Hybrid/alternative fuel vehicles have been in the Indian market since long but because the current times are unprecedented, what with the rising fuel prices and concerns over reregistration of old diesel vehicles, they have gained a lot more ground in the last few years. So much so that major automakers like Maruti and Volkswagen have stopped making diesel vehicles altogether and are instead betting big on alternative sources for propulsion. Toyota and Maruti are heavily into hybrid and CNG power respectively but now other popular automakers are playing catch up. Here we have rounded up four of our most memorable hybrid/alternative fuel cars we tested this year so far.
Tata Tigor i-CNG – Bilal Firfiray
Tata has jumped the bandwagon of offering factory-fitted CNG kits with the Tigor (and Tiago). And unlike some of the rivals, the pair gets a CNG option across its variant-wise distribution. So there’s a freedom of choice for the buyers and the CNG alternative could fit various pockets as well. And in the top-spec version, there’s no shortage of features either.
But more importantly, despite the drop in output figures in the CNG mode, the real-world performance is barely any difference in the CNG or Petrol mode. For everyday drivability, the i-CNG could cut down the cost by almost half and yet behind the wheel we’d be none the wiser. Sure there are a few vibrations and added noise in the CNG mode, but these are far from being a deal breaker and an acceptable compromise for the saving in running costs.
Honda City Hybrid – Venkat Desirazu
Even though most manufacturers are going the EV way, Honda decided to go in the Hybrid direction and introduce the technology in its most popular sedan, the City. And it’s in my list because, the hybrid technology apart from being efficient is just very intriguing. There just so much happening but even then, the whole tech works seamlessly. This Honda isn’t a mild hybrid like you see very commonly. In fact, the City falls under the ‘strong’ hybrid category. Powering the City is an Atkinson cycle 1.5-litre, i-VTEC, four-cylinder petrol engine which is linked to two electric motors. The first electric motor works as an electric generator while the second one is the propulsion motor and they use power from a lithium-ion battery placed in the boot.
Another very interesting aspect is the gearbox or rather the lack of it. Even though Honda claims the Hybrid has an e-CVT gearbox, it actually just has a single high-speed gear with most of the drive being provided by the electric motor. Now all the tech aside, the City also boasts peppy performance with a combined power of 124BHP and a meaty 253Nm of torque. And it being a hybrid, it promises the best of efficiency as well. With a claimed figure of 26.5 kmpl, the City is a win-win for those looking for a peppy, high-tech fuel efficient sedan.
Maruti Ertiga CNG – Sagar Bhanushali
The 2022 Maruti Ertiga is not a completely new model but a proper facelift with changes to the mechanicals, new features and some minor design tweaks. What’s even better though is the fact that you can now have the CNG version in not just VXI but also ZXI trim which means more high-end features as standard from the factory itself. This is a superb move, if you ask me, because I am sure a lot of buyers who prefer the CNG option would want just as many features as the petrol-powered Ertiga. The power figures have remained unchanged for the 2022 model though with this update, the focus has been on improving the refinement and NVH levels of this engine and it shows as soon you start this engine and start driving. On idle this engine is so silent that you might even double check whether you have kept the car on. And under normal driving conditions it remains silky smooth with no vibrations to be felt.
Other than the engine, I like how well-rounded the Ertiga is – it’s big on space and practicality, has more than enough features and most importantly, it’s backed up by Maruti’s immense sales and service network. What’s surprising though is how polished it feels once you are in it and things have only gotten better with this 2022 update. I feel the addition of the ZXI trim for the CNG model is something that’s going to elevate the Ertiga’s game to the next level.
Lexus NX350h – Venkat Desirazu
The 2022 Lexus NX350h is a new generation for what is already quite a good car and that means that Lexus took what existed and improved on it in terms of design, features and even driving experience. It also has green credentials which in the part of the market that it exists, hold big value. When you exist at this price point, some features like power seats, LED headlamps, multi-zone climate control and automatic gearboxes are all a given. The NX really holds strong in terms of little details like the infotainment screen leaning towards the driver, the ease of reaching various buttons and a power-folding function for the rear seats in the boot.
On the flip side, as we said in the review the run-flat tyres affect the ride quality while the steering is a touch lighter than how we would like it to be. It also lacks a diesel powertrain which two of its major German rivals offer in multiple states of tune. However, Lexus has officially announced that it is investing in BEVs, PHEVs and hydrogen tech as a part of its future plans.
Pictures by Kapil Angane and Kaustubh Gandhi