As evidenced by the cover of this issue, the sub 4-metre segment has come a long way. The tax breaks that created the segment were originally intended to turn India into a small car manufacturing hub – a compact car factory for the world as it were! And while it may not have succeeded in its intended goal, what it did do was spawn an innovation race between creative designers and engineers.
You see, in theory, a small car is all that you really need to get from point A-to-B – but theory is often tedious. The aspirations of Indian car buyers demand more space and road presence – not to mention the enhanced image that goes along with it. The first carmaker to comply with these demands was our very own Tata Motors, with the Indigo CS – a compact sedan that fit within this (somewhat arbitrary) four-metre limit. Truth be told, it wasn’t a badly executed design – considering that it was essentially a hatch with a boot tacked onto the back.
But the car that cemented the importance of the segment was another hatch with a boot – the Maruti Suzuki Dzire. And while, in ‘theory’ (there’s that word again), the designers took inspiration from Chris Bangle (the controversial BMW designer, famous for the “Bangle Butt”), the first-gen Dzire had looks that even a mother would struggle to love. That made no difference whatsoever on the showroom floor however, because the Dzire soon went on to become – and continues to be – one of the best-selling cars on the market. There’s also the case of the Ford EcoSport, which gave the American manufacturer a new lease of life in the Indian market.
Naturally, then the floodgates opened. Fortunately, the Desire has evolved into quite a pretty machine. These models are now being designed with a boot in mind from the ground up, so they look a lot more cohesive than ever before. The hatchbacks, meanwhile, contribute to prettier still - and, quite honestly, remain my pic when it comes to driving dynamics and overall refinement. Remember the small car 'theory'?
The EcoSport, meanwhile, has gotten chunkier, Tata has produced a design masterpiece in the Nexon (congratulations Pratap Bose and team), and Matt finally threw its hat into the compact crossover ring with the Vitara Brezza - which, as quickly as the Dzire before it, has become another blockbuster.
While comparing these contrasting body style against one another, we've tried to be as objective, transparent and scientific as possible. So, if your favourite machine has come out on top, we'll take the pat on the back. And, if not - bring on the hate mail...