Worst car of the year 2012

We all know what the best car of 2012 was. It has bagged the maximum awards, captured the imagination of most and resuscitated the fortunes of a company. Picking that was rather easy this time. The Renault Duster raised such a storm that any other car bagging an award ahead of it reeks of bias now.

What about the worst of the lot? Nobody talks about it, writes about it, thinks about it. But surely, in the dead heap of four dozen cars–big and small–launched in 2012, there are a few that are not worth the effort. And why do we need to look at them? Besides filling up space and giving you something to read about, to those unfortunate ones who do land up here, it will perhaps show some humble car manufacturer what kind of cars ought be made or launched in India.

The last time I wrote about choosing a worst among the ‘most eligible’ candidates, it cooked up a storm of some magnitude. I would be glad if there is a repeat this time around. Like last year, let me be very clear on how I have picked the list of probables. It is easy to find faults with any car and equally easy to defend any. Every car has some like able aspects to it and some irritating ones.

There are two ways to decide. One based on where the product is at fault either in yours truly’s humble standards or when compared to those 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.

Those that figure in this list are not bad cars per se. They are only not as good as the others.

Nissan Evalia

If Renault Duster was an obvious choice for the best, the Evalia is an obvious one for the worst. And ironically, both carry a somewhat similar price tag. There is little going for the Evalia. It looks hideous, even as a van. Is not very powerful. And is a disaster for ergonomics–an open glovebox and lack of roll down windows take the cake. It has decent space but that is little consolation. To top it all, Nissan thought it can counter Innova with it and priced it accordingly. Not surprisingly then, it is a blockbuster failure. Sales of under a 1,000 units (4 months) so far, is proof of that.

Nissan’s India Innovation

Toyota Camry

The Camry is not really a bad car. It is just a car that India does not need. The executive premium car segment is a category that has over the years slithered away from the Japanese to the Europeans. That is primarily due to a lack of diesel option from the Japs. So the Accord, once a heavyweight, finds few takers today and so too the old Camry. It was infact dormant….very dormant for a long time. Toyota attempted to spice it up a little by deciding to assemble it in India, which brought its price down, somewhat. But still, it is expensive and a half hearted attempt at best. What was needed, was a diesel engine instead. Just 270 unit sales (6 months) in a segment of over 3,000 units tells you as much. Not a bad car, but nothing particularly exciting.

Cruiser on four wheels

Hyundai Sonata

In some ways, the Sonata is in this list for the same reasons as the Toyota. Only in this case, there was still some logic. The Fluidic Verna was doing well, the Eon while not quite a runaway hit, was doing alright, and there was a general feeling that the new design language worked. It did and does so the best with the Sonata. The ample dimensions give a full view of what fluidic is all about and the Sonata is clearly one of the better looking cars in its segment. It is also packed to the gills with features and priced aggressively. What it lacks however, is again the diesel engine. What is more improbable is that the old Sonata, though a laggard in sales, did offer a diesel powertrain. Clearly, this was one peculiar case where a diesel offering was discontinued at a time when the hunger for such vehicles in the market was at an all time high. Bad timing or stupidity? You take a guess. How many takers so far?? Eight more than the Toyota over two extra months. Lucky 8.

Now, if only it had a diesel version too…

Chevrolet Sail U-VA

It falls in the most competitive of all segments in India. It tackles one of the best selling cars here. It carries a legacy that is a baggage rather than an asset. So from the word go, Sail U-VA had a challenging job at hand. Did anybody fancy it will pull it off?? Not me for sure. It is the first car that came in from across the border from dragonland in India and like all things Chinese, it had its share of problems. The interiors lacked zest, looked a little dated and the exteriors tried too hard to stick to the Chevy convention. Coming from a company that designed the Beat, it was a dampener. It did get the famed 1.3 litre diesel engine that Opel developed in collaboration with Fiat, but even after all these years nobody has been able to mate it to a car as well as Maruti in the Swift. And GM has not given us an exception. The biggest problem however, was the atrocious pricing. Trying to compete with Swift a little too hard with the belief that they had a better product, GM burnt its own fingers. After Maruti and Hyundai, it has the most number of offerings in the market. And yet it remains on the margins. Even with the Sail U-VA, it stays where it was. Sales so far??

3,191 units in 3 months. For perspective, Swift finds 17,000 customers in a single month. There is a chance it may revive. But it will need either a price correction or heavy discounts. On both counts, it would be an admission of defeat.

Chinese checkers against the Samurai

Rave and rant, post comments, fight, jostle….you are most welcome. Or abuse me at sumant.banerji@gmail.com. Want something else, vote on and let us boot one of these out. Let the mud slinging begin.

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