Luxury cars are increasingly becoming popular in the country as India Inc’s financial strength maintains a stable growth rate despite economic slowdown elsewhere in the world.
While the established range of entrepreneurs and executives can pretty much have any luxury vehicle they want, there also exists the younger breed of entrepreneurs and executives who aspire for premium automobiles with a luxury badge.
Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Volvo and Audi have recognised this demand and have decided to bring their compact vehicles in the form of luxury hatchbacks to India.
The first offering in the soon-to-be-luxury hatchback segment will be the Mercedes-Benz A-Class. The third generation Mercedes-Benz A-Class is an attractively styled modern car that packs in a lot of equipment especially of the optional kind and a healthy range of safety features. The interiors are adorned with good quality plastics, chrome detailing and leather. Again, there will be many options to spec up the trim materials. All in all, the A-Class has good build quality and has everything onboard to be called a luxury car.
Under the hood, the A-Class has a number of engine options on offer, although the engine of choice for India would undoubtedly be the A 180 CDI diesel engine that develops 110PS of power and 250Nm of torque and is mated to a 7G-DCT dual clutch automatic gearbox. While there are more powerful engine’s available on the A-Class range the A 180 CDI will help keep the cost of the vehicle in check, something that will be essential in the initial phase of the luxury hatchback segment. The other engine that could also find its way under the hood of the A-Class for India is the A 180 1.6 litre engine that develops 122PS of power and 200Nm of torque, as it is currently doing duty in the India spec Merc B-Class.
Speaking of the Mercedes-Benz B-Class, the German luxury automobile major is also planning to launch a diesel version of the vehicle in India. This means that the diesel engine doing duty in the A-Class may find its way under the hood of the B-Class as well albeit in a slightly higher state of tune.
Eberhard Kern, president & MD at Mercedes Benz India, says the luxury hatchback is the most promising segment in the Indian market. "As the Indian economy develops, there are more people who move into the higher middle class bracket. They open up a new customer base altogether: there are young professionals; there is a second and third generation of customers coming in; we also see more female customers coming in," he says.
The Mercedes-Benz A-Class should have prices starting at Rs 18 lakh (ex-showroom) if it wants to generate sufficient interest as well as attract a favourable customer base.
BMW, which was pushed to No.2 position in the luxury vehicle segment in India, is not too far behind the three-pointed star when it comes to luxury hatchbacks. With plans to launch its 1 Series hatchback in India during the festive season in 2013, BMW is banking on its very own compact luxury car to appeal to a younger audience.
The 1 Series will be assembled at BMW India's Chennai facility and will be powered by a pair of 1.6-litre petrol and 2.0-litre diesel engines. Both engines are available in various states of tune globally. Power outputs for the petrol engine range between 101PS to 169PS of power and between 180Nm to 250Nm of torque while the diesel motor churns out between 115PS to 217PS of power and 260Nm to 450Nm of torque.
The BMW looks a tad understated compared to the A-Class’ swanky design cues that grab your attention at once. However, the 1 Series appeals to enthusiasts like no other with its rear-wheel drive architecture and trademark BMW drive dynamics.
The interiors of the 1 Series also feature the trademark BMW look with its straight and sleek dashboard and switch gear. Quality is impeccable too, however, it just doesn’t look as modern as the Merc’s dashboard.
Nonetheless, BMW knows what ticks the right boxes in the Indian consumers mind and the 1 Series like all its other models should fly out of the showrooms in no time.
The BMW 1 Series comes loaded with safety features and equipment and will have a level playing field with the Mercedes-Benz A-Class in terms of standard equipment.
Expect the BMW 1 Series to be priced in A-Class money thereby making it a formidable competitor in the segment.
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