Which small SUV should I buy?
As car buyers are getting younger, they naturally also want younger and more sporty cars, so many are opting for SUVs instead of their usual hatchbacks and saloons. To cater to this growing need auto companies are also offering more choices in smaller and less expensive models because many of the new models are not true SUVs but normal cars with bigger wheels to handle bad roads, and tough and aggressive ‘macho’ styling to make them appealing.
The true SUV had evolved from a rough utility vehicle like the original Jeep with numerous features for comfort and convenience, and only the Mahindra Thar and Maruti Suzuki Gypsy are true all-purpose vehicles today, even though many buyers go for models without the four-wheel drive that they very seldom need.
The smallest SUV-like car would probably be the little Renault Kwid, but though cute and roomy, its 3-cylinder 54 HP 800cc petrol engine is noisy and under-powered. But there is a better 4-cylinder 68 Hp 1000cc engine that is therefore recommended.
The Maruti Suzuki’s surprisingly spacious diesel-powered 1248cc 90 HP Vitara Brezza has been a huge hit. It is comfortable and has a good suspension. It shows cost-cutting in the interiors and could use a bit more power.
The very stylish and spacious new Tata Nexon is a very good alternative. It offers a more powerful 110 HP 1200cc diesel engine as well as a peppy 110 Hp 1500cc petrol engine. It has good space and comfort and also offers a 6-speed gearbox to make it easier to shift gears. It also has three driving modes to enable normal, sporty or economical driving. Bigger than the Nexon is the bigger Hexa powered by powerful 2180cc 156 HP diesel mills. It is very spacious, comfortable and offers a good suspension.
A little bigger is the very successful Renault Duster with 1500cc 106 HP petrol and 1461cc 110 HP diesel engines with 5 and 6-speed transmissions including an automatic option. Its twin the Nissan Terrano also has two excellent Nissan petrol and diesel engines.
Mahindra & Mahindra have long been kings of the utility and SUV segments with a range of good choices. Their very basic Balero models with 1500cc and 2500cc diesel engines offer good value. More sophisticated and comfortable is the 2180cc 120 HP Scorpio with a diesel engine. A more compact version of the Scorpio is the new TUV300 with 1500cc 84 and 100 HP diesel mills. Top of the M&M ladder is the generously sized XUV 500 powered by surprisingly smooth 2180cc 93 and 124 HP diesel engines.
Honda, who are seldom first in any segment, usually end up offering excellent options. Their new WR-V with 1200cc 90 HP petrol and 100 HP diesel engines is good looking, comfortable and a pleasure to drive.
The Ford EcoSport had pioneered the affordable SUV idea and still remains a very good choice with an amazing 1000cc 125 HP petrol engine plus another 1500cc 112 HP petrol and 100 HP diesel engines.
With so many choices, buying a car is undoubtedly getting complicated. So do not rely on the advice of friends or what you read from experts. Your new car is a major decision that you will relish or regret for several years so make a short list of several choices and insist on a test drive. Then buy the model that best suits your needs.
The author is the region’s most celebrated automobile columnist.