Which is a good car to buy?

What is a good car to buy for returning Indians? Small three member family.
Usual city drives with occasional long tours.
Automatic preferred so me and the spouse can switch driving.
What are some good options in India now?

Audi Q5 or Glc 300

Baleno or polo

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I’d recommend the Volkswagen Polo TSI or Maruti Baleno.

Both are great cars and fit for a small family. Polo is a little narrow but powerful and build quality is better (pricey as well). It’s more of an enthusiasts family car, if I could call it that. Baleno on the other hand is cheaper and overall a nice car for a small family.

The newly introduced Taigun and its sibling (Kushaq) are good options. Unlike Baleno they do offer better build quality and safety features while still being reasonably priced (<20 lacs on road in most parts of India).

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Midhun, it would be great if you can add some more specifics. Budget, Size of the car, any specific brands, any specific automatic transmission, etc.

Meanwhile, some info I wanted to share based on my knowledge and experience:

Firstly, you have to chose between - Mini, Small and Premium Hatchbacks. Or same in Sedans. Or same in SUVs. Each have their own game in the Indian streets.

The smallest of the cars are easy to maneuver, extremely low cost in buying and maintaining. Eg: Eon, Santro, Celerio, Alto in hatchbacks. Aura, Xcent in sedans. Spresso, Ignis, upcoming Punch and Casper in micro-SUVs. The bigger ones tend to give you more balance in terms of budget, maintenance, performance and highway drives, etc. So, it is best to identify you car size first. Occasional highways, doesn’t necessarily reject the smallest cars. People do drive them once in a while, or they rent the Zoomcars and Revv cars.

What’s more important is: choosing the right Auto transmission.
Indian is a land where market demands the product offerings than other way round. Because more and more people are looking for automatic options but yet do not want to empty their purse - the cars now come with couple of interesting auto transmissions than the traditional ones. iMT and AMT.

iMT is manual transmission without a clutch. The gear nob exists and the car automatically shifts its gears a bit after the gear is changed. This is relatively new and cheapest of the transmissions.

AM - this is lot more popular in smaller cars. In fact, even bigger cars like Nexon and XUV300 have AMT. This is Automated Manual transmission. As in, the clutch exists behind the scenes, but the gear changes happen automatically. However, you will feel the jerkiness of gear change like how we experience in manual cars every time you press the clutch pedal. The weaker the car’s pickup, the more jerky it gets. While it sounds negative at first thought, people easily get used to these jerkiness because it happens only one 1st and 2nd gears and that too on fast accelerations. Rest, the cars drive pretty smooth.

Traditional automatic transmissions are - Torque Converter, DCT (Dual Clutch). DSG (Direct Shift Gearbox), CVT (Continuous Variable Transmission) - these come with cars that are high on budget or do not compromise on driving feel. Driving enthusiast typically go for TC, DCT and DSG transmissions and eliminate all other options.

Happy to add suggestions of vehicles you could be once you share some more specifics.

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How about Tata Nexon EV or its newly introduced economic sibling Tigor EV? Any experiences/reviews on EVs from folks who already moved?

I wanted to consider Nexon EV. I think the other car has very low and not really selling well. Nexon EV is a click though. People are really interested in buying it.

If you are too much into calculation and less into the EV pleasure, I don’t think the market is there yet. Not matter how much the media says about the amount of savings you could do by buying an EV - the upfront extra cost and the battery replacement cost and the utter depreciation will cost you a zillion than an IC car.

Happy to explain the deeper calculation, but I guess a quick self calculation after the span of 7 years will give you a best insight.

Thanks Shravan! It would be great if you can share deeper calculations. I always thought EVs are cheaper when you own long term (like 5+ yrs). I was more concerned about the inconvenience like finding fast charging stations and range anxiety. No?

If the Vehicle is getting you a range comfortable enough to get you around the city in busy of the busiest days, the range anxiety should not even be a thinkg. Nexon EV fits that bill. It is said it gives about 250-270 range on a full charge.

In current market, a buyer either owns an IC car already or they are ready to use weekend rentals like Zoomcar or Revv. So range anxiety should be least of the worries if the range of the car is good enough. Fast charging network will be formed sooner than you’d expect. That ain’t an issue either.

The main issue with EV is - it’s very form of existence. For IC cars, you “swap” fuel easily (as in refill). In EV cars, you don’t “swap” the batteries. You keep them for the life-time. The cost of the battery and it’s replacement can be anywhere between 4-6L based on current market. Internet always tries to downplay it saying the cost will reduce bla bla. But the real problem is the “cost of depreciation”.

For eg: the current EV comes with 8 years of warranty for battery. If you want to sell the car at around 6-8 years, the new buyer will not be willing to buy a car who’s battery warranty will expire in a span of year or two and then bare the expense of replacing it. So, the resale value of the car will not only be a typical depreciation but also the cost of replacement of the battery component (like how we try to negotiate the cost of tire replacement if they seem to be worn out). Which means, around the 6-8 years mark, your car may be at 20-30% of it’s original value. i.e., an 18L new Nexon EV could be just 4L-5L in 6-7 years. Or even less than that. Another reason you know why? There will be more and more EV options getting ready in future market which will be more affordable (as in much much lesser than 18L) and probably have much better range. We are talking about several years from now.

If you are unable to understand/believe what I am claiming - a brand new Nissan Leaf top end was always around or above 35000USD. Check the price of a 7-8 year old Nissan Lead and it’s range on Edmunds or Cargurus in USA market. You will be able to conclude.

The entire internet media is being influenced by EV makers just to make people believe that the car is going to save you on long run. But you are actually spending 4-5L upfront more than the exact copy of the IC car. Nexon petrol top-end on road is 14L and EV top end if 18L. ZS EV is 25L and Astor (ZS’s IC version) will be around 20L. Further, dealerships will try to say EVs don’t have life-tax and all. But what matters to the consumer is final on-road price. 14L vs 18L. 20L vs 25L.

You are already paying the premium of 4-5L up front. It’s like keeping 4-5L in a savings account dedicated for refueling your IC car and screaming out to the world that you are savings 70k to 100K on fuel because you are no more paying from your pay-check.

Worst part? If the car’s value is depreciating so much, you may be in a position forcing yourself to keep the vehicle with you for another life of battery or until the battery dies. That too, when newer and newer EV cars are already in the market with more range available. An underrated luxury which the IC cars now enjoys in comparison to EV cars - You want to sell you car every 5 years? You can do that comfortably with your IC cars because their resale value has decades of history and easy to comprehend and pursue.

I have seen many YouTube videos trying to influence that their owners are saving 1L per year or so. But all of that will be lost at the time of battery replacement and/or when selling the car. You are already starting at minus 4 to 5 Lakh.

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While evaluating a car based on its performance, mileage, aesthetics may be the considerations. Do add one most important criteria to your evaluation: Size or road foot print. Indian roads and traffic gentry is not similar to most other (developed) countries. While few metro and mega cities have main arteries configured for large profile vehicles with smooth flow, the inner streets of these metro/mega cities and remaining most of the India and its traffic is still far from being suitable for a larger profile vehicle. Depending on your personal need, feasibility of navigating the vehicle in those area where you will be driving most, consider the vehicle. India has variety of small and large profile vehicles and if your work or leisure activities involve navigating all throughout then buying two vehicle is a better idea with one being a small profile vehicle that is navigable in narrow/small streets and heavily trafficked ones and another for more upscale traffic/road conditions. Also, this brings an important consideration on buying a home, prefer one that has at least two parking spots per flat. Apart from a 4 wheeler, it will appear important to also buy a 2 wheeler for running daily errands/chores around the house.
A good car has a very different meaning in the context of Indian road and traffic scenario and I have often seen large profile SUVs getting stuck in traffic for longer time period than smaller profile maruti 800 type cars.
India is rapidly advancing and progressing its road infrastructure and is heavily investing on national highway/ expressways throughout the nation though, the city congestions makes it often difficult to enter and exit a city.

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Thanks for the overwhelming response. I’m considering to go for Taigun. Bookings have started and the reviews are good so far.

My first car back in 2016 was a Baleno! It’s a great car and had unexpected space at the back, comfortable sits 5 adults! My EMI was 13,000 INR a month and this car worked super well! It was only sold off because Mumbai only had mom and dad while the kids were away, and 3 cars between the 2 of them made no sense whatsoever!

I agree. Baleno is a super solid car for a small family!

Thanks so much Shravan for details. I guess we also need to consider that resale market for gas cars would take a hit after 5 years because of the fact that EVs would become mainstream.