number of cars sold has risen to almost 2,26,000 in August, bucking the downward trend with a reassuring 7.5 per cent growth. Kia and Maruti have emerged as beacons of possibility and consistency, respectively. The Korean brand jumped from being the 15th largest automotive brand to the fifth, with a breathtaking 64 per cent growth, while Maruti reiterated market leadership with an 18.8 per cent growth.
As car brands pat the dust off their waiting stock and make space for new arrivals in showrooms, we have new model launches and facelifts to look forward to. As to be expected, the market setback has pushed some of them towards a later date. Even as they announced the Thar with great fanfare, Mahindra has reserved the XUV300 Turbo Sportz variant for early 2021; just what Tata has done with their 7-seat Gravitas. The price segment of Rs10 lakh-Rs15 lakh (ex-showroom) is, perhaps, the most interesting as we come across models in a variety of styles and sizes — from five to nine seat configurations and from hatchbacks and sedans to crossovers and SUVs. So, from this exciting array of recent and upcoming cars that are BS6 compliant, we have picked 10 models that can make 2020 actually look good!
Kia Seltos is still rather new. The echoes haven’t settled, of the uproar it created when more than 32,000 of them were sold even before its launch. Yet, Kia has now updated the feature list with improved voice assist, smartwatch connectivity and remote engine start that justify the hike in price by up to Rs25,000 for the petrol variant and up to Rs30,000 for the diesel.Seltos now comes with three engine options, all BS6-compliant: a 1.5-litre petrol (115PS/144Nm), 1.4L turbocharged petrol (140PS/242Nm), and 1.5L diesel (115PS/ 250Nm). The turbo engine is set apart for the GT Line variants with a 6-speed manual gearbox or a 7-speed dual clutch transmission. What differentiates Seltos in the segment are the available safety and comfort features like a 10.25” touch screen, an 8” head up display,six airbags, ABS with EBD, electronic stability control (ESC), hill assist control (HAC) and a 360º parking camera.
Sibling rivalry is benevolent when it inspires excellence. Within three months of its launch, the new Creta has clocked 30,000 bookings, which is uncannily similar to what Kia Seltos achieved. The Creta, too, is available with an array of three engines — a 1.5-litre petrol, a 1.4-litre petrol turbo GDi and a 1.5-litre U2 CRDi diesel. The compact SUV promises an engaging drive with modes like eco, comfort and sport, besides traction control modes like snow, sand and mud. In its first major upgrade, the Creta gets an all-new front fascia, refreshed tail lights and a range of safety features like rear-view camera and rear parking assist. It showcases some industry-firsts like remote engine start and impressive features like voice-activated sunroof, an inbuilt air purifier and wireless charging.
Maruti Suzuki S-Cross
It turns out that BS6 implementation gave Maruti-Suzuki the chance to not only comply with emission norms but also to respond to a longstanding demand from consumers — a petrol engine for the S-Cross. So, Maruti has replaced the 1.3L diesel engine with a new BS6 compliant 1.5L petrol engine, which has a power output of 105 PS and 138 Nm of torque — the same engine that drives the Ciaz and the Vitara Brezza. Another landmark change in the new S-Cross 2020 is the introduction of an automatic transmission. Maruti’s K-series petrol engine also offers smart hybrid technology with both the 4-speed automatic and 5-speed manual. Keeping the current list of features unchanged, S-Cross 2020 adds a 7-inch touchscreen with android auto and Apple carplay, while standard safety includes dual front airbags, ABS with EBD, and rear parking sensors.
As Mahindra Thar enters a new generation, the familiar design is refreshed just enough to build a modern identity for the SUV while making sure not to alienate “Jeep-lovers”. Perched on a brand new platform, new Mahindra Thar is 65mm longer with a 20 mm longer wheelbase. With 4-wheel drive as standard, the new Thar has made dimensional changes that encourage one to take the road less travelled more often, like its 650 mm wading depth, modern multi-link suspensions and ground clearance that has increased from 200 mm to 226mm on newly fitted 18” tyres. For the first time, Thar gets a petrol engine and this 2.0L turbo charged four pot makes 150 PS while the 2.2L diesel now makes 130. The drivetrain offers two new transmission options — a 6-speed automatic or a 6-speed manual!
If looks can inspire adventure, Mahindra Thar and rival Force Gurkha have been doing that over the years. A single-slat grille and rounded headlamps are still a part of the tall and slender presence that reminds one of the ‘Gelandewagen,’ but the new model will feature LED DRLs, new bumpers and turn indicators on the front fenders. A new roof-mounted carrier and 17-inch alloy wheels add more adventurous proportions to the profile. The SUV sticks to its ladder-on-frame construction but would likely have contemporary equipment like a touchscreen infotainment system, power windows, dual front airbags and ABS. The BS6 compliant 2020 Force Gurkha turns to a 2.6 L diesel engine from Mercedes-Benz that still generates 89 bhp but is rich in torque at 280 Nm. Off-roading aficionados can look forward to a 5-speed manual gearbox and a manual 4×4 system.
TOYOTA URBAN CRUISER
If you fancy the reliability of a Maruti Vitara Brezza with Toyota enhancements, the upcoming Urban Cruiser is the one to watch out for! Toyota’s first under-4m crossover, the Urban Cruiser will be available in three trim levels, all powered by the original 1.5 L K-series petrol engine mated to a 5-speed manual transmission or a 4-speed automatic. Interestingly, the automatic variants feature the advanced Li-ion battery technology from Maruti with regenerative braking and idle start-stop functions for improved fuel economy. The impressive specs in the higher variants include LED lighting in front and rear, ABS with EBD, rear parking sensors, a 7-inch smartplay touchscreen infotainment unit with Apple carplay and android auto, and other conveniences in connectivity.
Renault Duster Turbo
The French brand that made SUV dreams feasible for the average Indian car buyers has just brought another dream within reach — the desire for a powerful SUV. Renault Duster Turbo became the most powerful SUV in its segment when the variant powered by a 1.3L turbo petrol engine was launched last month. Its 154 Hp output and torque of 254 Nm will be delivered to the wheels by either a manual transmission or an X-Tronic CVT. However, this car is not just about power. Technologies such as gasoline direct injection (GDI) improves performance and efficiency while dual variable valve timing (VVT) facilitates higher torque at lower rpm while keeping emissions lower.
MG Hector Plus
Hector is the “Internet car” that connected Indian consumers to MG Motors. In 2020, the three-row, six-seat version of the Hector has been launched, with the two relaxing captain’s seats in the second row expected to appeal to those who prefer to be chauffeur-driven in an SUV. Features like the multi-function steering wheel, 10.4-inch touchscreen, 6 airbags and 360º camera are similar to that of the 5-seater but what is different is the hands-free opening of the tailgate and the ‘chit chat’ alerts in the connected vehicle tech. The drivetrain combinations include a 170hp, 2.0-litre diesel engine mated to a 6-speed manual gearbox and a 143Hp, 1.5-litre turbo-petrol that offers the option of a 6-speed dual clutch transmission. The latter can also be paired with a 48V mild-hybrid system.
Honda has invigorated the fifth generation of the Honda City with enough lifestyle-empowering technology, besides offering three fuel-efficient variants. A 1.5L petrol engine that makes 121 PS and 145 Nm torque mated to a 6-speed manual transmission or a 7-step CVT; a 1.5L diesel engine generating 100 PS and 200 Nm mated to a 6-speed manual. The new Honda City sparkles with LED lights but the most impressive tech is in the cabin: like an 8-inch touch screen infotainment system that offers android auto, Apple carplay and weblink support; ambient lighting; Amazon Alexa remote control and connected car technology; and safety features like Honda’s very own lane watch camera that relays what is beside your car while changing lanes!
Tata Altroz EV
Among the upcoming cars of 2020, Tata Altroz is special — an electric vehicle that falls in the Rs12 lakh- Rs15 lakh bracket, alongside the electric versions of Mahindra XUV300 and Tata Nexon (with whom the Altroz EV shares the powertrain). Driven by a 95kW motor, the Altroz will draw its power from a 30kWh Li-ion battery that can give the car a range of more than 300 km. Tata expects 80 per cent of charging to happen in less than an hour, which goes a long way in making long trips time-efficient.
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