For those looking for a new set of wheels, 2019 is going to be an interesting year. Apart from the crop of new cars from existing brands, there will be a couple of new car companies, Kia and MG, entering the market with SUVs to begin with. It’s been a while since a new car company with any intention of making cars in substantial volumes has entered the Indian market. Kia is a subsidiary of Hyundai and, globally, is positioned a rung below it. British brand MG is now owned by one of China’s largest automakers, SAIC, and would be the second Chinese-owned car company after Volvo to operate in India.
At the same time, two Indian manufacturers, Tata Motors and Mahindra & Mahindra, are likely to bring in more products and technology from their overseas subsidiaries, Jaguar Land Rover and Ssangyong, respectively, a trend that has already started with the Mahindra Alturas G4 that was launched recently.
New products could also be the key to driving volumes for companies in a market that is sluggish and unlikely to gain any momentum until the outcome of the Lok Sabha elections in 2019 is clear. And they would reflect the overall direction in which the global car market is going.
So SUVs, SUV-like vehicles, and even those that have the trappings of SUVs are likely to remain popular. The shift towards petrol cars from diesel is also a trend that would continue as, typically, they are less expensive and easier to clean up in terms of tailpipe emissions than their diesel-burning brethren.
In fact, for cars launched in 2019, asking that typical Indian question, “Kitna deta hai?”, will fetch some fairly heartening answers as fuel efficiency levels are likely to perk up substantially. There’s just about a year to go for the rollout of the Bharat Stage VI emission norms that are a huge leap from the BS IV norms in force currently. So, there will be great pressure to make cars run on less fuel. One of the ways would be to make engines smaller, but manufacturers will try to squeeze as much horsepower as possible out of them so that performance levels are maintained at the level that was possible with the older and bigger engines.
More hybrid vehicles, which use electric motors along with the smaller petrols or diesels, are likely to gain popularity as they will be able to meet the tailpipe emission norms more easily. Quite a few cars are already equipped with this technology. We are also likely to see a few electric vehicles getting launched even though the rules for them and the incentives, financial or technical, that they would enjoy aren’t entirely clear yet.
So, yes, while the market would possibly remain slow for a while longer, 2019 is going to be the year when the car and SUV market is likely to witness the most pronounced shifts in a while. Here are a few cars and SUVs that would be worth watching out for and which could rev up the market.
The new Mercedes-Benz GLE would be the equivalent of the E-Class but in the SUV category. The latest edition is up to the brim with tech, both which you can see and that you cannot, to make driving safer and less stressful. The interior is even more spacious and comfortable with the now 80mm-longer wheelbase, and a third row of seats could be available as an option. The infotainment system has larger screens, a full-colour head-up display and the MBUX Interior Assistant, which can recognise hand and arm movements. The new shape has a lower drag coefficient. It will come with the latest engines that can meet the BS VI emission norms that will come into effect in 2020.
Expected price: Rs 80 lakh onwards
Jeep New Wrangler
The latest edition of the Jeep’s new Wrangler should be hitting the showrooms this year since there has been a model change. And while this is an entirely new vehicle ground up, Jeep hasn’t made any major changes in the look. Of course, the 4x4 system and the go-anywhere capabilities will all be there in the new model too. The interiors have also been updated and the four-door version is a little longer than the current model. Interior space, which was fairly generous to begin with, is also going to see some improvement.
Expected price: Rs 60 lakh onwards
Mercedes-Benz A-Class Media release image
The fourth-generation BMW X5 is also expected to make it to the Indian shores next year. The new model looks significantly different from the earlier one and is bigger in every dimension. it has a longer wheelbase that translates into more room in the passenger compartment. This one seems more focused on tarmac, with its ability to even ride on 22-inch alloys. The 50d model, which may not make it to India, comes with a six-cylinder, quad-turbo diesel that makes a dishy 400hp and 760Nm. The range is expected to start with the 2-litre engine.
Expected price: Rs 70 lakh upwards
Mahindra Compact SUV
Mahindra has finally figured out how it wants to market the vehicles in the line-up of its South Korean subsidiary, Ssangyong, in India. The first of them, the Mahindra Alturas G4 is essentially a rebadged Rexton. The next to roll out would be the compact SUV Tivoli in the less expensive end of the segment. The name hasn’t been announced yet, but it’s likely to be powered by a 1.5-litre diesel and a 1.2-litre turbo petrol. While the broad body shape is unlikely to change a great deal, it would get the Mahindra grille and stylistic changes to look like it’s part of the family.
Expected price: Rs 7 lakh onwards
Maruti Suzuki Wagon R Media release image
Audi A6 Media release image
Honda Civic Media release image
Mercedes-Benz GLE Media release image
At the Auto Expo a couple of years ago, Hyundai Motor teased with a small SUV called the Carlino in the entry-level SUV segment. A prototype SUV based on this concept is testing in India and would finally hit the showroom in 2019. The styling will be in line with current Hyundai designs and the vehicle is expected to look like a smaller version of the Creta than the car at the Auto Expo. Of course, it’s supposed to be high on tech and connectivity. Engines would most likely be a sub-1.5-litre diesel and a sub-1.2-litre petrol.
Expected price: Rs 8 lakh onwards
BMW X5 Media release image
Tata Harrier Picture by Abhijit Mitra
After a hiatus, the Honda Civic is likely to make a comeback this year with its latest version that now has the current Honda family look with the prominent bar across the front. In this case, it’s in black. Expect a 1.8-litre petrol in this new version too. Also, for the first time in a Civic in India, the 1.6-litre diesel doing duty in other Honda models is likely to find its way to the sadan as well. Inside, a more conventional set-up with a digital instrument cluster replaces the earlier two-deck layout. It is also likely to come with touchscreen infotainment systems and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.
Expected price: Rs 15 lakh onwards
South Korean major Kia is set to start its India chapter with the rollout of a midsize SUV. The second-largest Korean automaker after Hyundai is also known for its cars elsewhere in the world but doesn’t want to enter that segment in India yet. Kia being a Hyundai company is likely to share the parts and platforms with the parent company. The debut model is likely to be a Concept SP-based SUV that would compete with everything ranging from the Hyundai Creta to the the Jeep Compass and the Tata Harrier, among others.
Expected price: Rs 14 lakh onwards
MG SUV Media release image
The new Audi A6 wears a smart new suit. But instead of the new octagonal grille that’s there on the new A8 and even the Q3, it retains the older hexagonal one. This car should have more interior room and a very gadgety feel to the interior with most of the controls on screens. Expect the staple 2-litre diesel and a couple of turbocharged petrols.
Expected price: Rs 55 lakh onwards
MG, which is now owned by SAIC, is set to make its India debut in the middle of 2019 with a mid-sized SUV that is expected to be as big as the Skoda Kodiaq or the Land Rover Discovery Sport purely in terms of size. It would primarily be a five-seater, but a seven-seater could be an option. There is no clarity about the engine yet, a 2-litre petrol could be one alternative. MG wants to make it competitive in the market so it is expected to look and feel the money’s worth and then some.
Expected price: Rs 20 lakh onwards
BMW 3 Series
BMW is set to launch its seventh-generation 3 Series in India soon after it goes on sale worldwide in March. The upcoming model would be a wee bit bigger than the existing one, but lighter and with a shape that has lower drag. BMW has made two important design changes in this version. First, the signature BMW headlamp rings make way for two lit arcs on each side of the grille. Second, on the inside, the traditional dials for the speedo and the tacho will be replaced by a digital display for the same. A 2-litre diesel is expected to continue for the moment.
Expected price: Rs 50 lakh onwards
Kia SUV Picture by Abhijit Mitra
This one has the potential to be one of the most exciting cars that Tata Motors has made. It has got a very well-sorted-out chassis, eye-catching looks and a plush, comfortable interior with a focus on space. The engine is a 2-litre ‘Kryotec’ diesel with a variable vane turbocharger that starts giving boost from low engine speeds, which makes it punchy and fun to drive. There’s no petrol engine and a six-speed automatic is likely to come only towards the end of 2019 or the year after.
Expected price: Rs 14 lakh onwards
Mahindra Compact SUV Media release image
Tata 45X Picture by Abhijit Mitra
The new Audi Q3 is the sportier looking successor to the original small SUV from the company. The octagonal grille gives the latest family look to the SUV, although the body shape isn’t drastically different from that of the previous model. The second-gen model is more spacious and, like the topline Audis, offers a digital cockpit and a large touchscreen-based infotainment system. Expect a sub-2-litre diesel making close to 200hp that the Indian market seems to love and, more interestingly, a couple of turbo-petrols that will push out lots of horses from small capacity engines.
Expected price: Rs 35 lakh upwards
Hyundai Qxi Picture by Abhijit Mitra
The newer and slightly bigger Mercedes-Benz A-Class is already on sale in other markets but will make its way to India only next year. It has grown a bit in size and the design has changed to a smoother metal skin with fewer cuts and creases. The daytime running lights get a new treatment. The power train is likely to be Bharat Stage VI compatible, as it is for all the launches that started with the S-Class. The longer A-Class L sedan, so far designed for the Chinese is also reportedly in consideration as a sedan alternative to the Audi A3.
Expected price: Rs 25 lakh onwards
Tata Motors showed the H5X at the Auto Expo 2018 and has an SUV based on it, the Harrier, almost ready to go on sale. So the expectation is that the company will have a biggish hatchback based on the 45X concept show car to compete with the likes of Maruti Suzuki’s Baleno and Hyundai’s Elite i20 by the middle or latter part of 2019. Also, it is expected to come up with a couple of good powertrains, both petrol and diesel, although they will still be in the excise duty-friendly segments.
Expected price: Rs 6 lakh onwards
The India spec Kicks is bigger and plusher than the one the company is selling globally. Gunning for the market dominated by the Hyundai Creta and the Ford EcoSport, it is a nicely built vehicle that rides and drives well. It has also got good connectivity features like the Nissan Connect app that allows even a smartwatch to be linked. The diesel engine is the bulletproof 1.5-litre K9K turbocharged unit that makes 110ps in this SUV and the petrol is a 106ps 1.5-litre unit. Priced right, it has got the goods to take on the competition.
Expected price: Rs 9 lakh onwards
Nissan Kicks Picture by Abhijit Mitra
BMW 3 Series Media release image
Maruti Suzuki Wagon R
This boxy kei car (it conforms to the Japanese kei jidosha dimensions that specify how much road space it can take up) from Suzuki has remained a bestseller in Japan as well as in India for years although they have used different engines in the two countries. While the Japanese version has been using a 660cc engine, the Indian one gets a 1-litre powertrain. With Suzuki having launched the latest version in Japan, the new model is expected in India sometime in the first half of 2019. There’s the Stingray version as well as the hybrid.
Expected price: Rs 4.5 lakh-Rs 6 lakh
Jeep New Wrangler Media release image