Next, The Year Of Adventure

Updated: Dec 29 2002, 05:30am hrs
2002 has seen a lot of action as far as cars are concerned. The depressed state of the economy has not stopped manufacturers from launching new products. Interestingly, all the new products have been in the premium or above premium segments, with very little in the small car segment. Tata Engineering beat the trend with the last launch of the year, the Indigo, a three-box version of the Indica, available in both petrol and diesel versions with a 85bhp petrol and a 62bhp turbo-diesel engine borrowed from the Indica.

In 2003, Toyota will kickstart the festivities with the launch of its bestselling international model, the Corolla Altis, in India. The Altis will come with a 1.6-litre engine and will feature goodies like power steering, windows, door locks, etc. Toyota is aiming at cashing in on the huge goodwill its cars already enjoy in India, as also the popularity and brand image the Corolla. The Corolla Altis will be introduced at a price of around Rs 11 lakh.

July-August 2003 should see the launch of the Land Cruiser, another Toyota SUV that is popular in India. The Land Cruiser comes with a full 4x4 system for those who enjoy the outdoors and a full complement of creature comforts like power everything (steering, windows, door locks) as well as leather upholstery and automatic transmission options. Expected price: around Rs 30 lakh.

Those who think that Czech manufacturer Skoda will sell only one model in India are mistaken. Skoda has lined up a whole bunch of cars for launch in 2003. It will start with the 1.6-litre version of its Octavia, which will be competitively priced at around Rs 9 lakh to take on the might of its rivals.

Also on the cards is the Lauren & Klement (L&K) version of the Octavia, a fully loaded version of the current vehicle, including xenon headlamps, CD player, full leather upholstery, alloy wheels and the usual range of standard power equipment. This car will cost around Rs 14.5 lakh.

Skoda also plans to introduce its Superb in both V6 and diesel versions to be priced at around Rs 20 lakh in the D segment. Skoda officials claim the Superb can take on the might of the Mercedes-Benz. Another Skoda car awaiting Indian roads is the smaller Fabia range.

The giant has finally woken up and everybody better start runningor so Maruti Udyog Ltd (MUL) would like you to believe. MUL is seeking to exploit the SUV market by introducing the Suzuki Vitara XL-7. This SUV comes with electric steering, windows, central locking, alloysthe works. It has a full, four wheel drive system and is to be priced at Rs 24 lakh. This will be Marutis first foray into the SUV segment. MUL also has major revamp plans for the humble 800 this year, but full details are not available yet.

Not content with launching two versions of the Pajero, Mitsubishi is going in for a major model revision for the Lancer, which has started giving way to the rival Honda City. Plans include shoehorning a bigger 1.8-litre engine into the current engine bay and upgrading the looks to the latest model available in Japan.

Honda is also upgrading the City. While the power plant remains exactly the same, a new shape will debut by the middle of next year. The Accord will also get a facelift. But what is more significant is the impending launch of the CR-V, an SUV offering from Honda, but sporting a petrol engine. This car will have a part-time 4x4 system and will have the usual bevy of power equipment as standard.

General Motors is where the major action will be. After the Vectra, the company plans to bring in three more cars. The first of these is the Isuzu Panther, basically a multi-utility vehicle that will battle with the likes of the Toyota Qualis. To be badged as a Chevrolet, there will be 6-7 different versions available, depending upon customer requirements.

General Motors India (GMI) will also bring in the Daewoo Nubira later in the year, again to be badged as a Chevrolet and this could replace the ageing Astra. The Subaru Forrester will be GMIs offering in the SUV segment, again a fully loaded car. Expect power windows, steering, central locking, dual zone air-conditioning and a go-anywhere capability with a price tag kissing Rs 30 lakh.

Mr Mukerji is an independent automotive expert, who writes for Auto Motor Sports and The Hindustan Times.