By on April 10, 2012

Tata Indigo CS

According to lore, Americans dig big cars, Europeans love their hatchbacks, Australians love pick-ups. And the Indians? Indians love sedans. The sedan is a status symbol for most in India. It provides a feeling of accomplishment. It also costs more. A sedan does not cost much more to make than its hatchback platform cousin.  What makes a sedan more costlier are the taxes we have to pay.

The Indian government wants to promote small cars as they are eco-friendly and consume less fuel. They are easy to park and maneuver. They take less space on the road and help in reducing traffic congestion. If you visit India, you will notice that the infrastructure growth is not keeping pace with the GDP growth. This makes small cars extremely important, and the Government of India is leaving no stone unturned to promote them. But how do they do that?

All cars measuring under 4-meters in length and having an engine capacity of less than 1.5-litres (diesel) / 1.2-liters (gasoline) are classified as a small car and attract only 12% excise duty. All other cars cost you (well, us) 27%. Now what if you want a sedan, but not the tax? This is where the compact sedans come in.

The first company to develop a compact sedan was Tata. The owners of Jaguar Land Rover made the Indigo CS (Compact Sedan), which measured less than 4-meters in length and was powered by a 1.4-litre diesel engine. This helped Tata Motors save 15% excise duty, which they passed on to the buyer, resulting in the Indigo CS becoming the cheapest sedan in the country.

Swift DZire CS

The next company to follow the Compact Sedan craze was Maruti Suzuki (Suzuki’s Indian operations), which developed the Swift DZire (a Swift with a 316 liter trunk). In comparison, the Honda Jazz has a trunk space of 399-liters. But still the Swift DZire (gasoline) sells almost twice that of the Jazz (the Jazz is only available in gasoline).

The compact sedan craze is quite high and growing. This is the reason why Mahindra (which now owns the rights to the Renault/Dacia Logan and has renamed it Verito) is planning to cut the bumpers of the Verito to make it a sub 4-meter car. Why did Toyota’s made-for-India-car, the 4.26 meter Etios, get a shorter brother, the 3.77 meter Etios Liva? Now you know.

Many others are planning similar things with their MUVs and SUVs.

It looks like India will soon be awash with stout cars with a little rump.

Faisal Ali Khan is the owner/operator of, a website covering the auto industry of India.

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57 Comments on “Short Cars With A Rump, And Why India Is Nuts About Them...”

  • avatar

    I’m surprised no-one came up with a 4 m long wagon to maximize space usage in the given tax category.

    I think Sedans in general don’t have a place (use hatch or wagon) and it is just an old fashion thing. but these tiny sedans are just hideous. How people in India can think this is more prestigious than a similar sized hatch is beyond me. But Chinese favor Buick and Americans buy Jettas over Golfs – so anything goes.

    I’m glad to see governments all over the world come up with rules and the market reacts to create the worst possible outcome. It is like CAFE that punished big wagons, and made companies built SUVs with even worse mileage, but classified as small trucks.

    • 0 avatar

      You’ll be surprised with what people will put up with when it comes to status symbols.

    • 0 avatar

      Think Manolo Blahniks.

    • 0 avatar

      I love wagons, but they remind some people around the world of coffins.

    • 0 avatar

      “I’m surprised no-one came up with a 4 m long wagon to maximize space usage in the given tax category.”

      In Brazil they have. Small wagons were usually offered alongside a sedan and pick-up, all derived from the same hatchback. In the 90s people preferred the SWs, but as the trunks grew, reaching 500L, the sedans could carry more stuff. Not to mention that most women abhor wagons here , too (though men don’t seem to mind). So sedan it is, the wife is happy, you carry at least as much as in the SW,like in India, you get some prestige (in sick, sorry people’s minds), but specially the sedan is always cheaper than the wagon.

      Nowadays only Fiat and VW offer subcompact wagons, and Renault will soon offer the Logan minivan. I would also say that as these cars are small and cheap, isolating the baggage in the trunk gives you the added bonus of silence. In all small hatches and SWs, the noise coming from the covers in the cargo area is always attrocious.

    • 0 avatar

      The self-absorbed wagon fans just cannot fathom that sedans are more practical because they provide a useful cargo separation. Wagons were supposed to provide the volume, but that volume is useless unless backed up by the carrying capacity. A sedan carries same longer items with the foling rear seat.

      • 0 avatar

        Wrong and wrong. Most if not all wagons offer cargo covers or seperators. I would like to see you try to load a long bulky item like a small couch or large chair into a sedan. I have many times in my wagons with ease. I laugh watching people try to put things in their sedans that my wagon would swallow up with ease and with tons of room to spare. This really isn’t an argument that you can win based on simple physics. There is just more room in a wagon, period.

      • 0 avatar

        For security and body rigidity effecting handling, sedans are superior. If you’re often carrying bulky loads, hatchbacks are worth it. I’ve owned hatchbacks in the past, but I’m yet to miss them.

      • 0 avatar

        “…body rigidity effecting handling…”
        Seriously? I’m sure most people are often pushing their cars hard enough to notice that. Besides, most sedans have fold down seats which eliminates any body bracing that would be behind the seats anyway. As far as security, if you are living somewhere where a cargo cover isn’t enough to keep out thieves then you might want to move. If it is in your car and a thief wants it, he will get it no matter if it is in a trunk or a hatch. Fold down rear seats allow easy access to trunk contents.

      • 0 avatar

        I don’t care about most people. I drive hard enough to turn weak cars into taffy in short order. Bonded-in back windows and rear decks are far superior to their absence as structural elements. I live near the beach, so I don’t want to move. Sometimes I go to urban areas and when I do I don’t want a hatchback. My car has the option of defeating the interior trunk release with the key and the folding seats can only be released from inside the trunk. Nothing is fool proof, but it makes the car less attractive to break into than a hatchback is. The point is to not make a thief want the contents of your car, and a sedan is far better for this purpose than a hatchback or soft top. Different strokes for different folks. I remember the commercial with the guys driving around in their Golf looking for discarded furniture. I’m more likely to spend my weekend driving mountain roads or traveling by car than building a nest. My cars do what I care about, as I’ve learned what I want through the course of three hatchbacks, four coupes, a convertible, and six sedans. I don’t do much antiquing, so you won’t catch me trying to put a couch in my passenger seat. I did once borrow a Jaguar XJ6 Series III to move when I lived in Manhattan, but I had my furniture delivered. I don’t think a king sized bed or a dresser would fit in a typical wagon anyway.

      • 0 avatar


        I love wagons. Currently I drive a Mercedes E Class wagon, but the biggest wagon I ever had was a 1982 Ford Falcon (Australian). That was a great car with huge windows and visibility which would be impossible today. It had a 4.1 liter 6 cylinder with 5 speed transmission. I’m sometimes sorry I don’t still have that car. I bought it for $800 and drove it for years (even had it valet parked at my sister’s wedding)

        I will never buy a SUV while there is still a drive-able wagon on the planet.

        Man, I want a 58 Pontiac wagon – those things are cool. I have tried using 50’s cars as daily drivers – but usually something gives up after a couple of weeks and I go back to the Mercedes.

        I will try again next week. ’59 Cadillac – or I’m walking. 7 days.

  • avatar
    Athos Nobile

    A sedan usually have a bigger boot than the hatchback on which is based.

    In the third world, even those tiny things are many times employed as family sedans, so having the boot makes sense.

    Also, at least where I come from, a sedan gives the impression of getting “more car” for the money.

    Unless it’s a city or commuter beater, I prefer a sedan myself. Next better is an SW or SUV.

    • 0 avatar

      Not only that, but sedans with trunks are seen as more secure from prying eyes and theft compared to a hatchback.

      • 0 avatar

        At least in Brazil all hatches and SWs come with a cargo cover. All become a source of noise and irritation. Sedans are seen as quieter and I bet that’s a selling point to some buyers, even if they don’t notice , they do note that added silence when they take a ride in a sedan, even if small, and compare it to the hatch and SW version.

      • 0 avatar
        Chicago Dude

        “At least in Brazil all hatches and SWs come with a cargo cover.”

        My wagon has a cargo cover. I’m glad it doesn’t make any noise!

        When I use it, I have the same cargo capacity as a sedan.

        On the other hand, it is easily removable. But… if it is removed there is no place to store it except at home – unless I fold down the seats. But… My seats fold down in three pieces and the front passenger seat also folds flat. I can safely carry pieces of wood more than 3 meters long and have seating room (with belts) for 2 passengers with all doors and the rear hatch closed.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m not so sure a typical trunk has more space than a typical hatchback as they are based on the same chassis and are often the SAME length/width. The thing you gain with a hatchback (with cargo cover removed if it has one) is height that you don’t get with any trunk.

      5 of my cars were sedans, beginning with a huge ’68 Chrysler, then downsizing to a 74 and then a ’78 Nova, then a ’78 Fairmont, and the last sedan was an ’88 Honda Accord and in the Fairmont, I got to help a friend to move and the trunk was too shallow for much use and I had to shove stuff into the back seat and even there, I could only carry so much at any given time.

      With the ’83 Honda Civic hatch, I was amazed at what could fit inside with the rear seat folded down, it swallowed chairs, TV’s and I forget what else.

      My parents bought a 27″ CRT based stereo TV back in the late 80’s and hauled it home in their sedan and it didn’t really fit in the trunk but was bungied down to hold it in place.

      Back in 1977, they had ’76 Honda Accord hatchback and bought a brand new 19″ TV, and it fit, in the box in the back, with the hatch closed and STILL managed to stuff three kids in around it to bring us home from a movie, try to do that in a sedan.

      So when I had to replace my dying Ford Ranger in January, I decided to back to a small hatchback and bought a C segment Mazda Protege5 and love it.

      • 0 avatar

        Sorry Ciddy, but you do. The trunks are quite high and as in a hatch, legally speaking (at least in Brazil), you can’t cover the back window, these smallish sedans are more practical. Also, in most of these sedans the back seat reclines, so you’re able to jam a lot of things in there. Even big stuff.

        Guess you have to live i emerging markets to understand…

      • 0 avatar


        while that may be true in some markets, not able to cover the back window, but some of what was carried didn’t exactly cover the back window and if you did, that’s what the outside mirrors (assuming you had one on both sides of the car, which in the US was not always common until about a decade ago) are for anyway, at least here in the US and it was not like this was done all the time but it gave flexibility none the less, which is why the Honda Fit (Jazz to pretty much everyone else) is so popular due to its multifunction rear seats.

      • 0 avatar

        Ciddy agreed and point taken, but flexible seating is something not commonly available here. Plus compare price of basic sedans (around 30 000 reais ) and Fit (around 55 000 reais, 1USD=1real) and you’ll see why sedans rule. BTW, compact SWs like Palio Weekend and VW Spacefox start at around 45 000 reais. So, for smaller entry price, you get space and (I know, ridiculous!) some prestige. That explains why compact sedans own almost 20% of the market here.

    • 0 avatar

      “A sedan usually have a bigger boot than the hatchback on which is based…” This is true because most sedans have longer overhangs than their hatchback counterpart, mostly so that it would look right. See picture above when sedans are forced to share the same overhangs as its hatchback counterpart. And it would compromise the boot volume as well.

      BTW the same preference for sedans exists here in Indonesia also, though hatchbacks has recently become more popular because it’s taxed at a lower rate due to being classified as “minibus”. Go figure.

      • 0 avatar

        These cars shown up top are small, I mean, A segment cars, and many B segment cars have not much overhang in the rear due to trying to fit as much cargo/people space inside so the wheelbase is often stretched to their absolute max, IE, at the corners of the car to maximize space inside, though some will stretch the overall length somewhat to maintain decent trunk space.

        That said, get into the larger C segment cars, the hatchbacks tend to be more or less the same length as their sedan counterparts in the same model. Mazda did this with the Protege. When they came out with the 5 door hatchback Protege5, it rides on the exact same overall length and wheelbase, they just extended the roof and filled in the area where the rear deck lid would have resided and added a liftgate. I bet you that from the C pillar forward, the car’s identical for the most part to the sedans.

        This is due to the car’s overall larger size and so a little more rear overhang is easier to deal with in that capacity.

  • avatar

    Americans like a large car with a rump. What else explains the mail-slot trunk openings on the majority of cars now? Camry, Impala (almost), Maxima, Altima, Sonata, among others.

    • 0 avatar

      For me, when cars had trunks with openings that were useable there is nothing wrong with a trunk.

      But, having a big volume , sav 16 Cubic ft, trunk and you can only achieve using that volume with shovelfulls of sand is silly.

      Used to be able to fit a lawnmower in a trunk and use bungy cords to hold the lid down. Can’t do that nowadays in my price range. Used to to be able to easily fit a mountain bike in my 87 Accord Sedan , by folding the rear seat down and removing the front tire. The 98 Accord Sedan was a lot tougher to get the bike in, bigger car, less useable trunk. Ended up with a CRV now.

      With the trunk lids so small, how hard would it be to turn them into hatches and retain the same look and be done with it?

      • 0 avatar

        “With the trunk lids so small, how hard would it be to turn them into hatches and retain the same look and be done with it?”

        My thoughts exactly until I though more about it. All the mechanicals and structure needed to support the rear glass, etc. I think it would be too expensive for the benefits offered, and few would like them, as in the past, they just didn’t sell well enough to make sense to most. Keep in mind that the cars this was a feature on – Novas, Dusters, etc – were as large as large cars now.

      • 0 avatar
        Mark MacInnis

        Duh. Which is why so many of the B&B are wagon afficionados. No problem taking my Lawn Boy in for annual spring service in my Audi A6 Avant….

      • 0 avatar

        The Mazda 6 was (briefly) available with a hatcback. I thought it was a pretty good looking car, but I don’t think they sold many of them. On the used market they seem to be almost as elusive as the 6cyl 6MT wagon.

    • 0 avatar

      Trunks used to be huge and awesome, then somebody heard you could make better handling cars by pushing the wheels out to the corners…

      Then someone else figured you could make a car Look like it has better handling with less engineering and materials costs just by getting rid of the overhangs.

      Now welcome to the brave new world of tiny trunks.

    • 0 avatar

      My old Dodge Lancer was a small mid size with a hatch, even though the floor wasn’t that low, it still held an impressive amount of stuff, particularly with the rear seats folded. It kept me out of a minivan when my kids were young, 20 years ago…

      I think the real reason why so few hatchback models are offered in cars above sub-compacts and SUVs/crossover body styles is that they probably wouldn’t perform well in crash tests. I owned/drove a number of hatchback cars back in the day, and some of them quivered over bumps, even when new. That gave me the impression that the structure wasn’t as solid as it could be, had it been a regular sedan. I believe that characteristic, along with NVH and cost, killed the mid size hatchback, at least in the US.

      • 0 avatar

        Perhaps back then but nowdays in Europe lot of mid size cars have liftback variants, ford mondeo, mazda 6, skoda superb, opel insignia, renault laguna, all can be had with hatchback and are five star on NCAP tests.

        As for compacts, Skoda Octavia which is as long as a compact saloon has been a great success exactly because it is a liftback with 560 litres boot.
        This mostly eliminated the dilemma between having a practical hatchback but with a smaller boot (~ 350 for a compact hatch) or an impractical compact saloon but with a bigger boot (~ 500).

        In my opinion bigger boot is always better except in one of those few cases a year where you have to transport a fridge or a bike or a big tv…

  • avatar

    I had a brief stint in a sedan – that car stuck around for only a year until I was fed-up with the lack of utility. Since then it’s been a few hatchbacks and SUVs (for the wife).

    My next one will be a German wagon of some type. Pity there are so few of them to choose from in the US.


  • avatar

    In Brazil sedans are seen as more prestigious than thier hatch originators. Thankfully, the government left size restrictions out, so most of our compact sedans are not quite so short. As noted by Athos above, these are family cars so they have huge trunks. Logan has 510 liters, Siena 520 and Chevy Cobalt takes the cake now with 560 liters.

    So we have small cars with huge trunks, but 1.0L engines. The guv here in an effort to safe fuel has 3 tax brackets, up to 1.0, up to 2.0 and then anything bigger. Kind of crazy as we have families crawling along the highways and up mountains with 5 people inside and 500L worth of baggage. Not to mention when they’re towing a trailer. Makes for a sssllllloooowwww ride.

    • 0 avatar

      Oh wow this post brings back memories.

      When my in-laws & related family members used to go together to Campos do Jordao, my one uncle-in-law (who is good friends with my father-inlaw) would always drive himself, his wife, 2 early 20’s daughters + luggage in their 1.0 Liter Car (Maybe Ka?). Boy was it slow.

      My father-in-law has a (1.6? 1.8?L) polo that with only 2-3 people in it (at that time) was significantly faster going uphill. My father-in-law would laugh, point & poke fun at his brother-in-law constantly during the ride up & after having a beer once we got to our destination. It was all in good fun of course and they both laughed about it.

      One day my father-in-law will get a visa to com here to the US and take a ride in my STi. It’ll probably blow his mind.

      Also: I tried to e-mail you at the address you gave in another thread, twice, and one bounced…the other I didn’t see anything back. Did you receive an e-mail from me? I signed it with my TTAC user handle.

  • avatar

    Good article Faisal. As an interesting aside, the Indigo is an exact same ‘copy’ of the Brazilian Fiat Palio family. I don’t remember correctly now, but either Idea or Italdesign designed that car for Fiat. Then they sold almost the smae design to Tata. That led to a big fight between Fiat and one of those two studios. So much so, that Fiat now designs mostly in-house though they still use Giorgetto Giugiaro and other designers work. This fact apparently was also a sticking point when Fiat was discussing woth Tata about using some Tata pick up as a basis for their own mid-size (think Ranger-size) pick up to sell in BRazil.

    • 0 avatar
      Vipul Singh

      Both the Palio and the Indica were designed by IDEA and there may have been cross-pollination. Having said that, the difference between and Indica and a Palio is like chalk and cheese (the Palio 1.6 has been my daily driver for the past 10 years, and I have driven a few Indicas). While the Palio handles very sharply for what is a cheap car for third world countries, the Indica is absolutely p**s poor by comparison. Same goes for fit and finish, component quality and reliability

      The Indica must also take the cake in terms of the gap between the initial sketches and actual execution.

    • 0 avatar

      Marcelo, ironic as it sounds, today Tata Motors and Fiat are partners in India and the Indica alone sells atleast 4 times of all Fiat cars put together!

      • 0 avatar
        Vipul Singh

        Faisal: What I find most astonishing about the Indica is that on so many high-milage examples, the rear wheels have massive negative camber. Apparently, it is becuse of the rear suspension components (specifically the rear dead-axle) bending out of shape with use. How is that for quality?

        But we could continue ad inifinitum if we got down to discussing the Indica. There are two major reasons why it sells:

        1) It is one of the cheapest (if not the cheapest) diesel car on sale, and with diesel being 40% cheaper than petrol, it makes huge economic sense
        2) The Indian ‘herd’ mentality. That is what makes so many under-accomplished cars successful

      • 0 avatar

        Glad Fiat and Tata patched things up! Tata seemed to be talking to Brazilian billionaire Eike Batista. Seems nothing came of it. But apparently Tata is sniffing for a way to get into Brazil. BTW, has just heard today Fiat’s midsize pickup project is a go again. Though the person I talked to said no, I wonder if Tata could be helping out. Keep your ears peeled!

      • 0 avatar

        Vipul, rightly pointed out but one thing we are missing, the Indica is a hot favourite with the taxi segment, which accounts for a major chunk of market share for the Indica.

  • avatar

    A very interesting article and as I said to Marcelo, I like hatchbacks/wagons due to the fact that these days, the trunks have these odd sized openings that makes them useless for anything other than smaller articles and your luggage, and that’s it, even if you can lower the rear seat backs.

    When I had my ’88 Honda Accord, the rear glass was raked such that the trunk opening was shallow front to back even if it went all the way to the bumper, but you still had to contend with the taillights that made the vertical portion of the opening not as wide and it made for challenges when needing to haul anything of bulk or of an odd size back there.

    Virtually all hatchbacks and wagons utilize vertical taillights or if they were horizontally oriented, they were designed as such as they don’t impede with the large cavernous opening that goes all the way to the roof, and that means larger, bulkier items can be placed back there with ease, like a lawn mower as all hatchbacks have had bumper height openings since the 1980’s, even if some like the 84-87 Honda Civic hatches reverted back to a non bumper height opening for a generation.

    This is what makes them useful over most smaller sedans (or any sized sedan in many cases these days) is that this cavernous opening out back makes loading the car much easier than trying to cram them through the rear doors or oddly shaped trunk opening when the item is large and/or bulky.

    I got to see this limitation first hand when temping at a furniture store that was closing in 1991 and people would impulsively buy, say an arm chair that they’ve been looking for and then try to take it home. One of my job duties were to assist customers with loading their cars and often they’d arrive at their sedan, be it a Chevy, Ford, Buick, whatever it was and we’d have to try and get it in so they could take it home.

    Most small hatchbacks/wagons had no problems, but the sedans were almost always a head scratcher. Once I loaded a love seat into the back of the then new 1991 Ford Explorer, with the rear seat folded, it slid in nicely and the hatch closed without muss or fuss, not THAT impressed me to no end, as did most hatchbacks/wagons, that just fueled the fire for my dislike for sedans.

    I’m all for paying a bit of a premium for the hatchback over its sedan brethren as even in the US, many sedans cost less than their hatchback counterpart where available and in the case of the Ford Fiesta, the sedan is seen as the base car with the “base” hatchback being better equipped to start, same for several other makes here as well.

    • 0 avatar

      +1 to all of the above. I have also had to help people hopelessly try to load furniture into sedans. It is really amazing how much utility you give up by opting for the “prestigious” trunk.

  • avatar

    Do you know when Ford’s Figo will have a sedan variant? I’ve read that it’s going to replace the Fiesta Classic sedan, which is too big for that segment. Checking the specs, at 3795mm long and a 1.2L petrol engine the Figo five door hatch is right in that low tax segment and it leaves about 8 inches for a stubby little trunk.

    It looks like the Aveo is Chevy’s smallest sedan offered in India and it’s also too big for the favored tax treatment. Any word if the Beat or Spark will be made as sedans?

    • 0 avatar

      Ronnie, its highly doubtful that Ford will try to make a sedan version of the Figo, because the Figo is itself based on the previous generation Fiesta (the one even before the Classic). Adding a trunk will make it look very ugly and unappealing.

      No GM is not going to launch any sedan versions of its small cars anytime soon. They are still contemplating the idea of a Beat with a boot.

  • avatar


    Is the Onix project in Brazil based on the Spark or on the Aveo/Sonic platform? If there’s going to be a Spark sedan in India it would probably be related to the Onix. I found this video of what is supposedly an Onix sedan mule, but it looks kind of large.

  • avatar

    My main issue with trunks, I’ve only ever owned sedans and one minivan, are the ones with gooseneck hinges. Now I’m not going to argue that gas struts are better/worse, but at least it’s easier to load without having to worry about breaking an ill-placed object by the gooseneck. I’ve had trunks with both types of hinge and prefer the struts, for the ability to fill the opening completely without breaking things alone.

  • avatar
    Felix Hoenikker

    I have only had one hatch back which was a 1980 Chevy Citation that my wife bought new before we were married. Hey, don’t laugh. It was a very servicable car with a huge trunk when the back seat was folded down. Unlike most modern hatches, it had a big, solid cargo cover that made it seem like a sedan. The cover was attached to the hatch with rubber straps so it opened when the trunk was opened. You removed the cover and stowed it between the front seat and the folded down rear seat to convert to haul mode. I remember going on camping trips in that car. Just fold down the hatch and pack it to the gills.
    Today’s Small sedans, even with fold down rear seats, just can’t compare to the utility that the Citation had. As mentioned earlier, the small openings in the trunk lids limit usefulness for hauling anything more than groceries.
    We were fortunate that the car did not have any major issues during the eight years and 90K miles we owned it. Not every Citation owner had the same durability and reliability as we did.
    I would be very interested in purchasing this body style again.

  • avatar

    I think americans have the same obsession with sedans. Our best selling non-SUV passenger cars are all sedans- Camry, Accord, Altima, Civic, Corolla, Fusion, Focus etc. All are available only as sedans, with the exception of the Focus.

    Stationwagons, like minivans, are seen as dowdy.

  • avatar

    Crossovers are just jacked up hatchbacks so we hardly have an obsession..

  • avatar

    In Taiwan, the most popular class of moped comes in engine volume of 49cc. Why? Because at 50cc, that moped license plate registration is assess as a motorcycle, a higher rate. Thus we have 49cc moped.

  • avatar

    Faisal: “4 meters”, “1.5 litres”, and “1.2 liters”. Not a hyphen in sight, nor should there be.

    Really. Trust me.

    Thank you.

  • avatar

    Oh, and judging just from these two profile pictures, the Swift DZire is hideous, while the Indigo is really rather cute.

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