Worst car of the year
As the dust settle on another busy year for the automotive industry, the jury would be out to decide on which is the best car of the year. But with car launches multiplying exponentially every year and threatening to outdo the number of movies made per year, surely not every car is worth the effort and investment of the manufacturer and consideration of the consumer.
That set me thinking on what possibly could be the worst car of the year. There are two ways to decide that. One based on where the product is at fault either in yours truly’s humble standards or compared to those that are present in its segment. The other is when despite being a good car, other factors like price or cost of service and spares have relegated it to the margins.
I have picked up 5 among a whole list of 3 dozen odd cars that were launched this year and I leave it to you to decide which one of them deserves the boot. Maybe in times to come we may as well institutionalize this aka Razzies to the Oscar.
Chevy Beat Diesel
Yes, it is the year of the diesel and yes this is the cheapest diesel hatch (barring Indica) in town. But I was never a fan of the Beat and though I had hoped the diesel variant would be somewhat likeable, I have been disappointed. With a small 1 litre engine that is tuned for higher fuel economy, this is one of the worst cars to drive at over Rs 4 lakh. The acceleration is sluggish, the engine noisy and the refinement so minimal that only an Indica owner will find reasons to smile in it.
To my mind, it is also priced on the higher side. If the intention was to build a car that is a diesel (hence lower running costs) and runs quite a distance for every drop of the fuel, one can overlook its other obvious vices. But by pricing it perilously close to the much bigger and better Figo, the Beat does not make for a very attractive proposition.
So far, it is no runaway success either but 2011 was a year when it was difficult for a diesel car to not sell. GM tried hard at giving us an exception though.
Ford Fiesta (New)
American car makers never flatter to deceive and if you thought GM was only an aberration, Ford makes it a rule. Just when the company with the blue oval was showing signs of getting its act right in India with the Figo, out comes the new Fiesta that is so reminiscent of the old Ford that India knew…..expensive, callous, out of sync.
Entering a segment that was the buzz of activity with the new Verna Fluidic, VW Vento and a City that was shedding its old arrogance of premiumness by slashing its price, Ford’s job was apparently cut out. Unfortunately they had a decent product but zero strategy. Pricing the car at Rs 8 lakh plus meant that it became dearer than even the City and clearly, the market had to reject it. Which it did.
The only new launch from Ford this year and it showed the more things change the more they stay the same.
Maruti SX4 diesel
Blame it on Maruti’s ill-fated labour strike at Manesar that restricted its ability to make SX4 diesels, but three phone calls to 3 different dealers in town proved that the car is not much in demand. In 2007, the SX4 was a bold move by the country’s undisputed small carmaker taking on the country’s most successful maker of premium cars. The drubbing that Maruti got from Honda then has affected SX4’s fortunes ever since.
The diesel version was Maruti’s attempt at capitalising on the industry’s fetish for the fuel. But tragically, beyond planking the engine beneath the hood it chose to not upgrade the car in any other way even when the likes of Verna and Vento had already upped the ante in the segment. Driveability, ergonomics, space, features, looks or value for money, it does not carry the honours on any parameter in the segment and that is the big letdown.
I dont know if the men are back, SX4 certainly isn’t. Not yet.
Tata Aria 4*2
The horror house of the Tatas launched many refurbished variants of existing products this year, but it is the Aria that makes the cut here….by some distance. For quite sometime, I always compare Tata cars only and only with other Tata cars. Because if we were to compare them with other brands, it would be like pitting a rotten apple with a fresh one.
So why the Aria and not the Indica EV2 or Manza or even the new Nano? For the simple reason that while the other cars may still serve some purpose….like being the lowest priced diesel cars in their segment, this one has no utility whatever. And even if it had, that space is not taken over forever by the XUV.
While the car itself is nothing to write home about, an unmatchable price of Rs 10 lakh plus proves beyond doubt what a big gap exists between consumers and the engineers at Pimpri. Because in between is the large army of Tata Motor’s marketing team that refuses to filter in any bad word about the cars to the factory.
So after an insipid experiment at making a global crossover in 2011, an opportunity to undo some of the damage by reducing price in the garb of a 4*2 version also goes abegging. Surely, one of the top contenders for this coveted title.
Another Maruti on the list and it does look a little unreal now. The Kizashi was another attempt by Maruti to branch out to the higher echelons of the industry. A car designed by Suzuki originally for the North American markets, it has failed badly everywhere and even with an uber aggressive price, there was hardly a chance of it striking gold in India.
Competing against the likes of Honda Accord, Skoda Superb, Hyundai Sonata and estranged cousins VW Passat, Kizashi does not have the refinement level nor the geekiness that surrounds a Rs 20 lakh car, the only thing going for the Kizashi is that it is really not a Rs 20 lakh car. But in India people sign 7 figure cheques not for the car but for the brand. And with a Rs 2.12 lakh M800 as a threshold, Kizashi fares the worst here. Which in effect explains why the Sonata too underscores.
Having sold a little over 300 cars in this fiscal so far, Kizashi sales are a third of the Accord and Passat and a sixth of the segment topping Superb. As Maruti had said at the time of the launch, it is an investment to study what sells in the higher segments. I hope they have learnt the lesson that Maruti does not…Can we have the Nano competitor now?
Which one of these do you think is truly creme de la creme….worst of the lot. Or is there some car that I have missed and which you believe is even worse. Vote and post comments or write in at email@example.com and lets mourn with the victor.