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|27th October 2012, 14:24||#1|
Comparison of select cars in the Rs. 13-15 Lakh (P) & 13.5-15.5 Lakh (D) price range
Comparison of select executive vehicles in Rs. 13-15 (P) & 13.5-15.5 (D) range
I have earlier done comparisons of hatchbacks and sedans under Rs 10 lakhs and MUVs/SUVs, which was the last one, but never thought will venture into this segment. But Hyundai with the new Elantra has set the executive saloon segment afire, which was hitherto the domain of the Corolla, Cruze and VW group cars – Laura and Jetta. This is reflected in the sales figures which are going strong into the third month after launch, capturing more than 1/3rd of the segment market share (so not just initial hype). Following is a snapshot of the segment-wise sales comparison (sales till Sep’12) that I do every month:
Size and comfort matter in this segment and if the vehicle is good looking as well, then it has the perfect combination. The Jetta and Fluence are larger (length & width wise) than the other vehicles in the comparison and this helps, as bigger generally means better or more premium, atleast in the eyes of the majority of people.
For the sake of uniformity, I’m comparing only variants with manual gears (except Fluence’s E4 petrol variant that comes only with automatic gears). Though automatic gears are also quite popular in this segment, but considering most are chauffeur driven, I believe manual ones make equal sense.
Vehicles in the comparison (engines - variants):
1) Toyota Corolla Altis (1.8 P / 1.4 D) - G
2) Chevrolet Cruze (2.0 D only) – LT & LTZ
3) Hyundai Elantra (1.8 P / 1.6 D) – S & SX
4) Renault Fluence (2.0 P / 1.5 D) – E2 & E4
5) VW Jetta (1.4 TSI P / 2.0 D) – Trendline & Comfortline
6) Skoda Laura (1.8 TSI P / 2.0 D) – Ambition
7) Skoda Yeti (2.0 D only) – Active & Ambition
8) Skoda Superb (1.8 TSI P only) – Ambition
Wheelbase and suspension are important considerations in this segment. It is to be noted that the overall dynamics (comfort, ride and handling) of European cars is generally better / more accomplished than Japanese and Korean cars. Most people buying any of these cars are likely to be fairly well travelled and know, for example that the Corolla is a basic/econo sedan abroad (same for Duster, which is sold as Dacia, an econo brand).
Coming to the wheelbase – I have mentioned the wheelbase to give an idea of the space available inside a car and because it is an easily quantifiable factor. This is where the Corolla, Cruze and Laura lose out to Elantra, Fluence and Jetta (the Superb is in the league of a mini-limo!). It is to be noted that more wheelbase doesn’t essentially always translate to more interior space, but this is the case most of the time. Intelligent interior packaging can render more space in a car with a shorter wheelbase as compared to a poorly packaged car with a longer wheelbase (a case in point is i20 with 2525 mm & Jazz with just 2450 mm wheelbase, the latter being far more spacious).
All these cars are essentially chauffeur driven in India, but are marketed as small executive / family sedans abroad targeted as a self-driven car. As per the Euro NCAP ratings, all the cars in the comparison (except Superb & Yeti) fall under the so called ‘Small Family Car’ category.
Another important consideration in this segment is the suspension, rear suspension in particular. This is an often over-looked aspect. I myself purchased the Tata Indigo in 2006 as my first car for the family. Very few people know that the Indigo (and even the Indica to an extent) manufactured before 2008 or so, came with independent rear suspension that provides great ride comfort, especially appreciated on poor roads (though the handling and overall dynamics were nothing to talk about). But at that time this was the only car with independent rear suspension this side of 1 million rupees! The only down-side, if one considers it, is that one has to get alignment done for the rear wheels as well.
Coming back to the current comparison, the VW group cars (Jetta & the Skodas) and the Fluence are ahead in the overall ride dynamics department, which though is a bit stiff at low speeds, is overall quite comfortable and reassuring at high speeds, something that the Corolla, Elantra or Cruze can’t really match with their non/semi-independent suspension. But Hyundai and GM dole out more features at a lower price due to probably the cost savings from a less sophisticated suspension set-up. It all adds-up to more confusion for the end consumer. At the end of the day, there is no outright bad or wrong car – it all depends on ones’ personal preferences.
I haven’t considered the Civic, as Honda isn’t bringing in the new Civic to India and wisely so, due to the lack of a suitable diesel engine. Also the novelty factor of the Civic with its blingy digital electroluminescent instrument cluster and opposing wipers has worn-off and this is reflected in its monthly sales which have dropped down to double digits. In comparison, the competition is selling atleast 200 units, barring the Fluence – which also manages to sell over 100 units per month.
The XUV5OO might seem like a good deal as compared to these cars (plus it is a 7 seater). No doubt it has a lot of features for the price – but the overall build, comfort, ride and handling and premium feel is not in the league of the vehicles in this comparison. The Yeti on the other hand is a credible soft-roader in the 4x2 guise and importantly it has the dynamics and premium feel one expects from vehicles in this segment / price range.
The Superb is a rank-outsider, but it provides a glimpse into the next segment. It is priced also quite competitively, considering the Jetta’s diesel Highline variant also costs around the Rs.18 lakhs mark. I know I’m comparing petrol with diesel, but if you are able to move into the next segment then I guess it is worth it, even if you have to pay a little more for filling petrol. Also, generally speaking, cars in this segment as it is don’t clock a lot of miles.
Common minimum features for most cars in the comparison:
1) Driver and Passenger airbags
2) ABS with EBD
3) Rear disc brakes (solid, not ventilated)
4) Rake & Reach adjustable steering column
5) Front & rear power windows with driver-side auto-up & down
6) Electrically adjustable ORVMs
7) Remote keyless entry with immobiliser
8) Music system
9) Alloy wheels
10) Drive seat height adjust
11) Front armrest & rear armrest (except Jetta Trendline)
12) Front spot / map lights with theatre dimming
13) Minimum 450 litre boot (except Yeti)
14) Minimum 55 litre fuel tank capacity (which gives the diesels atleast a pretty good range for highway runs)
All petrol engines in this comparison have a minimum of 120 BHP & 170 Nm torque
All diesel engines in this comparison have a minimum of 108 BHP & 240 Nm torque (except Corolla)
Last edited by jessie007 : 29th October 2012 at 10:53.
|27th October 2012, 14:27||#2|
Re: Comparison of select vehicles in Rs. 13-15 (P) & 13.5-15.5 (D) range
I’ve also colour-coded Unique features (purple) and some Delight(ful) features (yellow) that tend to enhance the ownership experience to a small but heart-warming extent. Glaring omissions are highlighted in light orange. Since there are five cars with two variants, for the sake of ease of comparison, I've highlighted those features in red font that are extra in the higher variant.
Click on an image to expand / zoom-in
Last edited by jessie007 : 29th October 2012 at 10:54.
|The following BHPian Thanks jessie007 for this useful post:|
|27th October 2012, 14:30||#3|
Re: Comparison of select vehicles in Rs. 13-15 (P) & 13.5-15.5 (D) range
Points of note for each car compared
As an overall package, the Corolla is fairly spacious (more apparent due to upright seating & a high roof) and comfortable (though it has a fairly common torsion beam suspension set-up at the rear) & predictable at low speeds. The seats are set high and allow easy ingress and egress vis-a-vis, say the Cruze which has the exact same wheelbase. Higher variants are atrociously priced and don’t merit a consideration, keeping in mind the competition. This is more so for the puny 1.4 litre 87 BHP diesel engine variant that only deserves a place in cars that are one segment below. The Corolla is selling mainly because of Toyota’s reliability and country-wide sales and service network that is better than the competitors. Otherwise the Corolla is a fairly average car in this segment.
Feature-wise the only redeeming feature of the Corolla is the touch-screen DVD cum music system that is not offered in any of the cars/variants compared here, though it looks like an after-market fitment. There are also a lot of cubby holes and the twin glove-box is very spacious. Lack of rear A/C vents marks it down as purely a chauffeur driven car.
The Chevrolet Cruze is touted as a rocket and justifiably so, with the most powerful (164 BHP & 380 Nm torque) diesel engine in the segment. The only catch is that the meat of the power-band is at a slightly high RPM range for a diesel and this is more pronounced by the turbo-lag (though slightly better than the old Cruze). The Cruze has a good outright speed if one can find a clear stretch of road, but the turbo-lag effects in-gear acceleration, which is quite average as compared to the competition.
On the other hand the rear seats lack headroom and most importantly lack rear A/C vents, to qualify the Cruze as a chauffeur driven car. At the end, the Cruze is neither a true driver’s car (though one can always learn to manage the initial turbo lag) nor a comfortable chauffeur-driven one. Though it might be targetting at a niche self-driven market - a real life example of the same is given in the Skoda Laura section below.
Where Chevrolet has done well, is in the pricing and the features department (though the Elantra has changed the rules of the game now). Even the base LT variant has smart keyless entry (or PEPS, as Chevrolet calls it), push button start, 6-way electrically adjustable driver’s seat. In addition, the LTZ variant has sunroof with pinch guard (the only car in this comparison to have one), cruise control, electrically foldable ORVM, bluetooth, rear parking sensors, auto-dimming IRVM, rain-sensing wipers and leather upholstery.
I respect Hyundai for ushering in credible competition in all segments. The competition can no longer charge an unreasonable premium for their cars. VW recently rationalised the price of Polo & Vento’s Highline variants to counter competition from the i20 & Verna respectively. It is to be noted that Vento’s Highline variants were priced so high that they were close to Elantra’s base variants (both petrol and diesel), that is why down-pricing was necessitated by VW.
Hyundai has done the same thing with the Elantra, as with the Verna, by launching a feature-rich car at an attractive price. The Elantra has set the cat among the pigeons and I won’t be surprised if Toyota, VW & Skoda introduce lower variants or effect a price reduction to counter the Elantra. Within two months, the Elantra has captured a third of the premium C+ segment market. It is for no reason that the Elantra was chosen as the North American Car of the Year 2012 (VW Passat was in second place – that is a lot to say for the Hyundai Elantra).
Feature-wise even the ‘S’ variant is fairly well-loaded with dual-zone climate control, rear A/C vents, electrically foldable ORVM, rear parking sensors with camera, rear armrest with audio controls, cooled glove-box; and on top of it the ‘SX’ variant gets side & curtain airbags, ESP (Electronic Stability Program), Traction Control, front ventilated seats (a unique feature in this comparison), cruise control, 10-way electrically adjustable driver’s seat, auto headlights & leather upholstery.
It is to be noted that there is a base diesel variant also of the Elantra and at a shade under Rs.13 lakhs is also pretty good value. If we compare it with the ‘S’ variant, the base variant loses out on just the smart key with push button start (though it gets a folding key), rear-view camera, electrically retractable & heated ORVMs, front fog lamps and auto-dimming IRVM.
I would like to give an example that highlights Hyundai’s VFM proposition and also the fact that independent rear suspension makes a difference. A close relative of mine had bought the old Elantra (petrol) versus the Honda City, when Hyundai was clearing stock and selling the variant with Automatic Climate Control, Airbags, ABS & Traction Control for Rs. 7.5-8 odd lakhs, which was a deal compared to the over-priced and feature-starved City. Also, the old Elantra had independent rear suspension (the new one has coupled torsion i.e. non-independent suspension) and comfort was priority for my uncle. A majority of people given the same choice would have blindly gone for the Honda City, though justifiably so, considering the higher mileage and great resale value of Honda cars.
The Fluence injects a bit French flair with its distinctive styling. The biggest asset of the Fluence is the supremely comfortable ride and sublime handling (the best amongst the lot), even with an electric power steering. But then one can always go for VW or Skoda vehicles, which have comparable comfort and ride & handling. At the end of the day, the Fluence seems like a slightly over-priced and average sedan in terms of engines, especially the diesel. On top of it the LHD (Left Hand Drive) controls are quite annoying – not only are the light & indicator stalks LHD, even the start stop button, bonnet release and hand-brake are as per the LHD format and Renault has not bothered to change it for the Indian public (as it did with Logan).
The E4 variant is quite over-priced w.r.t. to the competition, more so considering the small capacity (1.5 litre Dci) diesel engine, which is also the most expensive diesel variant in this comparison (Jetta Comfortline aside). The petrol is a 2.0 litre motor with 135 BHP and comes only with a 6-speed CVT automatic transmission. But it is also easily outclasses by the 1.8 TSI in Laura developing 158 BHP and more importantly 250 Nm of torque (vs. 190 Nm in Fluence) from just 1500 RPM, which is in diesel engine territory - though it doesn't come with automatic gears at this price point.
Feature-wise the base E2 variant (available in diesel only) is quite bare bones, as compared to say Elantra’s ‘S’ variant, that is equally priced; though it does have keyless entry with push-button start. The E4 variants are fairly well-loaded with side & curtain airbags, ESP (Electronic Stability Program), ASR, dual-zone climate control, rear A/C vents, electrically foldable ORVM, music system with bluetooth & USB, foldable rear sunblind, cruise control, rear parking sensors, auto-headlights, rain-sensing wipers, – but is the most expensive in this comparison. Jetta’s diesel Comfortline variant is even more expensive, but atleast it has a more credible 2 litre 138 BHP engine, though lack of climate control is hard to forgive.
The Jetta is from where the real VW range starts for me. The Polo & Vento are more of cars made for the third world, than real German engineered cars with solid build quality. The Jetta feels and looks quite well built, though its staid German looks don’t go down too well with those looking to make their neighbours jealous with a flamboyant looking car, teeming with features. I’ve considered the Comfortline variant just to highlight how expensive it is and lacks quite a few features, as compared to the value proposition of the Elantra & Laura at one end and the Superb at the other end.
The build, ride, handling and robustness are in a class of its own in the Jetta and it looks like a car that’ll outlast you. Feature-wise the Jetta is a mixed bag with very little kit in the Trendline variant , though it gets curtain airbags for front & rear seats, side airbags for front seats, ESP, ASP (Anti-Slip Regulation) and quite interestingly, an Electronic Differential Lock that really comes into play while taking long sweeping corners at speed. The pricey Comfortline variant only adding side airbags for front seats, audio control on steering, electrically foldable ORVM, rear parking sensors, auto-dimming IRVM, auto headlights, rain-sensing wipers, front fog lamps, rear armrest and leatherette upholstery; but surprisingly no climate control or even USB (only SD card reader in Highline variant) or bluetooth in either variant, which is inexcusable if one looks at the competition – c’mon VW even hatchbacks have these features.
VW has gone with a strange strategy of plonking with less powerful (a TSI nonetheless) petrol engine and a more powerful diesel engine vis-a-vis its Czech sibling – the Laura (though it also comes with the same 2.0 litre engine with the same state of tune but that is at a Jetta Comfortline rivalling price, but with a 6-speed DSG). It is all very confusing, but at the end of the day VW wants to entice customers with a plethora of options so that they choose a car from its group offering only - be it a VW or Skoda.
Skoda was amongst the first (if not the first) to introduce us to a one million rupee sedan with the Octavia. The Laura continues the tradition with its premium look, feel and a good choice of engines – the 1.8 TSI (Turbo Stratified Injection) petrol and stonker of a diesel engine. The far more powerful engine in the Cruze seems over-rated in front of VW/Skoda’s TDI, especially if we consider in-gear acceleration, even for the 108 BHP tuned engine.
Feature-wise, Laura’s Ambition variant gets traction control, ASP (Anti-Slip Regulation), rear A/C vents,; but surprisingly no climate control, audio control on steering wheel or even USB (only SD/MMC card reader in L&K variant) or Bluetooth.
Just for comparison sake, Skoda Laura’s 2.0 TDI 138 BHP Ambition variant and 1.8 TSI RS variant costs approx. Rs. 16 & 16.34 lakhs respectively. The diesel has a substantial power addition (up 30 BHP) and more importantly 70 Nm additional torque plus one gets a seven speed DSG (dual clutch gearbox), which does justify the price increase. This variant is a credible alternative to Jetta’s Comfortline variant with the same state of tune for the 2.0 litre TDI but no DSG, though the Jetta has curtain and front side airbags.
The 2.0 TDI 108 BHP version also comes in Elegance variant, which at around Rs. 16 lakhs is also a credible alternative to Jetta’s Comfortline variant. In addition to the Ambition variant, the Elegance has dual-zone climate control, 16’’ alloy wheels (vs. 15”), heated front seats, electrically foldable ORVMs with remote closing, rain-sensing wipers, auto dimming IRVM & ORVMs and leather upholstery.
On the other hand, the RS (Rally Sport) petrol variant gets a sunroof, 16” wheels, touch-screen audio system, adaptive xenon lighting, sport seats and a spoiler – but these don’t really justify the almost Rs 2 lakhs price difference, considering the engine is the same and one doesn’t even get climate control!
To confuse one further, the petrol (1.8 TSI) version also comes in base Active variant which at a shade under Rs.13 lakhs is O.K. value. Though if we compare it with the Ambition variant, the base Active variant loses out on quite a lot of features - rear A/C vents, alloy wheels, front fog lamps, parking sensors, height adjustment for front passenger seat, lumber adjustment for both the front seats, front centre armrest and cooled storage box under it, ordinary music system without even the aux-in facility and a few other. Keeping in mind the competition, Elantra’s petrol ‘S’ variant is priced lesser and has rear A/C vents, dual-zone climate control, music system with USB & bluetooth, alloy wheels and even rear parking sensors with camera! – though the engine is less powerful than Skoda’s TSI.
The only thing that goes against Skoda is their sales and service. I can relate to this, as my friend had an Octavia and though it served him well, towards the end of his ownership it started giving him trouble – the turbo failed at just 75,000 kms (I sold my Indigo at 68,000 kms and the turbo & intercooler were in pretty good condition) and the maintenance cost started to increase. He asked me for a replacement suggestion and even though I was leaning towards the Laura, I recommended him the Cruze for these reasons – 1) He already has experienced Skoda’s sales and service and I believe GM has a slight edge in this department with the 3 years warranty & Rs. 36,000 service package 2) Most of the time, not more than two people would be travelling – so rear seat space and rear A/C vents were not an issue 3) He wanted a car to do highway runs every other week and had other cars for the city run 4) The old Cruze’s base LT variant was atleast Rs 1 lakh cheaper than the Laura’s Ambition variant with 108 BHP (vs. old Cruze’s 148 BHP) which lacks Climate Control, USB, Bluetooth and audio control on steering – the old Cruze had all these.
The only non-sedan in this segment, the Yeti provides a refreshing change, but without losing out on most of the benefits of a premium sedan. The Yeti is made on the Laura’s platform only, so it has a similar wheelbase and feature set, plus some additional kit in the Ambition variant. I’m considering the 4X2 variant only, with the same 2.0 diesel mill with 108 BHP as in the Laura in this comparison, as other than climbing over the curbs, hardly anyone would use it for serious off-roading (though it has all the kit in 4X4 form). Though the Ambition variant gets Electronic Differential Lock (like the Jetta), which can prove useful on off-road excursions. It is to be noted that the Yeti is the only vehicle in the comparison with just 5 gears, as compared to 6 in the others.
A unique feature in the Yeti is the 35:30:35 split / folding rear seats that provides a lot of versatility, though it is best suited for seating two at the back. The boot though not as big as the other sedans, has an advantage of a huge parcel tray, plus one can always remove the tray and load above the parcel tray’s height – even till the roof – though not recommended as it will hamper rear visibility. It is to be noted that boot capacity in cars with a parcel tray is measured till the parcel tray only, even though effectively one has space available till the roof – which is useful for keeping things like flower pots or any other tall items.
In addition to the Laura’s Ambition variant, Yeti’s Ambition variant also gets Electronic Differential Lock, ESP (Electronic Stability Program), Hill-hold, rain sensing wipers, auto-dimming IRVM, parking display on multimedia screen; and all this at a similar price. The major advantage this soft-roader / mini-quasi-SUV has over the other cars in the comparison is a ground clearance of 180 mm, which is useful if traversing bad roads especially after monsoons and even on our highways. It is to be noted that even the Corolla Altis with the India suspension & tyre package has 175 mm ground clearance.
If one moves up to the next segment, the Superb makes for a compelling buy even if it is just the 1.8 TSI petrol in Ambition variant. The Superb Elegance and Jetta Highline are just about in the Rs.17-18 lakhs price band, but you get more car for your buck with the Superb. The Superb has a really long wheelbase and space at the rear is limo-like. The car as a whole looks and feels quite premium and even comes with its own branded umbrella neatly tucked away in the rear door, a la Rolls Royce!
The Ambition variant has all the essential kit including side and curtain airbags, dual-zone climate control, rear A/C vents, 12-way electrically adjustable driver & passenger seat, auto dimming IRVM & ORVMs, parking display on multimedia screen; plus features like electrically foldable ORVMs that also tilt on reverse, cornering fog lamps, retractable sunblind for the rear screen as well as rear side windows, and the neatest feature of all – a boot lid with an electronic locking pin than can open either as a hatch or as a sedan’s boot. The boot in itself is massive with 565 litres of space.
The missing features are the trademark Skoda / VW ones – music system without USB, Bluetooth or audio controls on steering and also no keyless entry or start/stop button and no cruise control.
Most of the information has been collated from the manufacturers’ website for their respective cars and their brochures (so it is liable to change anytime at manufacturer’s discretion). Also Team-BHPs official reviews and member reviews have been instrumental in finding out all the features of each vehicle in this comparison – My thanks to all, especially the Team-BHP reviewers.
I would like to make it clear that I haven’t driven any of the cars in the comparison and my views are based on either quantifiable data or from reading official and owner reviews on Team-BHP and other automobile media. Inclusion of some models & exclusion of others are solely on my personal criteria for comparison.
P.S. There are some blanks (“?” in the sheet) which need to be filled – so if owners of those vehicles can pitch-in, it would be great. Please report to me any anomalies in the analysis, as owners of these models would have a better idea and even the manufacturers also sometimes inadvertently don’t give the complete information or the details are mentioned incorrectly in their communication (online / brochure). I have tried to cover all possible features, but if any have been left out owners can point it out, preferably with supporting pictures (and remember they should be of same variant compared here). Please note that we are considering only the latest variants of the respective cars, say the 2012 model and not the earlier ones or the ones that are no longer produced (e.g. older versions of the Cruze, Corolla or Elantra or the old Laura with PD engine)
Last edited by jessie007 : 29th October 2012 at 11:18.
|29th October 2012, 11:47||#4|
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Re: Comparison of select cars in the Rs. 13-15 Lakh (P) & 13.5-15.5 Lakh (D) price ra
Thread moved from the Assembly Line to the Indian Car Scene. Thanks for sharing!
|31st October 2012, 14:59||#5|
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Re: Comparison of select vehicles in Rs. 13-15 (P) & 13.5-15.5 (D) range
Thanks for the comparison. Very helpful indeed.
I mean, the Polo is not really a third world car. Its selling well in many developed markets (of course with better engine options and trim levels). I will say that Jetta is the starting range wherein VW has not done any India specific cost-cutting.
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