December 1, 2021
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15 SUVs for Rs.15 Lakhs

Tata Punch

They were once all hatchbacks at this price point, but now everyone wants SUVs and car manufacturers are trying to make crossovers in all sizes. At least Tata has gone the extra length and given it an upright stance, big 16 inch wheels, and some off-road hardware that mimic a limited-slip differential. The driving position is great, the interiors are well made and it’s safe in a crash, should you get into one. Speaking of downsides, the 1.2-liter 84bhp engine lacks punch (ironically), the AMT feels confused on the drive and the pricing is a bit on the higher side.

Nissan Magnite

After years of struggle and with no new products to sell, the Magnite has come as Nissan’s savior. Bookings went through the roof and for good reason – it’s well priced, the interiors are decent, the 99bhp 1.0-liter turbo petrol feels punchy and it also has a CVT option. The handling isn’t that great and from the front, it looks a bit like a Datsun product. But you can have the base model for roughly the same money as a WagonR.

Renault Kiger

From a distance, it looks like a bigger Kwid and that’s not good. But when you see it up-close, the design is much more interesting and in-tune with their global cars. It is essentially the same car like the Nissan Magnite but the interiors and the suspension are much better. There is also an AMT option on the non-turbo 1L variant which the Nissan misses out on.

Maruti S Cross

It doesn’t look like much of an SUV, but the S Cross has a lot of hatchbacks, estate, and crossover elements are thrown into the mix. It drives like a family sedan but has the bad road capabilities and ground clearance of several crossovers. It is dated, there is hardly any fancy tech and the 1.5-liter engine is pretty ordinary, but it is still a lot of car for the money. It is well built and offers good space for sub 4 meter SUV money, the boot is large, the handling is confidence-inspiring, the cabin is decent quality and it’s going to be endlessly reliable over the years.

Maruti Brezza

If anything time hasn’t done to the Brezza, it is to take away the sales – because five years since its launch, it still sells decent numbers. The interiors were already dated when it was new, and now the styling is dated as well. But if you can look past that, you get a well-designed compact SUV that’s easy to live with. The driving position is superb, it lets you see the far corners of the bonnet. The 1.5-liter petrol engine had decent drivability, good fuel efficiency and will go on forever. The 4-speed automatic torque convertor – while it looks unimpressive on paper – does its job reasonably well. It also scored well in crash tests and if you want a ‘buy it, forget it’ type of car, in today’s age of complicated, high-performance turbo engines and dual-clutch gearboxes, this is it.  Want a different look and a different badge? Get the Toyota Urban Cruiser.

Kia Sonet

This is our pick of the compact SUV lot. It looks bigger than the Venue with which it shares its underpinnings, there are lots of variants to choose from and it is better equipped than most of its rivals. There is the basic 1.2L petrol, a 1.0L turbo petrol, and a 1.5L diesel. There is a choice of Manual, IMT, DCT, and torque convertor gearboxes – depending on what engine you choose. The pick of the range is the diesel automatic. The downside is that it gets very expensive when you go for the higher-spec models at which point a Seltos with more space makes better sense.

Hyundai Venue

Hyundai was clever enough to take on the success of Creta and offer it in a smaller package at a more affordable price. On the flip side, it looks a bit too small from the back and the sides – a problem the similar-sized Kia Sonet addresses with flared wheel arches and a clever design. The interiors, though not cavernous, are smartly designed. The engine choices are great and it’s easy to live with. There is no diesel automatic like in the Sonet, but for most people, the 1.0litre DCT does the job.

Tata Nexon

Tata’s foray into the compact SUV market with the Nexon was a successful one. It is the only car on our list that is available as petrol, diesel or electric. The 1.2-liter turbo petrol isn’t known for its fuel efficiency but is very drivable, the diesel is even better with good fuel efficiency and adequate power. The Nexon EV has lots of performance and impresses with its refinement although the range could be better. All cars have lots of space, a good safety record, and excellent ride quality. The products could do better in terms of overall reliability and we wish they had better after-sales to back it all up.

Hyundai Creta/Alcazar

This is the perfect size for most people and the Creta seems to draw sales in big numbers to prove that. The second generation isn’t the looker it could have been, but it is packed with features, spacious and comfortable. There are three engine options including two petrol and one diesel, each with the option of an automatic as well. The Creta is easy to drive and has good ride quality. If you want to do one better, get the Alcazar which is better looking, has an extra row of seats, and comes loaded with even more features.

 

This is the surprise package of the lot and it’s brimming with tech in the top-end spec.  The Astor is actually an updated ZS – the best-selling MG in the world. Thanks to the generous use of Volkswagen bits, it feels the most European of all their products too. There are two engine options – a 1.5 liter naturally aspirated petrol and a 1.3-liter three-cylinder turbo petrol. The 1.5 liters comes paired with a manual or a CVT, while the 1.3litre is available only as a torque converter automatic. And we will let you into a little secret. The base model ‘1.5 Style MT’ is the pick of the lot and has nearly everything on it including climate control, touch screen, ESP, hill descent control, all-wheel disc brakes, etc, and costs just 11.4 lakhs on road. That’s compact SUV money for a medium-sized family SUV.

Kia Seltos

This is another car we are big fans of and for good reason. It looks good, it is more engaging to drive than the Creta it is based on and it is loaded with features that can rival cars costing three times as much. There are a lot of engine and transmission combinations – right from basic 115bhp 1.5 petrol, to 140bhp 1.4 turbo petrol and 115bhp 1.5-liter diesel, each mated to a choice of manual or IMT or CVT or DCT or Torque Convertor automatic transmissions. Then there are about 9 trim levels that are divided into Tech Line and GT Line with a focus on luxury or sportiness, in addition to special trims like the X-line. The number of permutations there are, with the engine, transmission, trim, and color options are staggering. While it makes the life of a Kia salesman difficult, it guarantees that you get a car that suits your requirements and your budget.

VW Taigun

The latest from VW is betting big on the SUV craze in India. Based on an India-specific MQBA0 IN chassis, the Taigun is a heavily Indianized version of the T-Cross – their Polo-based crossover. A sedate design by modern standards, the Taigun looks very European. There is some low-rent interior trim in places, but it feels well built. The seats are good but it’s only good for four people. There are two engines on offer – a 115bhp 1L and a 150bhp 1.5L – both turbo-petrol units with a choice of the torque converter and dual-clutch transmissions respectively. It handles well and the 1.5 liter is very entertaining to drive fast.

Skoda Kushaq

In line with their other SUVs – the Kodiaq, Kamiq, and Karoq, this Czech cousin of the Taigun have a similar sounding Indian name which in Sanskrit means –the Emperor. The rest of the car is Indian too with lots of localization to make it competitive in terms of pricing and profitability. The Kushaq has different styling to the VW – front, and rear – and reflects on the new age Skoda family design. The engine options are the same 1litre and 1.5 liters, and we think the automatics are the one to go for if you drive predominantly in the city.

Mahindra Thar

Call it impractical or utilitarian, but this is the most desirable car from Mahindra yet, and once a year after its launch, they are everywhere now. Bookings are all-time high and despite making thousands of units every week, Mahindra can’t simply keep up with the demand. The Thar looks the part, there is a 150bhp petrol and 130bhp diesel engine with a choice of manual or torque convertor automatic and you can have it in soft top, hardtop or a folding convertible variant. The high seating position, the toys, and the relatively compact dimensions make it an easy car to live with on a daily basis.

Mahindra XUV 700

Another car they are running out of booking forms at the dealerships with is the new XUV700. Part of the reason why it’s such a big hit is the sticker price which started around Rs.11.99 lakhs ex. showroom, initially. For that, you get a  200bhp, 200kmph, 4 cylinder turbo petrol, full-size SUV that appeals to the heart and head alike, while competition is offering you a compact SUV with a 3 cylinder engine with half the power. The higher trims are better loaded, but prices climb rapidly as you go higher up, in the range. The car is a massive improvement over the old XUV500 – the interiors are well thought out, the engines are decent, it drives well, and is comfortable over long distances. It’s always good to see a homegrown SUV that can rub shoulders with the best, the world market can offer.

Pic Courtesy: google/ images are subject to copyright

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