The ongoing 13th edition of the Auto Expo has been subject to praise and criticism alike. While showgoers and digital users have said that the expo doesn’t have much to excite in terms of flashy concepts, edgy design studies etc, the fact is, this year’s Auto Expo has been more about sensible production-ready models, and not quite as much about radical looking displays that make one’s jaw drop to the floor as one would’ve desired. Even the popular concept products are ones that will be materialised sooner, than later. Another crucial thing to note — if you go around the expo and notice carefully — is the idea of ‘Make in India’ being embraced by a lot of automotive players. Incidentally, the ‘Make in India’ week is just around the corner and will be held in Mumbai from 13 February to 18 February 2016.
After intense non-stop and live coverage of the Auto Expo, much deliberation, and carefully examining and debating about each manufacturer’s portfolio and the impact caused, the editorial panel has condensed the folder of production-ready models that were the key highlights to five.
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If there was a manufacturer that added some excitement in the otherwise ‘dull’ show this year, it’s Honda Motorcycle and Scooter India. No one saw anything like the Honda Navi coming. It’s a concept that was long forgotten and only some odd sights in the semi-urban or rural centres of India could one spot what the Navi instantly reminds one of — the Rajdoot Bobby. Navi by Honda comes as a gush of fresh air in the motorcycle segment choked with usual everyday, even boring, products. It’s also, perhaps, the best possible way that Honda has used its trusted and tested Activa’s 110cc engine. It’s an interesting take on an alternative lifestyle product and Honda has great hopes of this becoming a buzz creator and making a strong case in urban centres, attracting youth that’s eager to go beyond the norm. It’s surely a peculiar product, but extremely interesting nonetheless and it’ll be great to see how it gains momentum in the market.
On the opposite end of the spectrum of the Honda Navi was Maruti Suzuki’s Vitara Brezza. It’s a straight-forward sub-compact SUV design effort to capitalise on the existing market reality which has seen a significant shift towards the compact SUV space. It’s broadly a conformist, no-nonsense shape and should be accepted by everyone. It’s expected to be priced in the Rs 6.5-10 lakh bracket and has been developed completely in-house by a team led by Maruti Suzuki’s executive director of engineering, C V Raman. Mahindra’s TUV300 and Ford’s EcoSport are the direct rivals that the Vitara Brezza is going to compete against and will be offered by the Fiat-sourced 1.3-litre, 89bhp diesel engine that is in use across the portfolio of Maruti Suzuki.
The two other pertinent and vital products — Honda BR-V and Tata Nexon — making our list is a clear indication of the importance of the crossover segment in India, and manufacturers getting serious about it across the segment spectrum. While Tata’s Nexon is a sub-compact, Honda’s BR-V is going to be the only one in the compact SUV space to offer 7-seats. Don’t allow Nexon’s radical design to make you think this is a more refined version of the concept shown at 2014 Auto Expo — this is pretty much what the production version will look like, and will go up against the likes of upcoming Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza and Mahindra TUV300. The Honda BR-V is a comparatively large car and looks like the Mobilio MPV has been dressed up in outdoor clothing. It’s going to have Hyundai’s Creta and Renault’s Duster as competing products in the marketplace.
The Innova Crysta is the product that Toyota expects is going to help it maintain leadership position in the MPV space. The current Innova will be phased out and the Innova Crysta is its replacement model. The 2016 model is based on a new IMV architecture which also makes for the underpinnings of Toyota’s globally respected Hilux and the new Fortuner SUVs. The new platform is expected to make ride and handling climb several notches higher, while safety has been enhanced greatly, too. A company spokesperson said the Innova Crysta will be priced slightly higher than the outgoing model, but the company remains confident that the new model will gain more momentum and will keep its leadership position intact, and grow the segment even more.