Review of Maruti Suzuki Grand Vitara in India

')">Maruti Suzuki India Limited have just launched the new Maruti Kizashi in India. To them the Kizashi would definitely mean a sign of new things to come. But then the price tag was a bit of dampener even though the premium car had lots of goodies going on for it. But then the reason for it been a CBU is because Maruti Suzuki India Limited have already burnt their fingers with the Maruti Suzuki Grand Vitara in India. This was Maruti’s first failure story in the premium segment with the second been the Maruti Baleno. I hope that the Maruti Kizashi doesn’t go the same way as the other two. All said and done, the Grand Vitara is the point of our discussion today. When I used to work with Maruti, we weren’t allowed to handle this SUV. The reason said was that it was a premium offering and required some convincing for customers to even take a look at it. As of today, I have got a Grand Vitara and I would be presenting the full review of this SUV nee crossover. No, its not the Maruti Suzuki Grand Vitara diesel which is yet to be launched. It is the usual petrol version which has remained more or less unchanged from 2009. Check on Road Price

Looks

Thankfully, like the Kizashi, this is also a direct import from Japan and hence the SUV that is available internationally also looks the same. The totally honey combe grille with that Suzuki logo on the front did somewhat intimidate me but then not as much as say what a Fortuner can do. The parallelogram shaped head lamps are powerful but then it doesn’t have any LED gimmicks to it. There is a halter to the grille of this SUV. The bumpers have been neatly integrated to the body of this SUV. The fog lamps are placed slightly above in the bumper than what traditional SUVs would do. The bonnet is not so steeply raked which other SUVs have in order to maximize the pedestrian safety equation.

As for the side profile, the car gets 17 inch alloy wheels as standard now with chunky 225/65 section tyres. Needless to say, they are radial as well as tubeless. The ORVMs don’t have the turn indicators in them but then they are also big. Like the Tata Sierra estate, there is a rear glass as well. The wheels pale in comparison to the size of the wheel arches. The rear, in the meanwhile shows off a sideways opening hatch with a full size spare wheel attached to it. The tail lamps are also big and more like an inverted cone of ice cream. The tail pipe present in the earlier version has now been dismissed for a small unit. Just like the fog lamps up in the front, the rear reflectors are also placed very close to the tail lamp cluster.

Interiors

Step into the interiors of the Maruti Suzuki Grand Vitara in India and I found out that quality is the same the Kizashi which I test drove recently. The steering wheel is the same one like the Swift but then it somehow felt a bit bigger. It has got the audio controls, Bluetooth and cruise control. The instrument cluster is more of three concentric dials with the first one from left been occupied with the fuel and temperature gauge, the second one been the speedometer and the third one been the tachometer. Then you get the upgraded version of the auto climate control system with 4 zones found in the Swift, a 6 CD changer system with aux and USB input, day/night rear view mirror and chilled glove box amongst the others, not to mention the numerous cup holders and cubby holes. As expected, all the power goodies are also present. The front seats are 6 way powered with memory functions. The driver’s seat is comfortable but then it getting into it takes some time but then the steering is adjustable for rake and but then misses out on the  reach part.

The front passenger’s seat is also comfortable but then it is slightly more so for 6 footers than the driver’s seat. The reason for this is that for the driver, the dash swoops down and makes for restricted passage. Quality of materials used inside is good but then from a Rs 16 lakhs SUV, I would demand a bit more. There were some inconsistent panel gaps but then those were not visible easily. Moving onto the rear, the rear seats are comfortable but then you have to climb into the cabin courtesy the 200 mm ground clearance. There is a separate AC vent for the rear passenger. Since it is a 5 seater, the third row is used for loading luggage. The boot space is just 398 liters but then tumble fold the rear seat back and the maximum luggage capacity increases to 798 liters which when the seats are completely folded becomes 1387 liters. Overall, you do feel that you are not sitting in a German vehicle but in some Japanese car, exception been of Toyota.

Handling and ride quality

The Maruti Suzuki Grand Vitara in India is available only in a 4 wheel drive variant now. It also gets a central differential lock and a low ratio. It is built on a built in ladder frame with a Monocoque construction. This classifies it as an SUV and one which is capable off-road as I found out. The suspension of this SUV is McPherson struts at the front and Multi Links at the rear. The suspension is a bit on the softer side and the springs have long travel. This endows it with very good off-road capability. With the new revised engine, there is no dearth of power as well. I took it across the same path wherein I had conducted the Volvo XC60 versus Audi Q5 comparison and it very efficiently crossed that path. Put it into low ratio via a button in the central console and all goes well. Where the Maruti Gypsy is a mountain goat, the Grand Vitara is a snow mountain leopard. Infact the Ford Endeavor 4×4’ s low ratio required some prodding, the Maruti unit just shifts seamlessly.

On the road however the 200 mm ground clearance and the cushy travel of the springs does result in lots of body roll while going around fast corners. The ride also feels slightly lumpy at low speeds and especially when the SUV is unladen. NVH is one thing which has been taken care off very well. Since it is a petrol engine, there isn’t much NVH lower down but then get upto respectable 3 digit speeds and the 4 cylinder engine emits a muted snarl. I have heard that the now decommisioned V6 engine in the same SUV had a wonderful engine note when on the song.

The steering wheel is hydraulically assisted now with a speed sensitive factor thrown in. But then it isn’t a BMW’s steering wheel. It lacks some directness and doesn’t muster enough confidence on the open way.

Engine, performance and fuel efficiency

The Maruti Suzuki Grand Vitara in India is now available only in one engine option. It is a 2.4 liter unit, actually the same one as in the Kizashi but with a different state of tune. It now makes 163.5 Bhp @ 6000 rpm and torque of 225 Nm @ 4000 rpm. It is mated with a 5 speed manual or a 4 speed auto unit. The engine features VVT and also VIS technologies. VVT ensures that the engine is rev happy and at the same time fuel efficient. VIS controls the throttle inputs. The new drive by wire accelerator technology is also rocking. Just prod the accelerator slightly and the SUV lungs forward with a sense of urgency. Engine response is also commendable, something which the 120 Ps 2.0 liter engine lacked. The manual Vitara raced from 0-100 kmph in only 12.2 seconds whereas the automatic one took 14.3 seconds for the same lap. The top speed attained was also a respectable 163 kmph for the manual and 159 kmph for the automatic variant. Gear shifts were good in both the manual and automatic. The gearing is slightly on the taller side to aid fuel efficiency. That saying, it doesn’t hamper the driveability in the city.

Brakes are the usual ventilated discs upfront and solid ones at the rear. They are assisted by Sure Stop Braking System (SSBS) which is a Suzuki trademark as it combines Brake Assist, EBD and also ABS. Dual SRS air bags in the front, brake pedal foot protection design, 3 point ELR seat belts with pretensioners, side impact door beams along with a collapsible steering wheel round off the safety package.

Fuel efficiency is something which we consider all the Maruti vehicles in India however those harping on the same quality would be disappointed with the Maruti Suzuki Grand Vitara in India. The manual returned economy figures of 8.1 kmpl in the city and 14.3 kmpl on the highway whereas the automatic returned 7.3 kmpl in the city and 13.7 kmpl on the highway. This combined with 66 liters fuel tank ensure that there is approximately 660 kilometers of cruising before the Grand Vitara needs a refill.

Maruti Suzuki Grand Vitara Photo Gallery

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Verdict

The Maruti Suzuki Grand Vitara in India is likely to get a revamp later on this year with a new diesel engine and maybe fresher looks. I wouldn’t complain about the current looks of the SUV but then in wake of the Fortuner, it doesn’t looks as intimidating. It has got decent interior space, somewhat long list of equipment, responsive engine and the Maruti service backup. The things going against it are the Maruti brand name and somewhat high price. Speaking of price, the Maruti Suzuki Grand Vitara price in India starts at Rs 16,94,382 for the manual version and goes all the way up to Rs 18,26,660 for the automatic version. All these prices are ex-show room, Mumbai. At this price point, its main competitors would be the Chevrolet Captiva, Ford Endeavor and the Honda CR-V, all capable in their own right. It is the diesel version that I am sure many in the country would be waiting for, if at all if they are interested in the Maruti Grand Vitara.

Technical specifications of Maruti Suzuki Grand Vitara

Engine details: 2.4L In-Line 4 cylinder engine with VVT, DOHC and MPFI
Maximum Power: 163.5 Bhp @ 6000 rpm
Maximum Torque: 225 Nm @ 4000 rpm
No. of Cylinders: 4
Valve Configuration: DOHC
Valves Per Cylinder: 4
Bore x Stroke: 92mm x 90mm
Fuel Supply System: Direct Injection
Compression Ratio: 10:0.2
Transmission details: 5-Speed manual or 4 speed automatic
Front Suspension: McPherson Strut
Rear Suspension: Multi Link
ShockAbsorbers Type: Gas Filled
Steering details: Hydraulic power assisted, tilt adjustable with rack & pinion
Turning Radius (wheel base): 5.5 mtrs
Front Brake Type: Ventilated Disc
Rear Brake Type: Solid Disc
Mileage-City (kmpl): 8.1 (manual) , 7.3 (automatic)
Mileage-Highway (kmpl): 14.3 (manual) ,  13.7 (automatic)
Fuel Type: Petrol
Fuel Tank Capacity (litres): 66
Emission Norm Compliance: Bharat Stage 4
Tyre Size: 225/70 R 17
Tyre Type: Tubeless Radial
Seating Capacity: 5
No of Doors: 5
Cargo Volume: 398 litres

It’s raining dealerships this New Year

German auto major BMW Motors has, in a recent show of trust in the Indian luxury market segment, announced that it will open a new sales and service centre at the cyber city of Hyderabad. This will be the 4S facility with a showroom attached with the service station. The facility is built on a sprawling 19,084 Sq.ft of land. The centre will feature service , sales, business systems and spare parts to make sure that the all the esteemed customers of BMW get a unique and best-in-class post and pre-sales service experience. The latest showroom in its ever growing list is located at the town of Khairatabad in the capital of Andhra Pradesh. The architecture of the facility is based on the Urban Street Display and RATC (Reception At The Car) concept. The architecture is a signature of all BMW layouts around the world.

With all the noises created by the Germans in the Indian auto sector, how could the land of the Samurai’s be potentially left behind? Yes, you guessed it right we are talking about the Japanese car maker and one amongst the largest manufacturers of car across the world, the formidable Nissan Motors. The Japanese auto maker Nissan Motors has in a recent announcement has revealed that it is opening 2 new exclusive- Nissan dealerships in Rajkot and Aurangabad. With the recent opening of dealership in Aurangabad as Shirin Nissan and IB Nissan in Rajkot, the Japanese car maker has solidified its presence in almost 52 percent of India. At present 13 states of India host Nissan car dealerships. In its quest to precipitate the brand diffusion of Nissan, the auto major has embarked on a rapid expansion in dealerships across the country. Both the new dealerships at Rajkot and Aurangabad will include a showroom, with additional space for servicing automobiles, in order to give a one-stop-shop for better and quick service.

Now Brose officially comes to India, inaugurates a plant at Pune

Brose, the renowned automotive supplier recently a opened its sole manufacturing unit in India. The plant is located in the periphery of the educational hub of Pune at Hinjewadi. The sprawling complex is built on 2,300 sq.m of land and is set-up to build regulators for Windows with an estimated capacity of 2 million units. The company plans to start manufacturing seat height adjusters positively by the month of September. The medium term manufacturing strategy of the company is to build up a capacity and capability to produce and supply the entire range of products in its global portfolio domestically.

Mr. Ashwani Aggarwal, President of Brose India was quoted as saying that the setting up of a development centre is bearing fruits for the company. The decision in 2006 to start up a development centre and the recent inauguration of the plant at Hinjewadi, has now made the company to establish its presence in the entire value chain in the city of Pune. This value chain includes component procurement, development, logistics and assembly.

The recently opened plant has a project at hand from a European client following which the facility will undertake an Indian assignment from one of the global OEM in Indian market. Mr. Aggrawal continued that the goal of the company is to serve both the Indian automobile market and the export business from the Pune facility. As a market leader across the globe, Brose has an inherent capability to offer international and national automobile manufacturers in the country not only cost-optimized, competitive products, but also a quality standard which is unparalleled and high-tech. The year 2012 has been earmarked by the supplier to expand its activities in the country and take it to a different level. This endeavor has led them to scout for land in and around the region in Pune. Plant Manager of the newly opened facility at Hinjewadi, Mr. Surinder Chauhan was quoted as saying that Brose plans to set-up a new facility which will encompass the aspects of administration, production, product testing and product development all-in-one complex. The increased room for manufacturing added Brose products and a strong base to put in to practice sundry mechanized processes will auxiliary the company to meet the requirements of the customers more efficiently and effectively.

The newly opened plant will sport Brose’s global architectural business design, with the concept of open working and separate areas for social gathering for the employees.

The civilization correlation, Egyptian unrest affecting Indian automobile Co

All hell seems to have broken loose on the streets of the ancient civilization of Egypt. With protestors against the regime taking to the streets for almost the entire week, the turmoil in the geo-politically sensitive country is sending shock waves across the world. One such shock wave was directed at the Indian automobile sector. According to MSI (Maruti Suzuki India ltd) three percent of its exports were dependent on Egypt, which due to the political upheaval has been thrown off-guard. The latest round of protest across the Arab world has got many pundits thinking overtime, with regards to the greatest exports from that part of the world. You got that correct we are talking about crude oil, the backbone of any economy. Almost all car makers in India have raised the cost of their products citing rise in commodities prices, chief amongst them is the phenomenal rise in the fuel prices, which saw an increase twice in a single month alone. This is sure to have an over-spill effect on all the finished products across the aisle. Coming back to India, Mr. Mayank Pareek Executive officer for Sales and Marketing at MSI was quoted as saying that the North African country of Egypt accounted for a total of 3 percent in the overseas export of the company. He was rightly worried for the future exports to the country, in view of the latest developments and reports, of breakdown of the law and order situation, culminating out of the country. The report in the media mentioned that Maruti Suzuki India ltd exported a total of 1, 47,000 units in the last fiscal. Egypt has been a great hunting ground for the company’s small car, the Maruti Alto. The scope of operation in Egypt was restricted to only one single dealership, with no direct operations involved whatsoever.

Well all that is meeting the eye is not true, as it may look obvious that the unrest in Egypt are pushing Maruti’s export  southwards, which may have a grain of truth in it but the main culprit is the declining demand in the European markets. Europe being a major export destination for Maruti, any decline in the demand from that quarter is sure to impact Maruti’s exports operations. The exports have seen a declining trend with a decrease in exports last year to the tune of 36 percent, which by any standards is crippling. Even the current fiscal has not brought in merry news for the company, with a report revealing that the exports for the period April-January has taken a rain check by at least 2.9 percent over the same period last year.

It’s not all about software anymore, cab service soon to be in the Indian export list

Following in the footsteps of auto ancillary companies and OEM players, now the car-rental companies are in an expansion mode. If the reports doing the rounds in the market place are to be believed, the market leader in rental-cab service provider segment, with almost 50 % of the market share, Meru Cabs is now mulling to expand its footprints overseas beginning next year.

Mr. Rajesh Puri, CEO of Meru Cabs was quoted as saying that the demand for Meru Cabs is on the higher side in the Indian market. Right now the company has accumulated not less than 50 percent of the total market share in the domestic arena. Henceforth, the company will now be actively looking to expand its horizons to overseas markets. Without naming the countries, he further went on to say that the company will be starting its radio cab services in at least 2 countries in the Asian continent by next year.

Meru has been mulling to invest a total sum of Rs 200 crores for purchasing and deploying a fleet of additional 2,500 cabs by the end of this year. To sustain this level of up gradation, Meru is expected to go on a recruitment drive for an equal numbers of drivers for its additional cars by the end of 2011. This is in lieu of the growing demand.

At present the fleet size that Meru Cabs operates numbers to 5,000 cars and the company is about to add another 2,500 cars by the end of this year in order to meet the supply side of the equation, Mr. Puri said.

Transparent, Easy and Fast auto loans by Bank of India

The latest scheme by Bank of India offers a loan for buying 2/4 wheeler automobiles. The upper ceiling of the loan amount is Rs 25 lakhs, which is purely dependent on the applicant’s income and cost of the automobile. The scheme is such that it has provision for easy repayment option with an attractive interest rate.

Purpose

  • To buy a new 2/4 wheeler or a pre-owned 2/4 wheeler( with the age ceiling of the vehicle not to surpass 3 years)
  • To buy a small car for personal use which do not call for heavy driving license such as Vans, Jeeps etc
  • To buy a small personal vehicle, which is powered by un-conventional means of energy such as battery or electrically operated small vehicles for use in the periphery of the urban cities for transport, with the qualification that it has been duly registered with the Regional Transport Office (RTO). If not then such vehicles may be subject to financing subject to certain curtailed  limits of loan and that too with a collateral security.

Eligibility

  • Self-employed, professionals,  salaried employees, high net worth individuals, people occupied with business/commerce/trade, senior citizens, Directors of companies, farmers, pensioners, staff members, retired employees of Bank of India (except Compulsorily retired or dismissed).
  • Hindu undivided families not permitted.
  • Partnership firms, companies, proprietary firms and various other kinds of corporate bodies.
  • Non-residing Indians – Loans will be offered jointly with the permanent resident Indians (read close relatives), provided that the age of both the parties individually has not surpassed the ceiling of 65 years at the time of availing the finances.

Types of Loans

  • Term loan/Demand loan (Demand loan is the only option for pre-owned vehicles).

Quantum of Advances

Upper ceiling for loans

  • Corporate and companies

Up to Rs 100 lakhs (eligible for a fleet of vehicles for commercial use)

  • Individuals (OR-ordinary resident)

Vehicles of Indian origin- up to Rs 25 lakhs
Vehicle of imported nature- up to Rs 75 lakhs

  • NRIs (Non-Residing Indians)

Up to Rs 25 lakhs

  • Vehicles running on non-conventional source of energy and which are not required as such to be registered with the regional transport office.

Up to Rs 4 lakhs

Agreement Charges

According to Fair code of practice.

Limits of advances

  • A maximum of 24 times of the gross monthly salary, in the case of pensioners/salaried employees or a maximum of 2 times the annual gross annual average income as ascertained by the I.T returns of the past three years.
  • Twice the amount of average annual cash accrued (i.e. Depreciation and Profit after tax) as per the company’s/firms audited balance sheet of the last 3 years and the P&L a/c.
  • The net income in hand should be 40 percent of the total income (proposed EMI).
  • With respect to farmers, the limit will depend upon his repayment capacity as is applicable in any conventional agricultural loan.

Handling/Processing Charges

  • For loans up to Rs 25,000 – a one time charge of  Rs 1,000
  • For loans above Rs 25,000 but not exceeding Rs 25 lakhs – a one time charge of 1.10 percent of the advanced amount, subject to a maximum limit of Rs 5,000 and a Minimum of Rs 1,500.
  • For loans that exceed Rs 25 lakhs – a one time charge of 0.25 percent of the total advanced amount, subject to an upper ceiling of Rs 15,000.
  • In addition to service tax as and when applicable.

The said handling/processing charges have been exempted to retired employees or pensioners of the bank, staff members and senior citizens.

  • For Rural Areas: Handling charges will be reduced to 50 percent that may be applicable to applicants in lieu of their loans availed by borrowers from the rural parts of the country from their respective rural branches.
  • For corporate/partnership firms: The processing/handling charges would be twice those applicable to individuals.
  • Additional charges in case of deviation from the standard norms: A one time charge of 25 percent of the liable processing charge, subject to a lower limit of Rs 500 and upper ceiling of Rs 3,000.

Margins

For individual including Non-Residing Indians (New Vehicle)

  • Above Rs 25 lakhs – a minimum 25 percent
  • Above Rs 10 lakh but less than Rs 25 lakhs – 15 percent
  • Above Rs 2 lakhs but less than Rs 10 lakhs – 10 percent
  • Up to Rs 2 lakhs – 5 percent
  • In case of pre-owned vehicles – A minimum of 30 percent
  • For firms/corporate entities – a minimum of 25 percent

Modes of Repayment

For new Vehicles

  • Individuals: Vehicles of Indian origin – 72 months

Vehicles of imported nature – 84 months

  • Firms/ corporate: a upper ceiling of 60 months

For Pre-Owned Vehicles

  • All categories – a maximum limit of 36 months

Collateral/Security

  • The hypothecation of the vehicle must be purchased out of the bank advances.
  • Charges needs to be registered with the Regional Transport Office (RTO).

Under the following circumstances a third party guarantee will be required:

  • For loans to any individuals for the ceiling not restricted to Rs 25 lakhs or with vehicles which are not required to be registered with the Regional Transport Office.
  • Guarantee of an ordinary Resident (OR) is required to give loan to any Non-Residing Indian.

Fuel economy enhancing tips

I am sure that with a country obsessed with mileage, people would be hell bent on extracting the last meter out of the last drop of fuel. But then they do forget that fuel economy depends on a variety of factors like the engine configuration, power of the car or bike, the way it is driven/ridden, maintenance, air pressure and many more. Been driving and riding since the last 8 years, I have actually come across many scenarios wherein I have had to push my bike to the fuel pump or even ask friends or fellow road users to get my car to the roadside. Nothing can be more disturbing than this and especially when you have a femme fatale besides you. But then I have learnt some important lessons from those experiences. As a responsible automotive writer, I have conjoured up the list of things to watch out for and in the process save a few liters of fuel.

Hot things expand and colder things contract is something which we all have been taught in schools or colleges. The same principle applies to a vehicle’s tyres. I am sure that most of the readers rarely take a look at the tyre unless the tyre is punctured. It would be best to fill up air or nowadays nitrogen when your car or bike’s tyres are hot. This would ensure that they aren’t under inflated or over inflated, both which are detrimental to tyre life. Under inflation would give you better handling whereas over inflation gives better mileage. Running the correct recommended pressure ensures that the vehicle is running at optimum level supporting both and also the tyre life is enhanced.

Another scientific term but then it is necessary to explain the reason for filling up fuel early in the morning. It is called as Specific Gravity. If its high, it means that you get slightly more quantity of fuel at the same price. In the morning, fuel has slightly higher specific gravity than what it would have in the afternoon or evening. At the same time, when you fill in the required fuel, ensure that you maintain atleast half the capacity of fuel that can be filled in the tank. This is to ensure that the fuel tank doesn’t rust (in case of bikes) and also an appropriate pressure is maintained. Also if there is always less fuel in your vehicle, it would lead to the fuel lines or the injector to be clogged with slow flowing fuel. Actually slow flowing fuel produces a gum like substance which clogs up the carburettors or injectors leading to a higher fuel consumption.

If the manufacturer recommends use of higher octane fuel, then do use it. Premium fuels have some additives added to them to make sure that the engine can always maintain the required high compression ratio. Some manufacturers however dissuade you from putting in premium fuel like Toyota used to do with the early Corollas. But then if the manufacturer doesn’t recommend, it is advisable not to use premium fuel. Also fill from a reputed fuel pump. If you live in a city and are going to a long trip to a village side area where you aren’t sure of the fuel quality, then it is better to tank up before going there.

Cleaning of your vehicle weekly is recommended since all those dirt and grime adds to extra weight which the vehicle has to overcome if it has to gain motion. Do remember to get the vehicle serviced periodically or as recommended by the manufacturer. This would ensure that the vehicle is running in its prime. Get all the fluids topped up in the vehicle to ensure maximum lubrication and less friction thus increasing the fuel economy.

Always ride at a smooth clip. Never try to overtake unless you are sure there is no more traffic which is going to come your way. Always try to shift to a higher gear only when you are sure that it can remain so for a fair amount of time. It has been widely seen that the moment you start from the first gear, people start changing to higher gear without looking at the situation ahead. Even if you drive your car or ride your bike in 1st gear in heavy traffic you aren’t wasting as much fuel as say someone who is constantly fluctuating from 1st to 2nd and vice-versa. This has other detrimental effects (for the 1st to 2nd types) with the clutch tending to pack up sooner than expected. Moreover it also puts pressure on the braking system and wears out the pads prematurely.

Turn off the ignition if the traffic light is going to stay put for more than 30 seconds. Before this interval if you turn off your car or bike, then you would be burning more fuel than saving. Moreover, avoid riding the clutch under all circumstances except for when the situation demands it. For cars, try sticking to the 60-80 kmph speed limit and with all the windows closed. Open windows take in more air thus inducing more of a drag coefficient than closed ones. With a closed window and the AC on, you would be achieving the same mileage as an open window car at the same speed. So you decide which one is better? It is also recommended that you avoid sudden braking or acceleration. While at top speeds, it is advisable to ease the pressure off the accelerator in case of cars and the throttle in case of bikes. The car or bike would be able to maintain momentum for some time and during all this time, it would be in cruise mode. This means less fuel is been consumed than when you constantly have your hand or leg on the accelerator. Also use both the clutch as well as brakes to stop the vehicle.

Volkswagen riding high on the back of Vento and Polo

The German car maker and Europe’s largest player in the automobile market, Volkswagen, which has not in a distant past ventured in to the domestic Indian market with its flagship models  has witnessed an impressive growth with the persisting demand for its vehicles. The small hatch back cars produced by Volkswagen namely Polo and a sedan variant of the same, the Vento, have reportedly done well for the better fortunes of the company. The company is among the few car makers which are struggling with the constraints on the supply side of the equation.

The latest reports emerging from the German car maker is that it has sold a total of 5,601 units in the month of January 2011 alone. This surge in the sales figures is attributed to the buoyancy in the demand witnessed due to the sedan Vento and small car Polo.

Director and Member of Board, Volkswagen India, Mr. Neeraj Garg was quoted as saying  that the company is looking forward to consolidating its growing position for both the models that are bringing in volumes and at the same time concentrating on the premium segment of the market.

The company currently offers Volkswagen Passat and Jetta, both are assembled at its plant at Aurangabad. Also offered are the Phaeton, the SUV Touareg and the new Beetle.

Volkswagen Passat in India test drive

Seems like it is raining Germans for the Indiandrives team. Off late, I had reviewed the Volkswagen Jetta in India and next comes the Volkswagen Passat. But then the difference apart from the size and price difference between both is that I would only be able to give you a test drive report of the Volkswagen Passat in India. The reason been that the car was assigned long term duties to some magazine and it was to reach its destined place. But then some requests later, we got the car for an hour to be able to conduct the test drive. Wasting no time, I got down to getting the test drive details in place. I was given the company’s newly launched petrol model, the 1.8 TSI. I did remember mentioning in the Jetta article that the PD motors of yore would be relegated to oblivion now once the Tdi comes into its own. How right was I in this context? But then Volkswagen had to discontinue the Tdi motor as well since it doesn’t conform to the emission norms.

The looks of the Passat are more like the Volkswagen Jetta albeit in a bigger form. The head lamps structure has been slightly reworked to accommodate the frame of the grille and it somehow reflects sister concern Audi’s design language. The VW logo on the front signifies the German roots of this C class competitor. The Volkswagen Passat in India is also the older model and a new one has been recently released all over the world. Well, it may be coming to Indian shores this year along with the Volkswagen Jetta 2011. The head lamps by the way are Bi-Xenons and do a good job of making driving at night easy. Now, you would ask me as to how I came to find out about its night jaunts capability. Well, one of my cousin owns this car but then his car was away for service and since I was going on a Volkswagen hunting spree, I had to get this article competed today. Now, does that make sense? There are side skirts to the car to give it a sporty look. Those 215/55 R16 are a different design from the Volkswagen Jetta and the big ORVMs are also aerodynamically enhanced. The circular LED split tail lamps also do their job well in giving the car a design element of its own. The best part is the VW logo which can be used to open the boot lid. It somehow feels a bit classy than others in its category. The twin tail pipes don’t seem that classy to look at but they serve their purpose well.

Now the boring part of any Volkswagen car, the interiors. Don’t get me wrong. The reason I said this is because they are so immaculate. The Passat’s interiors are no different. Infact it is near to the Superb in terms of the interior build quality. Not a single thing is out of place. Notice the meter dials and you would realize that they look like the ones on the CBZ Xtreme (pardon me for writing this, but then I couldn’t think of any other thing). This makes the dials seem too plasticky. But then turn on the light, an everything becomes fancy. The three spoke steering wheel is different than the Jetta but it is closer to the Polo. It has got chunky audio, Bluetooth and cruise controls on it. At first look, the central console materials also feel like they would those shiny plastics but then try prodding them and you would realize the high quality that they are made up of. The six-CD changer touch screen music system which is the same RCD510 unit which the Volkswagen company employs in almost all of its vehicles. The sound quality was crisp though and no issues on this front. Also on the meter dials front, there is a multi information display on the front which actually tells you visually to depress the clutch to start the car. Rear seat space makes this strictly a 4 seater with the transmission tunnel taking a big part of the middle passenger’s place. Leg room is just about average and seriously lacks behind its cousin, the Skoda Superb.The 560 liter boot space is also cavernous.

Driving the Volkswagen Passat in India now made me realize the unusually high 42Psi of tyre pressure that Volkswagen used to recommend earlier. It is now down to a respectable 38Psi. This piece of information was garnered from my friend who had to go through this problem. This made the ride quality very stiff. The suspension is tuned to be more on the softer side. This makes this car a better chauffeured one but then the lack of rear seat space doesn’t favor this. The steering wheel is light and good to hold at, drive in city speeds. But then on the highway, it becomes disconnected. The ride quality remains unfazed over broken surfaces also. NVH is of a high order as even with the car crashing into potholes, there wasn’t any noise inside the cabin. Nor did anything come loose in this car even after the 50,000 kms it had on the odo.

Earlier the Volkswagen Passat in India came with two engine options. One was the old 2.0 liter Tdi which produced 138bhp and 253 Nm of torque. It also had the DSG gearbox. But then due to emission strangulations, the engine had to be phased out. The petrol motor is an all familiar 1.8 liter TSI motor which produces 160 bhp of peak power @ 6,200 rpm whereas the torque produced is 250Nm between 1500 to 4500rpm. It is mated with a 6 speed manual transmission. The transmission as with all Volkswagen units is a breeze to use and operate. This car speeds from 0-100 kmph in only 9.3 seconds and runs out of breath at 210 kmph. As experienced in the Superb, there is little of torque available lower down the rev ranges. Trundling through traffic was something which should best be left for the chauffer since I personally felt that the car’s size works against it.

Brakes as expected were phenomenal with discs at the front and rear with ESP, traction control, EBD and ABD working in tandem to slow down the car from high speeds. The brake pedal feel was also good and seemed natural. Speaking of the brake pedal, I had noticed that the clutch pedal was also progressive. Safety is Volvo rivaling with 8 air bags in all the nooks and crannies that one can find. Then there is the collapsible steering column, 3 point seat belts with pretensioners and the likes.

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Fuel economy for a TSI motor as expected was good with 10.3 kmpl in the city and 15.6 kmpl on the highway. Drive it more enthusiastically and the figures are bound to see a southward spiral.

I personally liked the Volkswagen Passat in India for its looks, neutral handling, good ride quality, interiors and VW badge. What I didn’t like was the rear seat space, more gizmos should have been provided for and the price point. Since there is only one variant available as of now, the Volkswagen Passat price in India is Rs 19.77 Lakhs (ex-show room, Mumbai). Its competitors would be the Skoda Superb, Honda Accord, Hyundai Sonata Embera Transform, Toyota Camry and the Nissan Teana. There is a desirable and stylish Volkswagen Passat CC to take on the likes of Mercedes CLS.

Buyers guide for Nissan


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Nissan Motors is one of the leading manufacturers of cars in the world. In 2005, Nissan entered in two-prong partnership with French automaker Renault SA. The latter owns 43 percent of Nissan’s shares while the former holds 15 percent of Renault’s shares. A combined market share of the Asian trio of Nissan, Toyota and Honda in American automobiles market is the largest among the Asian firms which have slowly but gradually encroached upon the traditional backyard of the famed Detroit-3 namely Chrysler, Ford and GM. The VQ engines by Nissan of the V6 configuration has been among the Ward’s top 10 best engines for consecutive 14 years.

Nissan Micra

With the small car market heating up with almost monthly launches of new products, it would not be far-fetched to say that India has become one of the most important markets for global auto majors. Hence this development makes it imperative on the part of the auto manufacturer to make an offering in this particular segment, and therefore it was unavoidable that Micra would sail to our shores. The car has been rechristened as Micra from its global name, March. The third “P” of marketing has been taken well care off with the Micra with astute packaging. Its look is idiosyncratic in a good way and makes the car stand out. The car is spacious, and under the hood the car sports a parsimonious and sprightly engine. Talking of the ride quality of Micra would a bit on a too soft-side. The car is built keeping in mind the new age nucleus family and believe me if this was the original intent of the car makers, then it would not be exaggeration to say that the car is worth its salt. To enhance the savings part, which is inherent with small cars, the Micra now comes with a diesel option. The engine which does duty on the Logan is employed in the diesel version, need I say more. With the Japanese car makers upping the ante in the Indian market, the timing of the Micra couldn’t have been more ideal.

Engine Options:
1198cc, I-3/ 1461cc, I-4

Power train:
5-speed manual/5-speed manual

Power:
75bhp @6000 rpm/ 63bhp @4000 rpm

Torque:
10.4kgm@4000rpm/16.3kgm@2000rpm

Thumbs Up:
loaded, drivability, cheerful exteriors, space

Thumbs Down:
interior plastic quality, handling a bit unsorted

Head on Competitors:
Figo, Polo, Swift, Hyundai I20

The Catch:
Rs 4.04 to 6.14 Lakhs

Nissan Teana

The Teana from Nissan was once only a look-out for luxury hotels and fleet services. But Nissan would not let its premium sedan go down the Logan way and be stereotyped as a commercial car. This seriousness with its product has resulted into quite a few individually owned Teanas these days on the roads. No wonder it’s a big car with an undeniable presence on the roads, albeit the styling is more like a love-it or hate-it types. It does not sport a universal awe-inspiring design. The car has very plush interiors with the frontal seats recreating a airline business class experience. In addition to it the drive quality can only be described as excellent. The material quality of the car puts it into the league of German luxury car makers like Mercedes-Benz and the Audi. The Ward’s best 10 engine awards winner V6 engine is highly refined. So if you are looking for some thing left-of-field, the Teana deserves your attention.

Engine Options:
2496cc, v6

Power train:
6-speed automatic

Power:
180bhp@6000 rpm

Torque:
23.2kgm@4000rpm

Thumbs Up:
features, comfort, over all feel good factor

Thumbs Down:
after-sales service, high price

Head on Competitors:
Toyota Camry, base Audi-A4

The Catch:
Rs 21.7 to 26.2 Lakhs

Nissan X-Trail

The latest X-Trail has its roots stemmed in the Qashqai soft-roader, not sold in Indian markets. In its refreshed edition, the car sports a larger grille and headlamps, with the visual aesthetics of the tail-lamps drummed down. In the inside of the car the instruments move about from centre console to behind the navigation wheel. Also to suit Indian conditions the engine is downgraded to a 2-liter unit, but with a power generation capability of 150bhp. In spite of all this drumming down in its features, the X-Trail continuous to be an above-par all-round performing vehicle. The Nissan X-Trail has a capacity to seat 5 people in absolute comfort. The handling is reminiscent to a sporty sedan and the ride quality is one of the best in its class. The capabilities of the new X-Trail are such that it can be treated to a few kilometers of rough patch or a bit of off-roading. The car is available in both the auto as well as manual gearbox. Regardless of whichever transmission you choose I bet the X-Trail is one of the best you can get in the same price range.



Engine Options:

1995cc,I-4 TD

Power train:
6-speed automatic/6-speed manual

Power:
148.5bhp@4000 rpm

Torque:
32.4kgm@2000rpm

Thumbs Up:
diesel performance, all-round ability

Thumbs Down:
looks do not corroborate well with the price tag

Head on Competitors:
Freelander 2, Honda CR-V as a petrol option

The Catch:
Rs 21.95 to 26.25 Lakhs

Nissan 370Z

For all those sports car lovers who want a sports car with Japanese reliability coupled with German-level performance, Nissan 370Z has what it takes. The car looks fabulous in red color. The car like all sports cars is great looking and will is guaranteed to be an envy of every car owner. It is so towering in its personality that it makes the SLK look meek in comparison. The car sports a winner in the form of a 3.7 liter award winning V6 engine, which has a capability to pump out 332bhp. The car has both the manual as well as the automatic transmission option, the latter comes with a Synchrorev, which by itself jinxes the throttle just before up shifting, almost similar to double de-clutching in the days of yore. It has a sublime handling and surprisingly the ride quality is also not bad. In a lighter vein, the car looks fast when it is standing still. What more can you demand from a sports car?

Engine Options:
3696cc,V6 petrol

Power train:
7-speed automatic/6-speed manual

Power:
332bhp@7000 rpm

Torque:
37.3kgm@5200rpm

Thumbs Up:
fantastic performance, surprisingly efficient, neat handler

Thumbs Down:
ground clearance, not a Cayman

Head on Competitors:
BMW Z4, Audi TT,M-B SLK, Evo-X

The Catch:
Rs 55.03 to 55.06 Lakhs