Entry Level Hatchback of the Year
Maruti Suzuki Alto 800
Bearing the names of two of the most loved and THE highest selling cars, not just from the Maruti-Suzuki stables, but also the whole of the Indian market, i.e. '800' and 'Alto', there was a lot of pressure on this little car to deliver. But deliver it has, and how. The boffins at Maruti Suzuki have taken the humble Alto and given it such a drastic makeover that it has pretty much become a whole new car, albeit one that carries the company's legacy of making a "peoples' car" effortlessly into the 21st century.
The slightly enlarged proportions boast significantly enhanced cabin space which is leaps and bounds over the older Alto. And while the overall cubic capacity of the little 3-cylinder engine might not have changed, little revisions throughout the drivetrain make for a throughly imrpoved driving experience. The reworked styling that is now much more reminiscent of Japanese 'Kei' cars might not appeal to everyone thanks to its quirks, but the Alto 800 certainly looks much more distinctive than the outgoing model, and makes it very clear that this in no mere facelift.
Although it might not have had any direct competition in its class for this year's Entry-level Hatchback of the Year award, it is a very potent product that is certainly capable of taking on its established competitors - especially when you consider that Maruti Suzuki has kept the pricing unchanged, making it great value for money. (Also read: New Maruti Alto 800 : First Drive)
Premium Hatchback of the Year
Chevrolet Sail U-VA
While it is true that the Premium Hatchback segment, which is definitely a favourite amongst Indian car buyers, didn't see too much action this year, there is no denying the strengths of the two cars that did come along in 2012. In the segment battle, both the Chevrolet Sail U-VA and Renault Pulse impressed the jury in equal, albeit different ways, which left them absolutely level on points. So our editor-in-chief, Adil, had to exercise his powers as the jury chair and deliver the the verdict in favour of the Sail.
The replacement to the Chevrolet Aveo U-VA doesn’t break any new ground as far as styling is concerned though it does look a lot fresher. The interiors are conventional but score high on space and comfort. It also has an impressive 248-litre boot space, making it one of the most spacious luggage haulers in its segment. Though it is available in both petrol and diesel mills, it is the diesel that holds an advantage in terms of performance and mileage. So at the end of the day, it came down to a simple matter of practicality for the buck, where by the slimmest of margins, the Sail managed to trump its only competition this year, the Pulse. But in a segment jam-packed with extremely sensible and competent hatches, whether the Sail will be able to make a name for itself is only something time will tell. (Also read: Chevrolet Sail UVA : First Drive)
Entry-level Sedan of the Year
Maruti Suzuki Dzire
Another segment, another tie. For a little while in the judging process this trend was a little worrying. So again it was left to Adil to decide between these two - the Maruti Suzuki Dzire and the Renault Scala. This decision was even tougher than the one between the two hatchbacks, considering that the larger Scala offers more space and hence is more practical, while the smaller Dzire costs lesser, so is more economical. But at the end of the day, the Dzire does manage to offer quite a lot at its significantly lower price point, which made it the winner of the 2012 Entry-level Sedan of the Year award.
Based on the new Swift which came last year, this new Dzire's magical under 5-lakh rupee starting price for the base model is the result of a smart chop-job. With this sedan's length now measuring under the 4-metre mark, Maruti Suzuki has been able to pass on the tax benefit it enjoyed on to the customer, making this car the very definition of an entry-level sedan. On top of that, the company not just offers the car with both petrol and diesel engines, it throws in an automatic gearbox option as well for the petrol model, which is a sure fire hit amongst the urban crowd. (Also read: New Swift Dzire: First Drive)
And all that coupled with the marque's legendary reliabilty and service record makes the Dzire a winner, even when you factor in the smaller cabin and lack of boot space.
Premium Sedan of the Year
The Elantra badge is back in the Indian market after an overly long hiatus and boy, is it on an absolute stunner of a car! The original car itself was quite impressive for its time, so this new one has a lot of expectations to live up to. Of course, there was nothing else launched in its segment this year, but that doesn't mean that the car has no competition. This premium sedan segment has a host of very competent cars, but the Hyundai really manages to hold its own amongst those as well.
The ‘neo Fludic’ design (as Hyundai calls it) has pretty much taken the automotive world (and we mean the whole world) by storm and has really changed the way we look at Korean cars. With copious curves and slashes, and those gorgeous lights (both at the front and rear) that stretch into the body work, the Elantra is one cool customer. And it’s much the same story on the inside as well. (Also read: Hyundai Elantra: First Drive)
If gadgets are what impress you most, then the Elantra’s cockpit is like a latest generation smart phone. You get keyless entry, a start-stop button, a reversing camera integrated into the rear-view mirror and our personal favourite, air-conditioned seats, the ultimate accessory for driving in the tropics.
While one can nitpick about the lack of involvement in the driving experience, when you take into account the eye-catching design, the abundance of gadgets and features, the comfort levels, and when you factor in the not-so-steep price, as a complete package the Elantra is really hard to beat and really raises the bar in this segment. In fact, we even crowned it the king of the D-segment in a shootout we did a couple of months back.
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