Auto focus

Wave of SUVs and new brands to hit Indian shores in 2019-20

S Muralidhar | Updated on April 11, 2019 Published on April 11, 2019

The next 18 months are going to be filled with sports utilities and a clutch of late entrants joining the party

The rather lacklustre 3-5 per cent growth projections for the passenger car market next year aren’t dampening the enthusiasm amongst the players in the market, both new and old. One of the segments of the market that will see the biggest number of launches will be the sports utility segment, with many of the forthcoming vehicles having been in the pipeline during the last three-four years; a period when SUVs have really captured the hearts of buyers across price and size categories.

Surge incoming

The next two years are also going to see a huge surge in the number of SUVs from new brands that are only just entering the Indian market. At least three big global brands are making their foray here within the next 18 months and all of them are lining up SUVs as their debut vehicles. Kia Motors has already showcased its SP2 SUV concept on which the final production version will be based. MG Motor has recently announced that its first vehicle will be the Hector SUV, which will be pitched against the Tata Harrier, Hyundai Creta and the Jeep Compass. The most recent entrant into the market with a specific vehicle announcement is Citroen of France, which last week formally unveiled its C5 Aircross as the debut vehicle.

The interesting bit about these three new SUVs is that they are going to be positioned in three different price segments and yet they are all vying for attention on a scale that resembles mass market cars. In fact, in the case of the Hyundai Venue and the MG Hector, even the connected car tech is a feature that they are both attempting to highlight.

MG Hector

The first to break out with information about the connected-car tech plans for its debut vehicle was MG for the Hector. The British brand currently owned by SAIC of China is taking its tentative steps into the Indian market and will be launching the Hector in June as its first vehicle. The Hector looks like a full-size SUV by Indian standards; will probably be launched with a seven-seat option too. Going by the photographs that have been circulating, the design is aggressive and very appealing. This will be another crossover SUV that will be tackling competitors in the ₹18-lakh plus category.

 

The Hector is being launched with MG’s own connected car tech called the iSmart Next Gen. The brain of the system will be housed in a 10.4-inch Head Unit. The screen is designed with a vertical interface that allows the driver to control the entire car system with just a touch or voice command, says MG Motor India. MG Hector iSMART Next Gen comes with an embedded M2M SIM that ensures the car remains connected.

The customised solution has been developed by Unlimit in partnership with Cisco and Airtel who have collaborated with their Jasper platform and telecommunication network respectively. The connected mobility solution on the MG Hector is Internet Protocol Version 6 (IPV6) ready for 5G. This connectivity enables users to receive real-time software, entertainment content and application updates downloaded Over The Air (OTA). The OTA feature would be standard in all MG cars enabled with iSMART Next Gen for connected mobility, starting with MG Hector SUV.

MG says that the iSMART will come with pre-embedded and relevant web applications. It will house TomTom’s real time navigation application. Pre-loaded Gaana app with Premium Account and Accuweather will further help customers access music and weather forecasts. Owners can also use the remote MG iSmart app on the phone to directly lock or unlock doors, turn on ignition and switch on the air-conditioner. Though its first vehicle is yet to reach showrooms, MG has already announced that its second vehicle for India will be the eZS pure electric compact SUV. The zero tailpipe emissions eZS will be launched first in India by December this year and is then expected to be rolled out for other markets globally.

Citroen C5 Aircross

The Citroen C5 Aircross is the French brand’s most recent crossover SUV, launched in Europe in January this year. Sold in a few European countries and in China, the SUV is based on the PSA EMP2 platform and both partners, Citroen and Peugeot, produce their own versions of the vehicle. Citroen’s vehicles have changed and become less quirky in terms of design than in the past, and yet the C5 Aircross is one of the most pleasing and proportionate designs in the French brand’s current portfolio too. It falls in the premium SUV category and is more than 4.5 metres long. In Europe it is offered with a choice of two petrol and two diesel engines; mated to either a six-speed manual or an eight-speed automatic transmission.

 

Citroen India has announced that it is targeting an extremely high 90 per cent localisation level even by the time of launch of the C5 Aircross, so we can expect a fairly aggressive pricing strategy. It will be positioned to take on the likes of the Jeep Compass, the Honda CR-V and the Hyundai Tucson. The car will be manufactured at the joint venture assembly facility set up by PSA Groupe and the CK Birla group, which will be located at Tiruvallur, near Chennai.

The powertrains will be produced at the PSA-Avtec joint venture at Hosur, Tamil Nadu, which will supply to Citroen India and to other global subsidiaries. The C5 Aircross will be launched in India before end-2020.

Hyundai Venue

The Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza will soon face the heat from the new Hyundai Venue. The sub-four-metre SUV from Hyundai has been in the news recently for its purported connected car tech. The Korean car-maker has also been steadily releasing information and design sketches, etc, about its forthcoming vehicle in a bid to build up the tempo. The Venue will be launched by mid-May this year and will also take on the other competitors like Ford EcoSport, Tata Nexon and Mahindra’s latest XUV 300.

The Venue will be unveiled simultaneously in India and at the New York Auto Show on the 17th of this month. It is likely to be a fairly upright, but wide sub-compact SUV. It is rumoured to be debuting the one-litre turbocharged petrol engine from Hyundai and a dual-clutch automatic gearbox, a powertrain that will likely be offered in other cars from the brand’s stable in the future.

In addition, the Venue will be offered with a 1.4-litre petrol and a 1.4-litre diesel engine option, both of which will be paired with manual transmissions. Also, Hyundai has already announced that the Venue will be offered with an in-built eSIM by partnering with Vodafone, that will enable activating a suite of connected car features under Hyundai BlueLink. The whole system with 33 features is said to include ten India-specific ones. There will be a SOS, RSA and BlueLink button in-built into the room mirror for easy access. Focus will be safety, security, remote access, location-based services and vehicle relationship management.

In addition to these three, there are a clutch of other SUVs across segments that are due to be launched within the next year, including luxury SUVs like the BMW X5 and later the X7, the Jaguar iPace, Audi e-TRON, Q8 and new Q3, Mercedes-Benz GLE, Hyundai Kona EV and the Skoda Kamiq. The other significant addition to the affordable SUV choices will be the Kia SP2i-based SUV that will be introduced by August this year. This will be based on the same platform as Hyundai’s Creta and will take on the sister brand’s SUV, in addition to other existing vehicles in the segment.

Published on April 11, 2019
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor