India is moving towards adopting greener emission norms for all the new vehicles which will be sold after April 1st, 2020. Called the Bharat Stage 6 norms, these require all internal combustion engines to upgrade, post which, they will emit significantly lower amounts of tail-pipe emissions, which will, in turn, help the air quality to become better. In the case of diesel engines, these upgrades will include a Diesel Particulate Filter in addition to a Catalyst reductor and an exhaust treatment system. However, in a market which is really competitive and cost-conscious, for car manufacturers, the cost of upgrading their low-capacity diesel engines with this equipment will make some of their products so expensive, they will lose their value-for-money position. As a result, manufacturers like Maruti Suzuki have decided to completely pull the plug on diesel-powered cars and will only sell petrol-powered vehicles after April 2020.
In the background of this transitional fiasco, the average car buyer is confused and not sure if buying a car at this time is the right thing to do? However, if you have been contemplating buying a new car, especially a diesel, now is the right time. Or at least before April 1st, 2020. If you ask, why? Well, here’s a long answer. After April 2020, most of the small diesel-powered cars, especially hatchbacks, will in all probability be only sold powered by petrol engines. For example, the Fiat-sourced, 1.3-litre DDIS diesel motor which powered all of Maruti’s portfolio isn’t being upgraded from being BS-IV compliant to meet the upcoming BS-VI norms.
So diesel variants of the Maruti Swift, Baleno, S-Cross, Vitara Brezza, Ertiga, etc, won’t be on sale beyond April 2020. They do have an in-house developed 1.5-litre diesel engine which they may or may not upgrade, for it to meet the BS-VI norms. However, if the demand makes them decide to do that, the new engine will most probably be fitted on their upmarket cars like the Ciaz, S-Cross, Brezza, etc. If that happens, the BS-VI versions of these diesel-powered cars will cost more than what they do now.
During a recent interview with Volkswagen India’s director, he mentioned how the future for diesel-powered small cars is at a dead-end because of the huge cost involved to upgrade the engine, which will, in turn, make cars like the Polo more expensive by at least a lakh and a half. Going by his words, we don’t think the Polo (current-gen car about to be facelifted next month) diesel will be available once the BS-VI norms are in effect. Now is the time to buy the GT TDI then. Since the Vento, Skoda’s Rapid and the Ameo make use of the same motor, we think those will take the petrol-only route too. On the other hand, if VW does decide to keep the diesel motor alive for the Vento and the Rapid, considering the cost of upgrading it to meet BS-VI norms, those cars will cost much more than what they do now.
Take the case of the recently launched Grand i10 NIOS, which has been launched with both, 1.2-litre petrol and diesel engines, however, only the petrol motor is BS-VI compliant. There is no formal announcement from Hyundai, yet, however, in all probability, the 1.2-litre diesel-powered i10 NIOS will only be on sale till April next year. A BS-VI compliant 1.5-litre diesel engine has been introduced in the Seltos. The next-gen Hyundai Creta will make use of it too and get rid of the current 1.4-litre and the 1.6-litre oil burners. Cars like the Elite i20, the Venue, and lower-spec variants of the Creta and the Verna which used the 1.4-litre motor will most likely use a de-tuned version of this new 1.5-litre engine, while higher-spec variants of the Creta, Verna and the Elantra, will come fitted with the same engine cranking out more horses.
Vehicles like the Harrier, the Hector and the Compass will be fitted with a BS-VI-compliant, upgraded version of the Fiat-sourced 2.0-litre engine, which goes without saying, will most likely make their prices go up. The same is true for the likes of the Innova, the Fortuner and everything else in that space. For example, earlier, Toyota’s Deputy Managing Director, N Raja had said that the diesel-powered, BS-VI compliant Innova Crysta and Fortuner could cost up to Rs 4.5 lakh more than the BS4 version.
Mahindra had announced that they will continue to sell diesel-powered cars, so we are expecting that the prices of their vehicles will go up too once the new norms are implemented. What about Ford? They have a partnership with Mahindra now, where powertrains will be shared and have confirmed availability of diesel-powered cars, albeit ones which will be priced higher. On the other hand, Honda had announced that they will continue with diesel engines, although the increase in input cost will make their cars pricier after April 1st, 2020. Like Maruti, Renault will exit the diesel-powered segment too. What about the diesel-powered Tiago and Tigor? They will most probably only sip petrol after the deadline.
Now, considering all this, why are we suggesting that if you are in the market for a diesel-powered car, you’d do well to buy it before the aforementioned time? The fact that a diesel-powered engine is far torquier than its similarly sized petrol-fed counterpart, adds a lot of joy and effortlessness to the driving experience. Then, there’s the superior fuel economy and the fact that some of these tried-n-tested cars which are really value for money, won’t make it beyond the April 2020 deadline. Those which do will cost more than what they do now and that is certain.
Now, even if you are ready to buy, questions like, whether these BS-IV, diesel-powered cars will still be relevant in the BS-VI era? Will spares be still available? Whether they will come under the Government’s rumoured scrappage policy? Or will they even run on BS-VI diesel, might bother you. However, the Government has recently clarified that all BS-IV vehicles will be able to use the roads until the time of their registration. Also, BS-IV cars will work just fine on cleaner, BS-VI fuel.
In addition, for the huge inventories that have piled up and with the upcoming festive season, carmakers will go all out to offer you a sweet deal. Maruti Suzuki has already announced that all their diesel-powered cars will be offered with a 5-year standard warranty! And goes without saying, spares will be available for a long time too. So unless you wish to drive a car powered by a small-capacity petrol engine, one which makes you rev its nuts off and sip more fuel when you wish to go faster or pay more in the future than what you would now for an equivalent car, now is the time.