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Hatchbacks in India - and abroad

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You've got entire parking lots of hatchbacks in our country- and some companies offer multiple hatchbacks. Yet, we find that a lot of them are of the city-car or supermini variety- entry-level cars with small bodies and engines. You don't have hatchbacks that are long and have powerful engines- instead, you have tiny, cramped sedans. This is very unlike the scene in Europe, where an upgrade from an entry-level hatch is a bigger hatch. Take Renault or Peugeot, for example- you start with the Twingo/107, then go to the Clio/207, then the Megane/308. None of these are sedans. Only at level four (Fluence/407), do the sedans come out.

A Megane/308 type hatch in India simply wouldn't succeed. Chevrolet's SRV failed, and so did Ford Fusion, though neither were marketed as hatches- one was a 'sport wagon', while the other, a crossover. The only power hatches with any success were the Fiat Palio, Fiat Punto and the 1.6 litre VW Polo. But it's got its advantages. You save a few inches on parking, and then there's plenty of seating space in the car. Better than a cramped sedan, any day.

Hatches have been preferred over sedans on the same platform in India too. An example is the Ford Figo vis-a-vis Ikon. The Figo was a better car in all respects, and sold really well. The Ikon had a boot. That's all. Not even 2011 sales- and it was the end of the Ikon. Likewise, the Palio was always a decent seller, but the Siena/Petra always struggled. The Indica Vista is surely a better car than the Indigo eCS, isn't it?

Some long hatches abroad really look good, but we can't say the same about some of the sedans here in India- which are short hatches with boxes welded behind. The long hatch has plenty going for it, and works well in other countries. Why not in India?

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Those were not very good products anyway. The Fusion was a make-believe SUV which didn't perform like an SUV, but just gave the mileage of one. The SRV, called a sport-wagon, was criticised by enthusiasts for lack of power in a specified 100bhp engine. Renault Megane, Peugeot 308, VW Golf, Fiat Bravo and Ford Fiesta are better cars. If only one company can crack the formula for a C-segment hatch without resorting to the artificial sedan (DZire, Indigo) option, we'll have a new segment and better cars to choose.

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Here are a few long hatches, or should I say, C-segment hatches, which some of us would like to have here. Let's also see how they stack up against the compact sedan, or should we say, booted hatch brigade in our country- particularly the ones we love to hate, the DZire (current variant has boot space of 310 litres) and Indigo eCS (approximately 380 litres). These figures were a little difficult to locate, so if someone can provide clearer figures and also compare these hatches, we'll get a hint of how they can match the sedans in their own turf.

Audi A1 Sportback


Boot space of 270-920 litres

BMW 1 Series


Boot space of 360 litres with four seats up

Mercedes A Class


I can't find a boot space figure, but I'd expect it to be close to 300 litres.

Peugeot 308


Boot space of 266 litres- this one falls back.

Renault Megane


Boot space of 312 litres

I'll add a few more in a later post- the VW Golf, Fiat Bravo, Chevrolet Cruze, Ford Fiesta and Ford Focus.

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The Government of India has introduced a 4 meter rule which distinguishes the Hatchback from the Sedans

Back in 2006, the government passed a rule that any car which has a length of no more than 4 meters, powered by a petrol engine of 1.2L or a diesel engine of 1.5L will bear the excise duty of 10%. Anything bigger in size or engine will bear the duty of 22% or higher

All the Hatchbacks mentioned by Arjun_M are more than 4 meters. That's the Problem

Chevy SRV was pitted against FORD Fiesta Which was ruling the roost at that point of time & it was the time when people actually started buying Diesel Cars & the lack of a Diesel engine for SRV was also a let down.

Ford FUSION was highly priced with a higher cc Engine, But that was kind of a No-Brain-er for the Indian Market. Even though it had a Diesel Engine but Pricing was way too high & People were happy spending few extra bucks for a Sedan (Fiesta) at that price rather than a Hatchback.

The New Ford Fiesta has a Hatchback Avatar in the West but for India a Sedan is Projected due to 4 meter rule & the Taxation Policy & Perception of the Indian Buyer.

On the Flipside, Hatchbacks such as i20, Punto are doing good in the Indian Auto Scene & i20 CRDI Sportz Diesel variant costs around 8.2 onroad and there are so many buyers for it. TIMES are Changing....

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What is so wrong with a long hatchback? I mean, it's perceptions like these that show how flawed the Indian car buyer group is. They just won't open their mind to more options. It's rather disappointing. Then again, someone needs to buck the trend and change the game.

Instead of a B+segment sedan, you can opt for a C-segment hatch!

If that silly four-metre rule is so critical, you have the Audi A1 and the Ford Fiesta hatchback in New Zealand under four metres- and they are current models. Besides, the Punto was pinched under four metres to sell in India, so they pulled it off, so there's no reason why we can't have the Fiesta, 208 and Clio here.

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I think carmakers have learnt their lesson from the Ford Fusion and the Chevy SRV.

The Indian customer still (sadly) associates 'hatchback' with 'entry level'. That really shouldn't be the case. If you look at it another way, what you get is all the equipment, luxury and trim from a segment above (D-segment) at the price of a segment below (C-segment). How can you say no to that?

Solution? Premium carmakers. The only people that can convince Indians to pay big money for a hatchback are Mercedes, BMW, Audi etc. And it's already begun - just look at the B-class. Eventually the A-class will come here, probably the Audi A3, BMW 1-series and Volvo V40. Once these cars are established here, assuming they sell well, then and only then can the mainstream manufacturers follow suit.

I've driven the latest Ford Focus hatchback, and I'd gladly pay Rs 12-13 lakh for it. It's that good.

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That sentiment of 'small car is entry-level' is mostly an antiquated villager mindset. The real reason why the SRV and Fusion failed to change that mindset was that they were simply not good enough. The hatch versions of the Cruze, Fiesta and Focus, on the other hand, can change the game, as also Clio, Megane, Golf, 208, 308, Audi A1/A3, BMW 1 series and the new Merc A-Class. These are good cars, and you get high-end features and top-of-the-line specs at a good price. These will be a hit in the urban markets, where the size saved in a hatchback will be a more decisive factor than the nonexistent prestige associated with an attached boot.

On that other forum, someone young spent nearly Rs 8lk on a Fiat Punto. His uncle, an Esteem owner, nearly threw a fit. How can someone spend Rs 8lk on a 'small car'? The youngster thought of driving the Punto and parking it near his uncle's Esteem, to prove a point. Younger, better-informed urban costumers will definitely choose a Ford Focus over an SX4, or a Ford Fiesta hatch over a DZire. Likewise, the starter of that thread showed a Lancia Delta as a prime example, of what he calls an XL hatch- at 4500mm, it is no 'small car'.

If they want to appeal to the village people, they can adopt a similar style to the Accent Viva or Skoda Octavia- technically hatchbacks that were styled like sedans (notchbacks/fastbacks/liftbacks) and sold rather well.

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Having just visited and stayed with family in Kolkata and back to my homeland, UK, I was amazed at the change of cars there. Having only been back to India in 18 years a lot has certainly changed in terms of brands. From what my family had originally (a 23 year old rusting FIat 1300 to Suzuk/Maruti vans. Amby saloons) and now a Hyundai i20, the Hyundai is similar to the Maruti 800/Omni in the barest sense that it offers practicality with a hatch instead of a boot.

In terms of what I observed as a child, it seems to me that India has always been obsessed with the sedan shape and reserves its ideas citing the sedan shape to be classier than a hatchback, a view that was also once held by the Chinese.

In the UK booted sedans or saloons are not popular. They have never been popular because traditionally the rear seats were fixed and did not fold down. We Brits like our practicality and tend to overload the boot with shopping and children's push chairs. A sedan is simply not designed to be filled to such a capacity, even if it does have folding rear seats. Sedans are also long and more difficult to park - and because the UK gets so much rain, most hatchbacks are fitted with rear wash wipers, which in parts of India is an absolute essential.

The only successful sedans or saloons have been from premium brands such as Volvo's S40, BMW 3 series, VW Jetta/Vento and at a push any product from GM within the Focus class - Ford's own Focus saloon in the UK hasn't seen much sales success though and infact Ford did not go on to offering a replacement.

There is nothing stopping the existing brands in India to offer high end premium features in cars that are already selling. In the UK we have the rather excellent Suzuki Swift Sport 1.6 litre. It is a fast little rocket, built well and comes with all the kind of electrics I would be happy with.

However, Kolkata in particular requires a car that has higher ground clearance, and not necessarily a high riding SUV. Skoda in the UK already offer the Octavia with 4x4 high suspension and I believe that with premium features fitted, an Octavia or Suzuki's current line up could sway Indian buyers minds including higher option fitted engines past 1.3 litres.

At the same time though with petrol stations and fuel costs rising, one has to bear in mind that although as mentioned the Volvo V40, BMW 1 series etc lift the senses for better driving characteristics, it can come at a cost due to the high fuel in these cars. It isn't an answer to welcome in newer more premium brands, but rather take a look at the local brands already established in India and push for more premium features and engine options.

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