What we need in our market are cars that provide a bit more than practicality. Sure we have cars like the Kia Picanto in the list our nominated cars but the entry of Kia will really spice up things. The Indian customers who is still as price conscious as he was 5 years ago is looking for a bit more than ‘practicality’ but doesn’t want to pay a fortune for that. We have listed 8 cars which we think could be India bound next year and all of which we think would add value to the market. Some of them have been already seen testing in the market while the others we think have definite potential. 2013 nevertheless would be an exciting year if you are an auto enthusiast and you can bet on there being surprises on the way.

Chevrolet Trax

Renault has launched the Duster in the UK and Chevrolet is going to take on the mini SUV with their Trax. The Trax, a rival to the Duster, is expected to be launched in India as well and this global mini SUV from Chevy is engineered to appeal to the sensibilities of the masses. If launched, prices would start from around 8lakhs and the mini ‘global’ SUV was engineered by North American, Korean and European engineers. To be sold under the GM brand internationally, the Trax is going to be sold in around 140 countries.

Based on the Vauxhall Mokka, the Trax has bold lines. The front has lots of chrome added to it, presence comes from the muscular arches and the styling makes it look like a full blooded SUV. At the front is the split Chevrolet grille with a black off road cladding underneath the bumper. The rear has a skid plate and the dashboard has soft touch plastics, a 5 spoke steering wheel and the ‘twin cockpit’ theme has a big instrument cluster. Equipment is extensive with Chevrolet’s MyLink system. Interior space is expected to be sufficient for the front and rear passengers and the rear seats have a 60/40 split configuration.

The Trax could come with a 1.4-litre turbo petrol producing 140PS, there is also a1.6-litre petrol and currently the diesel engine is the 1.7-litre turbo diesel producing 132PS. There is an option of both a manual and automatic gearbox. The mini SUV uses the Gamma II platform and the SUV will have both front wheel drive and 4WD. There will also be an option of hill descent.

Peugeot 208

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The 208 it seems at this moment to be a highly unlikely launch next year. Peugeot would first bring the 508 followed by the 301. But the 208 we think will honestly be the first real money spinner for Peugeot much like the Polo was for Volkswagen. The all new 208 was first shown at the Geneva Motor Show earlier this year and is built on the PSA PF1 platform. A successor to the 207, the hatch internationally rivals the Polo, Honda Jazz, the Skoda Fabia and the Suzuki Swift. A launch in India is not completely out of the question and we expect prices to start from Rs 7 lakhs.

The design has flair and the styling is inspired from the SR1 concept car. The front is bold, the grille is typical of contemporary Peugeots, the hatch has lots of curves and the headlights for the top of the line variant also have daytime running LED’s. The hatch has an upmarket and smart look to it and the cabin is equally premium looking with excellent use of plastic. The instrument console has chrome rings and the centre console is particularly well designed. The steering is smart too and interior space for front and rear passengers is good. The rear bench splits 60/40 and space utilization is intelligent.

The 1.2-litre, VTi, 3 cylinder turbo motor produces 83PS and the more powerful 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol motor produces 157PS. The 1.2-litre petrol also has a non turbo version and also on offer is a 1.4-litre petrol developed with Mini. Then there is a 1.6-litre diesel producing 115PS and the 4 other diesels variants deliver from between 68PS to 115PS. The 208 uses MacPherson struts at the front and rear torsion beam suspension.

Mazda 2

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The Mazda CX5 has already been spotted testing in India and the word around is that Mazda would be launching the SUV in India next year. Though the SUV isn’t aimed at the masses, the car to watch out from Mazda is the Mazda 2 hatch and expectations from the hatch are high as it has already been awarded the European Car of the Year. On sale is the second generation Mazda 2 and if launched in India, prices would start from Rs 7lakhs.

The styling is typical of modern Mazdas and though internationally there is both a 3 and 5 door version of the Mazda 2, in India we expect the hatch to come only with the more sensible 5 door version. Over the front wheels are the ‘wings’ like on the RX-8 and the front grille is prominent. There is a rising waist line with rear boomerang shaped lights. The dash is smart, has a circular theme, the gear lever is mounted high, there is adequate space to accommodate four adults and the boot space is decent. Material quality is good and so is the standard equipment.

The base 1.3-litre petrol comes in either 75PS or 86PS version and the most powerful petrol engine is the 1.5-litre producing 106PS. The 1.4-litre produces 68PS, the more powerful 1.6-litre variant produces 90PS and the engines are matched to a 5 speed manual gearbox and the 1.5-litre petrol motor has an automatic option too. The Mazda 2 uses the same platform as the Ford Fiesta which is a great beginning and the hatch is agile and fun to drive. Body roll is controlled and the ride is competent as well. Overall the hatch is great value.

Kia Picanto

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It’s been a story which has kept automobile journalists busy over the last year or so. There still though isn’t any clarity on whether Kia would be entering India. The Picanto has been caught testing in India and assuming it does come into our country, it remains to be seen whether Kia would come as a completely independent manufacturer or will it come through Hyundai. Kia has made big strides internationally in the last few years and the Picanto is the smallest car in the manufacturers range. Prices of the Picanto would start from Rs 5 lakhs.

The hatch is smart and has been designed by German born designer Peter-Schreyer. At the front is the big and prominent bumper with the equally big headlights and a good looking grille. The hatch looks sporty and mature at the same time and the rear has angular rear lights. The cabin has neatly designed steering wheel, material used and overall finish is good, so are the ergonomics and the dash has a silver strip running across. There is enough space for the front and rear passengers too.

The base petrol engine is the 1-litre, 3 cylinder petrol producing 69PS and there is a bigger 1.2-litre, 4 cylinder developing 85PS. Both these engines are the same as the Hyundai i10 and the Picanto uses the same platform as the i10 with MacPherson struts at the front and a torsion beam setup at the rear. The ride and handling is composed and this hatch ticks most boxes.

Ford C-Max

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The Ford C-Max is definitely coming to India. This MPV would rival the likes of the Toyota Innova, the Tata Aria, Mahindra XUV500 and the Skoda Yeti. The C-Max is a premium MPV and we expect the prices to be around 14lakhs. This UV has had success internationally but challengers for it in India would be different.

The MPV has a tall design with near perfect proportions and uses the manufacturers Kinetic Design Philosophy. The headlights and tail-lights are smartly designed and the modern looking cabin has a character of its own. The centre console has a ‘Piano Black’ finish, dials are smart, there is leather upholstery, interior space is adequate and he rear bench splits 40/20/40. The centre seat can be folded completely and standard features include traction control and there is a new torque vectoring system.

The most powerful engine is the 1.6-litre, direct injection, petrol Ecoboost producing 140PS. The diesel engines on offer are the 1.6-litre and a 2-litre TDCi. Based on Ford’s global platform, the ride quality is impressive and so is the handling.

BMW 1-series

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A hatch back for around 20lakhs? You got to be kidding. Mercedes has launched the B-class and are marketing it as a Sports Tourer and this segment has the potential to explode. The luxury car segment is growing at an unprecedented rate and though the luxury sports hatch is an unknown segment for manufacturers in India, with the right marketing and right pricing, cars like the 1-series, Mercedes A-class and the Audi A3 could find a definite market with the affluent urban youth.

The rear wheel drive hatch has a sharp nose and the kidney grille leans forward. The headlights are more angular compared to the earlier BMW’s and built on the 3-series the hatch and has a long bonnet. The rear is stylish and the wheelbase is longer than the 3-series. The wider cabin result is sufficient leg and shoulder room and the steering position is road focused. Finish and material used is only of the best quality and the cabin is luxurious and sporty.

The 1.6-litre petrol engine is available in two different trims and would produce 136PS and 168PS respectively. The 2-litre diesel engine produces 181PS and 150PS and a possibility is the 1.5-litre, three-cylinder turbocharged petrol and diesel engine. Matched to the engine is a ZF eight-speed automatic gearbox. The hatch uses aluminium suspension and the front and rear track have been widened. The front has MacPherson strut while at the rear is the multi-link suspension. The international models with have an option of 4WD and the hatch gets a new electro-mechanical power steering.

Volkswagen Up

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The Up has the potential to be the game changer for Volkswagen in India. And not only for the manufacturer, the Up has the potential to change the dynamics of the segment completely and how we see hatchbacks with its quality and engineering. The hatch has already been launched in Germany and has already been spotted testing in India. Its launch should happen next year but that could also be delayed to the year after. This hatch has been engineered specifically for the BRIC countries and is VW’s modern day interpretation of efficient mobility. The Up was first unveiled at the 2011 Frankfurt Auto Show and prices could start from Rs3.5 lakhs onwards.

The hatch has definite presence despite its simple styling which has clean lines while the headlights are typical of modern VW’s. It has a tall boy stance, a large front bumper, rectangular grille and at the rear is a flat glass hatchback. The taillamps look good too and the Up has an overall length of 3540mm which makes it the smallest VW in history. Interior space is excellent, so is the build quality, driving position, plastic material and the European version has the dashboard in metallic and in body colours. The layout is simple and speedo is large.

Built on Volkswagen’s MQB architecture, the Up uses a 3-cylinder, 1-litre, petrol motor producing 60PS and 75PS respectively. For India there will also be the 3 cylinder, 1.2-litre diesel producing 75PS. The ride and handling is composed and steering is electronically assisted.

Nissan Juke

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Nissan we all know is working on their own version of the Duster and that isn’t a surprise. A car from their manufacturer which we are really looking forward to is the Juke. Smaller to the Qashqai, the Juke is aimed at the younger lot and if launched it would be positioned as a more premium SUV to the Juke.

The styling is concept car like so to say and the design is eye catching. The headlamps, fog lamps and bumper are placed high and there is a sump guard placed under the front bumper as well. This mini SUV is definitely a head turner, the headlights are placed on the bumper and the wheel arches are prominent. The tail lamps are in the shape of a boomerang and adding muscle is the rising waistline. The interior comparatively are a bit more simple but the centre console looks great.
The instrument cluster is in aluminium, the centre console is mounted high and the front and rear space along with the overall finish is good.

The 1.6-litre petrol motor develops115PS and192PS for the turbo and non-turbo version respectively. The 1.5-litre diesel produces 110PS and the Juke has stiff anti roll bars which controls the body roll.

Volkswagen Tiguan

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We personally aren’t big fans of softroaders or crossovers and prefer the utility of MPV’s or ability of SUV’s. Softroaders did become popular in India when the Honda CR-V was launched and the Chevrolet Captiva too sold in decent numbers. With the spending power of customers increasing, there definitely is scope of such vehicles and a good addition could be the Volkswagen Tiguan. This crossover/softroader has reasonable off road potential and is based on the Golf hatch. If VW can assemble it in India and price it competitively, with the quality that it offers, customers could taking a liking to it.

The styling is typical of modern VW’s with the same grille and angular headlamps. It does look premium, headlamps have daytime running LED’s and at the front is a plastic scrape guard. The Tiguan looks chunky, the roof rails look good and there is a definite resemblance with the Touareg with the long front overhang and flared wheel arches. The dashboard has air-vents on top of each other and on either sides. The premium look cabin has soft touch plastics, is neatly designed with a touch screen interface. The seats are comfortable, cabin is spacious and the feature list depending on the variant is extensive.

The 1.4-litre direct injection petrol engine produces 140PS engine and in typical VW fashion is smooth. The 2-litre TDI produces 110PS, 140PS and 170PS in its three different trim levels and the engines are matched to a 6 speed manual or the optional DSG dual clutch gearbox. Based on the Golf, the soft roader uses MacPherson struts on the front while at the rear is a four-link setup similar to the Passat. There is 4WD and under normal conditions only 10 percent of traction is sent to the rear which changes depending on the conditions. Ride and handling is excellent but off road potential is limited.

Skoda Roomster

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Skoda’s rival to the Maruti Suzuki Ertiga could be the Roomster. The Roomster is exactly what families in India are looking for. It is a practical and interesting option to sedans while being niche. Though we haven’t heard anything from Skoda which would suggest that they are looking at the Roomster as a possible entrant in our market, if this UV does come into India and is priced around 8 lakhs, Skoda with its premium image could make a serious dent in the sale figures of the Ertiga.

The Roomster is curvey and while the proportions might seem a bit odd to begin with, the overall design elements do fall into place. The styling is functionality, the rear door is set high and headlights are neat and the UV looks original. The cabin is neatly designed, ergonomics are spot on, door handles have metal finish but the biggest USP of the Roomster is the interior space. Both front and rear passengers have good leg and head space and the quality of material is really good. The feature list has the option of an optional panoramic glass roof.

The entry level petrol engine is the 1.2-litre, 3-cylinder motor producing 70PS, there is a 1.2-litre turbo TSI producing 85PS and 106PS respectively. The 1.4-litre, 3-cylinder diesel produces 75PS and the larger 1.6-litre produces 90PS or 105PS. The handling with the front strut and torsion beam rear suspension is one of its strength. The body roll is controlled and the ride is another of its strong points.