Five reasons why sedans are back!
Everyone has wanted an SUV for over a decade in India. The dismal road conditions and availability of efficient diesel engines has made the SUV the most popular body style in India. But we are seeing a change in consumer preferences: an increasing demand for sedans, thanks to, among other things, the ever-improving road infrastructure in the country. The Indian government has invested heavily in upgrading the country's road network, including the construction of new highways and expressways, making long-distance travel in sedans easier and more convenient. Sedans are also attractive to Indian drivers who want a comfortable and efficient vehicle for their daily commute or weekend trips. Furthermore, with rising fuel prices and concerns over environmental impact, many consumers are looking for vehicles with better fuel efficiency and lower emissions, and modern sedans are often able to better meet these demands compared to SUVs. So, here is a closer look at the five reasons why sedans are back!
1. Road infrastructure
While COVID-19 brought the country to a standstill, the government picked up pace in the matter of infrastructure development, building expressways all across the country at break-neck speed. The NHAI is constructing 1.47 lakh km of new roads across India and an important part of this new road construction is the building of 22 green highways that will be ready by the end of 2024, less than just two years from now. In fact, I recently drove on a part of the newly opened Delhi-Mumbai expressway. It has a 120km speed limit, four lanes on each side, wide shoulders, is access controlled and with more surveillance than the Reserve Bank of India would have. The aim is to reduce road fatalities, increase travel speeds, and reduce emissions by giving vehicles a wide-open highway to commute between cities. You don’t need a brick of an SUV to drive on roads like these; a sedan that stays planted at 120kmph is far more comfortable on roads like these. With more such expressways coming up everywhere across the country, it comes as no surprise that sedans are climbing up the popularity charts yet again.
The sedan by design has lower drag compared to an SUV. Take the mid-size sedan segment for example; the recently-launched Hyundai Verna seems to have been designed to reduce wind resistance with a lower drag coefficient than that of its predecessor. The efficiency of the new 1.5-litre turbo-petrol speaks for itself – an ARAI certified 20kmpl of the manual Verna and 20.6kmpl for the DCT. In the real world, I received 17kmpl on the Delhi-Mumbai expressway driving between 100-120kmph. With higher speeds, drag makes a big difference on a car and that’s where the sedan can beat SUVs on the efficiency front. There are also far fewer diesel cars available now, which will make running an SUV very expensive on highways.
It’s a myth that an SUV is more comfortable. The higher you sit from the ground, the more your body moves to any change in undulation. The only reason we think SUVs are more comfortable is that you can see far further ahead, which helps in avoiding potholes. You can also clear large speed breakers with ease, but truth be told, 160-170mm of ground clearance is more than enough for this. And there are fewer bad roads now than before. What works for a sedan is the lower centre of gravity. If you ever get the chance to sit in the back of a Mercedes-Benz E-Class, you will know what a beautifully-comfortable back seat can do to covering long distances.
Coming back to the mid-size sedan segment where all the action is right now: all sedans except Maruti Suzuki Ciaz have performance-oriented variants. Both the Volkswagen Virtus and the Skoda Slavia with their 4-cylinder turbo petrol motors have been tugging to the heart strings of the enthusiast, and clearly Hyundai has picked up on this trend early with the launch of a brand new 1.5-litre turbo petrol of its own in the new Verna. It makes 158bhp and 253Nm of torque, an unheard-of figure in this segment! While my opinions are embargoed till the 30th of March on how the engine performs, you are allowed to guess if it gives its European rivals a run for their money. You also get the tech-heavy Honda City Hybrid in this segment, that may not be as quick off the line, but is a technological tour de force in a very accessible segment.
5. Better driving dynamics
A sedan is more enjoyable to drive. Ask Aatish Mishra, our Assistant Editor, who swears by his Slavia long termer. Compare the Slavia to its SUV counterpart, the Kushaq, and you will know why an enthusiast will pick the sedan over an SUV. Both serve the same purpose essentially, so there is little reason to pick an SUV in this case. Pack in enough power, quick steering, a slick gearbox and rear disc brakes, you can have plenty of fun on both highways and winding roads. The lesser you are thrown around during a long journey, the fresher you are at the end of it. Good driving dynamics don’t just mean a fun drive, but also a far more relaxing one.
During the product presentation of the new Hyundai Verna, Hyundai India said that according to its market research, the mid-size sedan segment is expected to grow at a CAGR of 21 percent till 2024, i.e. grow from the 1.11 lakh units it did in 2022 to 1.56 lakh by the end of next year. No wonder Hyundai expects to double monthly sales of the new Verna compared to its predecessor. Long story short, sedans are back!