The 10 worst Indian cars of the last decade

The Indian market has matured so much that you’d be hard-pressed to find a truly bad car on sale today. Most 2020 cars are either good or acceptable. However, ever so often, a rotten apple does somehow get launched…defying taste, common sense, research & wisdom.

Note: This is NOT a subjective list. It’s also based on market performance and ALL of the listed cars have flopped in India. The Top 10 worst Indian cars of the last decade IMHO are as follows:

Mahindra Quanto

You can’t simply shorten a failed product (Xylo) and expect it to sell. Yes, the Quanto was spacious and had a practical engine, but boy was it ugly! It also had the ride quality of a pogo stick. Mahindra later applied some lipstick on it, but the NuvoSport bombed too.

DC Avanti

Dilip Chhabria wanted to build a super’ish car for India, although enthusiasts gave it an extremely insulting i-g-n-o-r-e. Yes, I’ll be the first to admit it was a fair effort by a tiny home-grown manufacturer and that its acceleration was decent for the price (acceleration mind you, not the top speed). But there was little else to lure any petrol-head toward it. The styling was weird (especially that ugly rear end), it was heavy at 1600 kilos, the build was inconsistent, the interior quality shoddy, there were no airbags and the sales / service support was zero. Of course, you then had “hand-built” car reliability & sloppy handling to live with. On the Lonavla ghats, a 10-lakh rupee Abarth Punto would leave this wannabe supercar for dead. Thanks DC, but for ~35 lakhs, gearheads will gladly pick up the world-class Octavia vRS instead.

Premier Rio

The losers at Premier Auto – who were partially responsible for ruining Peugeot & Fiat in India – thought they’ll jump onto the emerging crossover trend with a cheap Chinese import. Luckily for India, its shrewd customers saw behind the facade and realised it’s a rebadged Zotye Nomad from China (the cars even arrived with the Zotye badge). Worse still, Premier later did the usual “Padmini jugaad” and plonked the 1.3L MJD into it. The Rio was horribly built, had a depressing interior, was noisy and suffered awful highway manners. Then of course were the suspect promoters backing it!

Datsun Go / Go+

Datsun represents what is a completely disjointed thought process & strategy from none other than fugitive Carlos Ghosn himself! Enthusiastically entering the Indian market thinking that “cheap will sell”, Datsun launched the Go without even a glovebox lid. Cost-cutting is more obvious than at your local beedi shop, and there was a mobile docking port offered instead of a head-unit! The Go+ then showed the world how NOT to do a 3rd-row seat (although sister concern Renault did it right with the Triber).

Ashok Leyland Stile

A truck maker tried to enter the car segment with a shortcut and it ended pretty badly. Not only did the car fail, but it led to a messy divorce in the courts (related link). The Stile is a rebadged Nissan Evalia, albeit a poorer + decontented version of what was already a flop car. So stripped was the Stile that its supposed top-end LX version (costing over a million bucks, mind you) didn’t even get a rear defogger or remote locking! The hapless dealers were forced to think up schemes, giving away a Stile for free if you placed a big truck order. IMHO, Ashok Leyland should stick to making trucks & buses.

Isuzu MU-7

Isuzu launched the D-Max pickup truck which BHPians loved (review link) & at a fantastic price too. Overnight, it became the best pickup truck on sale in India. Sadly, Isuzu also brought in the outdated MU-7 SUV which was already being replaced by the newer MU-X internationally. The old MU-7 was overpriced for what it offered, had a 1980s interior and no brand value / dealer network to speak of. Not that its replacement – the MU-X – did any better. Isuzu didn’t learn from earlier mistakes and launched the 2013 MU-X in 2017 (instead of the latest version). The MU-X’s gearbox was terribly slow, the wavy ride quality can make you car-sick and it corners like a ship. Both SUVs deservedly sank like the Titanic.

Mahindra Verito Vibe

I can’t decide which one is the uglier hack job – the Quanto or this contraption? It’s one of those OEM products that deserves an entry in our weird & wacky mod jobs thread. Can’t decide if this weirdo was a joke from Mahindra or an unpardonable error? Any which way, it made the company a laughing stock. An outdated design, basic interior and such a poor chop-job that 50% of people think it’s an ugly hatchback, while the other 50% think it’s a sedan.

Force One

Force Motors wanted to cash in on the SUV craze, but didn’t have the resources to develop a proper one in-house. So, it simply did what me and you do on AliExpress = placed an order in China + shipped it in. Drive the Force One and you’ll know how unsorted it was. Not to forget, the unlucky few who did buy one had to contend with reliability issues, scarce part availability and clueless after-sales support. Not even Amitabh Bachchan could save this turkey (he was the brand ambassador). There was simply no reason to pick it up over say, the similarly priced XUV500.

Chevrolet Sail / U-VA

You’ll find this hard to believe, but the group that brought the MG Hector here is the same one behind the Sail twins. You could say they learnt their lesson! The Sail & U-VA were so boring that – apparently – the agency making a pitch told Chevy to rebrand the cars as vanilla 1 & vanilla 2. Don’t get me wrong, there was nothing fundamentally wrong with the cars, but the problem was that whoever saw one fell asleep instantly. If the dictionary ever needed a graphical representation of “boring”, they should use this picture. In a market that was getting snazzier designs from other car makers, no customer even noticed the Sail twins’ boring exterior + boring interior + boring drive. I’m yawning, just writing this paragraph.

Renault Koleos

The Koleos was one of the first products Renault launched in India…and among the worst. Launched at an obscene 23 lakhs in 2011, it was more expensive than the Fortuner & Endeavour! The BMW X1 wasn’t too far away either. The product itself had a dimwitted automatic gearbox, limited rear seat space, awkward styling and zero badge value. As a result, this dud is rarer than a Ferrari on Indian roads.

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