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Auto Expo 2010 Expo-sure!

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This Auto Expo, like the 2008 edition, will be yet another small car special. With five new small cars from three new entrants in the field being shown, either in concept guise or production form, there is a lot at stake for more than one manufacturer. The 2010 Auto Expo will also play host to over two lakh visitors and promises to be bigger and better than before. We take a look at what will make a buzz this year.

MARUTI SUZUKI
Maruti might be under attack in the small car space, but don’t think India’s largest car manufacturer is going to stay laid-back. It will bring five important cars to the show - the production Suzuki Kizashi sedan, the R III MPV concept, the Eeco MPV, YR9 small car and the Y3 small car concept. The Kizashi is Suzuki’s first attempt at a D-segment saloon and it looks like a winner, with its styling as well as build quality. Powered by the same 2.4-litre petrol engine from the Grand Vitara, but with more power and a six-speed sequential auto, the Kizashi might be here in India by late-2010/early-2011 at a price that would wean a whole lot of Honda Accord and VW Jetta buyers away. The Eeco is nothing more than a Versa facelift, with a Euro-IV ready 1.2-litre K Series engine. It will be priced around Rs 4 lakh and offers better value than the outgoing Versa. Another MPV concept is the R III, which will be an all-new MPV to take on the likes of the Mahindra Xylo. Based on the SX4 platform, the R III will boast of a 1.3-litre Multijet diesel and a 1.4-litre K Series engine when it goes on sale in late-2011. The YR9 is the Wagon-R replacement that is wider and more comfortable on the inside, with better quality interiors and a 1.2-litre petrol engine. The YR3 is Maruti Suzuki’s first indigenous product to be designed, developed and manufactured here. It is being designed as an 800 replacement.

AUDI
Ingolstadt-based Audi is using its growth trajectory in India to launch even more vehicles. With the A7 concept turning into reality, it promises to bring the production version into India by 2011, just weeks after its global launch. The A7, like the Mercedes-Benz CLS, is a four-door sports coupe and boasts of a low-roofline and powerful engines. The other big displays will include a vintage Horch, the Audi R8 and other Audi cars currently on sale in India.   TOYOTA
This will probably be Toyota’s biggest Expo to date, because for the first time, Toyota will launch its for-India small car and notchback concept. According to reports, these concepts will be nearly true to the eventual production cars and that should give everyone a fair idea of what the two will look like. The car, internally known as EFC800L, will be based on an all-new platform where cost has been the key driver. A sub 4-metre compact hatch will be powered by two engines — a 1.2-litre petrol three-cylinder engine and a 1.4-litre diesel engine from the Yaris. With power ranging from 65-85 bhp, these engines will also power a notchback that will compete with the likes of the Suzuki Swift Dzire and Tata Indigo Manza. The notchback will be launched around October 2010, with the hatch coming in by January 2011. The other big-ticket launches are the Toyota Prius hybrid that will be priced upwards of Rs 25 lakh, while Toyota will also showcase the new Landcruiser Prado diesel and the i-Real concept.

TATA MOTORS
For this homegrown manufacturer, the Auto Expo has always meant big launches and concepts that tend to pave the way for the company’s direction for the future. This year, we expect Tata Motors to finally let the world get a peek at the Indicruz, its large MPV designed to take on the likes of the Toyota Innova. Powered by a 2.2-litre diesel engine, the Indicruz will feature a host of goodies like ABS, airbags, cruise control and automatic climate control, among others. The Indicruz is expected to be larger than the Innova, both on the outside and inside, and offer class-leading space and refinement levels. The platform is also expected to spawn the next generation Safari, which we hope to see in concept form at the Expo. Tata’s Nano Europa and Nano, the Indigo Manza and Indica Vista, commercial vehicles and displays from partner Fiat will pretty much make up the stall this year.   HONDA
Sharing space under the same roof with Toyota is its arch rival Honda. The big H will bring in its iteration of a small car concept that it hopes will target the likes of the Maruti Suzuki Swift and Hyundai i10. Honda is sparing no expense for its small car which, like the Toyota, will eventually become a global model (read emerging nations). The Honda small car will be powered by a new 1.0-litre petrol engine using VTEC technology. The existing 1.2-litre i-VTEC motor from the Jazz could also be used at a later stage. The small car will boast of class-leading space and build quality, which also means it will be priced at a premium when compared to its competition, with the first production cars rolling out in late-2010/early-2011. Honda’s other big display will include the CR-Z hybrid sports coupe that uses the same powertrain as the Civic hybrid, but with a more powerful battery pack to yield combined horsepower of over 140 bhp.

HYUNDAI
Hyundai might be having a relatively quiet Auto Expo this year, but with the i10 Electric and Hyundai Genesis coupe at the stall, there will still be enough buzz around the South Korean manufacturer. The i10 electric, which was earlier shown at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 2009, will be unveiled at the Expo at the hands of Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan, who incidentally also is the brand ambassador for the i10. The Genesis coupe that replaces Hyundai’s Coupe in other markets has received rave reviews for its V8 and six-cylinder motors as well as its deft handling. Hyundai will not use this Expo to show its Maruti 800/Alto baiting small car, as was believed earlier.   GENERAL MOTORS
GM is in resurrection mode. After spending the early half of 2009 sorting out its financial position, GM is now making huge strides, especially here in India. With the launch of the Cruze saloon now done with, they are preparing for their third small car for India — the Beat. The Beat, known internationally as the Spark, is a small car with lots of spunk and character and is powered by a 1.2-litre petrol motor with 80 bhp of peak power. The best bit about the Beat is its styling, both on the outside and on the inside that makes it look contemporary and fresh. Interior space too is the best in its class for now, while ride and handling are quite decent too. To add some much needed colour to its stall, GM will also bring along the Chevrolet Camaro muscle car, the Cruze WTCC that has been winning races left, right and centre across Europe, the Chevrolet Volt that is the new face representing change at GM across the globe and a host of India-specific cars. These will include the Spark electric that will go on sale in 2010, as well as the Cruze automatic that goes on sale immediately after the Expo.

MERCEDES-BENZ
The three-pointed star is now fighting back to reclaim lost ground. With the new E-Class off to a flyer, it is now concentrating on getting another SUV into its fold. The Mercedes GL, a large SUV that competes with the likes of the Toyota Landcruiser and Range Rover, will be launched at the Expo. Likely to be powered by a six-cylinder diesel motor and a V8 petrol, the GL offers true seven-seat capacity and the kind of street presence the ML can only dream of. The other big ticket showcases will be the E-Class Coupe that might be going on sale in 2010 with petrol and diesel engine options, while the SLS AMG will do the job of turning heads. This new-age gullwing supercar designed and developed by Mercedes-Benz AMG is powered by a 560 bhp V8 and is already making its mark as a true Ferrari competitor. Mercedes-Benz’ CV division will bring along the first of its multi-axle buses as well, to compete with the likes of the Volvo B9R.   BMW
BMW’s success in India can only be measured by the fact that it has constantly tried to innovate and re-invent the wheel. And this time around too it will be launching an all-new vehicle that is in a class of one. Like the BMW X6, the 5 Series GT claims to offer the capabilities of multiple cars under one roof. The GT with its estate like body, high ground clearance, acres of space and a slightly coupe like roofline makes it unique. BMW India will offer both the petrol and diesel variants and only 100 units of the vehicle will be made available in 2010. The other big showcases will be the BMW X1, its new baby SUV that could be considered for India, as well as the BMW X6 M, the 550 bhp SUV that is built to keep the Porsche Cayenne Turbo in check. A 760 Li, BMW’s flagship car, will also be on display along with other BMWs that are currently available in India.

MAHINDRA
Mahindra claims to be the only Indian manufacturer to have a road transportation solution across segments, thanks to its acquisition of Kinetic Motors earlier this year that gave it entry into the two-wheeler space. It will now also launch vehicles in the medium to heavy commercial vehicle space. Come January 4, and its JV with International Trucks (called Mahindra Navistar) will launch the first HCV, powered by a 7.3-litre diesel engine. The truck boasts of features such as power steering, air-conditioning and other comforts that are generally not available in ordinary trucks. In the two-wheeler space, Mahindra is expected to reveal a commuter motorcycle that will allow it to take on the likes of Hero Honda, Bajaj and TVS. The new Xylo D2 variant, with a 2.5-litre, 95 bhp common-rail diesel engine, the Thar (an off-road lifestyle vehicle), Bolero concepts and possibly its World SUV concept will also be showcased at the Expo this year.   VOLKSWAGEN
Volkswagen is making big strides into India. It plans to exponentially increase its presence and sale of vehicles in 2010 with the launch of the Polo. This European Car of The Year winner will take centrestage at the VW stall and promises to have a rather competitive price tag to take on the likes of the Suzuki Swift and Hyundai i20. Initially, VW will offer this hatch with a 1.2-litre petrol engine, but will eventually bring in a diesel as well as more powerful petrol offerings. VW’s other big launches in December, the Touareg and Beetle, will also share space with the Polo as will the Jetta and Passat. We also expect another of the Up! concepts that was shown earlier at the L.A. Motor Show to find space in the same hall.