Petrol cars have now become extremely popular in the Indian market, especially in affordable segments. The trends seems to have been augmented by several factors, including imposition of new emission norms from April 2020 that would render a majority of diesel cars unusable. In case of Maruti Baleno premium hatchback, nearly 89 percent buyers are opting for the petrol engine model. As for the Hyundai Elite i20, 77 percent buyers are going for petrol cars. Between April 2018 and March 2019, India's largest automaker Maruti sold 212,000 units of the Baleno and 188,000 of these were powered by petrol engine. During the same period, Hyundai i20 Elite sold 140,000 units and 108,000 of these were petrol units.
There are several reasons for the growing popularity of petrol cars in affordable segments but first let us examine what each car offers in terms of engine options.
Maruti Baleno gets 4 engines: a 1.2-liter K-Series petrol that generates 82 Bhp power and 113 Nm torque, a 1.2-liter DualJet mild hybrid petrol engine with 90 Bhp-113 Nm output figures, a 1 liter-3 cylinder turbo-charged petrol engine with 101 Bhp-150 Nm, and a 1.3-liter Fiat MultiJet turbocharged diesel engine with 74 Bhp-190 Nm on tap. All four engines get 5-speed manual gearboxes as standard while the K-Series petrol is also available with a CVT automatic gearbox. Coming to Hyundai Elite i20, the car is available with two engines: a 1.2-liter VTVT naturally-aspirated petrol with 82 Bhp-115 Nm and a 1.4-liter turbocharged diesel with 89 Bhp-220 Nm. The petrol engine gets 5 speed manual and CVT automatic gearbox options while the diesel motor gets a 6-speed manual gearbox.
So, why are petrol engines popular than diesels in the premium hatchback segment. This is what we think:
1. The price gap between petrol and diesel versions has narrowed and a diesel car buyer will have to drive upwards of 1,200 Kms each month in order to maximize the cost savings from diesel and recoup the higher cost of the diesel variant.
2. In most Indian cities, traffic conditions have gone from bad to worse. This means that diesels don’t make sense for majority of buyers who opt to use their cars more sparingly, or for shorter daily commutes.
3. Most buyers make a car purchase thinking about selling it after few years of use. However, given government norms surrounding diesel engines, the resale value of these cars is always in questions. Most buyers prefer to play safe rather than take risks.
4. Both Baleno and i20 Elite are aimed mainly at urban dwellers. Bad traffic means a large number of buyers are now looking for automatic gearboxes, which are not offered with diesel engine cars.