It’s a theme I have maintained through this column for some months now—the growing importance of India in the auto world. So with India at centre of so much activity for the global automobile industry, it’s not surprising to see India-specific models being developed. The Toyota Etios epitomized that trend as it debuted last week, but even other models such as the Nissan Micra and soon-to-be launched Honda Brio are testimony to how much input from India now goes into certain global models.

It is also encouraging to see Indian companies making a more significant global presence. This has been by way of increasing exports to the developing and developed world, and also through major acquisitions. Tata with its Jaguar-Land Rover buyout and now Mahindra and Mahindra (M&M) with SsangYong are key affirmations of the growing clout of Indian auto makers globally.

So what does all this mean? More new models to choose from, of course.

KORANDO C

As the paperwork on the M&M-SsangYong deal wraps up by March, M&M will also work on its plan to bring two key SsangYong models to India. The first will be the Korando C—a compact or mini-SUV which M&M will assemble at its Chakan plant near Pune alongside its own upcoming new global SUV. I reckon it will arrive by June.

The Korando will have the option of 2 litre diesel and petrol engines, but it is the diesel that I am interested in for India. And so I drove the diesel too, with a 6-speed automatic gearbox, though a manual is also available. The car’s engine is a bit rough and noisy, but its handling is sweet. This is due to its compact dimensions and monocoque frame—which means the body itself becomes the car’s stress-bearing frame, unlike earlier cars and SUVs which had a body sitting on a load-bearing frame. The car I drove also had the optional automatic all-wheel drive which sends power to the rear wheels when needed, otherwise channelling full power to the front wheels.

Inside, the Korando is not as impressive as the exterior. The car has the option of goodies such as a sunroof, in-dash CD changer and navigation, electric mirrors and seats, leather, etc. Let’s see how much of this Mahindra decides to bring to India. The rear seats are reasonably roomy, though I would suggest an optional rear AC vent for India. The boot space is also more generous than it appears, with the rear seats folding flat to give you great cargo space.

I would expect Mahindra to get aggressive and launch the Korando C at prices ranging from Rs12-14 lakh for two or three variants, which includes the automatic. That would create a massive flutter in the SUV market. It might also give the bigger SUVs some worries if it is just as aggressive with the pricing for the bigger Rexton.

REXTON

BRIO

Honda’s Brio made its debut at the 27th Bangkok International Motor Expo on 30 November. The smallest Honda yet, Brio (which means vigour) is aimed at the Thai and Indian markets. It will only make its on-road debut in Thailand in March, and in India by September. The reason I am excited about it is that finally Honda seems to be gearing up for the big time and entering the most exciting segment in the market. That Honda will be a bit late is obvious though, with Japanese rivals Nissan and Toyota pipping it with the Micra and Etios, respectively.

Siddharth Vinayak Patankar is Editor (Auto), NDTV.

Write to Siddharth at roadrunner@livemint.com

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