What's wrong with the Indian 'small car' regulations?

Indian roads are a mixed bag these days. While the highways are gradually getting better, the city roads, in total contrast, are getting worse by the day. Ask an average Indian residing in any of the metros about his (or) her driving experience in the city and don't be surprised to hear that driving through the crowded, unruly, bumper-to-bumper traffic is a pain in the wrong place, quite literally.

That brings us to a regulation framed by the Indian Government to ease congestion and pollution in the cities. Passenger cars and utility vehicles that are less than 4 meters in length and with an engine capacity that doesn't exceed 1.2 liters for petrol and 1.5 liters for diesel are classified as 'small cars' and qualify for an excise duty cut. The idea is great. By encouraging people to opt for vehicles with a smaller footprint and frugal engines, precious little space on offer to maneuver in most Indian cities could be leveraged better, apart from reducing emissions. Small cars being more nimble, moving in and out of parking spaces that are already a rarity, would be easier too. All is well, then.

But, where it went wrong is in the implementation, particularly in the 'sub 4m length' part. By just restricting the length and not limiting the body-styles to go with it, the authorities gave manufacturers a free hand. And they duly obliged, by bringing in every darn body-style within the stipulated length. We have hatchbacks, which are great and, as a matter of fact, 'the perfect' body-style to go with this regulation. And then, we have sedans and utility vehicles, which is where things get a bit unsettling for us.

Being the innovators that they are, Tata Motors started this trend by partially chopping off the boot of it's Indigo sedan and coming out with the CS variant, where 'CS' stands for 'Compact Sedan'. And, voila, a whole new market segment, one that was not defined by body-style but just restricted by length, was born. Soon, other manufacturers followed, filling our roads with cars and utility vehicles that look disproportionate and weird. Let's list down a few, shall we? There is this mini-skyscraper on wheels that tries to portray itself as a compact SUV. Then, there is this old, abandoned European model that wants to hide its age by flaunting a sharp-cut rear. And then, there is this desirable car that continues to be a top-seller despite its permanently rear-ended looks. Go, figure out which is what, it isn't tough!

With the exception of Ford Ecosport, no other small car 'by definition' in India that's not a hatchback looks appealing. Even Honda, a brand known for its excellent designs in the Jazz, City and Civic had to settle for a compromise in the Amaze. Despite being the best-looking sub 4m sedan in the market, the Amaze still looks disproportionate amidst other models in the Honda portfolio. Sadly, this trend isn't stopping anytime soon, given that everybody from Maruti-Suzuki and Hyundai to Tata and Mahindra to Ford and GM are actively working on bringing sub 4m models to take advantage of the Indian 'small car' regulations.

So, who's to blame here? If the Government hasn't properly defined the rule, so be it. If the customers aren't complaining, let them be satisfied. The onus is certainly on the automobile manufacturers to act with an aesthetic sense while sitting on the drawing board developing a new model. Designing and developing an automobile that looks good, satisfies the needs of the customers and still meets the rules and regulations stipulated by the Government isn't that tough a job, is it? When Tata Nano, the world's cheapest car, can look this good, sub 4m models can certainly look better, much better!


  1. What the ***k are you saying???? Tata Nano is Hidieous!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. Don't you think that the Nano looks better than sub-4m cars like the Verito Vibe, Quanto and Swift Dzire? If no, we would be surprised.

    1. It looks better that Dzire and Ouanto and maybe the verito vibe, but i still maintain it is incredibly ugly.

    2. Great, and that's what we meant in our post.