Rs 15 lakh is a sizeable sum of money even now. It’s the price bracket for the discerning car buyer who has the ability to flex his/her budget for a car a segment above or below and that makes it a tough segment to exist in. But if you have zeroed in on this price bracket, there’s still the car and variant decision to make. All the cars in our top five have turned out to be diesels and you’ve got four executive sedans and an SUV. If you are wondering why a car and variant didn’t make the cut, it just scored lower than the cars in our top five. All cars priced between Rs 15 lakh and Rs 15.99 lakh, ex-showroom Delhi were considered for the rankings. We followed the same method of rating as we did in the Top 5 cars for Rs 10 Lakh story. If you haven’t read it yet, have a look. Here are the parameters once again:
All cars were rated on a scale on 1-5 with 1 being poor and 5 being outstanding.
Engine and Gearbox:
We considered everything from driveability to refinement to NVH before deciding on the rating for the engine, while for the gearbox, things like shift quality and ease and progression of clutch actuation was looked into.
Ride and Handling:
In a market like India, wherein good roads are hard to come by, ride quality – at both low speed and high – is extremely important. But, just a plush ride isn’t enough; the ride shouldn’t be noisy or coupled with vibrations either. As for handling, we considered both ease of driving in the city and the car’s stability in a straight line, under braking, and around a corner.
The more the features, the better. Well, for most part. We also looked into the ease of using these features and not all features were given equal weightages. Features that are more useful, naturally, got a higher rating.
Easily the most important buying criteria, we simply took ARAI quoted fuel economy figures to arrive at a score. The higher the kmpl figure, the higher the score.
Fun to Drive:
Fun to drive is the most subjective parameter here. But, also a crucial one. And for a car to be fun to drive everything from the engine and gearbox performance, to the steering feel and response, to the tyre grip and the overall handling prowess of the car were rated on. The cars that managed to put bigger smiles on our faces, scored higher.
Rank 1: Skoda Octavia Active 2.0 TDI MT
The Octavia in its latest generation ticks a lot of boxes right in the executive sedan list. It’s quite powerful at 143PS and although it shares the engine with the Jetta (which doesn’t make the cut as the Octavia is similar but better in every aspect), it’s been tuned to offer a wider torque band and more power and despite that, is the second most fuel efficient car in our list. The Octavia is also the most enjoyable to drive around a set of corners and has a composed pliant ride at all speeds. The Octavia falls short on the features list in this base active variant though. For a buyer in this price bracket, a long list of features is important. You get a long list of features on higher variants of the Octavia but they don’t make it in this price bracket.
Rank 2: Hyundai Elantra 1.6 D SX MT
Hyundai’s Elantra comes second and shows us why it’s the best-selling car in this segment. The Elantra isn’t much fun to drive and naturally starts on a back-foot in this competition but where is loses on driving appeal, it more than makes up with its all-round package. The Elantra is quite affordable and so you get the top-spec variant in our specified price bracket. This means all the bells and whistles are there to have for a price at which you will not find any other car. And don’t we like a feature rich car in India. The 128PS 1.6-litre engine isn’t the best in the business but helps you eek out fuel at a very stingy rate of 22.7kmpl. You end up driving about 5 km more per litre in the Elantra over a Chevrolet Cruze. The Elantra is also the most accessible due to Hyundai’s vast network so if you are in a small town, there’s a good chance you won’t have the others to choose from.
Rank 3: Chevrolet Cruze 2.0 LTZ MT
The Chevrolet Cruze a fairly underrated car. That’s mostly due to the badge it carries which isn’t placed very highly in India. But look past that and you will realize that the Cruze is a good all-round package. The 166PS 2.0-litre engine under the hood is the most potent with ample power on tap, especially after it was replaced a couple of years ago with the twin cam motor. The Cruze is also very driveable now and has good ride and handling characteristics. It’s still not as fun to drive as an Octavia but a decent handler no doubt. The Cruze comes kitted to the gills with features in this top-spec variant and priced at Rs 15.28 lakh, is quite affordable as well. If you want to be chauffer-driven though, the Cruze is not the car for you as the back seat is quite cramped for the segment.
Rank 4: Skoda Yeti Ambition 2.0 TDI MT
Skoda’s Yeti is the only SUV/Crossover you can buy at this price point so if you are looking for something different, the Yeti is a good bet. You get only the front-wheel drive Yeti at 15.99 lakh. Mated to the same 2.0-litre engine in the Octavia but with lesser power at 110PS, the Yeti marginally squeezes into fourth spot on our list. That’s because it’s a hoot to drive for an SUV because of its agile handling and pliant ride. It’s also got more features in this mid-spec Ambition variant than the Octavia and so when you walk into a Skoda showroom, the Yeti is worth a look if you aren’t too kicked about the base version’s features in the Octavia. On the economy front, the Yeti is not as good as the Octavia at 17.7kmpl. This is mainly due to the extra 200kgs it weighs.
Rank 5: Volkswagen Jetta 2.0-litre Diesel Trendline
It’s fascinating to see how the Volkswagen group dominates this list. What’s more interesting is the Jetta losing out to the Octavia and Yeti. The Octavia is a much newer car and a better all-rounder according to our parameters but if you just have to choose different without straying away from the group, the Jetta is a not-so-distant fifth. It’s built on an older platform compared to the Octy but gets independent suspension all round resulting in better ride on bad roads. The Jetta shares its engine and six-speed manual gearbox with the Octavia but is heavier and so marginally slower. In the real world, the difference isn’t too evident though. The Jetta is built like a tank, but it also feels a generation older than the Octavia, which it is. You also get only the base Trendline variant at this price.
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