The Auto Expo in Delhi is not just a platform for manufacturers and consumers but it's India's biggest celebration of all things automotive. And cars, as much as they are an integral part of all our lives, have also played a huge role in our cultural and artistic evolution. Our films have had some iconic cars and bikes on screen over the years, and in keeping with the theme of celebrating automobiles, this year's show had a special section dedicated to showcasing some of the biggest 'automotive stars' of Bollywood over the years.
The recently inaugurated Auto Expo in Delhi is probably the most important motor show to take place in India. This is not because the total number of new cars displayed eclipsed those in previous years. Yes, there were more cars and more running around, but this year's show was better because what we got were cars that mattered; and there were loads of them.
SUVs formed the bulk of the new cars and Tata's Nexon was probably the most significant. Built to look extremely similar to the 2014's show car, it deservedly had show goers flocking to it. Maruti's Vitara Brezza and Ignis were arguably even more important: here's Maruti embracing SUVs like never before. It's nothing less than the Empire strikes back! Then there's Honda's big BR-V, the new SsangYong Tivoli and the Tucson and Tiguan pair from Hyundai and VW, both expected towards the end of the year. Nissan X-Trail hybrid will also be with us towards the middle of the year, the extremely well appointed and now spacious new X1 opens up a new chapter for BMW, Merc's stunning new GLC will hit our roads soon and Jeep, the SUV mother brand, was finally launched here too. How many SUVs is that?
Sedans, compact sedans, featured too. VW showed its much awaited Ameo, Tata showed the unique Kite 5 and Chevy showcased its new Beat-based sub-four metre concept; the Essentia. The luxury brigade contributed as well with larger sedans like the new Jaguar XE, launched here, Audi showcased the all-new A4 and BMW launched the facelifted 3-series and new 7-series.
There weren't too many MPVs. Honours were upheld by the the new Toyota Innova and Tata Hexa. Question is, can Tata slide in if the new Innova is very expensive?
Of the concepts, Hyundai's HND-14 Carlino stood out as a bit radical, the XUV Aero wowed the crowds and plenty of oohs and ahhs could be heard around Jaguar's F-Pace; it really is all Jag. I also liked the Go Cross, especially the detailing and the stance and the nose does work extremely well with the bulk of the car; but can Datsun really afford those wheels? The best of the bunch, however, was the just spot-on Audi Prologue concept. I've seen it before but wow; did I stare.
So much for the hits, but there were misses too; at least in my book. Yes, the new R8 is stunning and the GT-R is finally here after crying wolf for years, but where were the other genuine, bonafide, super cars? What's a kid going to want to come and see? Where was Porsche? And the holy trinity, Ferrari, Lamborghini and Maserati? No car show is complete without this bunch: it's why we fall in love with cars in the first place. Sure, Ford's iconic Mustang generated enough attention and many would-be owners are awaiting the price, but supercars are supercars. Chevy did bring the stunning new Corvette, but the treatment meted out was sad, it just sat under some spotlights, no mention of the fact that it had just creamed the competition, the best of the best (Porsche, Ferrari and Aston), at the most prestigious race of all; the 24 hours of Le Mans.
And where were the green cars? There were only two hybrids, the new Prius and the Passat GTE. And just one new electric, Reva's e2o Sport. Hello, 'Make in India'? Where's that one eye on the future?
The biggest shock though, especially for a country like ours, was that apart from the Zica, there wasn't a single all-new hatch. Not one. Product life cycles are fine, but not a single new hatch: something's changing. Drastically.
In a lighter vein; Maruti vehemently denyed any of its team are Bacardi fans (imagine how difficult it would be to ask for the flavoured version in a Maruti showroom), Tata has no plan to re-name its new cars 'Tica', despite the chicken dish being a firm favourite in Pune and Force Motors even promised we'd get to see, feel, and test a Force Gurkha: one day.
What was heartening to see was the fact that so many new cars were either partly or wholly designed and engineered in India; and that's a big, big step forward. Designed and engineered in India; probably just as important as 'Make in India'.
“Be careful; it’s like a warzone out there.”
India has a crippling air pollution problem, and Delhi’s recently introduced controversial traffic regulations seem to point the finger of blame squarely at the automotive industry.
I’ve got my two bits on the Delhi pollution control formula. It sucks. Being without a car in the NCR region can be absolutely crippling because of the massive distances that people cover in the course of a normal working day. An incident from when I was studying in Delhi will illustrate the NCR scale to those who haven’t been there. A friend of mine, visiting from Pune, requested directions to the nearest ATM, instead I requested him to wait and said I would take him there shortly. When we left home, he was taken aback when I hopped into the car, and completely stunned as I proceeded to drive to the nearest ATM that was a 7-10 minute drive away. Coming from a city where people routinely refused to travel to any place more than 20 minutes away, he was completely flabbergasted!
Air quality in the national capital of Delhi has severely deteriorated of late. Not only are lungs being affected, the drop in oxygen is impacting brains too. How else can you explain the downright ridiculous pollution reduction schemes currently being drawn up?
I drive a Tata Nano. Actually I borrow my wife’s Tata Nano to get around town. And I enjoy driving it immensely. There’s nothing like flogging a small, weak on power car just for laughs. Often the question arises, “Don't I want something better and what would it be?” Although I have a good idea, I haven’t zeroed in on anything, but I know what it must absolutely have. Quite simply, a minimum of 400bhp.
Maruti is turning into a company driven by technology. The transformation may be gradual, the technology may not be Mercedes S-class-threatening and the steps may not be headline-grabbing either. But be under no delusion, if there's one company that's pioneered useable and practical technology today, it's good ol' Maruti.
The Baleno name has been brought back from the dead and given to Suzuki’s upcoming premium hatchback and i20 rival,which a lot of us know by its internal code, YRA.
2017 Maruti Ignis review, test drive
Maruti S-Cross long-term review, final report
2016 BMW 330i GT review, test drive
2016 Hyundai Elantra petrol long-term review first report
Volvo XC90 T8 Excellence review, test drive
Issue: 209 | Autocar India: January 2017
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