Where are the 'hot' hatchbacks in India?

One need not be an expert in the automotive industry to find out that India is a predominantly hatchback market. So much so, that one out of every two cars sold on our soil are still hatchbacks, despite the growing economy and spending power of Indians. Car manufacturers know this fact only too well and that is why we often get to see them tripping over each other to gain a foothold in this all-important segment of the market. If you are a king in this segment, India is all yours. Ask Maruti-Suzuki and Hyundai. If not, you might as well as forget doing business here. Ask Fiat, if you have a doubt.

That being the case, do you think that we Indians are really getting the due that we deserve in the hatchback segment? At Anything On Wheels, we definitely do not think so. Of the thousands of hatchbacks that we keep buying month on month, there are hardly any powerful and sporty variants that are sold. All we get from most manufacturers are the same mundane cars that fail to excite the enthusiast in us one little bit. Yes, the average transaction price for most hatchbacks is only around 5 Lakh Rupees and the margins on these cars are also less. More over, most Indians would happily trade power and sportiness for fuel-efficiency and value-for-money.

But, does that really give manufacturers the right to not give us more powerful and sporty choices? By doing so, aren't they completely ignoring a few passionate souls who might not think twice for plonking a few excess thousands of currency for a genuinely powerful and sporty model? None of the manufacturers barring a couple have given a thought about it. Or, even if they had, they haven't acted on it. Over the past decade and half, we can only think of two cars that could even come close to be called 'sporty'. One was a Limited Edition (Fiat Palio S10) and the other an export surplus order, cleverly launched as Special Editions (Maruti-Suzuki Zen Carbon and Steel).

Indians lapped up every one of those cars despite the fact that they were half-hearted attempts to try and gauge our response. On the contrary, hot and sporty hatchbacks are dime a dozen in the European market. Being small, nimble, practical, powerful and immensely fun-to-drive all at the same time, we understand why. Be it Suzuki, Volkswagen, Skoda or Fiat, every manufacturer with a hatchback in its portfolio has a sporty variant in its lineup that is capable of scorching the roads. Cars like Polo GTI, Punto Abarth and Swift Sport are brands in their own right and special editions like the Skoda Fabia Monte Carlo are sold off as soon as they are launched.  

We are sure that, just like us, merely seeing pictures of these cars would have made you all excited and pumped up. Unfortunately, that is all we Indians can do at the moment. At best, we can go to the extent of parking them as our desktop wallpapers. While our focus was on hatchbacks in this post, the situation is no different in other segments too with the sole exception of ultra-luxury and exotic brands. Yes, there are one-off cases like the Skoda Octavia vRS but we have never got to lay our hands on cars like the Honda Civic Type-R, Ford Fiesta ST and Volkswagen Jetta GLI despite the regular variants of those models succeeding in our market. 

Will this situation ever change? Will the car-makers realize that we Indians are being deprived of power, style and sportiness in a small package? Will they try to do justice to a market that worships hatchbacks after all? It's left for the car-makers to answer.

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