At a time when compact and sub-compact SUVs are all the rage, C Segment sedans - sitting it relatively similar price points - are looking at upping the ante.
Sedans have ruled roads across the world for decades. Bought for comfort, driven for performance and kept for reliability, most sedans have been a favourite among car buyers for long. And yet, the advent of affordable Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs) of all shapes, sizes and budgets have seen the sedan segment stumble and falter in recent years in many markets. While many countries like the US and those in Europe are now seeing a firm preference for bigger vehicles, the sheer number of options available in terms of SUVs for the Indian buyer has been a cause of concern for sedans here. And yet, several manufacturers are continuing to bet big on their trusty sedan offerings and loading these up with features and capabilities - not to forget eye-catching looks - that could inject a fresh lease of life and help each product not only take on its direct rival but rivals from the SUV segment as well.
In this David vs Goliath battle though, the question really may be - which is David and which one is Goliath. While the advantages of an SUVs are aplenty and there are reasons galore why many are preferring these vehicles in India, the one major advantage that is believed to be a clincher is the usually bigger road presence of such vehicles. Even compact and sub-compact vehicle mimic a large SUV to some extent, giving someone out in the market for an option with a big road presence, something to like.
Yet, when it comes to the sheer basics of why sedans have been the kings on roads for years and years, the strengths of such options have only amplified.
First is the focus on space and ride comfort. Sedans have often been chosen because they offer a more spacious cabin than compact or hatchback vehicles. And while these may or may not outshine the space on offer in full-fledged SUVs, most of the offerings are either better or at par with the compact or sub-compact SUVs in the Indian market. In terms of ride comfort, chances are that the sedan you are eyeing offers a more plush experience that the SUV in the showroom next door.
Driving performance is also something that tends to favour sedans more than at least compact and sub-compact SUVs. A lower center of gravity means that the driving engagement is enhanced and the ability to tackle straights and bends are usually better.
Many in the past have complained that new SUV offerings are making sedans look dated, especially when it comes to the list of features on offer. And while this may have been the case till some time ago, the sedans in the market today are keeping pace, often showing the way, to vehicles in other segments. Take the fifth-generation Honda City for example. Launched earlier in 2020, the car comes with Honda Connect which allows for voice-enabled remote capability with Alexa skill - an industry first. What this essentially means that your smartphone with Alexa app can now be used to access and control features like engine start/stop, AC functionality, remote boot opening and Live car location.
It is true that rivals have their own versions of app-based services but the example of City 2020 here is to underline that new-age sedans are continuing to reinvent themselves while sticking to their inherent qualities of being reliable, comfortable and - usually - more engaging to drive.
On the flipside, it won't be fair to say that SUVs are only being preferred for their looks and leave it at that.
Purists argue that hardly any of the mass-market SUVs on Indian roads are actually Sports Utility Vehicles. And that's true. Much like sedans, these too are primarily made for being commute options on regular roads and mostly concentrate on offering a more commanding view of the road and a cabin full of features. Most of the products in the compact and sub-compact SUV segment have a pronounced road presence.
These vehicles also tend to offer more customizable options when it comes to space. That the rear seats can be folded down - whether entirely or in a 60:40 ratio - means that the boot space can be increased significantly. For taller people, chances are that an SUV would offer more headroom that a sedan would. And if there's a 4x4 option, well, it becomes a very prominent cherry on the proverbial cake.
In conclusion, there is no car that is perfect and no segment that can promise the world. But there is are several reasons why sedans, especially those in the C Segment, have been solid performers in the past. In the end, it all boils down to how one would prioritize needs when going for for car shopping.