This year was an action packed year for the Indian Auto Industry. It saw close to 50 new product launches through the year which meant almost one new set of wheels every week. This was a year that saw introduction of new brands in India like Maserati and Benelli. There was India’s cheapest and smallest automatic the Nano Easy shift while at the other end of the spectrum there was the fast and furious Lamborghini Hurracan. Of course there were a lot of brand new cars, while some went into oblivion too. From all of that we pick our top five cars came this year.
The world premiere of the Kwid took place in India, making the intent very clear that this was a car made for India. With the Kwid, Renault was aiming to achieve a bigger market share in India’s largest car segment — small cars. And if the long waiting period is anything to go by the Kwid has managed to capture the hearts of the Indian middle class.
What really worked for the Kwid is that when compared to all other small cars in India it came with a very distinct look. Its SUV based design fulfilled crossover ambitions of many, albeit not by performance but by looks. With its plastic cladding, a revolutionary front grille and the black wheel arches the car looked very muscular and that guaranteed a great road presence.
The car was big on features too with the highlight being the seven inch multimedia navigation system borrowed from the Duster. A small 53 bhp 800 cc petrol engine meant the car gave great mileage. And finally a very aggressive starting price of just Rs 2.56 lakh just nailed it for Renault.
The Baleno just caught everyone’s attention from the time it was launched. The style and design attracted a lot of eyeballs and the fact that this is a car that came from the Maruti stable meant this was a reliable product. Maruti really worked on the styling and features that included projector lamps and LED DRLs made this a hot hatch.
The interiors looked equally good, thanks to the quality finish and the use of premium materials. The dual colour tone on and a touch screen infotainment system made the car more premium. And in terms of space on both the rows too the car scored pretty well.
Maruti got the Baleno in Petrol, Diesel as well as CVT options. And each one of these mills was fun to drive and came with peppy motors. In terms of figures 83 bhp on the 1.2-liter petrol and 74 bhp on the 1.3-liter diesel sounded impressive.
Finally features like electronic stability program, engine immobilizer, reverse parking sensors, keyless entry with push button start definitely made the Baleno one of many feathers in Maruti’s cap.
With the Creta Hyundai delivered everything an Indian car buyer wanted. It was a car that looked like an SUV and was affordable. Add to that the style quotient and the reliability of the Korean car maker and the Creta ruled the roost right from day one. A good ground clearance ensured a trouble free ride on the most uneven roads. A lot of things reminded one of the Santa Fe especially on the front and that included the hexagonal grille and the bumper. Ergonomically just like other Hyundais’ this one too was loaded with features which include a start stop button, climate control, rear AC vents and a rear parking camera.
The Creta came with 3 Engine options, 1 petrol and 2 diesel. Plus there was a Diesel automatic which attracted a lot of buyers. Unlike some other Hyundai cars this one gave enough steering feedback, had light suspension. With this one, Hyundai offered an all round package which impressed with its looks, features and drivability. And that is why it became the car of the year for most car critics across the country.
Volvo XC 90
In a segment dominated by German luxury SUVs the Volvo XC 90 came as a breath of fresh air. The brand Volvo already had a fair share of its fans in India but this second generation SUV just took it a few steps further. The XC 90 looked amazing in terms of design. The imposing front grille and daytime running LEDs give the SUV the much needed sporty look. The outer dimensions were compact rather than being stretched making it hard to believe that there is a third row of seats in there. Inside it was simple, minimalist yet very appealing. There were far lesser number of buttons in comparison and many functions are controlled by a touch screen infotainment system. The Bowers and Wilkins 19 speaker sound system rounded off a very luxurious cabin.
What also tilted the fortunes in the favour of the XC 90 was that here was a workhorse two litre 225 bhp engine that hardly broke any sweat while performing its duty. At roughly 65 lakh rupees the XC 90 makes for a great case for itself.
The i8 broke so many notions that it became hard to believe something like this actually exists. So much finesse while taking care of every engineering requirement seemed too good to be true but BMW managed to do it. The clean and minimalist lines, crisp edges and function focused details summarized the exterior design of the i8. The doors opened up like gull wings giving the car an all new perspective. The i8 was a two-door sports car but it still provided a decent amount of interior space. The interiors matched well with the exteriors and while there were some design and feature cues that reminded of other beamers there were also some that were exclusive to this hybrid.
The car could run on either a petrol engine or on batteries or a combination of both. Due to different modes it could run like a sports car where it would go to a speed of 100 kms/hr in just 4.4 seconds or it would run just on hybrid and just consume two litres of fuel to run 100 kms. In all this was one car that impressed just about everyone whether it was a race car driver or an environmental activist.
Shams Naqvi is an anchor/producer for the News X motor show Living Cars.