We’ve seen them. Puttering around town with their black claddings, beefed wheel arches and spare wheels shod on the hatch door. No, I’m not talking about an SUV. What I’m referring to - is the hatchback crossover. The sudden influx of these bulky hatches got me thinking. What’s the point of all of it? Is it purely a marketing gimmick to get in the numbers?
Car manufacturers have tapped on to our fetish for anything that even remotely, looks like an SUV. What do they dish out to meet this demand? A well-priced, compact SUV with AWD? Nope. A beefed up engine and suspension set-up? Nope. What do we get - stickers, claddings and a raised suspension. A spare wheel on the boot, if you’re lucky. I don’t really get the point of these pseudo SUVs. And there are quite a few of them floating in the market. We’ve got the Toyota Etios Cross, Hyundai i20 Active, Fiat Avventura, Volkswagen Polo Cross, etc. When you look under the skin of these cars, you realize they’re no better than the presentation the marketing department made to sell the concept to the manufacturers in the first place. Let me nitpick a few things on the current offerings, let me justify why I think they don’t really make much sense to buy.
Starting off with what started this entire segment in India - the Cross Polo. As the name suggests, it’s a Polo. And that’s about it. You’d have to look hard to spot differences other than the black cladding that wraps around the German hatch. The differences lie in a re-worked bumper, roof-rails, single slat grille, silver finish on the ORVMs, 5 spoke wheels and an all black interior. Absolutely nothing is changed on the engine or drivetrain front. If you really do have the urge to buy a really expensive Polo, go buy the GT TSi!
Coming to the Toyota - which is nothing but a Liva with some black cladding and roof-rails. The car remains mechanically identical to the Liva, which is a bummer since it doesn’t really do justice to the ‘cross’ tag. The only bit likable about the Etios Cross, is the interior -that is finished in piano black. That does look nicer compared to the awful and dull interiors on the Liva. Those diamond cut wheels look good too, but I still don’t get why it’s called a ‘cross’.
The Hyundai i20 Active is the latest hatch to be injected with a heavy dose of plastic. Visually, the differences are striking - the bumpers get a generous dose of cladding, the bumpers are restyled and house large round fog lamps and the headlamps get a projector set-up with drls. Mechanically, the car has got a lift by 50mm. That is hardly anything if you were considering taking it off-road. The Elite i20 would do just as good. The only bits that actually look good (and which should’ve been carried over to the standard i20) are the projector headlamps and those brilliant looking wheels.
And lastly, the Avventura. I’ve always maintained, if you have to make anything loud and flashy, leave it to the Italian manufacturers. The Avventura is a classic case of designers gone bonkers. Dollops of cladding, roof-rails, tilt-meters and compass on the dash - what not! Someone let the designers loose on this one! It is also the only car to feature a spare-wheel on the boot; and although I love the way it looks, it poses a problem when you actually need to use the boot. To access the hatch, one needs to get the spare-wheel out of the way. This entire process will keep both your hands engaged and isn’t really ideal when you’re carrying your monthly shopping back to the car. Also, a major gripe with the Avventura as with the Punto is that the ergonomics inside the cabin are way off.
So, there you have it. You don’t ever really ‘need’ a hatchback on steroids. If you do buy one, you’d do it because you ‘want’ one. They’re rather ugly looking, heavier, slower, don’t offer any greater practicality and are priced atleast half a lakh more than their hatchback counterpart. Still want one?