The D-segment offerings have become the go-to vehicles for those looking to buy a luxurious diesel car that happens to have the convenience of an automatic gearbox. This explains why cars like the Skoda Octavia and the Hyundai Elantra are seen in such great numbers on the road. Lately though, manufacturers have been toying with the idea of putting the highly desirable diesel-automatic combo in crossovers and compact SUVs. Mahindra, for one, has just added an automatic gearbox option for the XUV 500.
With ex-showroom prices ranging between Rs 15.53 lakh and Rs 17.36 lakh, the XUV 500 automatic sits as a bit of a lone ranger among the current crop of D-segment diesel automatic sedans i.e. Chevrolet Cruze, Hyundai Elantra, Skoda Octavia and Volkswagen Jetta. Naturally, a spec comparison is due to see how these automatics stack up as a user-friendly and luxurious form of going about places.
Starting with the newest entrant of the lot, the Mahindra XUV 500 automatic uses a new 6-speed automatic gearbox that works in conjunction with familiar 2.2-litre, four-cylinder diesel engine. As is usually the case, the addition of an automatic has reduced the efficiency of this 140bhp engine by around 13 per cent. In fact, the front-wheel drive model of the XUV 500 automatic is rated at 13.85kmpl.
The 6-speed automatic is made in Japan by a company called Aisin AW. This unit will eventually feature in a range of forthcoming Mahindra and SsangYong SUVs. It features a manual mode with controls on the gear stick to upshift and downshift as needed although there is a system override wherein the car automatically upshifts or downshifts, in case the gear change is not done manually on time.
The Elantra uses Hyundai’s H-matic automatic gearbox. Now, this 6-speed torque converter isn’t the most advanced gearbox out there, however, it still does a pretty good job of changing cogs for you. Gearshifts are very smooth if not lightning quick and with the refined 1.6-litre, four cylinder diesel engine keeping things quiet (for a diesel vehicle) the Elantra does a good job of cruising within the city limits as well as on the highways.
Despite being offered in the top-spec LTZ trim, the Cruze automatic is still the most affordable sedan out here. Better still, it’s also the most powerful car here with 164bhp and 360Nm from its 2-litre diesel engine. This punchy motor is paired with a 6-speed automatic that’s inclined more towards fuel efficiency than outright performance. As a result, it isn’t the quickest to respond to throttle inputs and neither is it the fastest when it comes to gearshifts. Overall, the Cruze automatic behaves its best in the city where the gearbox upshifts early and allows the engine’s mighty torque to propel the car.
Like the Cruze, the Volkswagen Jetta automatic is only offered in the top-spec Highline trim and at Rs 20.18 lakh ex-showroom, the latter is the most expensive option here. Under the hood sits a 2-litre, four-cylinder engine that develops 140bhp of power and 320Nm of torque. The highlight of the drivetrain, undoubtedly, is the 6-speed DSG gearbox which makes the otherwise dull looking Jetta quite fun to drive. Gearshifts are immediate and overall, the dual-clutch gearbox not only makes full use of all the 140 horses on tap, but also allows for some impressive fuel efficiency under light throttle.
Lastly, there’s the Skoda Octavia automatic which pretty much shares its drivetrain with the Volkswagen Jetta. This means you get the same 2-litre, four-cylinder engine with the 6-speed DSG gearbox. While Volkswagen introduced the option of paddle shifters with the Jetta facelift, Skoda recently introduced this sporty feature with the launch of the Style Plus trim for the Octavia.
Safety is one aspect where all of these cars score high, especially when it comes to offering more than essential features.
The XUV500, for starters, features front, side and curtain airbags on all automatic trims. Additionally, it offers ABS with ESP, rollover mitigation system and disc brakes at all corners. Meanwhile, the Elantra also gets six airbags, ABS and ESP as standard although what’s new here is the vehicle stability management that improves directional stability by controlling motor driven power-steering and brakes on each wheel. In case of braking on a non-homogeneous surface, it works automatically to stabilise the vehicle.
The Chevrolet Cruze is a relatively old product among this group – a fact that is apparent when you look at the safety spec sheet. Apart from auto door unlock system in case of an accident and a child seat mounting provision, the Cruze automatic only gets ABS, front and side airbags as standard.
On paper, the Jetta automatic is the most generously equipped when it comes to safety features. Besides ABS, electronic stability control and front, side and curtain airbags, the Jetta automatic also gets anti-slip regulator, electronic differential lock and a system that detects driver fatigue. The Octavia, on the other hand, is equally loaded with the same number of airbags and similar electronic assists. Skoda, however, is also offering the Octavia automatic in lower-spec Ambition form (for Rs 18.5 lakh) unlike the Jetta which can only be had in the top-spec Highline trim for Rs 20.20 lakh.
Of the five cars here, only the XUV 500 and the Octavia can be had in different trims but as for the rest, manufacturers have capped the diesel-automatic drivetrain for top-spec trims only. This ultimately lessens the appeal of cars like the Jetta, Elantra and the Cruze, particularly in the minds of cost-conscious buyers. Nevertheless, the XUV 500 automatic makes for a good alternative to D-segment sedans, especially for those looking for a user-friendly crossover with the high driving position of a typical SUV.