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Do SUVs really rule the market?

Bob Rupani Published: January 30, 2022, 10:21 AM IST

With the onset of another new year, as is the norm, all sorts of statistics of last year are in circulation. One that caught my eye was the list of ten best selling cars in India in 2021. Normally I leave the number crunching and sales analysis to the auto analysts. But as the bestselling models not only provide an interesting perspective on what's popular, but also suggest that some assumptions may not be all that accurate, I thought I would pitch in with few observations.

Do SUVs really rule the market?There are 3 SUVs in the list of India's top ten selling vehicles in 2021

For the last few years it is widely believed that SUVs are the highest sellers. But in the top ten sellers list of 2021, there are only 3 SUVs, the Hyundai Creta, Maruti Suzuki Brezza and Tata Nexon.  This clearly shows that while SUVs are in style, they don't necessarily dominate the market place. So if SUVs don't rule sales, what does? Well going by the top ten list, its hatchbacks. Yes, four hatchbacks are amongst the top ten sellers of 2021 and these are the Maruti Wagon R, Maruti Swift, Baleno and Alto.

Do SUVs really rule the market?While SUVs are certainly in style, they still don't dominate the top ten sellers list

The other three in the top ten are the Maruti Echo, Ertiga and the Maruti Dzire - two MPVs (multi-purpose vehicles) and one sedan. But if you look at it in a technically correct manner, then the Dzire is actually a Swift with a boot.

Do SUVs really rule the market?Hatchbacks still lead when it comes to top ten sellers

Therefore the one conclusion that can be comfortably drawn is that presently, sedans are the least preferred body style of vehicle.  There is one more very telling statistic in the list of top ten sellers. The total sales in 2021 of the three SUVs Creta, Brezza and Nexon add up to 3, 49,976 (roughly 3.5 lakhs). And that of the four hatchbacks Wagon R, Swift, Baleno and Alto comes to 6, 97,377 (approximately 7 lakhs)! That is almost twice that of the SUVs.  Until I did the math, something I am very weak at, I never imagined that the hatchbacks in the top ten would have double the number of sales than SUVs.

Do SUVs really rule the market?The Maruti Dzire is the only sedan in the top ten list, showing that SUVs have almost completely displaced sedans

Here let me clarify that this is purely about the ten highest selling vehicles in India in 2021. I am well aware that if we take the total number of all passenger vehicles sold, and tally those, things could appear different. However, there is no denying that hatchbacks continue to be very popular.

Do SUVs really rule the market?SUVs are slaying sales of sedans

Do SUVs really rule the market?But hatchbacks like the Swift are holding fort and it continues to be one of the most popular and highest selling cars in India

What the introduction of so many SUVs across various price points has actually done, is that it has drastically reduced the demand for sedans.  And to such an extent that several sedans like the Nissan Sunny, Honda Civic and Accord, Toyota Corolla Altis, Yaris and Etios, Skoda Laura, Hyundai Sonata, and so on, have just disappeared. Some of these were really nice cars and I am a bit disappointed by this, because the SUVs that have displaced them are not used for the purpose they are designed for. With their higher ground clearances, SUVs are meant to let you enjoy life beyond tarmac. But the irony is that most buyers of SUVs rarely ever venture off-road.

Do SUVs really rule the market?The Wagon R has also successfully fought off the onslaught of the SUVs

Consumers, who favour SUVS over sedans, are also missing out on the superior ride quality and comfort, which is so essential on our less than perfect roads. Yes, the fact is that one of the biggest differences between a SUV and sedan, is the body roll and ride quality. A SUV due to its body style is tall and has an upright stance and more ground clearance. These result in a higher CG or center of gravity, the outcome of which is more body roll and body movement.

Do SUVs really rule the market?The Ertiga along with the Maruti Echo, are the two MPVs (multi-purpose vehicles) in the top ten list

In contrast, the sedan sits lower to the ground and corners more flatly. The limited body movement also results in a far better ride quality. So, however good a SUVs suspension may be, due to the inherent nature of its design, it can seldom deliver the ride comfort of a sedan with a properly engineered suspension. Given this, if you value ride comfort more than a SUVs dominating stance, you might want to look at a sedan instead.

Do SUVs really rule the market?And the Baleno is one of the four hatchbacks in this list

Price (Ex-Delhi)
Starts Rs 17.94 Lakhs
Displacement
1597cc
Transmission
Manual
Max Power(ps)
120
Max Torque(Nm)
300
Mileage
26.8 Kmpl
Price (Ex-Delhi)
Starts Rs 9.99 Lakhs
Displacement
1353cc
Transmission
Automatic
Max Power(ps)
115
Max Torque(Nm)
242
Mileage
-NA-
Price (Ex-Delhi)
Starts Rs 7.05 Lakhs
Displacement
1498cc
Transmission
Automatic
Max Power(ps)
86
Max Torque(Nm)
134
Mileage
17.50 Kmpl
Price (Ex-Delhi)
Starts Rs 6.95 Lakhs
Displacement
1497cc
Transmission
Automatic
Max Power(ps)
110
Max Torque(Nm)
260
Mileage
21.5 Kmpl
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