The three-row SUV segment has suddenly emerged as a viable option for car buyers in the Indian market. While MPVs like Toyota Innova Crysta from the upper price segment to Maruti Suzuki Ertiga in the middle and Renault Triber at an affordable price point have been highly successful models in their own spaces, the focus on styling and a premium cabin are promising to catapult a new crop of SUVs like the recently-launched Tata Safari and the upcoming Hyundai Alcazar.
One of the possible reasons behind the surge in acceptance for three-row SUVs could be the need for families to travel together and a reluctance to get on a train or plane for it. Road trips to beat Covid fatigue had increased in recent months although it may once again come down owing to the second wave in the country. But larger cars with more seating space as well as boot space are becoming a better bet if and when one does choose to get away from the routine. Tarun Garg, Director for Marketing, Sales and Service at Hyundai Motor India, is confident that the company's upcoming Alcazar will benefit from the customer's need to travel together. "Alcazar is a very unique product and will attract a totally different class of customers. Of course, this may include upgraders but it does not mean they are choosing between Creta and Alcazar," he told HT Auto during an interaction last week.
The options specific to three-row SUVs may be a little limited currently. But the existing and announced cars in this space, which also include MG's Hector Plus, are likely to fare well in the market owing to both a preference for SUVs as well as need for bigger vehicles for personal mobility.
What also helps the cause of these vehicles is that manufacturers are betting big on drive dynamics as well as ride comfort. While the Hector Plus and Alcazar is and will be available with petrol and diesel engine options, Safari gets a diesel motor at its core. Each of these cars are making big claims about the feature lists on offer and while these may be solid propositions on open highways, could also be put through paces within city limits.
So, what does it mean for mid-size SUVs?
SUVs like Creta, Seltos, Hector and Harrier are likely to continue faring strong in the car market regardless of popularity of newer three-row SUVs. This is because while larger families may now also look at the three-row options, pricing could deter the prospective buyer who may have already stretched his/her budget. And a larger vehicle may not suit all garage spaces either.
As such, while three-row SUVs are likely to get a look in from those wanting to upgrade their mid-size SUVs, the real propulsion could well come from new customers.