When it comes to comfort or safety in India cars – it is often one or the other. To have a car that offers it all is hard to find. It is not uncommon to see manufacturers cut corners.
Some carmakers prioritize safety but often compromise on amenities, finishing and comforts and some load the cars with all the features they could have. So should we buy a car that is going to keep us safe, but doesn’t have a lot of features? Or should we choose comfort over safety? Since we feel like safety and coolness are mutually exclusive, let us see why safe cars aren’t cool and why cool cars aren’t safe.
Safe cars aren’t cool
Let us first look at Mahindra XUV300. Currently, this is the safest in Indian car according to the Global NCAP. In the crash test, this vehicle received 5-stars and 4-stars respectively for adult and child occupant protection. It comes with 7 airbags too!
However, XUV300 is a little too expensive. And we really wish the boot was bigger. For an SUV this a letdown. Even though this car gets features like keyless entry, cruise control and the sunroof (!), we miss the rear ac vents and an upmarket cabin.
Where are the centre armrests?
The Mahindra Thar on the other hand got an impressive 4-star rating for adult and child occupant safety. Mahindra prices this car high – well, because they can – and it gets a lot of safety features too. However, if we look at the spec sheet of this SUV, the sigh of disappointment becomes inevitable. There are no centre armrests in the front or the rear. We cannot open the rear windows either, but that would be knit-picking to an otherwise potent vehicle.
The Safe Cars
What about Tata Nexon? This car comes with ABS and EBD, dual airbags, Height Adjustable Steering, Reverse Parking Assist as well as Traction Control. Even though the Nexon has many features the quality of its interior is not up to the mark. We wish it had a cabin with a better fit and finish. There is not much to complain about this SUV, but in relation to other cars in the segment, it would have been great, if the infotainment system had a better screen.
Another safe car from Tata, Tiago too could’ve done better when it comes to interior quality. Tiago is not as tall as the WagonR in the same segment and has a relatively smaller boot. But, Tiago gets safety features like Follow Me Home Headlamps, Rear Camera and Impact Sensing Auto Door Unlock which WagonR does not have. Tiago is comparatively more expensive too.
Then there are the MPVs
When it comes to the cars we drive, we are often partial to how the car looks and how we look driving the car. Bigger cars are safer than smaller ones (if other things remain the same). So, if you drive a minivan, theoretically, you will come out of an accident in a much better shape compared to the other guy.
So what is wrong with bigger, safer cars like MPVs? They are not exactly cool. MPVs are not the best looking cars. This means if we put practicality and safety first coolness would have to take a back seat.
Indian car manufacturers like Tata and Mahindra are known for making safe cars. Cars like the Tata Altroz received a 5-star rating at the Global NCAP crash test. If you drive a car like this one, if met with an accident, the chance of a serious injury will be lower. Good safety features also mean stress-free driving. However, sometimes the cars that prioritise safety do so at the cost of many comforts.
Cool cars aren’t safe
Technological advancements have made their way into our vehicles, adding more to our commute or trip with friends or family. So we cannot discount simple creature comforts in our cars that leave us happier at the end of the day.
Modern cars have cool features like a good infotainment system, blind-spot monitoring, climate control, USB charging outlets and many others. But unfortunately, more often than not cars that have these cool specs, lag behind when it comes to safety.
Loaded with features, but…
Let’s take the case of Kia Seltos for instance. Seltos has plenty of features for us to choose from. This car has fancy features like rear reading lamps, cruise control, smart access card entry, rear sun-shade curtain, lane change indicator and even a sunglass holder! With Seltos – like you – your coffee cup too would always have a designated place in the car.
Even though Kia Seltos has almost all the safety features imaginable, it only received 3 stars in the Global NCAP crash test! To add the final cherry on the cake made out of disappointment, this SUV has an absurdly huge price tag of around 18 lakhs.
The Grand i10 Nios too has a similar story to tell. i10 Nios puts the ‘cool’ in the cool features. With a price that can go up to 8.4 lakh rupees, the car has got wireless phone charging, projector fog lamps, automatic climate control, 8-inch touch screen, parking sensors in the rear, seat lumbar support, USB charger and even glove box cooling. But with the NCAP rating of 2 stars we couldn’t help but think, they should’ve traded some of those amenities for structural soundness. The car has an impressive spec sheet – no doubt about that – but we would not want to be in a motor accident in this one.
Popular but not that safe
Maruti Swift comes with enough features for the segment it belongs to. It has got adjustable steering, LED projector headlights, DRLs, automatic transmission, automatic climate control, keyless entry, adjustable headrests, a good navigation system, 60:40 split seat in the rear and even a driver side footrest. But refrain from asking how many stars this one got at the NCAP crash test. We’ll tell you anyway – it’s a shocking 2! Don’t forget that there are around 2 million of these unsafe cars out on the road.
The family car they said
What about the two cars from the economy hatchback segment – Hyundai Santro and the WagonR? Both these cars offer something others in the segment don’t. For a car that costs only around 6 lakhs, Santro has rear ac vents and rear parking sensors. The ‘Diana Green’ Santro looks like a little sports car. Maruti WagonR on the other hand has got plenty of room and all the features we want for the price we are paying for this car. Not to mention it has a jaw-dropping boot capacity of more than 300 litres!
Affordable and cool they might be, safe they are not. Both these cars, like the Swift, flunked the NCAP crash test miserably with a sad two-star rating. The lower end trims of Santro and WagonR only gets a single driver-side airbag. Sold as family cars this is beyond frustrating. Maruti and Hyundai really should put down more money to improve build quality and make safer cars.
Which way should we go?
Like Kia Carnival and Toyota Innova Crysta, there are exceptions to this unwritten rule. Many cars like these pair safety points with creature comforts. However, the trade-off between safety and cool features is real and is something we see in a lot of cars.
At the end of the day, safe cars do come with a lot more pros than cons, compared to ones that are amped up creature comforts but flunks on crash tests. So, if the choice is between safety and comfort, we would pick safety. It is a hard choice to make. But it feels like the right one.