The Indian car consumer never had it so good, and it’s only going to get better. We are referring here to the largest chunk of India’s car space, which belongs to compact hatchbacks. With a whole lot of new models rushing into the market in the next few months, the consumer will now be spoilt for choice. And increased competition will only mean better deals.

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Most of these cars are aimed at staying under 4m in length to attract the lower excise duty necessary for attractive pricing. This also means smaller engines within the constraints established by former finance minister P. Chidambaram (in his 2006 Union budget, he had slashed excise duty on what he defined as a small car—cars under 4m in length and with engines not over 1,200cc for petrol and 1,500cc for diesel models). But even so, expect cash registers to start ringing and, yes, initially this will come at the expense of the mighty Maruti Suzuki Swift, its sibling the Ritz and Hyundai’s best-sellers—the i10 and i20.

And while we are talking of small cars, let me also remind you that the Japanese giant Toyota will show its small car concept for India at the Auto Expo in January. The car will make its production and market debut in the second half of 2010. And by then I’m also expecting the Honda small car to be ready. Both these cars will also target the same price points, and yes—the same consumer.

Ford Figo

Expected price: Rs3.75-6 lakh

Launch: Around March

Chevrolet Beat

Expected price: Rs3.5-4.5 lakh

Launch: 4 January

Volkswagen Polo

Expected price: Rs4-6 lakh

Launch: March

Nissan Micra

Expected price: Rs4-5.5 lakh

Launch: March

Coming Soon

Besides all the action in the small-car space, there are a few other noteworthy launches to keep an eye out for:

• The Toyota Prius is the second hybrid model that will arrive in India after the Honda Civic hybrid in 2008. The Prius, the world’s first mass-produced hybrid, is now in its third generation. It has a 1.8 litre, 98 bhp engine mated to an 80 bhp permanent magnet AC synchronous motor. The Prius will debut at the Auto Expo in January at an expected price tag of Rs24 lakh.

• And then there is the very interesting Skoda Yeti. The small compact SUV is almost like a slightly overgrown hatch. It combines space and power, plus off-road capability with good ride height—something Indians love—and yet keeps it all compact at under 4,300mm. This car will create a new segment when it launches in mid-2010 at an expected Rs15-17 lakh.

• There is also a lot of excitement around the soon to be launched Tata Xover. The vehicle will jump straight into the Mahindra Xylo and Toyota Innova territory with prices expected right in between at about Rs7 lakh. It is expected to be spacious and boast a number of goodies. Given the huge leap Tata Motors has taken with the Indigo Manza, I expect the Xover to be a huge shift from previous MUVs from Tata.

• The other volumes segment of late, other than MUVs, has been the mid-sized sedan space. Dominated by the Honda Civic till last year, suddenly it’s all happening with new entrants such as the Chevrolet Cruze and Toyota’s Corolla Altis flexing muscle on diesel and price, respectively. Which is why I will watch very closely when the Maruti Suzuki Kizashi launches from the big daddy of the Indian market. It will have a 2.4 litre petrol motor, and is likely to introduce segment firsts such as the all-wheel-drive. Expect prices in the Rs10-12 lakh range.

Siddharth Vinayak Patankar is editor (auto), NDTV.

Write to Siddharth at roadrunner@livemint.com

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