Automatic Cars under 16 lakhs

paddle shifter
paddle shifter


Pls Note: The list updated as of March 2012 is here :

Indian customers have limited choice  in transmission options. Most Indian manufacturers have decided to provide manual transmissions because of our well known obsession with the mileage of vehicles.  This has resulted in a state where only a minute number of cars feature auto transmissions.

This is the list of vehicles priced under 16 lakhs on road listed in order of increasing price:

  1. Maruti Suzuki A-Star VXI AT(4 Speed)
  2. Hyundai I10 (4 speed)
  3. Hyundai I20 1.4 Gamma – PL (AT) (4 speed)
  4. Reva Maini (CVT)(Electric)
  5. Hyundai Verna 1.5 SX CRDi VGT Automatic (4 speed) – (Diesel)
  6. Maruti Suzuki SX4 ZXI AT( 4 speed)
  7. Honda City(4 speed with paddle shift)
  8. Volkswagen Vento Highline 1.6 (6 speed)
  9. Scorpio VLX AT(6 speed)  (Diesel)
  10. Toyota Corolla(4 speed auto)
  11. Honda Civic (5 speed with paddle shift)
  12. Chevrolet Cruze (6 speed)(Diesel)( at the outer border of 16L )

The number of vehicles over 16 lakhs with automatic gearboxes is significantly higher.


Common Myths regarding  Auto transmissions:

  • Low on power/pickup: Myth. The auto transmission doesn’t have as much intelligence as a human and can perform to a certain limit of options as designed. It may not have the intelligence to shift down a gear for overtaking or shift as quickly up to a higher gear for cruising as desired by drivers used to driving manual transmissions with control over the gear used. Once you get used to the way the transmission performs you will be better able to drive it optimally. You will need to learn to stamp down on the accelerator or ease off it depending on how you want to go. CVTs are better than regular automatics and within regular automatics the larger the number of speed ratios supported the better since the engine RPMs are better set with multiple ratios than a few ratios.
  • Low on mileage: Partly True. Automatics are slightly more thirsty than their manual counterparts but this is usually do to a combination of slightly higher vehicle weight and poor awareness of the way to drive an automatic. How much lower is the mileage usually depends on the vehicle and the driver but usually the difference would not be more than a difference of 2 to 3 KMPL lower at the max. The difference would come down with sedate driving and careful braking and starting.
  • Very Costly: Partly true. Automatics are currently around 40,000 or more costlier than a comparable equivalently specced manual. Our manufacturers have traditionally offered automatics only on their highest trim levels of cars. If automatic transmissions were made available on even the entry level trims with just an air conditioner am really sure the response for them would be much better. Pairing them up with diesel engines would make them even more desirable. Currently a lot of people buying automatics go in for adding on LPG/CNG kits.
  • Automatics are not fun to drive: Myth. Agreed they are not as responsive as a manual transmission but there is nothing like the comfort of driving an automatic in peak city traffic. You get to relax from constantly changing gears and concentrate on moving without hitting anything or getting hit. The few cars that come with steering column mounted paddle shifters are fun to drive without the hassle of manual shifting.

When should you get an automatic ?

  • If you are spending a lot of time in peak traffic requiring stop and go movements.
  • You drive your own vehicle
  • You are new to driving and just cannot get the hang of clutch and gear and brake and accelerator
  • You have only driven automatics till now.
  • You are ok with sedate driving and do not require the fine level of control possible with manual transmissions.
  • You refuse to let a driver drive
  • You have foot pain or a physical condition that prevents usage of a manual transmission.

When you should not get an automatic:

  • If you are concerned about vehicle cost and cost of fuel more than ease of driving.
  • You are very concerned about performance
  • You do not drive in peak traffic at all and have only empty roads where you need to go or you have a driver and just do not drive.

Auto Clutch ?
What about the much advertised auto-clutch conversion kits for manual transmissions that costs anywhere between 25k to 40k ? My only advice is first check if the dealer of the kit provides a guarantee and service in your city? Also get it done only if you have no choice as I would choose a factory fitted transmission any day over a bolt on mainly from the point of view of a factory warranty over a installer warranty.

Manufacturer Blabber:
Manufacturer Support for automatics has been very reluctant in India with the obsession with mileage.As of today Hyundai is the only manufacturer that provides an automatic option for all segments of vehicles it provides(I10,I20,Verna,Sonata) . The dealers are usually reluctant to sell you an automatic. They have been advertising the Verna Automatic which is a segment first and that too in diesel trim.

Maruti will dissuade you against buying the automatic vehicles.  They will try their best to sell an automatic Grand Vitara on the other hand which no one wants in its Manual version itself.  Strangely Suzuki which sells automatics in every other market in the world in India as part of Maruti keeps insisting that there is no market for it and hasn’t been serious with auto transmissions.

Wishlist & In Summary: I think there is definitely a market for small fuel efficient automatics, mainly diesels in all segments. Any hatchback car that has the Multijet diesel engine from Fiat is a good candidate to get an automatic box. They have adequate power and already provide great mileage so will not suffer much from having an automatic box.
Tata and Fiat need to look into automatic options soon to stay abreast of competition as the currently have ZERO vehicles with automatic transmissions.
Mahindra has the automatic on the Scorpio but need to start providing more options on the Xylo, Logan and Bolero soon.
Maruti – please wake up and add automatic versions to the Swift, Ritz and DZire diesels – please – and price them well !
Ford – the new Fiesta could do with an automatic with the new 90 BHP diesel as well.

PS: This post was actually put together around the same time as my I10 post but I delayed putting this up.Do you know what car has the steering wheel & gear lever pictured in the images in this post ? 🙂 . The answers are in my post itself.

Updated: March 10th,2011 and added the Maruti Suzuki, A-Star,Chevrolet Cruze,SX4 , Vento. Also removed the Wagon R AX as it is no longer sold.  Also added the below list of costlier (greater than 16L) automatic options.

Vehicles costing just over higher than 16L :

  • Hyundai Sonata CRDI AT (4 Speed) (Diesel)
  • Skoda Laura AT (6 Speed) (Diesel)
  • Ford Endeavour 3.0L 4×2 AT (5 Speed)(Diesel)
  • Maruti Suzuki Grand Vitara (4 Speed)
  • Chevrolet Captiva LTZ AWD AT(5 Speed)(Diesel)
  • Skoda Superb 1.8 TSI AT (7 speed)


When upgrading your existing car

The options available to a buyer have increased many-fold from early days where India had only the Fiat & Ambassador to choose from.This post attempts to help a buyer who already has owned a vehicle for some time and is looking to upgrade/change the vehicle. The way society/your peer group works you are expected to go on a path of A segment to B segment to C to D each  time you look for a new vehicle. This approach is fine for someone with money and not very clear requirements and just wanting to ape the peer group.

 This post is not for them but for someone who has a budget limiting them and for with a lot of unclear requirements. This is for someone having to squeeze out the last bit of value from their hard earned money.

Most usually you are changing your vehicle because you need more space. Be clear if you want interior space or luggage space or space for more passengers. 

If you just need interiors that are roomy you can choose from a large tall-boy or B+ segment hatch which is still cheaper than most sedans. (  Hyundai GetzHyundai I10,  Maruti Suzuki Wagon-R,  Maruti Suzuki Swift ).

 2nd generation Suzuki Swift(2004 - 2007)
Image via Wikipedia

If you need luggage space then a vehicle with a proper boot is required while if you need to ferry many people a mini-van /SUV is required.

Longer drives with luggage and mainly adult passengers may need a sedan or  SUV / MUV while 2 adults and 2 children a hatchback may still be fine.

Frequent Long trips/road trips for multiple days warrant a look at SUV / MUV/minivans. (  Mahindra Bolero , Mahindra Scorpio, Mahindra Xylo , Tata Sumo, Tata Sumo Grande , Tata Safari, Toyota Innova, Chevrolet Tavera )

2006 Toyota Innova
Image by Shanghai Daddy via Flickr


 Is there a vehicle that appeals to you in the list meeting all or most of your requirements? If there is you are lucky – just take a test drive to make sure.

If you had issues/missed features in your prior vehicle try looking for options that overcome those limits. For e.g. you didn’t have power windows & central locking on your first car and got tired of rolling up the windows and checking the doors were locked each time – you should look at a car with all of these.

Choose a color that you yearned for while you were driving your previous vehicle and for better exterior finishes. Maybe try a switch from a metallic color to non metallic color or vice versa. Or try a bright/bold color after a dull one. (I have made such a switch from driving boring silver cars one after the other to bright red and bright blue –

Tata Sumo
Image via Wikipedia

makes finding your car in a large parking lot very easy).

Look for better quality/ looking/feeling interiors. Nowadays beige or two tone interiors are available instead of the usual dull grey. If your car will need to withstand a lot of rough use you may be better off with grey interiors since beige ones look dirty with rough use.