Electric vehicles have hogged the mind space of car buyers and have been in the centre stage at auto shows around the world for a while now. But while they have been concepts and EVs that have had a premium price positioning in the past, recently we have had many ready-to-market vehicles that have also been positioned at affordable price points. Electrics have moved from the fringe and into the mainstream over the last few years.
Nowhere was that more evident than at the ongoing Auto Expo 2023. The show returned after three years and has witnessed a complete turnaround in the breed of vehicles that stood under the spotlight. Unlike the previous auto show, the current, 16th edition of the show featured electrics that were either ready to hit the market or in pre-production guise. This Expo saw manufacturer participation plummet to an all-time low. Here’s what the major brands that did participate showcased.
The Suzuki Jimny has been a global icon for decades. The model has sold over 3.2 million units worldwide and has had a hugely global footprint. Its arrival in India has been highly anticipated. But unlike the 3-door Jimny that’s sold worldwide, what we in India get is a world-exclusive 5-door model, that’s been developed specially for this market. It is still a sub-four-metre sub-compact SUV, but it oozes character and continues to bear its unique design character.
The Jimny 5-door will be made here and sent to Suzuki’s global markets too. The sub-compact SUV has been built on the four essentials of an off-roader – ladder frame chassis, upright body style, 3-link rigid axle suspension and four-wheel drive. Maruti officials say that with a body-on-frame design and build, the rugged and squared body proportions, the Jimny gives the driver better control and visibility. The Jimny inherits signature design elements such as the clamshell bonnet, vertical slits in the front grille and iconic round headlamps from the legendary original.
For the interiors of the Jimny, its dashboard and centre console have been designed to maximise the driver’s awareness of the angle of the car on undulated surfaces. Sections of the interior have a pattern that help conceal small scratches, suppress reflections and are easy to grip. It also gets a 9-inch Smart Play Pro+ infotainment system with HD display. Safety features include six airbags, Brake (LSD) Limited Slip Differential, ESP with hill-hold assist, hill descent control, rear-view camera, and ABS with EBD.
The engine is the K15B, 1.5-litre petrol engine with Idle Start-Stop, delivering peak power of about 105PS and torque of 134Nm, and has been paired with specially tuned 5-speed manual and 4-speed auto transmission options. Suzuki’s proprietary ALLGRIP PRO with low-range transfer gear (4L mode), offers extreme off-road ability and all-terrain performance. The special 4WD transfer case can let you shift seamlessly from 2H two-wheel drive to 4H four-wheel drive on-the-fly. The 4L (low-range transfer gear) drive mode gives the Jimny maximum torque and traction.
Maruti also pulled the wraps off the Fronx, its new sub-compact crossover built on the Baleno. Maruti says that the Fronx was entirely conceptualised and developed in India for younger buyers seeking the versatility of a sporty SUV. The design is unique, though it has a mix of elements from the Grand Vitara and the Baleno. The cabin gets differentiators too, with its black and Bordeaux colour theme and exclusive trim elements. The Fronx will be powered by two K-series engines, a 1-litre, turbo boosterjet and a 1.2-litre dualjet dual VVT engine. Transmission options will include a 5-speed manual, a 6-speed auto and an AGS.
Both the Fronx and the Jimny will be retailed through Maruti’s NEXA channel and bookings for the vehicles has already been opened. The other showcase from Maruti that was a hit at the Expo and holds a lot of promise for the future was the eVX. The electric concept will be the base on which Maruti will build its upcoming e-SUV. The final production version, Maruti’s first EV for India, will be launched by 2025. The battery for the vehicle will be made at Suzuki’s Gurajat plant.
The passenger electric vehicle market is dominated by Tata Motors. With its trio of offerings in the affordable end of the price spectrum, Tata is truly taking electrics to the masses. One of the most awaited unveils at this year’s auto expo was the Sierra EV. An iconic brand that is being revived, the original Sierra of the 1990s was a trendsetting SUV with a very special design. The new Sierra.ev faithfully captures the unique design identity of the original, and it goes beyond in its classy build and reinterpreted modern character. Tata says that the layered and planted front design boosts the visual width of the EV. Of course, the most distinctive design characteristic is the glazing and dome-style panoramic sunroof that has been inspired by the original.
Following pure design principles, the clean surfacing and the tight panels in the Sierra.ev will be appreciated even by car buyers in other mature markets. It gets a clamshell tailgate, with an elongated tail-lamp that crosses over. The cabin also features a layered finish with some backlit elements, and concept-style exaggerated design elements, but showcasing the execution possibilities. The other electric concept that was showcased by Tata Motors was the Harrier EV. This is also a production concept with the final road-legal version likely to be launched in the months ahead. Sporting the design identity of the current Harrier ICE (internal combustion engine) version, the Harrier.ev has been built on Tata’s Gen 2 electric architecture. The 5-seater SUV sporting a monocoque was engineered on the OmegaARC architecture developed in collaboration with Land Rover. This has been extended to the Gen 2 EV platform. Also on display at the Tata pavilion was the ICE version prototype of the Curvv concept that was originally unveiled as an EV. The SUV coupe design of the Curvv is unique and very impressive if it can be preserved in a production version. Tata officials say that the Curvv will be powered by a 1.2-litre turbo GDi petrol engine.
Kia and Hyundai Motor India
Kia has already had EV6, its electric crossover in the market over the last few months. The Korean brand unveiled the EV7 sportback coupe concept, in addition to the Concept EV9 — a full-size electric SUV concept that can be offered as a 3-row vehicle too. At the Auto Expo, Kia also debuted the KA4, a new premium MPV that will make it to market soon. The KA4 is essentially the new 2023 Carnival that is being given a different badge for the Indian market.
The Ioniq 5 had been unveiled by Hyundai India last month. The company officially launched the electric at the auto expo and has announced an aggressive price of ₹44.95 lakh. The introductory price will, however, be offered only for the first 500 bookings. The vehicle will be assembled at the company’s Chennai plant and the local assembly advantage has helped Hyundai offer the Ioniq 5 at this price, even though the Kia EV6, that shares the same platform, is positioned at a much higher price point.
Two other brands that showcased electric concepts at the expo were MG Motor and BYD. MG showcased as many as 14 EVs and concepts from its global portfolio, including a Hydrogen fuel cell vehicle. It also officially launched the 2023 Hector. BYD unveiled the Seal EV sports sedan, which it plans to launch in India by Q4 2023.