SUV’s, EV’s, Saloons, Hot hatches, luxury vehicles you name it. If there was a vehicle category, India got a launch. In fact, this was the year we saw some of the best vehicles from around the world getting launched in India at around the same time as their global launches. Except for the Teslas of course. Also, VW still didn’t bring the new gen Polo to India as their newest gen Polo readies itself for ANOTHER update while the Indians are being sold the decade old design.
But, Hyundai came really close to filling that gap with the i20 N-line just as the XUV700 from Mahindra made its grand entrance to challenge the Safari. Build quality made huge highlights again this year as none of the Koreans or Maruti Suzuki could match up Mahindra and Tata.
Pricing was also something that was a highlight for the year. It wasn’t just Tata Motor’s share price that saw a jump as we saw the cost of owning and maintaining a car go up. Owning because the general increments in car prices ranged from 5-20% and maintaining because fuel prices fired up quite literally (probably cause they are highly inflammable). But, we’ve seen a massive decline in that and some normalization by automakers as well.
Anyway, if you missed our analysis of the 25 contenders for the upcoming six awards, check it out here. It was tough to choose just 6 cars from a list that included the likes of the LR Defender, the XUV700 and the E-tron GT. But, we did it to the best of our capabilities. Before we jump into it straight away, let’s take a look at the categories of awards namely Car of the Year, SUV of the Year, EV of the Year, Most Value-for-money car of the Year, Affordable driver’s car of the Year and the Best Splurge of the Year. Let’s take a look at the winners.
1. SUV of the year
Considering the popularity of the segment globally, one would think this would be the most contested award this year. And naturally, one would think that an award of this calibre would be controversial. But, I think there are a lot of people and journalists alike who would give be happy with our choice as this SUV broke its boundaries, reached the next segment of SUVs and was still priced very very aggressively. The 2021 CarThrust SUV of the year is the Mahindra XUV700.
The XUV700 dropped in with a bang with Mahindra’s redesigned logo and their brand new chief of design who was responsible for giving Tata Motors a breath of fresh air. The car had Advanced Driver Assistance Systems with forward collision warning and brake assists, a brand new 10.25 inch infotainment screen with their AdrenoX interface with Alexa built in, dual zone climate control, 22 variants with both 5 and 7 seat configurations, a very powerful 420NM torque engine and has the tag of being the safest car in India with 5 star GNCAP rating. Moreover, the car is priced slightly lower than the Safari at the top-end trim AND also has a very dependable 4×4 system. This coupled with other best-in-class features, a superb design and plush interiors makes the Safari seem a bit overpriced.
The contenders included cars priced at less than half the XUV700 with really good value like the Nissan Magnite or the Renault Kiger but the diverse variants on offer for the XUV700 meant you could grab a really good variant for the price of a new Seltos or Creta. You get more space, much more presence and of course, the best of the best safety standards.
2. Splurge of the Year
We had quite a few contenders for this one. From what is possibly the hottest hatch on the planet with the A45S to the Defender, the Huracan STO to Ferrari Roma, E63 AMG to S-class and from the E-tron GT to BMW iX, it was quite a list if you wanted to splurge your ‘yearly splurge money’. These are all cars ranging from ₹ 0.75 crores to ₹2.5 crores or more. So, naturally this award was not from the perspective of which car will give you the most value rather, the one that gives you the most pleasure. The 2021 CarThrust Best Splurge of the Year car is the Mercedes A45S AMG!
With the number of Mercedes Benz models in our list of 25 cars, one would be inclined to think that there is a clear bias. But, Mercedes genuinely did launch some of the best ones in India. And with their India production catching up to global standards, Mercedes is shockingly close to offering us their cars at their actual prices sans the painful Indian customs. Put simply, the A45S is a banger. It happens to be the hottest production hatch on Earth for our team unanimously. This not-so-pocket-friendly rocket comes with a 2.0L turbocharged 4-cyl engine that is the most powerful 4-cyl engine in the world. Producing 421HP and 500NM of torque mated to Mercedes’ magical 8-speed DCT, this one propels from 0-100 KPH time of 3.09 seconds.
With a stiffer suspension along with 360mm front and 330mm rear discs, the A45S will be the best possible experience you can have from a car priced at INR 75 lacs. The looks are typically AMG and the interiors put even a 5-series to shame. For us, this is THE package and will definitely be able to hold its own in front of a Lambo or a Ferrari considering even the best possible roads in our country won’t make the supercars as comfy as the A45S for daily driving. In fact, this one has enough capacity to seat 4-adults comfortably and have a weekend’s worth of luggage depending on what you like to travel with. If you want to know the mileage, do contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
3. EV of the Year
This one goes for the times to come. This one is a shoutout to the future. There is not a single person doubting the fact that if Tesla had not come up with the Model S way back when, we’d have never seen the automakers shifting their resources towards EVs so soon. But, Tesla still has not been able to match up to the engineering prowess of the Germans especially when the Germans are catching up to their speed and range claims so quickly. For this category, we had quite a few contenders namely the Tata Tigor EV, the Audi E-Tron GT, the Porsche Taycan GTS, the BMW iX and the Jaguar i-Pace. The winner of the 2021 CarThrust EV of the Year is the Audi E-Tron GT!
The Tata Tigor EV looked like THE launch of the year. It seemed to be the car that would close the gap and make A LOT of people shift to EVs considering it was launching below the Nexon EV. But, with lower power figures, lower range, less enticing interiors & features and a very high price tag, this was kind of a bust. Nowhere near the success of the Nexon EV. In fact, the Nexon EV seems to be much better value compared to the Tigor EV and maybe that is what Tata wants. Coming over to the winner. Yes! The E-tron GT is ONE expensive vehicle. But, wait till you hear what it can do. the non-RS version has a power output of 390kWh, and can go from 0-100 in just 4.1 seconds. It has 4 comfortable seats and a fairly large boot with a front trunk. It looks like Tony Stark himself designed it and is basically the same as a Porsche Taycan.
What makes the E-Tron GT stand out is the interior and the Audi feel. The interiors are very unlike the Taycan which is a good thing. It does not have ALL TOUCH SCREEN controls and displays. The virtual cockpit and low seating position along with the electronic whine make you feel like you’re in a fighter jet. The very easy to use infotainment system is a bonus with its all buttons glory, the 20″ black alloys look menacingly good and a claimed range of 488KM and quick charge are what keeps it looking like really good value for money. This is all thanks to an 800V Lithium-ion battery, which gives both performance and is quicker to charge as compared to the 400V batteries. Of course, this is not an EV for everyone but, you’ll definitely be the talk of the party if you arrive in this. The Tata Tigor EV almost had this if the pricing was right and the BMW iX seems like it was launched earlier than it should’ve been.
4. Most VFM of the Year
THIS is the award for contention. Some might look at this to be bigger than the actual Car of The Year award. With companies like Maruti Suzuki, Tata Motors, Nissan, Hyundai, Kia and even Skoda making moves to the budget SUV segment and budget hatchback segments, this was the most difficult choice of the lot. The contenders ranged from Tata’s Altroz iTurbo to the Maruti Celerio, from Nissan Magnite to the XUV700, from Audi E-Tron to… I’m kidding! The 2021 CarThrust Most VFM of the Year is the Nissan Magnite!
The Nissan Magnite has a pretty spacious cabin, an 8-inch touchscreen mounted up front, 360-degree cameras and obviously- connectivity with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The fully digital, 7-inch instrument cluster adds a more polished, futuristic visual. The Magnite also features auto climate control and a steering-integrated cruise control. Merge this with really good and slick all LED headlamps with DRLs makes it appear from a class above its segment, especially at night. And get this, this variant with all the bells and whistles is priced at INR 7.85 lakhs (ex-showroom). So, how exactly did Nissan manage this? Or are they selling it at a loss?
Well, Nissan is not in a state to sell cars at a loss of even Rupee 1. But, Nissan situation stabilised in India thanks to the Magnite. Nisan’s trick up its sleeve is they offer it with two engine options. A non-turbocharged variant with 74 HP and a turbocharged variant with 100HP both petrol. This way, customers with very little highway needs and more city needs get all the features at the price of a Grand i10 with a much bigger car without paying for a turbocharger. The ‘enthusiasts’ or those wanting extra power can grab the turbo variant for an additional INR 1.2 lakh approx. Even that seems to be REALLY good value when put against the Nexon or Sonet or the Venue or even the Brezza. Moroever, this one gets a 4-star ASEAN NCAP rating which is significantly better than the poorly built Korean twins of Kia and Hyundai.
5. Best Affordable driver’s Car of the Year
India started seeing ‘hot hatches’ way back with the launch of the Polo GT. Soon, Tata launched their JTP twins which received immense praise. Unfortunately, that partnership didn’t go the distance. We all waited and waited some more for someone to fill the gap left by the twins but nothing came at that price. So, we all shifted to the Polo GT. But, VW never updated the car and its painfully old design and feature list threw people the other way. We then saw the likes of the Altroz i-Turbo and the i20 N-Line this year and these were the only two options if you wanted a modern and affordable driver’s car (not exactly a hot hatch). The 2021 CarThrust Affordable driver’s Car of the Year is the Hyundai i20 N-Line.
When Hyundai unveiled the i20 with a turbo variant, we all wished Hyundai made changes to the steering and the suspension. Simply because the engine was so good it was being undercompensated by the car itself. Hyundai then teased that they were readying the i20 N-line in India and boy did the car world go crazy here. Despite Hyundai’s best efforts, people were ready to believe the i20N was coming with a beefier engine. To their dismay and our appropriate assumptions, Hyundai launched the i20 N-line. And for the slight premium they were asking over an already very expensive hatchback, it needed to be good. It is.
There weren’t many changes to the car. No chassis or engine changes per say and neither did the gearbox change. But, Hyundai added a new exhaust, made some changes to the steering response, changed the steering wheel, added some red accents and body kits, newer alloys and dropped the chef’s kiss with a paddle shifter. it wasn’t like the paddle shift made the shifts any smoother but, it definitely added a sporty appeal. What won it over the Altroz i-Turbo was the engine which ramped up much more smoothly than the Altroz as is the problem with other Tata vehicles.
The Altroz takes a lot of jerk and a lot of pain to reach its torque range, not to mention how rough the engine sounds by then. With the i20, you get all imaginable features you could ever ask fir and Hyundai’s magically silent engine and cabin noise arrangement. This is one good package if you’re ready to fork over INR 13 lakhs for a hatchback. Oh and the maintenance costs are quite low too!
6. Car of the Year
This is THE award. This is the one we’ve been waiting for. Is it a car from the list above or is it something completely different? The important question is would WE recommend this one to everyone looking for something in that price range? The answer is a simple Yes. With our eyes closed we will. We at CarThrust give you advise without a bias. Breaking auto news you can trust! The 2021 CarThrust Car of the Year is the Mahindra XUV700!
There is nothing that hasn’t already been said in praise of this car that I wouldn’t repeat. This SUV broke all the barriers and took Indian engineering and design to the levels of Autonomous braking and lane change assist technology. The interiors are amazingly well put together and look like they belong in a car of a much higher price tag. A very capable 4×4 system, beautiful design, really good space and 22 variants on offer based on your needs won it this prestigious award. This one will hold its own for a while. So, to answer if we’d recommend this car to everyone. Well, if you’re looking at this price range, we’d recommend this over everything with out eyes closed.
Thank you for tuning in. A very Happy New Year to all from the team at CarThrust!