Mid-size SUV comparison: Winners and losers
The mid-size SUV segment is the highest selling segment in the country. One in five SUVs sold in India is either of the nine SUVs you can buy in this class. From turbo-petrol cars like the Kia Seltos, Volkswagen Taigun, MG Astor and the Citroen C3 Aircross to naturally aspirated SUVs like the Elevate and Grand Vitara, you get everything. You even get diesels in the Seltos and Creta, you get a strong hybrid in the Grand Vitara. Manual gearboxes, automatics, DCTs, the options are so many that we got one specific variant of each to compare and the results will surprise you. Can the Hyundai Creta hold on to its spot as the king of the segment or will the competition find an edge over it? We objectively compared the seven cars we had on test across eight parameters, with equal weight for all parameters, rated out of a maximum of five points. Here’s how they fared -
Rank 7 - Citroen C3 Aircross
No engine and gearbox options in the Citroen C3 Aircross let it down massively. You only get a 1.2-litre 3-cylinder turbo petrol engine mated to a 6-speed manual gearbox, which isn’t the worst of the SUV’s problems. What lets the C3 Aircross down the most is massive cost cutting. You would only buy the Citroen if you just didn’t have the budget for other SUVs in this class yet wanted a mid-size SUV. The 3rd row of seats is barely usable however it does give the C3 Aircross its USP.
Rank 5 - MG Astor Turbo petrol (tie with the Grand Vitara strong hybrid)
The Astor does everything well enough however not that stands out. No wonder it flies under the radar in a segment where every SUV needs to scream for attention. The engine sounds sporty, the seats are comfortable, cabin is plush and the space and features of the Astor are on the better side. The MG Astor loses out to stiff competition due to its price point and quality in certain areas of the car. A confusing infotainment system interface affects the user experience as well. What the Astor shows is just how good this segment is right now that despite not skimping on features or performance, its so hard to jostle with the top three in this class.
Rank 5 - Maruti Suzuki Grand Vitara Strong Hybrid (tied with the MG Astor)
This one was a shocker. When we got all cars on test, driving them back to back got us hollering for the Grand Vitara Strong Hybrid. The refinement of the Toyota powertrain, the long list of features and the ride and handling characteristics of the SUV all shine through when you test it. What let it down on the way back when Sirish was chauffeur-driven back home was the comfort in the back seat. The upright backrest, comfort in the back seat and the tiniest boot space in this class at just 265 litres makes the Grand Vitara a weaker package than it initially presents. The price also is a big factor, considering the Grand Vitara is over Rs 60,000 costlier than the equivalent Toyota Hyryder and the diesel Creta, the car it wants to replace is a cool Rs 3+ lakh cheaper. The Toyota in this spec would have scored higher for sure.
Rank 4 - Kia Seltos DCT GT Line
There’s so much going for the Kia Seltos. You get every feature and more when you pick the Seltos and the interior is high quality. The Seltos gets the best audio system in this segment, the new 1.5-litre turbo petrol engine can really stretch its legs and while the new DCT gearbox isn’t the quickest in a drag race, the Taigun barely edges it to the line. But when it comes to everyday usability, the ride quality is a major pain point. Kia has stiffened the suspension to make it sportier; however that makes the Kia very uncomfortable. SUVs in this segment are bought for touring as much as you’d use them for your city commute. Bad ride quality is a big drawback here, as much as the high sticker price is. The Seltos gets a lot of features but you have to pay Rs 20 lakh (ex-showroom) for this particular variant, which feels like quite a bit of a stretch in this segment.
Rank 2 - Volkswagen Taigun (tied with the Honda Elevate)
The Volkswagen Taigun 1.5 TSI DSG is such a sweet car as a daily driver. It has the performance, the ride quality, the best handling in this segment and it scores well on the features front as well. The Taigun puts on the biggest smile on your face, and that makes it our favourite car in this segment, however the quality levels in the cabin, the rear seat and boot space as well as the steep price let the Taigun down. It is the smallest SUV in this class with a rear bench good for two passengers only, you don’t get a panoramic sunroof or ADAS features, however you get a wide smile after every drive, and that is priceless, which makes the Taigun our joint runner-up alongside the Honda Elevate.
Rank 2 - Honda Elevate CVT (tied with the Volkswagen Taigun)
Honda’s Elevate is the City of SUVs. It feels like a City from the inside and that is a good thing. The front seats are the best in the business and that creamy smooth VTEC motor is such a joy to potter around town in. But mated to the CVT gearbox, the Elevate can feel like you are in a clothes dryer when you give it the beans. The drone from the engine is just painful. It drowns out the music too, letting the Elevate down massively, almost as much as the lack of features do. But compared to the cost cutting in the C3 Aircross, the Elevate’s cost cutting isn’t as evident. In fact, the balance in price and features is so good that the Elevate hits the affordability sweet spot. That and interior space get the Elevate almost to the top of the segment, just a point short of our winner in this test.
Rank 1 - Hyundai Creta diesel MT
Would you have guessed, the winner of the Creta class remains the Creta? Hyundai manages to consistently sell 13-14k units of the Creta every month and for good reason. The Creta does incredibly well across all parameters barring ride quality. It is soft and that makes it less fun to drive, however, as a daily driver negotiating our pothole-ridden city roads, the Creta does just fine. The lovely diesel mill that powers the Creta begs you to question why you’d pay such a huge premium for a strong hybrid petrol SUV. Sure the mileage will be higher but the sticker price just doesn’t justify trading in a diesel for it. The Creta, especially in this hugely popular diesel trim is the king of this segment—the outright winner in this test.