Two segments which witnessed robust sales growth in India last year were the compact sedan segment and the mini SUV segment. Essentially, these segments are identical in the fact that these cars are designed to take advantage of India's sub-4 meter excise benefit.
In this story, we list out 7 upcoming mini SUVs, all of which have one thing in common apart from their length: To match or exceed the Ford EcoSport.
1. Tata Nexon
Unveiled as a concept at the Auto Expo 2014 this month, the Nexon previews Tata's crossover which is reported to enter production within 24 months. Using the same X1 platform as the Vista, the Tata Nexon concept was powered by a three-cylinder turbocharged 1.2-liter petrol engine outputting 110 PS and 170 Nm of torque.
Features seen on the concept, which we believe could be extended to the production version include 17-inch alloy wheels, a 5-speed automatic transmission, 4WD and LED headlights.
2. Chevrolet Adra
A mini SUV could save the face of General Motors in India, who sadly haven't had the dream run they were hoping for with products like the Sail and Enjoy.
General Motors was tight lipped about the Adra's platform or even its engine for that matter. All we know is that the concept was designed by Indian designers at the GM Technical Center in Bangalore, India. From a design standpoint, the Chevrolet Adra certainly has the looks to take on the EcoSport.
3. VW Taigun
A revised VW Taigun concept was shown at the Auto Expo and the highlight of the Expo demo vehicle was the externally mounted spare wheel. Using VW's TSI technology in a compact 1.0-liter three-cylinder displacement, the Taigun is capable of sprinting from 0-100 km/h in 9.2 seconds.
VW will place the Taigun into production by 2016, and India and Brazil are reported to get priority for first deliveries. However, the Taigun is based on the Up!'s platform, which we have heard time and again from VW India, is an expensive platform. VW will have to achieve a high level of localization to price the Taigun competitively.
4. Maruti XA-Alpha
Unveiled two years ago at the 2012 edition of the Auto Expo, the Maruti XA-Alpha is yet to see the light of day.
Maruti's immediate focus it seems is in replacing existing models with newer generations, rather than entering a new segment. This year will see the SX4 get a successor, while the A-Star was recently swapped with the Celerio.
Maruti is unlikely to launch the XA-Alpha before mid-2015. A possible reason for not launching the car is because Maruti wants the XA-Alpha to use its self-developed diesel engine from Day 1. Maruti's new diesel engine family is still sometime away from being application-ready, though once it does, expect top-class fuel economy from this new engine family.
5. Mahindra S101
The Mahindra S101 will arrive in showrooms as early as next year, confirms Dr. Pawan Goenka, the company's executive director. Based on an all-new monocoque chassis, the S101 will also preview Mahindra's new petrol engine family.
This new petrol engine is reported to be a turbocharged 1.2-liter motor rivaling Tata's yet-to-be launched 1.2-liter turbo Revotron engine. Apart from offering petrol power, the S101 will be offered with a diesel heart, which could be the Quanto's 1.5-liter three-cylinder unit, albeit in an improved condition. This diesel engine is nothing but a three-cylinder version of the Xylo's 2.2-liter mHawk engine.
6. Renault Kwid
The Renault Kwid is an interesting take on a mini SUV featuring Renault's modern design. While the Duster does its duty of getting the sales numbers, its design or interior cannot be termed 'modern' or 'premium', as it is based on the Dacia Logan.
Renault India's new managing director, Sumit Sawhney, was quoted telling a publication that it would be "interesting" to have another SUV in the portfolio. Renault India may have to leverage on the compact SUV segment, as clearly, badge engineered products such as the Pulse and Scala are not getting them appreciable sales. The concept Kwid was powered by a turbocharged 1.2-liter petrol engine mated to a dual-clutch automatic transmission.
7. Mahindra Quanto AMT
The Mahindra Quanto was off to a decent start in its initial post-launch period. However, sales quickly tapered off once the EcoSport was launched in June 2013. From June-December 2013, the Quanto has been selling in triple digits with the highest monthly sales of 500 units in October 2013.
Mahindra recently launched "Yoga Seats" on the Quanto, though we feel the company would do better to quickly get the AMT version into showrooms. Shown at the Auto Expo 2014, the Quanto AMT could very well appeal to the Indian buyer who needs a rugged, diesel, automatic car.
The most affordable diesel SUV in India is the Mahindra Scorpio, while the most affordable diesel automatic car as such is the Verna. Thus, the words 'diesel' and 'automatic' should give the Quanto AMT the USP its looking for.