You are here: Home » Beyond Business » Features
Business Standard

Weekend Motoring Special: Budget set

Bijoy Kumar Y  |  Mumbai 

Suddenly, the car you've always wanted may fit your budget.
In an unprecedented move, our finance minister has decided to bring an artificial duty structure to passenger cars. The move left the automotive industry polarised as budget reactions poured in. And then the finance minister reduced the customs duty from 50 per cent to 12.5 per cent thereby forcing even big car makers to announce price cuts.
While most of what has been passed on to prospective buyers is genuine, we also got this feeling that a couple of car makers used this opportunity to do a quick price correction on select models. And some car makers who import substantial bits have not come out with price corrections yet. So is this a good time to buy a brand new car?
Of course it is... before the same car makers cite increased price of steel and other raw materials and jack up the price again! Here is a quick second look at the cars that benefit from the budget proposals. It may not be an exhaustive list, but you get the idea.
Maruti 800 Standard/AC
How less is less: Rs 12,704 off on the standard and Rs 14,192 on the AC model
So what do you pay: Rs 1.91 lakh for the standard and Rs 2.12 lakh for the AC version (ex-showroom Delhi)
The alternative: The Maruti Alto is newer by design and hence safer
How good a buy is it: It is safer than a two-wheeler, says Maruti. We say it is much more than that. The Maruti 800 has gone through revisions that has helped it stay relatively young over the last 20 years.
Perhaps this is the cheapest brand new car money can buy anywhere in the world. It is easy to learn on, easy to drive even without power steering, easy to maintain and easy on the fuel (some cars seem to actually generate fuel and stretch a litre to 24 km on highways. You can trust them to return 16-18 kpl on a regular basis).
Unfortunately, Maruti stopped building the M-800 with a five-speed gearbox and coil spring suspension at the rear. Want these Then be ready to shell out a bit more to buy the Alto.
Maruti Alto Standard/LX/LXi
How less is less: The bare-basic car is only Rs 20,000 more than the M-800, as it is cheaper by Rs 15,346. The LX version is down by Rs 17,646 and the power-steered LXi by Rs 18,939
So what do you pay: Alto Standard Rs 2.31 lakh, LX Rs 2.64 lakh and LXi Rs 2.83 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi)
The alternative: You are very close to the base versions of the Wagon R and Hyundai Santro if you are opting for the LXi model "" they won't come with power steering though
How good a buy is it: Ah, much better! The Alto rides and handles better than the Maruti 800. The seating position is slightly higher too, making it easier to get in and get out. Great first car material across the board "" from the 18-year old girl to the senior citizen who wants to spend his gratuity wisely.
As far as the engine goes, it is unfortunate that the 1.1 litre motor borrowed from the Wagon R was discontinued. Maybe it is time to bring back that engine and charge premium money (don't worry, it is worth every penny).
For the time being, the Alto gets the same 12-valve three-cylinder unit from the M-800 that is linked to a five-speed gearbox. The engine is a bit raw for the rest of the car but does a good job of returning 14-16 kpl even in city limits. And yes, the Alto looks contemporary and more upper middle-class than the M-800, if you care.
Maruti Suzuki Wagon R LX/LXi/VXi
How less is less: Rs 21,460 less for the base model, Rs 23,232 for the power-steered VXi and Rs 24,070 for the top end version
So what do you pay: Rs 3.23 lakh for the entry LX, Rs 3.48 lakh for the LXi (this is the VFM model in the pack) and Rs 3.72 lakh for the VXi (ex-showroom Delhi)
The alternative: The Santro looks less boxy but is similarly equipped
How good a buy is it: The fact that you are reading this means you are ready for something more than basic transportation. The Wagon R is a brilliantly engineered car that is very nice to live with in our congested cities.
Alright, you may not like the bread-box on wheel looks, but you will appreciate the dimensions and the straight panels when you have to park between a push-cart and two taxis without hurting sleeping street dogs. The 62 bhp 1100cc engine is one of the best four cylinder engines Suzuki builds today.
That means you do not feel short changed for power and you can confidently overtake without saying a prayer. Upright seating position is seriously appreciated by those who are habituated to spending close to an hour in city commutes, and even more so by those who suffer from acute arthritis.
Maruti Zen LX/LXi/VXi
How less is less: Rs 21,800 off on the base LX, Rs 23,542 for the LXi and a whopping Rs 25,052 less on the top-end VXi
So what do you pay: Rs 3.27 lakh for the LX, Rs 3.53 lakh for the LXi, Rs 3.76 lakh for the VXi (ex-showroom Delhi)
The alternative: Go for the Alto to get almost everything minus the performance on offer, or better still, check out the
Wagon R or Santro if you want a much more modern automobile
How good a buy is it: The old warhorse has a monumental reputation for reliability. It has been some time since the Zen stopped playing the quintessential 'replacement' market car but still manages to appeal after its recent revamp. The ride quality over most terrain is better than that of the M-800 and it corners better than the Alto.
If you are a spirited driver, then the Zen can reward you with astounding pace around your favourite mountain road. The 58 bhp aluminium alloy engine is dated but good enough to return 12-14 kpl depending on where and how you are driving. Maruti Suzuki Baleno LXi/VXi
How less is less: Rs 8,000 off on both versions, thanks to the reduction in customs duty
So what do you pay: Rs 5.75 lakh for the base model and Rs 6.57 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi) for the VXi version which now becomes a brilliant buy
The alternative: The Hyundai Accent GLE is an accomplished all-rounder and slightly newer by design. The Ford Fiesta 1.4 is smaller but much more contemporary
How good a buy is it: What the Baleno gives and the Esteem cannot is the big car feel. The car rides and handles better, and has a punchy 94 bhp engine doing duty under the bonnet. It is as reliable and economical as any bread-and-butter Japanese sedan too.
As an automotive design, the Baleno is dated inside out. The built-to-order estate version (Altura) stands out in the crowd and is extremely practical to live with. With the price correction, the Baleno should be in the radar of anyone looking for a mid-size sedan in the Rs 5-7 lakh bracket.
Honda City ZX EXi/ZXi VTEC
How less is less: Just Rs 2,000 off on the best-selling ZX EXi model and Rs 10,000 less on the City VTEC
So how much do you pay: Rs 7.26 lakh for the EXi, Rs 8.56 lakh for the VTEC (ex-showroom Delhi)
The alternative: The Maruti Baleno and Hyundai Accent are cheaper and the Fiesta 1.4 is contemporary and cheap. None of them offer the same economy though
How good a buy is it: The City does not need any sops to sell, but Honda does not want the image of a stubborn car company and has decided that a token price correction linked to the customs duty reduction can be passed on to the buyer. The VTEC, which has not found favour with the prospective buyers the way the last generation model did, however gets a more substantial price correction.
Look, the City is a brilliantly modern automobile that can be equally at home inside cities as well as on the highway. The 77 bhp output of the basic model may sound less but it is peppy enough for most of your needs. And it can stretch a litre to 14 kpl consistently if you drive with a light right foot. Should you opt for the VTEC now that it is cheaper?
Only if you are a performance enthusiast who cannot live with the idea that there is a quicker and faster version of your car in the dealership. Unfortunately, Honda has not announced a revised price for the brilliant CVT variant which has a very high import content.
Honda Accord VTi L (MT/AT)/V6
How less is less: Rs 15,000 off
So what do you pay: Rs 15.5 to Rs 15.9 lakh for the VTi L models (approx)/Rs 18.3 lakh for the V6
The alternative: Psst... The Toyota Camry, we hear, is being offered at huge discounts by Toyota dealers
How good a buy is it: The big advantage of the Honda Accord over its rival Toyota Camry is that it is built in India. Still the engine and gearbox are imported along with other assorted bits, hence the price correction.
The Accord is a forward looking machine that has found immense success in India already. The i-VTEC engine, as we have said before, could be powering Mercedes-Benzes that cost a whole lot more. Silky power delivery, high quality of materials and good ride are the advantages.
The Accord is a bit nervous at expressway speeds and it is not exactly a natural handler. But we have to say that the price correction is another good excuse to buy yourself a brilliant automobile.
Hyundai Santro Xing XK/XL/XG/XO/Auto
How less is less: Rs 16,000 to 26,000 across models
So what do you pay: Rs 2.62 lakh for the non-AC XK, Rs 3.41 lakh for the XL, Rs 3.65 lakh for the XO and Rs 4.1 lakh for the automatic (ex-showroom Delhi)
The alternative: The Wagon R, if you want something more straightforward
How good a buy is it: The runaway success story from Hyundai is as popular as ever before. And for good reason too. The Santro was designed with the Suzuki Wagon R as a benchmark and that means it has more space overall. The looks may be controversial (you either like it or hate it) but multiple facelifts mean the car looks very fresh even now.
The 1.1 litre engine has adequate power to entertain even the enthusiast. Hyundai has been providing exceptional build quality over the years and that is one reason why you cannot find cheap cars even in the used market. It is easy to drive and costs nothing much to maintain. As far as fuel efficiency goes, the Santro returns 13-14 kpl in real world driving conditions.
Tata Indica Petrol/Diesel
How less is less: Rs 17,000 to 22,500 on diesel models and Rs 17,000 to Rs 23,500 on petrol models (approx)
So what do you pay: Rs 3.44 lakh (approx) for the DL diesel to Rs 4.48 lakh (approx) for the DLX turbo. Rs 3.44 lakh for the LEi petrol to Rs 4.21 lakh for the LXi petrol
The alternative: The Alto is adequate if you don't need that much space. Else the Wagon R or Santro
How good a buy is it: The Tata Indica buyer does not live in a world of choices "" they can be a happy lot now since the affordable small car (to buy and drive) has just got even more affordable. There is nothing to beat the Indica when it comes to value and the budget has given it another boost.
The diesel engine is not very powerful or refined but is now reliable and can stretch a litre to 21 kpl if you drive carefully on highways. The petrol version is peppy yet is a notch below on refinement levels. The Indica offers loads of space, especially for the rear seat passengers.
The ride quality on bad roads is good while handling is best tabled as neutral. Do we recommend a buy? Definite thumbs up for the diesel but we think there are better petrol cars around.

Dear Reader,

Business Standard has always strived hard to provide up-to-date information and commentary on developments that are of interest to you and have wider political and economic implications for the country and the world. Your encouragement and constant feedback on how to improve our offering have only made our resolve and commitment to these ideals stronger. Even during these difficult times arising out of Covid-19, we continue to remain committed to keeping you informed and updated with credible news, authoritative views and incisive commentary on topical issues of relevance.
We, however, have a request.

As we battle the economic impact of the pandemic, we need your support even more, so that we can continue to offer you more quality content. Our subscription model has seen an encouraging response from many of you, who have subscribed to our online content. More subscription to our online content can only help us achieve the goals of offering you even better and more relevant content. We believe in free, fair and credible journalism. Your support through more subscriptions can help us practise the journalism to which we are committed.

Support quality journalism and subscribe to Business Standard.

Digital Editor

First Published: Sat, March 04 2006. 00:00 IST