Enter the compact luxury

Compact sedans

This week Audi claimed to have become the largest luxury car player in India. A lot of those sales have come from its compact SUV, the Q3. In fact, the Q3 has done to Audi what the X1 did to BMW and what Mercedes-Benz hopes the B-Class can still do to it. So, what exactly are the three cars like

A year and a half before entry-level SUV Renault Duster rubbed off a lot of Scorpio, Safari and even mid-size sedan sales, something similar was done by a small BMW. In fact, it was BMW that kick-started the compact luxury SUV segment in India with the launch of the X1 and it was only because of the X1 that people who drove around in the Fortuners and Endeavours could aspire to own a BMW. Recently, the company gave the X1 a much-needed makeover—much-needed, because now the X1 is not alone. It has Audi Q3 and Mercedes-Benz B-Class for company.

The Q3 is the smallest of the Q series by Audi. Launched last year, it was instrumental in making Audi the fastest growing luxury car company in India. According to the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers, in the first nine months of FY13, the company convincingly beat Mercedes-Benz and was just about 300 units shy of luxury car market leader BMW. And just this week, the company claimed to have become the largest luxury car brand in India.

Having realised that it is the compact luxury segment that gives you volumes, the oldest luxury car player in India, Mercedes-Benz, launched the B-Class in India towards the end of last year. Not a stunner by any means as far as the initial impression goes—and it is not an SUV either—the B-Class is the first five-door large hatchback in the segment. And at a starting price of R22.11 lakh, it is the cheapest luxury car available in the country that also promises the snob value of the Mercedes brand. In fact, it is even cheaper than many sedan offerings from the mass segment such as Volkswagen Passat and Toyota Camry.

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