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BS6.2 Effect: Mass Market Diesel Sedans No Longer Exist In India, Entry-level Begins At Mercedes A-Class Now

Mass-market sedans from the stables of Honda, Maruti and even Hyundai have become petrol-only models due to stricter emission norms; diesel units limited to expensive premium cars

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The next phase of BS6 emission norms will come into force this April. Although the new norms bode well for the environment in the long term, they will largely and effectively eliminate the turbo-diesel engine from relatively affordable sedan segments, notably in the volume-based sedan segments.

In fact, if you fancy buying a diesel-powered sedan, be prepared to shell out at least nearly Rs 50 lakh on-road.

Most affordable diesel sedans in India 

Interestingly, the most accessible diesel sedans that you can buy right now are limited to the premium luxury segment. The most affordable diesel sedan in India is no longer a compact or subcompact vehicle, but the Mercedes A-Class Limousine! 

You read that right – the Mercedes A 200d, priced at Rs 44 lakh, is the most accessible diesel sedan, closely followed by the BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe, whose 220d M Sport variant retails at Rs 45.5 lakh (all prices ex-showroom). 

Gone are the days when you could get a fun-to-drive yet impressively fuel efficient oil burner in sedans such as the Maruti Dzire and Volkswagen Vento. 

Why did Indians love diesel? 

Maruti's short-lived 1.5-litre diesel enigne (discontinued in 2020)

The turbo-diesel engine is much-loved among Indian enthusiasts for two reasons – ample torque that improved the driveability of even small cars and affordable running costs. Diesel cars are inherently more fuel efficient than petrol vehicles and the fuel has always been priced relatively lower than petrol in India.

All these sedans from 2019 offered diesel options

For this reason, diesel engines only gained popularity over the years in the Indian markets, with many buyers preferring to pay a hefty premium for a more efficient and powerful engine. 

Why are diesel engines becoming extinct?  

Hyundai's 1.6-litre diesel enigne

In 2020, the BS6 emission norms effectively killed the oil burner engine in affordable compact cars such as the aforementioned Dzire, Maruti Swift, Volkswagen Polo and many more. These cars had old diesel engines and updating them to meet stringent emissions is an expensive process. With the next phase of BS6 norms ready to be implemented, even more models are losing out on a diesel engine option.

This isn’t really a war against diesel, but simply a cost-benefit analysis by carmakers. Making diesel engines cleaner requires carmakers to add hardware such as advanced catalytic converters and exhaust fluid (AdBlue). In time, carmakers might even need to add electrification to these powertrains (mild or strong-hybrid systems) to keep up with emission norms. All of this makes the already expensive diesel engine even more steeply priced. 

No, the diesel engine won’t become extinct, and we’ll continue to drive new and used oil burner models for the foreseeable future. However, the challenges to make diesels cleaner, alongside global carmakers’ plans to switch to fully electric vehicles, could lead to less and less development of oil burner engines in the coming years. As for India, turbo-petrols have emerged as the enthusiast-friendly engine options.

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