Two ends of the C segment

Scala is formidable enough on its own, and given its sharp looks, it will manage to create some noise
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First Published: Tue, Sep 18 2012. 06 51 PM IST
Will the Nissan Sunny lose out to the better looks of the Scala, its cousin, in the Indian market?
Will the Nissan Sunny lose out to the better looks of the Scala, its cousin, in the Indian market?
Updated: Wed, Sep 19 2012. 12 32 AM IST
French car maker Renault has not been in India very long—especially if you don’t consider its entry through the joint venture (JV) with Mahindra for the Logan. That JV stands dissolved, and the car is now rebranded the Verito.
But Renault has been in the market on its own steam since 2011 and interestingly enough, the brand has already launched five models. The Fluence sedan and Koleos SUV have been niche, and slightly high-end. But the Pulse hatch and Duster SUV have found some favour with more price-conscious buyers. And now Renault wants to hook buyers with its latest car—the Scala compact sedan.
The nameplate Scala comes from the Renault global line-up, though the car which sells in Mexico is more akin to the Renault Samsung SM3. That car is bigger, and is really more the predecessor to our market’s Fluence. The Scala in India, though, is based on an existing car in this market, which has been on sale here since last year. Just like the Pulse was not very much more than a rebadged and slightly restyled Nissan Micra, the Scala is basically the Nissan Sunny. All the four cars I’ve mentioned are based on the same V platform from Nissan, which is, of course, Renault’s global alliance partner. And all these cars are, therefore, made on the same line at the Renault-Nissan plant outside Chennai.
But just like the Pulse, the Scala does have an advantage over its Nissan alter ego—it’s better
looking. The Micra hatch was always cute, while the Pulse made it more masculine and aggressive looking. The Sunny sedan, on the other hand, was not a great looker, with very disproportionate and stretched looks. The Scala is similar when viewed from the side. But the restyling of the headlamps, front grille, tail lights, and rear chrome treatment—make it look very upmarket, and considerably better looking than the Sunny.
photo
The Mahindra Veroto looks contemporary
But the Sunny has proved that looks don’t always matter in India—the buyer is instead also looking for comfort and practicality. So the extra stretch to the V platform has indeed been a hit here, with the Sunny offering massive rear cabin space compared with rivals like the Skoda Rapid or Honda City. And so the Scala carries the same advantage. But that advantage and the enhanced looks is where I run out of positives.
On the inside the car is too much like the Sunny. There is nothing extra—nor any special or swanky colour treatment to attract buyers over that car. You get the same climate control system, the same start-stop and keyless entry system, a very similar music system, and the same air recirculation fan with vents for rear passengers. Even the exterior colours the two cars are available in are very similar. And this was a huge disappointment.
Even the engine options are identical. The Scala is available in petrol and diesel though, unlike the Sunny, industry sources point to an automatic CVT option expected on the petrol within a few months. But on the two manual versions it’s the exact set of numbers you see on the Sunny’s specification sheet. The pick of the pack is the 1.5 litre dCi diesel engine, and though it’s a bit noisy, it’s very efficient and hardy. It’s the same engine that we have also seen on the Fluence, Pulse, Duster, Sunny, Micra and, yes, the Mahindra Verito as well.
This then brings me to the prices. I have not quite understood Renault’s strategy of pricing the Scala slightly higher than the Sunny. It’s not available in as many variants as the Sunny either. But while the Sunny petrol starts at Rs.5.93 lakh, the Scala petrol starts at Rs.6.99 lakh. Similarly, the entry variant of the Sunny diesel starts at Rs.8.11 lakh, while on the Scala, the diesel variant starts at Rs.8.69 lakh. All prices are ex-showroom Delhi. Now considering the fact that the engines on both are identical, it’s not like the Scala is giving you greater power or higher mileage for that higher price tag.
So all in all, the Scala is a formidable enough car on its own, and given its sharp looks, it will manage to create some noise over the more compact Skoda Rapid or Ford Fiesta. But as with the Pulse and Micra, it is also likely to cannibalize its own cousin, the Sunny. However, with the success Renault has had with the Duster, many may now opt for the Renault badge in this segment too, with more confidence now being instilled in the French brand. Having more differentiators like automatic transmission or revised interiors will help the Scala’s cause more though—and I hope this happens soon enough in the future.
Since I mentioned the Mahindra Verito, it too was relaunched recently with a major facelift. And I had the chance to spend some time with that car too. Now as far as the original Logan goes, the design was in desperate need of some major refreshing, so any change was always going to be welcome, as long as it didn’t look forced. My expectations were not very high after I heard about the facelift, so I was pretty impressed by what Mahindra has done. The entire hood, front grille and headlights have been changed for the better. The car looks more contemporary and attractive now. It gives the car a new character, especially with the grille complementing the Mahindra vehicle range now.
On the inside the car retains its spacious cabin, with fairly comfortable seats and a durable overall feel. The dashboard looks a bit overdone, though, with too many colours and materials for my liking. The inbuilt music system is appealing, though, in form and function. Another big plus for me is that the power window switches have now moved to the door, instead of being on the central console—so much more convenient. Overall, if you were to compare the Verito with the original Logan, it’s more plush and better appointed.
The Verito is also very attractively priced. The petrol variants are priced between Rs.5.21 lakh and Rs.5.49 lakh, while for diesel, the range is between Rs.6.05 and Rs.7.14 lakh. This compares well with other sub-compacts like the Maruti Suzuki Swift Dzire and Toyota Etios. And both these remain attractive propositions too. So if you are looking for an efficient, no-fuss and roomy car, but want to stay below the Rs.8 lakh price point, these cars should be on your list for sure.
Siddharth Vinayak Patankar is Editor (Auto), NDTV.
Write to Siddharth at roadrunner@livemint.com .
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First Published: Tue, Sep 18 2012. 06 51 PM IST
More Topics: Renault | Scala | Mahindra | Verito | Compact Cars |
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