Well, that’s a fair question! And, truth be told, this particular segment is one of the last bastions of hope for sedans. Premium sedans – anything short of models from the German luxury triumvirate – are struggling to remain relevant, so it’s up to just the compact sedans and mid-size sedans to carry the flag for these erstwhile aspirational machines.
Fortunately, they’re doing a pretty good job of it. The refreshed Ciaz breathes a new lease of life into what is, for all practical purposes, Maruti’s flagship. Maruti has also leveraged its leadership to cleverly position the Ciaz as a smart hybrid, which means that not only will it be slightly more fuel efficient but also allow owners to fly the green flag at the same time. All said and done, they appear to have done a great job of it because the Ciaz feels a world away from the model it replaces. All of which means that the battle in the mid-size sedan space is as intense as ever.
But sedans aren’t the only segment where the gloves are off. Mahindra has unveiled its most refined, and arguably most advanced, model ever – the Marazzo MPV. Not only have they executed it brilliantly, they’ve also positioned it very cleverly as well – bang smack in the middle of the gaping hole between the Maruti Ertiga at one end and the Toyota Innova at the other. And, next year, once Kia launches its Carnival MPV at the top of that pile, it’ll give MPV buyers a full range of options to choose from.
But, at the end of the day, it all comes back to SUVs – and the latest challenger to the Fortuner’s crown is the new Honda CR-V. Now the CR-V has an unusually loyal following, most of whom have been waiting for Honda to slot a diesel motor into the engine bay for almost a decade. Well, they can finally say Arigato to Honda, because that’s exactly what they’ve done. And the refinement and car-like nature of the new CR-V – courtesy of its unibody monocoque chassis – really does make you wonder if the days of the old-school ladder-frame chassis are finally numbered. After all, even the ostensibly go-anywhere Land Rover Discovery has ditched its body-on-frame set-up for a full monocoque.
But, if you want a pure back-to-basics off-roader, then a ladder-frame is still the way to go – see last month’s cover story. And the brand new Suzuki Jimny is exactly such a machine. The first story we carried about this particular car – some months ago – generated so much response that it took us completely by surprise. There are a large bunch of folks who would camp out overnight – Apple Fanboy style – outside their local Maruti showroom to put a deposit down if Maruti actually brought this funky little off-roader to India.
C’mon Maruti, use that leadership position again to give the people what they want! While you ready the five-door version of the Jimny, bring in the three-door. Even if the volumes aren’t what you’re used to, tell the accountants to work out the business case. People will thank you, with their chequebooks...