Well, only last night I was mulling over as to which car to review next. It has to be one of the least known cars in India. That was when the San Storm in India crossed my mind. Oh yeah. I have never checked it out. Maybe, this was the right time to do it. But then the biggest problem was finding a San Storm. However a few calls to my automotive journalist friends brought me to a San Storm in Mumbai. Well, the San Storm has quite a long history. The main factory or headquarters of San is in Goa. It was one of those companies which were left behind when Goa was liberated. The company never stopped manufacturing the cars from their small shed. Yes, you read it right, it’s a shed. Also, even now, it is a shed. Anyways, the company claims to have sold about 187 cars till now in India. Didn’t know that there was such a big market for convertibles in India. It is actually India’s first home bred convertible. Since the San Storm owner was quite pleased to have his car featured on Indiandrives, he immediately agreed for a complete review instead of the usual test drive that I was able to wrench out in the last few days. So here is a red San Storm in India review and not test drive account.
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First of all, I had an old version car with me. It is a 2006 model and hence has the architecture from that time. I am being informed that San Motors have brought out a face lifted model with clear lens head lamps, new alloy design and also a rear spoiler for company.Now this is a convertible or cabriolet as some may call it. Personally I feel that inspite of its age, the San Storm in India is a classic. The dumped back head lamps in the bumper with that bulbous hood do cut a good figure. Besides the head lamps are a set of parking lamps. The turn indicators are also housed inside the main head lamps cluster. The air dam is absent by its presence and the radiator grille tries to mimic the early Mercedes Benz SLK. The oval fog lamps cut a sorry picture as if they are well past their prime and still are forced to be in duty. The 155/70 R13 tyres are beefy as also the alloy design looks good. Towards the rear quarters, the car features a jacked up look. It is more like the front end stoops in comparison with the rear one. The rear with that spoiler also looks decent. The tail lamps seriously reminded me of the UFOs and had that separate enclosure for the rear lights as also reversing lamps. The bumper features twin white faced fog lamp reflectors. The crooked to a side tail pipe also fits the bill well. I liked the San Storm’s design. It is simple and yet very effective.
Forget the looks as those would be for others to admire. It is the interiors where one would be spending the maximum time. This is where the build quality or the lack of it comes to fore. For a 6ft 4 inches person, the front seat had lots of travel but it was only in the top down position that I could actually manage to fit myself in. Put on the canvas hood and any person taller than 6 foot would be in a misery. The quality of the interiors isn’t much better than the first generation Maruti 800. Not that there are wires hanging around loosely but still the panel gaps are totally inconsistent and don’t give that good feeling if you are with your girlfriend in this car. The drilled aluminium pedals point to the sporty intent that this small car carries around with ease. The steering wheel that you can see in the pictures is actually not a standard fitment and it is the after market mod that the car owner has made. Everything in this car has been borrowed from some other car from yester years. The meter dials as also the gear knob looked very much from a Palio, the wiper and light combo from the Maruti Esteem, power window switches from the Ford Ikon and the AC front panel from the Fiat Uno.
There is a music system provided as well as red inserts all around to show the car’s sporty intent. There is a central arm rest provided for but no door map pockets. There is a lockable front glove box and below it lies a shallow opening for keeping in the loose change and tickets. The brake pedal was slightly inclined towards the accelerator one. I guess it was more for the aesthetic sense of the car. After putting the top up, I turned on the AC. Yes, it works wonderfully by cooling the small cabin in no time. The opening and closing of the roof mechanism is a tug and pull type one and not like modern convertibles where one can bring it on and off with just the push of a button. Rear seat? Where is it. If you pull the canvas roof down, you can take your girlfriend’s brother as well in this car. But he will have to make do with sitting on the top of the boot with his legs resting against the rear seat. A baby would be able to sprawl in the rear bench but not sit as its legs would get caught in between.Boot space is absent and all the groceries would have to be kept in the rear seat, of-course with the top up.
Handling and ride quality
The suspension of the San Storm in India is composed of Independent double wishbones with coil over shock-absorbers and anti-roll bar at the front whereas a trailing link with coil over shock-absorbers and anti-roll bars specify the rear. This setup is biased slightly towards handling rather than ride quality. San Motors say that most of the people buying this car usually have one or two other cars and this one is purely kept for the weekend outing. So as such not many of the customers give priority to the ride quality. Handle it did. Again, its no BMW but seems to be a cost effective option to it. The BMW Z4 costs nearly Rs 60 lakhs more than this car. I enjoyed the handling of this car. Without any modern electronic aids, it could take the corners with perfect ease and never once did I feel that I would be in the laps of the co-passenger. The NVH from the engine part was well damped but open top motoring meant that I was subjected to fumes from the bus drivers and also dust and soot in my hair. Good that I have spikes now and not the usual hippie look. Ride quality was not bone jarringly bad. Only over speed breakers, one has to go a bit slow since the ride height of this car is pretty much low. To be exact, it is only 135mm. The steering wheel, which is hydraulically power assisted is also a direct unit.
Engine, performance and fuel efficiency
When the French left the Indian shores, they gave the full rights of manufacturing this car to the Indian subsidiary. They even left behind the Renault sourced 1.2 liter engine. This 1.2L Renault D7F engine is a SOHC unit and makes 59 PS @ 5250 rpm whereas the maximum torque of 88 Nm is achieved at 4000 rpm. It is mated to a 5 speed manual transmission. This 4 cylinder engine cannot be called the epitome of refinement but then it is better than current Renault/Nissan’s 3 cylinder engines. At idle, the engine is butter smooth. This smoothness disappears once the car nears its red line mark. The engine then sounds coarse. At the start, the engine felt a bit sluggish. This can be attributed to the car not been serviced for a long time. The 0-100 kmph dash from this car was achieved in a quick 14.38 seconds. The top speed with the engine screaming blue murder at me was a cool 141 kmph. The gear box though a bit notchy was right upto the task and after a few runs was easy work for me. Brakes were a bit squeaky and I expect this due to the lack of service and some servoing for them would work wonders. Nevertheless, the car did stop albeit with all the squealing behind it. No ABS or EBD. Just discs at the front and drums in the rear. Safety is taken care by the two 3 point seat belts and pretty much that’s it.
Fuel efficiency for a convertible is on the higher side. For the entire day’s run, the San Storm in India returned 13.7 kmpl in the city and 17.4 kmpl on the highway.
With the San Storm returned to its owner with promises of publishing the car’s photos and with profuse thanks for giving the car, I am left alone to ponder how good or bad the car was. I wouldn’t think twice before buying this car. Points which won me over are the looks of the car, its scope for modifications, the peppy 1.2 liter Renault engine which is very easy to service from any Tom, Dick and Harry garage and last but not the least, exclusivity factor. Points against it are a few, in my opinion. Those are the lack of service centers, show rooms, quality of interior materials, build quality and lack of safety features. The San Storm is available only on order now and in one fully loaded variant. The San Storm price in India starts at Rs 6.33 lakhs, on-road in Mumbai. I will add that to the list of minuses as well. Rs 6 lakhs for a top down vehicle with zero adherence to quality is a strict no-no. By the way, all these cars are hand made from the shed in Goa. So, if you are against the use of machines, I would recommend the San Storm to anyone interested.