Why Does India Still Not Have a Real True-Blue Compact SUV?

Vikram Gour asks why India is yet to see a pure compact SUV from the Indian automotive industry.

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Car and Bike
3 min read
Mahindra Thar 2015. (Photo: Mahindra)

The Indian automobile market has witnessed the launch of a whole bunch of compact-SUVs/soft-roaders in recent times. While the going is great and such products make immense sense for our diverse market, they aren’t exactly SUVs in the truest sense – predominantly because they happen to be missing some essential elements that would effectively allow them to traverse over the roughest terrain. It won’t hurt if a manufacturer actually brings in an affordable compact SUV that can deliver on all these accounts and I’m sure that such a product will find enough takers.

The closest example that I can give in this case is the Mahindra Thar. The Thar has gone on to do good business and is predominantly being lapped up for its retro-look, butch stance and off-roading ability. Mahindra has tweaked it with some added goodies recently and the Thar continues to be on the list of affordable off-roaders that delight. Unfortunately, the Thar doesn’t fit the bill completely – after all, its genes are more skewed towards a WWII jeep than that of an SUV.

Renault Duster Explore. (Photo: Renault)
Renault Duster Explore. (Photo: Renault)

There is reasonable scope to offer a product that is as robust as the Thar, yet designed to cocoon you in a little more comfort. You might argue that the Renault Duster AWD and Mahindra Scorpio 4x4 already exist, but they honestly belong to a segment higher. A sub-4 metre compact 4x4 is what I’m talking about.

The dimensions are perfect for creating a solid 4x4 – you get a shorter wheelbase and can factor in better approach and departure angles. A 1.5-litre diesel can provide more than adequate power and all that is left to engineer is the 4x4 drive as well as ensuring that the vehicle has a reasonable amount of wading capability. Further, the manufacturer could also look at tossing in some helpful electronic terrain response systems (yeah, I know cost is a factor, but I’m getting to that).

Mahindra TUV 300. (Photo Courtesy: <a href="https://www.motorscribes.com/">MotorScribes</a>)
Mahindra TUV 300. (Photo Courtesy: MotorScribes)

No doubt, the sub-4 metre compact SUV is built to a price and maybe that’s why the segment is doing so well. However, when you take into account that it is possible to build a sub-4 metre SUV at a low cost in the first place, your starting point is that much lower. Therefore, it would be possible to actually roll a product out that is still affordable even with the added tech. The Mahindra TUV 300 is a case in point. It has just about everything going for it – a great engine, good ground clearance, the right approach and departure angles and a reasonably comfortable cabin. A 4x4 TUV 300 would be the perfect example of delivering a true-blue compact SUV. Other manufacturers who are looking to jump on the bandwagon could also delight customers with such a product.

Hyundai Creta. (Photo: Hyundai)
Hyundai Creta. (Photo: Hyundai)

The benefits of such a product stem from the fact that while most high-end SUVs come with everything on board to literally let them drive up a mountain cliff, the owners will most probably never leave tarmac. Having said that, an affordable (preferably sub-Rs 10 lakh) compact 4x4 would be considerably cheaper to own and repair (if need be), allowing the owner to truly utilize it to its full potential. I agree, it’s a bit of a cat and mouse game, but there are enough takers for a neat 4x4 that can double up as your everyday vehicle as well.

(Vikram Gour is one of India’s renowned automotive journalists and the Co-Founder of MotorScribes. He can be reached on Twitter: @VikramGour)

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