2019 OD SUV Slugfest: Features
The design and road presence are often the first things that attract people to a car. Add to it a good starting price, which draws footfalls to the showrooms. But finally, it is the features and creature comforts that make or break the deal. Connectivity options rate high for new-age consumers and become all the more important in the Indian scheme of things with a majority of consumers being young and aspiring. Things like telephone connectivity, powered windows and mirrors, a multi-info display etc are a given, so we won't delve into those details. At the price point at which these SUVs start, touchscreen infotainment systems are imperative too, at least in their higher trims.
So what we are looking for in this parameter are features and creature comforts that stand out, or add tremendous value. We are also touching upon the safety features to understand who offers kit, over and above what is mandated or is the segment norm. Since all the SUVs gathered here are fairly new, we are also looking for the ones that have taken the segment forward by setting new benchmarks. That said, we are not looking purely for the fattest feature-list here. Just the way it is easy to rip a base variant off all its goodies to create an entry-price bait, it is relatively easy to throw all bells and whistles into one range-topping variant and make it ridiculously expensive to justify the kit. We are looking for balance - who gives the most bang for the buck and creates the best packaging for the various pocket sizes within its segment. The results are pretty astonishing when you put it all together and the score card will give you a fair idea of what we mean.
Where should we start? From the most affordable or the most feature-loaded car? Or the one that takes the segment forward? Either way, the Hyundai Venue comes to mind. It's a sub-4m SUV - a category that is so cut-throat, that every new product is compelled to bring something more to the party. Hyundai was a late comer to the party, but it has brought so many more tricks that everyone has had to sit up, take notice and respond. It is the first inexpensive car to introduce an embedded SIM and a suite of connected technologies. In times where some luxury cars charge a premium for basic smartphone interfaces like CarPlay and Android Auto, the Venue has made these seem like passé with its connected features. The system also adds an SOS button on the rear view mirror, which adds another layer of safety to its already strong kit that includes six airbags. Hyundai has also addressed the concern of air quality and added a powered air-purifier for the cabin.
By integrating all these features well under the 15-lakh rupee price point, the Venue has set a new benchmark that will be hard to beat for some time now. In fact, it takes the game so far ahead of the competition, that the other new launch in this segment, the XUV300, feels utilitarian in comparison and apart from its seven-airbag setup and the dual-zone climate control, there is no stand-out feature in the car. Even the basics like the audio unit and the touchscreen system seem low-rent in this Mahindra.
The Venue's touted connected tech and its features haven't been exclusive for long though. The MG Hector and the Kia Seltos which have come close on the heels of Hyundai's compact crossover, boast of such features too - give or take a few car-specific functions. The Hector packages its version of the tech in a tablet style vertical display which is very Volvo-like in its form, whereas the Seltos has an infotainment that feels very similar to its cousin Hyundai, albeit with a different skin. The Seltos has the air-purifier too, but it is integrated more neatly and discreetly and doesn't intrude into the storage space. The Seltos also throws in equipment like a colour heads-up display, ventilated seats, a Bose audio unit and ambient lighting which makes it the most feature-rich vehicle in the class. More importantly though, it distributes all these features evenly across its variants, thus making it viable to multiple pocket sizes.
The MG's fat list of features still has many rough edges in how efficiently or reliably those features work. One of the biggest features for the MG Hector remains its size and we particularly like the performance of the Infinity audio system. It's pretty much the same story for the Tata Harrier too. The Harrier misses out on a panoramic sunroof that the Hector boasts of, but pampers its equally enormous cabin with a 9-speaker audio unit tuned by JBL.
The Honda CR-V's no nonsense approach can make it appear to be an SUV that is scarce on features and with dominant cars like the Seltos and the Hector redefining feature lists, the CR-V lands itself in a tough spot. It covers all the basics and apart from the blind-spot assist/lane change camera (which is available in the Seltos too), there is no stand out feature for this docile SUV.
The Trailhawk resides in a similar bracket too, but most of its stand-out features are specific for off-road use - tow-hooks, an anti-reflective vinyl on the hood, shaved bumpers, all-terrain tyres et al. The Limited Plus trim that it builds on is already equipped quite well with its large and easy to use infotainment, the panoramic sun-roof, automatic lights and wipers and a plethora of safety features like hill start assist, hill hold, an electronic parking brake, six airbags and roll-over mitigation. Interestingly, the curtain airbags on the Trailhawk are larger and cover the full length of the windows for enhanced protection in case of a roll-over while crawling over rocks.
The Mahindra Alturas G4 is quite nicely packaged too. It features memory seats, eight-way powered adjustments for the driver's seat and a proximity sensing tailgate that opens automatically without you having to dance on a foot. Like the Compass, this one too features the various hill modes, roll-over mitigation, an electronic parking brake etc but it also gets a 360-degree camera that is a boon given its size. To that effect, we also like its nifty little feature of automatically tilting the mirror downwards while reversing. But what we particularly like is the fact that it secures the cabin with nine airbags - that is typically luxury car territory! Even the otherwise impressive Ford Endeavour can't match that kit.
Speaking of the 360-view camera, the Nissan Kicks certainly deserves a mention. It is a much-touted feature for the new Nissan, but there is more to the car than the four tiny cameras. Place the Kicks next to its platform donor, the Renault Duster, and its cabin instantly highlights its cosmopolitan appeal. The floating infotainment system not only looks better than its Duster counterpart, it is also placed higher up on the centre console for a safer operation that doesn't need you to take your eyes too far off the road like in the Duster. The Kicks also has automatic wipers, an anti-pinch driver's window, side airbags and electronic stability control - giving it a much stronger safety kit than the ageing Duster.
But if around-view cameras appeal to you, you have to check out the new X5. It not only creates a birds-eye view of the car, it also renders the car in 3D and lets you rotate that virtual model around on the infotainment screen using gesture controls. That way, it gives a crisp and clear view of the surroundings, which comes in handy not only in tight parking spots and congested jams, but also when driving off-road. It even shows you how much clearance you have on either side to open the doors! The X5 is, in fact, loaded with features and there is plenty of automation in here - from the split tail gate, to the parking and reversing. Another stand-out feature for me is the car's ability to automatically adapt the seating position to the person occupying it.
Safety features in the BMW are the usual fare and isn't something to write home about - primarily because the India-spec car doesn't get any radar guide assistants even in this generation. But the Volvo XC90 does. It can keep the car in its lane, adapt the cruise control function as per the vehicles in front of it, and even brake autonomously at city speeds to avoid collision. It is easily one of the safest cars out there. The front seats also have a small cassette-type crumple zone which collapses to prevent spinal injury to the occupants, in case the car swerves off the road in an accident. All of its seats are developed with orthopaedic inputs for safer ergonomics. In terms of its creature comforts there are plenty to keep you pampered in the lap of luxury, but what stands out for us the superb Bowers & Wilkins audio and the Pirelli tyres that have their own noise cancellation technology, which reduces road noise and lets you enjoy the crystal clear audio. Oh, and speaking of crystal clear, check out the crystalware from the XC90 in the pages that talk about the interiors of all these cars!
Moving on from the delicate details to the hardcore ones, let us finally take a look at the Wrangler. Like the Compass Trailhawk, the Wrangler wears the 'Trail Rated' roundel too, but this is the ultimate example of that badge and the features reflect that too (more of that in the off-road section). How about removable doors and a roof? The Wrangler also puts a capital U in the SUV, with tons of lockable utility spaces to keep and hold everything from knick-knacks to an iPad even when the car is going full-monty on off-road expeditions. Despite maintaining its iconic design elements, the Wrangler also gets LED headlamps and daytime running lights. A stand-out safety feature from its long list is the reverse parking sensor that can also initiate automated braking in case it detects an obstacle, person or animal.
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