Is Nissan Evalia the elusive Innova killer?
After an insipid first two years, Japanese auto major Nissan has had a successful last two years.
Its first small car Micra was not a runaway hit but it created a space for itself. Its next big launch, the Sunny, emerged as a bigger success propelling Nissan into the league of serious car makers in India.
Its next launch would be the Evalia that was earlier showcased at the New Delhi Auto Expo in January. The company does not say it out loud but it hopes to give long time favourite Innova a run for its money. In the process it is also keen to completely decimate the Mahindra Xylo that is already facing heat from Maruti Ertiga.
Beating the Innova however is not going to be a cakewalk. Quite a few cars have tried their hand at it in the past–the Chevrolet Tavera and Mahindra Xylo–rank at the top. They have fallen by the wayside over the years.
Since its launch in 2005, the Toyota Innova has been an unheralded success in India. Replacing the archaic yet capable Qualis, it has been the Japanese carmaker’s mainstay in all these years, a fact reinforced in 2011 when despite the launch of the entry level Etios sedan and its hatch cousin Liva, the Innova outsold them in some multiples. And it continues the fairytale story this year too.
In the process, the Innova with the initial help of the Qualis created a new segment in South East Asian markets–that of a premium people mover. Till the time Qualis came about, the Tata Sumo and Mahindra Jeeps used to double up as the prime people carriers in urban pockets and rural hinterlands. The Qualis provided the first dash of world class mobility. The Innova enhanced it further.
So what are the chances of the Evalia? For one, it is big and spacious. A proper seven seater than can occasionally accommodate an eighth. Powered by a 1.5 litre diesel motor that belts out 85 bhp and 200 NM torque, it is no Usian Bolt but not a slouch either. And Nissan promises a class leading fuel economy of nearly 20 kilometers to a litre. You will not achieve that in real time road conditions but suffice to say it will go farther than every other MUV in its segment on 1 litre of diesel.
There are the rough edges as well and some of them are baffling. Butterfly windows (those that do not open at all or do so ever so slightly) instead of the normal roll down windows on the second row is one such oversight. It can become a safety hazard in case of a collision and an irritant if somebody needs to throw up. In a car that sits high and provides good body roll, this is not a remote possibility.
Other demerits include relatively poor quality of plastic and generally low levels of equipment, something that I thought was a problem with the Innova and Nissan would want to capitalise on. The absence of a glove box lid is such a bad piece of cost cutting exercise that it drills numerous holes into any attempts at calling it a premium vehicle. The only other car I can think of which suffered such a mishap was the Nano. But that cost a sixth of Evalia’s price. And it has been corrected ever since.
Such oversights may be costly for the vehicle. As it is, Evalia is not a drop dead gorgeous vehicle that will make you or your neighbour go weak in the knees. It is not pretentious either. It wants to project itself as a no nonsense vehicle big on space for big Indian joint families. But the oversights give away Nissan’s inexperience in the market and threatens to push the Evalia out of the domain of the MUVs to those of the commercial vans. To be launched in end September or early October, the pricing of the vehicle is not known. My hunch is though, that pricing may become a redundant factor.
The biggest challenge instead would be, how Evalia is perceived by the people at large….as a MUV thirsty for Innova’s blood or a humble van out to jostle with Tata Wingers of the world.