Year Ender 2023: Five best mass-market cars we drove this year

From tiny electric to stylish SUVs, the Indian car market was buzzing throughout 2023 with launches of new and updated car models.

In a year filled with launches galore, picking the creme-de-la-creme can be daunting. But a few models were a extra special, and with good reason.

The year 2023 is going to be etched in stone as one that saw car manufacturers step on the pedal and drive away to record highs in terms of sales. The performance of almost every car brand in the country was mighty impressive and came on the back of fact ors such as easing of supply-side issues as well as pent-up demand. But a crucial role was also played by new and updated car models that excited potential buyers, convincing them to take the plunge and bring home their preferred model.

The mass-market car segment, one that is largely defined by vehicles under 40 lakh price bracket, saw a lot of traction with demand reaching new highs. And while SUVs continued to be the preferred body type, there were several other models that made quite a mark too. Not every model is positioned to drive up sales volumes and a few are positioned to underline emphasis on a certain powertrain or price bracket or even body type. Needless to say, 2023 will be remembered as a cornerstone year in the rise of passenger vehicle (PV) penetration among buyers at large.

HT Auto drove every mass-market vehicle – either entirely new or updated – that was launched through the course of 2023. Based factors ranging from design, affordability and performance to even safety and market positioning, here are five of the best cars from an extensive list:

MG Comet EV

Comet EV
Comet from MG Motor India is the most affordable EV that money can buy in India at present.

If there was a prize for the bravest car launch in the country in 2023, it would perhaps go to MG Comet EV. This may be one of the smallest PVs in the country at the moment but it has some mammoth ambitions. At its core is a 17.3 kWH Li-ion battery and the electric vehicle (EV) promises a range of 200 kms per charge.

The Comet’s design will surely take a long while to get used to but it is surely a head turner – whether in a positive way or negative depends on the view of the beholder. What it surely is, however, is a very practical car for daily city commutes. The cabin is quite appealing and there is decent space for four inside. Unfortunately, at a base price of 8 lakh (ex-showroom), it isn’t exactly as affordable as may be perceived. But there is still no beating the sheer practicality that this tiny dynamite offers.

Maruti Suzuki Fronx

Maruti Suzuki Fonx is essentially based on the very popular Baleno hatchback. But the crossover SUV does have a strong flavour of its own.

If there was a prize for the most stylish crossover SUV – and there are hardly many in the fray anyway, it would surely go to the Maruti Suzuki Fronx. Showcased for the first time at Auto Expo in January, the Fronx may have a weird name – signalling ‘Frontier Next’ – but it more than makes up for it with its stylish design and a turbo engine that makes it mighty exciting to drive. At a base price of 7.50 lakh and the top-end price maxing out at 13 lakh (ex-showroom), it is also quite a value proposition from the country’s largest car manufacturer.

Also watch: Hyundai Exter SUV: First Drive Review

If there was a prize for an all-rounder, it would likely go to Hyundai Exter. Hyundai has had a dominant say in the SUV segment for years but in recent times, rivals have played the catch-up game well. The return fire from the Koreans came in the form of the all-new Exter. What works remarkably well for this model is its uniquely appealing exterior design, plethora of features in the cabin – a dual-facing dashcam being a stellar highlight – and even paddle shifters for those who want a more engaging drive. It is a spacious vehicle and the plethora of colour options as well as a company-fitted CNG kit means that Hyundai has covered almost all bases with this car. It also carries a very attractive price spectrum of 6 lakh to 10.15 lakh (ex-showroom).

Honda Elevate

Honda Elevate first drive review
Honda Elevate is powered by a 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol motor.

The biggest news from the enormously popular mid-size SUV space came with the launch of the all-new Honda Elevate. If anyone had any doubts about Honda’s possible exit from India after models like Civic, WR-V, CR-V and Jazz were taken off the shelves, the Japanese brand roared back with its first-ever offering in this particular segment.

The Elevate isn’t the most stylish in its segment but it makes up for it by offering a very comfortable ride, good ground clearence and a decently-packed cabin. Even its exterior styling – although not extravagent – is quite modern and mature. And then there is the option of choosing a CVT as well. Could Honda have made it an absolute gamechanger by offering its strong hybrid tech on it? Perhaps. But even on its own, the Elevate makes a good case for itself.

Kia Seltos facelift

Kia Seltos
Seltos was the debut model for Kia in India back in 2019. The updated version has also been received well here.

Seltos has had a place of prominence in the mid-size SUV space since its debut in 2019. Fast forward to 2023 and the updated Seltos was introduced in the market here and was received fairly well. The model has always prided itself for its sporty exterior design and a cabin that is filled to the brim with features. And Kia built on both of this in the updated model to find even more takers. The addition of ADAS technology also gives the SUV additional bragging rights.

Notable mentions: Tata Nexon EV facelift, Maruti Suzuki Jimny, Maruti Suzuki Invicto and Hyundai Ioniq 5.

First Published Date: 28 Dec 2023, 12:28 PM IST

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