Segment Winners : 2012 ZW Car of the Year Awards
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)