Nissan Micra XV test drive


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The baby supermini hatch from Nissan Motors India has been finally launched. It is known by various names across the world like March etc however in India it is christened the Nissan Micra. The earlier production version of the Nissan Micra elsewhere looked much like the Maruti 800 however for 2010, the shape has been given a more rounded profile. Nissan India realizes that Indian market has the potential to be exploited with its given set of opportunities and the first one would be the small car segment. So commercially speaking, Nissan India are right. The Nissan Micra has come at a right time when small cars are just flying off the shelf. Nissan’s global alliance with Renault has ensured that Nissan India has access to Renault’s Chennai facility for making the Nissan Micra. Nissan India’s other launches like the Nissan Teana and the Nissan X-trail are CBUs and hence they aren’t expected to be volume generators. The Nissan Micra fits into the slot perfectly.

Looks

There are 4 variants of the Nissan Micra in India. Those are the base XE, XE+, XL and XV. I as always got to test the top end Nissan Micra XV. Be it in any variant, the look of the car doesn’t change much from the outside. The Micra is as cute as any car can get. Infact, it is one of the cutest cars in India after the Fiat 500 and the much desirable Volkswagen Beetle. The car has a grille resembling that of a half eaten apple whereas the tear drop head lamps acctenuate the cute looks. The much revered striking Nissan logo is placed atop the sloping bonnet. The bonnet is a small unit and one which  guarantees to give one a good view from the steering wheel. It is a deliberate ploy to get all those first time drivers as well as women attracted to the Nissan show rooms.

Moving onto the side profile shows that the Nissan Micra, like the others in its class, looks undertired. Those 14 inchers make the car look smaller than it is. My test Nissan Micra XV had those good looking alloy wheels however the base versions are not so fortunate, making do with steel wheels and in some cases wheel covers. The Nissan Micra XV in India gets body colored door handles and speaking of door handles, you would miss the key slot. Yes, the Nissan Micra XV gets the keyless entry, a first in its segment.The car sits on 4 wheel placed at the 4 corners of the chassis. This gives it a planted feel and something which I would elaborate when I come to the ride and handling section.

The rear profile highlights a quadrilateral shaped glass area. There is also another segment first, a rear windscreen wiper. The boot lid has the hatch opener{not a keyless one though}.

Interiors

That the Nissan Micra XV looks good when viewed from outside is alright however therein lies the fact that you would be spending most of your time inside a car rather than admire it from outside. The rounded design elements are carried forward to the interiors as well where everything is round, save for the rear seats. Even the front seats are rounded. The AC vents are of the round type, the dashboard etc. You name it and it would round. Hell, there is no key fob as well as the Nissan Micra XV in India makes do with a button start and you guessed it right, it is a round one. The plastic pieces are of the soft types and you get inside door handles coated with chrome. The central console is clutter less.

The standard audio system sounds good with its 4 speakers. The seats are made neither of hard nor soft materials. They just seem to hit the right spot. They are made of some polyvinyl material. Been a Chemistry student myself, I could never understand how that makes a seat such good however the fact remains that it is one of the best in the business. There are lots of storage spaces and there is also a double glove box on the curved dash. The dash board is also a highly thought of feature since it has anti-glare properties. Every control and every button falls within easy reach of the driver. This is something which Bollywood starlet Ranbir Kapoor so aptly described in the advertisement for Nissan Micra and its tag line was live simple. The switches all work perfectly. Been a built to price car, some plastics do feel iffy.

The interiors are in a drab black but most of the cars in this segment have the same interiors. The gear shifter unit also looks like it is made of the best quality material. The rear seats are also quite contoured however for the base XE version, the seats are like a flat bench. Unfortunately the seats don’t fold and hence limit the usability of the boot. The boot space is quite usable and one of the best in the segment at 253 liters. There are no suspension mount intrusions and this makes loading the small boot easier.

Handling and ride quality

Based on the global V platform, the Nissan Micra XV has been built with durable yet light in weight materials. It has a kerb weight of 986 kilos and this makes it one of the lightest small cars in the market. To fix to the tight budget, localization of components is upto 80%. The Nissan Micra XV or for that matter any Nissan Micra has been softly sprung and this translates to a good ride quality. The small as well as bigger bumps are dispatched with a disdain. Now, the 4 wheels at 4 corners adage stands good as this leads to better ride quality and gives the Nissan Micra an edge in handling.

The Nissan Micra XV rides like a bigger car and handles like a small one. It is no Suzuki Swift beater however it can be safely said that after the Swift, the next best would be the Nissan. The steering wheel is tuned more for city use. I practically drove it with my finger tips.Once into the highway, the steering doesn’t weigh in nicely and was devoid of any feel. The car however felt very stable at speeds of upto 130 kmph. Its just that it has a slight problem in high speed directional changes. Reverse parking sensors and wide door mirrors help in making parking chores as easy as plucking a leaf from a small tree.

Engine,Performance and fuel efficiency

As of  now, the Nissan Micra XV is been offered only in one engine trim. However I recently heard that Nissan India dealers have been taking bookings for the diesel version which would be out by December 2010. The petrol engine is the 1.2 liter 3 pot motor cranking up 79 bhp @ 6000rpm and 104 Nm of torque @ 4000rpm. Unlike other 3 pot cylinder motors in its class, the Nissan Micra XV is a smooth unit right from idle until its redline. The gear box also feels like a hot knife going through a slab of butter. The gear ratios are also nicely spread out with the first two gears been placed lower for better pick up in the city and the rest three for effortless cruising and economy.

The Nissan Micra XV screams to its redline at 6200 rpm quite effortlessly. Even at this high engine speeds, it’s a silent unit. The accelerator pedal is also cable driven and hence gives more feel while maintaining a lead right foot. The car acclerated from 0-100 in about 13.6 seconds. Its top speed, I attained was158 kmph, quite good for a 3 cylinder motor.

The Nissan Micra XV’s peppy performance is reigned by all wheel disc brakes- again a segment first. The brakes are assisted by ABS, EBD and even Brake Assist. Since the car uses the globally acclaimed V platform, it can be assumed that the chassis is quite competent during crashes. It has been even given a 4 star rating in the Euro NCAP ratings. In India, you get active head restraints, 2 airbags, seat belt pretensioners and 3 point seat belts and all of this only on the XV variant.

Been a small car and one under 4 meters and with a 1.2 liter engine makes the Nissan Micra XV one of the most fuel efficient cars in its class. Our test car gave 14.07 kmpl in city usage where as highway duties saw the economy figures rise to 20.4 kmpl. This is a perfect example of performance with fuel efficiency to match for. This would be manna for the “average kya hain?” public as well.

Verdict

Nissan India are piggy-banking on the Nissan Micra to deliver the goods. The car is reasonably loaded for its class, it has good performance, the looks, is easy to drive and park, best in class fuel efficiency and is a novelty factor as well. What more can one ask for. Probably better quality lower down the mark as well as more standard features on the base variants.Nissan India are also improving their service dragnet by  introducing 3 service centers per month across the metro cities in India. This speaks volumes of their commitment to the Indian customers. Add that to the 5 years anti-corrosion warranty on the Micra, and you cannot go wrong with this car. The base variant{ Nissan Micra XE}starts from Rs.3.56 lakhs {ex-showroom Delhi} to the top end version{ Nissan Micra XV} going upto Rs.5.33 lakhs {ex-showroom Delhi}.

Nissan Micra XV specifications

Engine Type: 3-Cylinder In-line Petrol, DOHC 12-Valve
Displacement (cc): 1197
Bore & Stroke (mm): 78 x 83.6
Max Power (PS)/rpm: 79/6300
Max Torque Nm (kgm)/rpm: 104/4200
Compression Ratio: 9.6
Transmission Type: 5-speed manual
Steering Type: Electric Power Assisted, Rack & Pinion
Min.Turning radius (m): 4.32
Suspension (Front): MacPherson strut with stabiliser
Suspension (Rear): Torsion Beam
Brakes (Front): Ventilated Disc
Brakes (Rear): Solid disc
Tyre size: 165/70R14
Wheels dimensions: 14 x 5.5J alloys
Overall Length(mm): 3784
Overall width (mm): 1666
Overall height (mm): 1532
Wheelbase (mm): 2451
Fuel Tank Capacity (Litres): 43
Boot Capacity (Litres): 253
Kerb weight in kilos: 986
Seating Capacity (Persons): 5

Buying a used Porsche car in India

Used cars are becoming a good option in India. Especially when the economy is showing no signs of recovering and rising costs of almost everything, even common salt is affecting the ability to spend at will. In this scenario, many would hark for smaller more efficient cars, even if they want a second hand one. But there is the select few who would want to get themselves a bit of status quo with cars like the Mercedes or even BMWs. But these have become almost a regular feature on the Indian roads now. However how many would have wondered about a Porsche let alone a used Porsche car in India. Even though there are a handful of Porsche cars on the road, they are finally trickling into the used car market.

Now, Porsche India have recognized this untapped potential and have set up their own Porsche Approved Scheme for these used cars. Agreed that you would get such cars at a very high price than what you would get face to face with the seller, however these cars go through an 111 point check on them even before they are accepted by the company. This ensures that the customers buying these cars are safeguarded from any nasty surprises. The best thing is that you wouldn’t be left saddled with a so-called accident car with a botched up job by some road side mechanic. The Porsche Approved Scheme also offers a unlimited kilometers and 24 months warranty. Now this should really be the icing on the cake.

The most affordable used Porsche car in India would be those Porsche sportscars like Caymans and Boxsters. These cars aren’t cheap by any standards however for all those gold miners, these shouldn’t be a problem. These cars retail for approximately Rs.76 lakhs when new and when they are resold, the value drops to Rs.34 lakhs. Classic example is the case of a 2006 Boxster S which we found for around Rs. 34 lakhs. If you think that the Boxster S is impractical, then a 2004 Cayenne S is been offered only for Rs.32 lakhs. And all these is been offered through the Porsche Approved Scheme. Been a Porsche, these would be ocassionally used and hence not many would have logged high kilometers. The service interval for these cars is 12 months or 10,000 kms. The servicing cost would drop one zero from the cost price of the car purchased. This is excluding the labour charges should any major work pop out. So think twice before having a minor accident with your Porsche. Rs 1.25 lakhs is the amount that you would be spending should you pringe your head lamps. The front bumper would set you back by Rs.48,000. Usual wear and tear bits like the suspension parts as well as dampers would also cost Rs 54,000. We might be scaring you but a test drive of any Porsche would have you hooked onto the car for life.

We would take the case of the 2006 used Porsche Cayman S in India here. It is said to be the easiest and sweetest handling Porsche car around. Moreover it has 2 foldable trunks and is compact. Surprising is the fact that this car has covered approximately 20,000 kms. It is unusual to see Porsches with such high mileage. The other examples were 2006 models with mileage as low as 4200 kms. While one would think that buying such cars would be viable however there lies the catch. These cars would most likely have been ignored and rarely taken out even once in a month. A car lying around unused tends to be more problematic than the one which has been regularly used. A regularly used car will most likely be well cared for and would have set in the pace. However well cared or not, a car especially a used one would sprout repairs and spare part changes. Since the car has been already checked for any engine or accident damage by the Porsche authorities, the first priority would be to take a test drive. This should clear out any apprehensions of how much comfortable you are with this car. The accelerator pedal is a live wire and even part throttle should yield instant response. The brake pedal should also have a linear modulation. However over time, it would require servicing and this should cost around a total of Rs.40,000 including labor for replacing the brake pads.The inner plastics however don’t wear well if the car has been out in the sun too often. The plastics tend to melt under sunlight. The condition of plastics should also be a determining factor whether this car has been well cared for or not. Well, there is one thing that you cannot take away from a Porsche or for that matter any German car and that is its German-ness. All these cars ooze high quality cabin and attention to detail. So much so that even a brand new Honda Accord would feel tinnily built in front of these cars.

A 2006 used Porsche Cayman S in India would be available without the dual clutch that Porsche so lovingly call PDK as well as the engine would be without direct injection. The steering shouldn’t be a cause of worry since it should wear on well till 50,000 kms. Speaking of the cost of spare parts, the tail light assembly goes for a cool Rs.34,500, the timing chain for Rs.12,100, front brake pad for Rs. 15,578, front shock absorber for Rs.54,708 and so on. As of now, the Porsche Approved Scheme has just started and it would take some time before operations start up in full swing. There are only 3-4 used cars available in those show rooms now. At approximately the same prices, you can get a brand new Mercedes E class, BMW 5 series or the Audi A6 but then the exclusivity factor wouldn’t be there.

Chevrolet Captiva vs Nissan X-Trail vs Hyundai Santa Fe


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The Indian soft roader scene has become very tough now. Earlier it was the sole dominion of the Honda CR-V with the occasional fight from the Hyundai Tucson. Later on, the Chevrolet Captiva joined the party and due to its diesel power plant and cheaper price tag, it won over the Indian hearts. Nissan India Limited started their operations in India with their world famous soft roader, the Nissan X-Trail. Due to its highish price, it only found takers in the hotel luxury segment. Now enters the fourth and the most recent player of this segment, the Hyundai Santa Fe. It seems that this SUV was long in the coming and we have been hearing about its impending arrival from the year 2006. However Hyundai Motors India Limited chose to launch this car recently. Now, checking out by the target set by Hyundai Motors India Limited for this car in India, they have already exhausted it. Now, the bookings for this SUV have been temporarily stopped and the company is importing more cars into India. With the launch of this new player, things have evidently heated up and it was obvious that we get them all for a showdown and decide the newest king of the soft roader segment. Since the CR-V is one of the those cars which the Indian public nowadays shuns due to its high price, we didn’t include it in this comparo, however, it is still the benchmark to beat. Also the Mitsubishi Outlander wasn’t available as for a test and hence it had to be ignored as well.

Looks

Chevrolet Captiva- This is one of the best looking soft roaders in this country apart from the Honda CR-V. It muscled stance with those soft looks lend it some sort of character. The pictures don’t do justice to this car and it would seem small however in reality this soft roader is big. Infact it is as big as the Hyundai Santa Fe. The head lamps are quadrilaterals and the Chevy bowtie sits atop the partition in the grille. The fog lamps sit just above the meshed air dam. It has a plastic skid plate to protect the bumper from scratches and rocks. The side profile reveals big outside rear view mirrors with blinkers on them. The 17 inch tyres for the Chevrolet Captiva in India also have some sort of substance in them and this lends them a character. The wheel arches also have a plastic cladding over them. The rear shows a coupe like stance with angular tail lamps. The rear bumper also sports the skid plates under which are located the twin tail pipes.

Nissan X-Trail- This is one boxy looking SUV. It has the typical Nissan grille with brick like head lamps. The air dam is almost absent. The fog lamps are placed at both the sides of the wheels as opposed to in the lower bumper. The 17 inch tyres are also elegant. The wing mirrors are also big but are amongst the smallest in this comparo. The roof rails are also subtle and barely protrude from the roofs. The rear end is particularly boxy and has vertically stacked tail lamps. A black plastic covers up the bumper and a single tail pipe protrudes from underneath.

Hyundai Santa Fe-
The newest kid on the block is actually not so new world across. It is actually the seventh generation one. It has Hyundai’s fluidic concept design elements with a horizontal AC slat grille with oblong head lamps and an air dam which has a big aggressive opening. The fog lamps are housed in their own slats and look very nice. The turn indicators are also located in the outside rear view mirrors. The rear in comparison to the front looks a bit heavy. It has those elongated tail lamps with clear lens. Covering the lower bumper is the black plastic cladding and this houses one or rather two of the largest tail pipes in this segment.

This is a tough one however, overall the Chevrolet Captiva in India wins this due to its easy on eyes look.

Interiors

Chevrolet Captiva- The Chevrolet Captiva features a higher stance than the others in this class and hence climbing up should be a bit of a hassle. However once inside the cabin, you would be greeted with a smart dash board. Brushed aluminium strips contribute to the nicely made up central console. The instrument panel looks simple and is supported by a big steering wheel with the Chevy bowtie resting on it. There is a navigation system, of which, the fonts are illegible in the bright sunlight. Unfortunately the quality of materials used seems inferior to the competition. There are some bad plastic bits abounding in the cabin. The gear lever is also half made of leather and the other half of metal. Powered goodies abound however only the driver gets powered seat. The aircon is one of the talking points in the Chevy and it has a microprocessor which filters particulate matter in recirculate mode. The front seats are comfortable however the rear ones seem a bit lacking in under thigh support. The access to the third row seats is quite easy however these are best left for kids. The boot space is also limited with all the seats up however the gas mounted strut tug lever helps in folding the second row of seats flat.

Nissan X-Trail- This is one of the interiors which is subtle at its best. The first thing that you notice is that this car has hard wearing but soft to touch materials. Its 3 spoke steering wheel is devoid of audio controls. The instrument binnacle is one of the best in this segment for the Nissan X-Trail in India. The driver as well as passengers get heated seats. In a country like India, these are redundant however those living in the cooler climes would welcome this feature. The standard audio system has good sound quality and features aux and USB ports. One of the thoughtful touches in this cabin is that it has a chilled bottle holder. Room in the cabin is also abundant in all the rows. Sorely missing though is the lack of third row of seats. The boot space as a result is huge. It even has a washable plastic floor. The second row of seats also get their own AC controls.

Hyundai Santa Fe- The biggest vehicle on the outside also is bigger from the inside. The front seats are way too comfy and would accommodate the biggest of the frames. The steering wheel is a 4 spoke affair and has cruise control, Bluetooth pairing and also the standard audio controls. The quality of materials used is also un Hyundai like and is of very high quality. This however is no patch for the Nissan X-trail’s cabin. What the Hyundai Santa Fe has in oodles is space and equipment. There is also a roof mounted entertainment system, 6 CD and 8 speaker audio system. However the layout of buttons makes the cabin seem a bit cluttered. The second as well as the third row of seats get their own AC controls. Access to the third row is a bit tricky though and the system is complicated than the simplistic one on the Chevy.

The Hyundai Santa Fe is a heavily loaded vehicle with lots of equipment on offer and space in plenty.

Handling and ride quality

Chevrolet Captiva- Been on a car platform, this means that all these soft roaders are easy going in the city. Starting with the steering wheel, it is light for city use however like all the Chevys in India, the Chevrolet Captiva’s unit doesn’t weight up nicely once the speeds rise. This makes it a bit vague. Been on a raised platform means that the car rolls a fair bit. On the sharp bumps, this translates to an unsettled ride quality. Once the speeds build up, the self leveling suspension works its magic. Overall, this can be called as an average performer in this lot and is nowhere near the segment bench mark, the Honda CR-V. Cornering at sedate speeds is acceptable on this car.

Nissan X-Trail-
This is the most car like to drive in this lot. Its well weighted steering wheel is a delight to use and to even hold in the hand. It makes driving an occasion. The levels of the grip in this car is also quite high than its competition. It has less dive on the roll however the softer suspension does make its presence felt time and again by bobbing up and down. The ride is sort of perfect with its good ride quality at low speeds and sort of nervous ride at high speeds. Cornering is better achieved in the Nissan X-Trail in India since it controls its body roll quite well.

Hyundai Santa Fe- The tallest of all these cars does have a stiffness in its suspension. It is also of the self leveling types. However it is rock solid on the highway and doesn’t get buffeted around due to its sheer weight. Absorbing all of the road imperfections are the tall springs. It also corners well however not in the same ball park as the Nissan X-Trail.

It does show a top heavy feeling however that is to be dismissed considering that people aren’t going to take this to a race track. The steering wheel is typically Hyundai with some of the sensitivity lost at high speeds. This saying, it is better than the Chevrolet’s unit.

This round goes to the Nissan X-trail with the Hyundai Santa Fe following closely.

Engine,Performance and fuel efficiency

Chevrolet Captiva- The 4 cylinder 1995 cc turbo charged common rail direction injection diesel motor makes 148 Bhp and 316 Nm of torque. The manual transmission car is offered only with 2 wheel drive mode and hence this means that this car is quick off the block. It has one of the smallest motor and output in this segment. It races from 0-100 kmph in 11.72 seconds. It has a top speed of 176 kmph. The gear box is sort of notchy like the other Chevrolet units but nevertheless slots into gate well. The turbo in this unit is peaky and this means that there is sort of turbo lag at low speeds however get past 2000 rpm and the motor performs with gusto. The motor is also very smooth in its operation.

Hauling this car to a stop are disc brakes both at the front and rear coupled with ABS and ESP. Safety is also taken care by the Chevrolet Captiva featuring collapsible steering wheel, twin air bags and 3 point seat belts. Fuel efficiency due to the shorter gearing is good in the city at 9.5 kmpl and 11.5 kmpl on the highway.

Nissan X-Trail- This car features a 4 cylinder 1995 cc turbo charged, common rail direction injection diesel motor putting out 150 Bhp of power and 327 Nm of torque. It features on demand 4 wheel drive and a 6 speed auto gear box. Both the engine as well as the gear box are a perfect complement to each other. The engine revs sweetly all the way to its 5,200 rpm. This despite it been a diesel. There is little turbo lag however that is dispatched quickly. The clutch action is also quite light and ideal for city driving. The car sprints from 0-100 kmph in only 10.88 seconds and goes on to register a top speed of 201 kmph. This car gets a choice of manual tranny as well. Braking is handled by all wheel disc brakes aided by ESP, traction control and ABS. Safety is taken care by collapsible steering wheel, 6 air bags and also 3 point seat belts.

Hyundai Santa Fe- The Hyundai Santa Fe in India is blessed with a 4 cylinder in line 2199 cc turbo charged engine, common rail direction injection diesel which makes 195 Bhp of peak power and 429 Nm of torque. This is by far the biggest capacity motor in this comparo. It has company in a 6 speed transmission which is slick however not as good as the Nissan X-trail’s unit. This is a dynamo of a motor which powers the 1868 Kg vehicle from 0-100 kmph in 9.61 seconds and reaches a top speed of 190 kmph. The motor is highly refined and doesn’t make one realize the stratospheric speeds that the vehicle is capable of. The only dampener in the package is the heavy clutch which requires a firm shove. Braking is also good however the pedal action needs to be re-calibrated since it requires a push. There is no automatic option as of now however Hyundai Motors Limited India says that they would introduce it very soon. Assisting the powerful disc brakes are ABS, ESP and EBD. The Hyundai Santa Fe in India is also one of the safest SUVs around. It features a roll over sensor, 6 air bags, seat belts with pre-tensioners and a collapsible steering column.

This round squarely goes to the Hyundai Santa Fe.

Verdict

The Indian buyers are spoilt for choices with the number of new or refreshed soft roaders coming their way. Out of the three evaluated here, they have a wide price range difference with the cheapest of the lot been the Chevrolet Captiva followed by the Hyundai Santa Fe and then the Nissan X-Trail. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the latter is the best in this lot. Infact, it sits squarely in the middle. Starting with the Chevrolet Captiva, it is a well rounded package and has the looks to go with all the show. If you are in the market to buy a Captiva now, you would get a discount since the 2011 model is just some days away. Its price for the Indian market for the two wheel drive version is Rs.17.96 lakhs for the two wheel drive manual version whereas for the 4 wheel drive version, it is Rs.21,46 lakhs. The Nissan X-Trail may not seem a logical choice considering the company’s miniscule operations in India however it cannot be ignored since it has many of the good things that one would want in their soft roader. It is very quiet in its operation, has good fuel efficiency and the best of ride, handling package. However its high price of Rs.26 lakhs for the top end 6 speed auto is a dampener. The Hyundai Santa Fe on the other hand is a butch soft roader which can easily pass off for a hardcore SUV. It has got immense road presence, good space, high equipment list and a bomb of an engine. Adding to its immense list of potentials is the fact that it is also one of the safest SUVs around. Its sticker price of around Rs.23 lakhs also make it a sensible buy and hence our choice of soft roader in this segment.

Nissan’s big plans for India


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Nissan Motors India Limited have very big plans of making it in the Indian market. That the company has been in India not long ago, since 2004 is a well known fact however not many would know that the company also has been partnering with Ashok Leyland and making trucks in India. This coalition by the company has been the most successful venture for them. Nissan Motors India Limited have launched both its small car, the Nissan Micra in its petrol version as well as the Nissan Micra diesel recently. Both these cars are runaway success inspite of their slightly high price. The diesel version has so far had about 2.300 bookings in only 2 weeks and deliveries would be done only in January 2011. Its petrol counterpart has registered about 7000 units since its launch 5 months ago. We also know that they are planning on launching new mid size sedan based on the Nissan Micra platform as also many SUVs. One of them is an all new compact SUV which would be based on the Dacia Duster H79 platform. The manufacturing process would be in the company’s facility in Oragadam plant in Chennai. This plant can produce about 15,000 units each year. Nissan has plans to first launch this car in India and then once demands pick up, export it to the other markets in the world, however mostly right hand ones.

Recently in conjuction with their plans, the company has signed two MoUs with the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras. This is for comprehensive research in cooperation agreement to support the potential engineers. The Nissan Science foundation which aims to groom the talented students in India through the Nissan Foundation Scholar MoU. This agreement is valid till 2015 and aims to provide financial aid to those selected students. The program is to also give them a short training stint at the Nissan Motor headquarters in Japan. The next step would be to give them a 4 month long internship at the Renault-Nissan alliance R&D facility in Chennai.

Nissan Support Program is the second MoU was done keeping in aim the various Management, engineering, science, social sciences and the humanities aspect with the IIT Madras institute of Engineering. This MoU has been signed by Nissan’s own R&D center in India {RNTCBI} and the sole aim is to have a say in all the development projects and also support research details. The validity of this MoU is till March 2013. On this occasion, Director of Nissan Science Foundation as well as fellow head in Nissan Motor, Haruyoshi Kumura, said that there were couple of collaborative projects in conjuction with IIT Madras. This facilitates the Indian public as well since they can give them financial help and also be exposed to the culture in the Nissan world. There is also chance that a made for India electric vehicle on the lines of the Nissan Leaf would be developed soon. The MoU may just about facilitate it.

Ford Fiesta 1.6S vs Maruti Suzuki SX4 1.6 VVT

Well, this cannot be called a true war however both of these fight for the economy chunk that the Honda City leaves behind for them. The Ford Fiesta 1.6S in India is one of the older ones here and the Maruti Suzuki SX4 1.6 VVT in India has been revamped lately with new features and also a limited edition{even the Ford has had that}. All the car companies by the way have it and that is not to be mistaken for a revamp. The thing worth considering is that most of the cars are outclassed by the Honda City and more recently by the refreshed Fiat Linea 1.4 turbo. However since we already had a compare between the Fiat Linea 1.4, Volkswagen Vento and the Honda City wherein the winner was the Fiat Linea with its wide stroke of features and scintillating performance. This war now moves onto the lower economy class and it boils down to between the Ford Fiesta 1.6S in India and the Maruti Suzuki SX4 1.6 VVT in India. Usually the price of the Ford Fiesta 1.6S and the price for the Maruti Suzuki SX4 1.6 VVT are considered.

Looks

Maruti Suzuki SX4 1.6 VVT for India – This car was one of the best in its segment till the Honda City came along and spoilt its party. The Maruti Suzuki SX4 1.6 VVT for India echoes the look of the new face of the company since the augmentation of the Swift. That both are based on the same platform is only a small thing. It doesn’t have a long bonnet unlike the others in the Maruti Suzuki portfolio. The bold pronounced nose has that honeycomb grille with the chrome finished Suzuki logo at the center. The air intake is however not so prominent and alongside it is the fog lamps. The side profile reveals 16 inch wheels with prominent wheel arches and a quarter glass. The outside rear view mirrors are also very big and they do a good job of showing what is behind. These are body colored as well. The rear shows up a hunched up profile and clear lens tail lamps. The boot is also well shaped however has a small opening.

Ford Fiesta 1.6S for India – This was one car which was made for India though its name has been used by Ford Motors cars in the US. It evoked the memories of the Ford Ikon when it was launched. Those fish shaped head lamps are carried over from the old model Fiesta. The front grille is not so big and houses the blue oval. The lower air dam is wider and makes for a bigger intake. The fog lamps are also housed in their own separate pods in the uniform bumper. There are skirts at the front which add to the sporty demeanor. There are side skirts as well and the 15 inch wheels exude a sporty feel. The rear carries a big spoiler with clear lens tail lamps and body colored bumpers.

Round 1 goes to the Maruti Suzuki SX4 1.6 VVT for been a butch looking car with loads of road presence.

Interiors

Maruti Suzuki SX4 1.6 VVT – The high seats in this car make for easy ingress and egress, something which is usually missing in Maruti’s cars. The dash board is well built however the quality of plastics leaves something to be desired. It has the automatic climate control, instrument panel and the audio system. The parts bin is shared with lower segment Swift and its booted brother, the Swift hatchback. There is fabric accents on the front and rear and the top end version comes with leather seats. Silver finish can be found on the door locks and handles. The arm rests are made up of wood though. Space at the front is okay however for any one above 6 foot 2 inches, it is best to avoid this car or if you are so smitten with this car, then you would have to learn aerobics as well to get in and out. The rear seat is also well made however could do with a bit more of the under thigh support. Boot space is also quite big for this segment at 425 liters though intrusion from the suspension mounts can be a problem. Abundance of cubby holes can be found in this cabin as well.

Ford Fiesta 1.6S for India – The interiors of this car reek of sportiness right from the word go. The major giveaway of its sporty intentions is the drilled aluminium pedals. The short throw gear box also looked classy. The twin pod instrument cluster sort of looks primitive however it has a wide array of information that one would ever require. There is no automatic climate control offered however power goodies are in plenty. The quality of materials used is a bit higher than those used on the SX4 and this makes a whole lot of difference to the approach. The front bucket seats are quite comfy however the rear ones aren’t too comfy. The seat backs are too upright and for long journeys, this would be very tiring. Lack of under thigh support adds to this. The boot is nicely carved and store a bit more than what its competitor in this segment can do. The Fiesta’s cabin actually seems cramped in comparison to the others in its segment.

Round 2 goes to the Maruti Suzuki SX4 1.6 VVT again for the level of convenience features and good room inside the cabin.

Handling and ride quality

Maruti Suzuki SX4 1.6 VVT – It would be a common perception that due to the higher ground clearance of the car{180 mm}, the handling would suffer. However this is far from the truth. The car handles quite well and due to its firmer suspension is a hoot around corners. Sure, it lacks the agility of the platform on which it is based but this doesn’t mean that the car is left wanting in the lurch. The promos of the car are really tastefully done and there is no doubting the capability of it. Infact, there is no need to even slow down for those big speed breakers or potholed roads as the car smothers everything in its stride. This doesn’t mean that it is perfect and it’s the ride quality which suffers. It is firm and small pot holes would send jolts into the cabin. Once the speeds rise, the problem is solved. Also a fully loaded car rides well due to its firm damping. The steering wheel is also direct like the Suzuki Swift and it is only on highway speeds that the steering feels a bit disconcerted. Nevertheless, it is one of the better units in this segment.

Ford Fiesta 1.6S for India – Now, every kid in the automotive world knows that only two manufacturers namely Fiat and Ford provide the best suspension setup in India. For the Ford Fiesta 1.6S for India, its no different. The car rides on a softer suspension however for the 1.6S motor, the springs have been shortened leading to a firmer suspension at both the ends. The steering wheel is too communicative and is the best in this segment. It delivers feedback in spades and this ensures that overall, the feel of the car is enhanced. The handling is at par with dare I say, a BMW. It goes well around corners and wouldn’t want its occupants to throw up their lunch or breakfast either. Its low stance {165 mm} also means that it is more aerodynamic than the Maruti SX4. The ride quality is also surprisingly good and it doesn’t break the backs of its passengers. It however lets out audible reminders of what it is going through.

Round three no doubt goes to the Ford Fiesta 1.6S for India due to its far superior ride and handling package.

Engine,Performance and fuel efficiency

Maruti Suzuki SX4 1.6 VVT – This car features the 1.6 liter engine from the M series of the Suzuki family engines. It brings in variable valve timing (VVT) technology which aids in the timing changes inside the engine. This ensures that the optimum power is maintained all throughout the rev range. The peak power output is 104.68 Ps at 5600 rpm whereas the peak torque is 145 Nm at 4100 rpm. This 16 valve DOHC engine is mated with a 5 speed manual or even a 4 speed automatic. The car races from 0-100 kmph in 12.8 seconds and reaches a top speed of 181 kmph. The engine however feels quite strained and raucous at those rpms. The gear box is also notchy and requires a shove. It is better not to hurry the engine and enjoy the surge of torque in its mid range.

Braking is handled by disc brakes in the front and drums at the rear. ABS as well as EBD ensure safe braking. Safety is taken care by ample crumple zones, collapsible steering column, 2 air bags and 3 point seat belts. Fuel efficiency is not so good with 11.2 kmpl in the city which increases to 16.4 kmpl.

Ford Fiesta 1.6S for India – This car has a 1596 cc 4 Cyl. In-Line, 16-V DOHC engine which has SEFI. Maximum power output of this engine is 101 Bhp at 6500 rpm whereas the torque reads as 146 Nm at 3400 rpm. On paper, this figures pale in comparison to the one produced by the Maruti however on the road all that matters is the performance of the car. This motor is very tractable and more so than the Maruti unit. It is rev happy and there is never a stress or strain in the motor, even near its 7,100 rpm redline. Moreover, complementing the superb engine is the 5 speed manual gearbox which is very slick in its operation. It is well spaced out and is an enthusiasts delight. This car races from 0-100 kmph in just 12.5 seconds and maxes out at a top speed of 173 kmph. The induction sound of the engine is enough to tickle the nether regions of the driver. Truly a driver’s car.

Hauling this car to a halt is the combination of discs and drums. These are assisted by the usual EBD, Brake Assist and ABS. The one thing that should be noted is that this car has a spongy brake pedal and one which robs off the feeling of strong braking. Ford Motors India could do well to calibrate this unit and hence enhance the overall feel of the car. Safety features in the Ford Fiesta also abound in the way of the 3 point seat belts with anti whiplash properties, collapsible steering column and also 2 air bags.

Fuel efficiency is a tad better in the Ford Fiesta than its Maruti challenger. It returns 11.6 kmpl in the city and 16.9 kmpl on the highway.

This round is won fairly by the Ford Fiesta 1.6S for India.

Verdict

This is one tough war and for those looking for sedans in the lower strata of the price bracket. Both the cars are equally competent in some field or the other and would appeal to a wide range of buyers. For singles, the Ford Fiesta would be a talking point and more so of a show off in the electric blue color. It would be good for a jaunt with a probable girl since the interiors are not that spacious and would be too close for comfort. You can carry out power slides in it and at the same time driving it sanely would yield double digit consistent mileage figures. On the other hand, the Maruti Suzuki SX4 is more for the family oriented people. It is spacious, unless you have a houseful of 6 footers. It has automatic climate control and many other features that you wouldn’t get in the Ford. Now, the final decider would be the pricing. The price of the Ford Fiesta 1.6S for India is Rs.8,10264 on road in Mumbai whereas the price for the Maruti Suzuki SX4 1.6 VVT is Rs.7,99431 on road in Mumbai.

The winner, unfortunately, depends on one’s preferences. Those who love driving would look no further than the Ford Fiesta whereas those looking for practicality would go for the Maruti Suzuki SX4. The balance shifts to the Maruti’s end due to its wide spread dealer network, ability to cope up with the bad roads due to its elevated ride height and overall low service costs. Ford Motors India are yet to revamp their service point however at this price point, the Ford Fiesta is the poor man’s BMW and a frugal one at that. It loves been thrashed time and again. And it still shines and begs for more. I have picked up my choice here since I love driving and it would be the Ford Fiesta for me.

Mahindra Renault Sandero Review

')">Renault’s Indian operations started out with their joint venture with Mahindra. This alliance resulted in the birth of the Mahindra Renault Logan. The Logan was a low cost car made for developing countries. It was widely acclaimed in India for its ride quality, handling and also the space and price it was available at. It soon became a favorite amongst the Meru brigade and was then transferred to oblivion. Renault plan to launch more of their cars in India and the Sandero would be one amongst them.

Now, the Renault Sandero is based on the Logan platform and this would help in getting the costs down. Renault plan to market the vehicle badged only as a Renault but through Mahindra’s showrooms. It will compete against established players like Maruti Ritz, Volkswagen Polo, Fiat Punto and the Ford Figo. For the domestic market, its length of 4.02 meters will be curbed to get it under the 4 meter mark and hence make it eligible for excise benefits. It is a handsome looking hatch with seating for 4 people available. It will feature a 1200cc capacity petrol engine and also the 1.5 diesel from the Logan. Mahindra Renault Sandero in India would be manufactured at the Mahindra’s facility in Nashik. Its boot space is pegged at 340 liters and a huge 1018 liters with the rear seats down.

It will have a host of safety features as also state of the art electronic nannies. The only problem seems to be that the 1.2 liter engine may be too small for the heavy car. The pricing factor also has to be kept and we hope that M&M and Renault India have learnt their lessons well with the low cost Mahindra Renault Logan. The 1.2 petrol Mahindra Renault Sandero price would be around Rs.4.3 lakhs and the diesel upto Rs.5 lakhs. It would then certainly be a win-win situation for Renault India with the Sandero giving good fuel efficiency, space, safety and all that is demanded in this segment. It would be launched by April 2011.

Volkswagen Polo 1.6 Highline Petrol In India

Introduction – Volkswagen Polo Highline 1.6 Petrol Review

Europe’s largest car manufacturer Volkswagen launched its Volkswagen Polo 1.2 in Feb of this year. The Volkswagen Polo 1.2 was an instant success and consumers in India were demanding a more powerful engine in the car. Volkswagen Group in India took heed to this and commissioned the manufacturing of the Volkswagen Polo 1.6 Highline at their plant in Chakan, near Pune. This plant is one of only 5 in the world to produce the new generation of Volkswagen Polo Mark V. In September of 2010 Volkswagen finally released the 1.6 Polo with a larger engine making it more powerful and quicker. The Volkswagen Polo 1.6 Highline now has a bigger 1.6 liter, 4 cylinder engine that produces 104 horsepower and 153 Nm of torque.

')">The Petrol model Volkswagen Polo 1.6 Highline in India is a premium hatchback and boasts of some impressive styling perfectly blended with superior comfort, fuel efficiency and most of all safety. Volkswagen has always manufactured cars that were top of the line when it came to safety and the Polo 1.6 Highline is no different. The Volkswagen Polo is a very important car for the Indian market as the effect of its sales will have a much longer lasting effect. The Volkswagen Polo 1.6 Highline Petrol is presently available in Delhi for a price of Rs. 6.16 Lakhs, but prices will vary depending on location in India. If the Polo continues to be a success then it could mean the start of a good relationship between Volkswagen and India and this can only be beneficial for the Indian consumers.

Performance – Volkswagen Polo 1.6 Highline Petrol

The Volkswagen Polo 1.6 Highline is one of the most powerful cars in its range and probably only faces some stiff competition in the power category from the likes of the Skoda Fabia, Volkswagen Vento and Honda City, although the Honda City and Vento are priced higher and the Skoda uses most of the same components of Volkswagen.

The Volkswagen Polo 1.6 Highline comes equipped with a 1.6 liter, inline 4 cylinder, petrol engine that is calibrated for optimum performance and fuel efficiency. It delivers a maximum of 104 horsepower and a maximum torque of 153 Nm. The engine is mated to a 5-speed manual transmission that is quick and easy to use making it a lot of fun for any driver. The Polo has a good acceleration and mid-range pick-up is also commendable. It is a small, zippy, nimble vehicle and these attributes make it a very enjoyable car for drivers even in city traffic.

Moving quickly in and out of traffic is very easy in the VW Polo and it also comes fitted with a good suspension. The front uses a pair of McPherson struts with stabilizer bars and the rear is fitted with a semi-independent trailing arm that makes it smooth for the driver and passengers even on rough and uneven roads. A change in the suspension for Indian models is the softening of the shock-absorbers to suit Indian road conditions. The height of the Polo has also been increased by 16 mm for Indian versions as Volkswagen have taken into account Indian roads and their ability to test out not only suspension but height of some of the most able cars. Braking is also really good in the Polo as the brakes do their job very well. The front is fitted with a pair of disc brakes while the rear gets a pair of drum brakes.

The Polo is a very capable dynamic vehicle and does not mind being thrown around corners with vigor at high speeds. It grips the road using its 15 inch tyres which wrap around 15 inch alloy wheels. The stability of the car is also very good with the steering wheel also feeling light and easy for the driver to make quick sudden movements. Fuel efficiency in the Volkswagen Polo 16 is also very good and it gives 10.5 km/l in the city and 15.0 km/l when driving on the highway. The 1.6 Polo greatly improves on its acceleration and gets from 0-100 km/h in a brisk 11.1 seconds.

Styling

The Volkswagen Polo used to be the smallest car in Volkswagen’s line-up and around 30 years ago that was exactly what it was – small. The new Volkswagen Polo is nothing close to what it used to be in terms of dimensions. The Volkswagen Polo 1.6 is as big now as some of the earlier model VW Golf vehicles and boasts a longer wheel base, wider stance and higher roofline making it much more comfortable for all five passengers.

The exterior of the Volkswagen Polo 1.6 Highline Petrol is beautifully styled with the right creases and lines shaping the car. The amalgamation of crisp lines and smooth curves give the Polo a much more aggressive look than it has had for a number of years now and the styling is much more symbolic of the iconic Golf.

The front end has the large VW logo emblazoned in the middle of the stylish grille and the wide slanting headlights flank the impressive grille. The rear of the car comes as a bit of a disappointment and seems very plainly designed when compared to the front and side profiles.

The interiors of the Volkswagen Polo are typically what Volkswagen tends to offer, which is a combination of functionality and superior quality. The combination of the two tone interiors really sets of the inside of the car and the dash is also adorned with a good mix of durable quality looking plastic and softer trims. The inside is very ergonomically styled and the buttons and knobs are positioned for ultimate driver comfort.

The interiors have been peppered with numerous storage spaces and slots all the way from the center console to the boot of the car. The front seats are very comfortable and provide sufficient back and leg support to ensure that any drive is comfortable no matter how long. The front cabin is one of the most spacious in its class and six-foot plus drivers will find it absolutely no problem to fit in.

The rear of the car is a bit different to the front in terms of space. The rear could have definitely done with a bit more leg room but then Volkswagen has focused on enlarging the front cabin and for this the rear has had to pay a price. Saying this, the rear seats still offer all the support needed as well as good head room and width. It is relatively easy for three passengers to sit at the back comfortably.

The Volkswagen Polo 1.6 Highline Petrol is the only version of the 1.6 Polo that comes standard with an audio player that supports CD/MP3 player, rear wiper, leather seats, central locking, multi-function display, alloy wheels, fog lights, dual front airbags and ABS.

Pricing and Recommendations

The Volkswagen Polo 1.6 Highline is one that Volkswagen are watching quite intently in India and will ultimately decide the car manufacturers fate in the country. If the car manages to sell quickly then Volkswagen will get a great return on its investment in India.

The Volkswagen Polo is undoubtedly German engineering and VW is hoping to provide this at an affordable price to consumers in India. VW has also maintained a good fuel economy with the car which is essential for this market and it competes very well with its rivals on this front.

There are a few drawbacks to the Polo though and the lack of certain essentials will not please potential buyers. The electric steering feels a bit unresponsive at times and at higher speeds would ideally feel better if it was a bit tighter. Starting at a price of Rs.6.16 lakhs the car is a bit higher priced than the Skoda Fabia and may seem overvalued.

Although the Volkswagen Polo 1.6 Highline Petrol does not set a standard for value for money that is not the reason one should buy the VW Polo. This is a premium hatchback and is really well styled, is contemporary and offers a solid comfortable ride that is absent from other hatches.

Volkswagen Polo 1.6 Highline Petrol India Specifications and Price

Vehicle Category: Hatchback
Engines (standard) : 1.6 L, inline 4 cyl, 104 HP, 153 Nm torque
Drivetrain: 5 passenger, Front engine, 5-door hatch, FWD
Transmissions (standard) : 5-speed manual
Curb Weight: 1896 kg
0-100 kph: 11.1 secs (est.)
Mileage city/hwy: 10.5 / 15.0 kmpl
Base Price: Rs.6.16 Lakh (est)

Porsche Panamera S in India road test

Porsche’s innings in India has been met with moderate success. All their models have a virtue of sporty character but low on ergonomics since they are all based on sports car models. Classic example is the recently launched Porsche Cayenne and the high flying sedan, the Porsche Panamera S in India. The latter is the one that I am more interested in since this is the model that I am about to test now. Looking at the car, I felt that it would be befitting a sheikh in Dubai who would go racing on the weekends or on their Jumma. This is the car that I am going to be testing and it is a wonderful pleasure to have been involved in this endeavor which very few in the world would be able to have, that is not counting those lucky few millionaires and multi millionaires. Check on Road Price

Looks

Well, typically Porsche 911 influence reflects on the car right from the beginning. From a distance, not even a trained eye would be able to make out the difference between a Porsche 911 and a Porsche Panamera S in India. Well, the company says that the basic inspiration for the car was from its bread and butter 911 range. Its high set front wings, falling window line and the bonnet shut line are reminiscent of the 911. On a 2 door coupe, this would feel perfectly in sync however for a four door posh sedan, this looks a bit out of place. The head lamps have a huge gap between their placing panels. Don’t be alarmed and think this is an example of bad build quality. It is just a slot designed for better aerodynamics as well as water to seep in while the head lamp washers go about their job. Attention to detail shows in the fact that there is an option for cold or heated water to be thrown on the head lamps as part of their washing procedure. The latter especially should work for people living in India’s capital Delhi. The low bonnet line is so designed keeping in mind the pedestrian safety. The air dam is also a subtle affair like the others in its class and has divided horizontal slats with LED day time running lamps adorning it. The turn indicators are housed just above the day time running lamps.

The side profile also shows up the coupe life sloping roof line and the 18 inch multi spoke drilled alloy wheels. An interesting fact is that both the front as well as rear tyre configurations are different. The front one is the 255/45 ZR19 whereas the rear ones are 285/40 ZR19. Well, speaking of the tyres, there is no spare tyre but only a puncture kit. Wonder how many of the Porsche Panamera S owners in India would be repairing their tyres with the puncture kit.

The rear is the most disappointing aspect since from a distance, one wouldn’t be able to understand if this car is a four door one or a hatchback. It has a bubble gum back complemented by small LED tail lamps and a smallish boot aperture. There is a spoiler or a rear wing which rises automatically at speed. This aids in the aerodynamics department. The two tail pipes are an aural delight.

Interiors

In a Porsche Panamera S in India, one would be greeted by very sports car style low interiors. By low, I mean the seating position. This is even lower than what you would from the other sportier BMW 7 series. One has to literally ease themselves into the Alacantra leather seats. There are separate compartments for the driver, front passenger and the rear two passengers. Yes, you have heard it right. The Porsche Panamera S can seat only 4 passengers and this is due to high central tunnel running the length of the car from front to back. The point is that seats are way too comfortable that is once you seat yourself inside. May be some callisthenics classes would help you. The interior quality would definitely blow you away. It is nothing like what I have experienced so far. Not even in the Mercedes S class or even the BMW 7 series. It is closer to the Rolls Royce Ghost where everything is hand made. The central tunnel is full of buttons which may seem illogical considering that it rivals offer a central command system. However if you are buying a Porsche Panamera S, you would most certainly be a person who listens more to his heart rather than head. However I found myself quite comfortable with the layout and over the period of 2 hours got accustomed to them.

The 3 spoke steering wheel has the paddle shifts, the music controls and the cruise control functions on it. There is a large navigation as well as music system which is touch screen in its operation. The central console resembles that from a high end phone with the positioning of its controls. The chiseled magnesium alloy gear lever is also very handy to use. The dials are similar to that of the Porsche 911 however they are a bit more enhanced here. The dash board is slightly tilted towards the driver echoing that this is a driver centric car. Not a single plastic would feel out of place nor would you see any sort of cost cutting anywhere. Not that one expects any cost cutting from such an expensive saloon.

At the rear, the sloping roof doesn’t pose a problem since the seating is quite low and this enhances the head room. The leg room as well as the under thigh support are excellent and there is nothing lacking with the space inside except the big thing that this is a 4 seater. Claustrophobic people better avoid this car since the small rear windows coupled with the almost non existent rear windshield would make one throw up. Rear seat passengers are also pampered with the 4 zone automatic climate control system and also their own audio controls. The rear seats are adjustable as well and this adds to the convenience factor. The boot space is also quite average at 405 liters however the rear seats fold completely to liberate 1350 liters. The high loading lip however isn’t convenient to load in the luggage.

Handling and ride quality

Well, like any BMW, you can expect a Porsche to handle whatever be its size or girth. It obviously doesn’t have the suppleness of the Porsche Carrera however its only a matter of the right road for it, the car would shrink around the driver, kick its wheels and ditch all the girth that it possesses from its wide body. The Porsche Panamera S didn’t have all wheel drive with all the power going to the rear wheels. This makes the steering ultra light in city conditions whereas it weighs up nicely on the highway. However one would be quite content piloting a BMW 7 series in traffic conditions rather than this car. The reason is the low ride height of the car. Bikers can see eye to eye or in some cases eyeball with you when you are in this car. However caution has to be exercised when reversing since the rear low visibility enhances chances of scraping the rear bumper or better even the tail pipes. There are three ride and handling modes. Those are the sport, sport+ and the comfort modes. The car as it is rides on Porsche Active Suspension Management {PASM}. This enhances the ride height should one need to go over a particulary tall speed breaker. The ride height is enhanced by so much as 25 mm.

With all this cornering skills, one would rightly expect that the car would have a lumpy ride quality however surprise of surprises, the Porsche Panamera S rides very beautifully however that is achieved only in the Comfort mode. The only hitch is that the car feels unsettled at low speed rides. Once the speeds build up, because of the low height, the car feels very stable on the highway. This can also be attributed to the 4 wheels at the 4 corners of the chassis. Speaking of the chassis, it is composed of  active anti-roll bars and air springs. There are wide grades of magnesium, steel as well as aluminium used in the construction of the car’s underpinnings. The fenders, engine compartment lid, boot and even the four doors of the car are made of aluminium to save weight. Magnesium is used to make the door and window frames.

The steering wheel is also made of high quality silica. It is hydraulically assisted and has variable steering ratios.

Engine,Performance and fuel efficiency

The Porsche Panamera S is available in India with only a single motor option as of now. The engine is the 4.8 liter V8 direct injection petrol which makes 400 Bhp and a potent 50.9 kgm of torque. The gearbox is also a 7 speed automatic transmission with paddle shifts on the steering wheel. To make way for a better performance, the car features dry sump lubrication like a racer car, the front drive shafts under through the crankcase and not from under the engine. There is also a magnesium valve cover, lighter crankcase, air intake manifold with thin walls, connecting the engine and transmission are aluminium bolts and also aluminium camshaft adjusters.

There is an optional sports chrono package which enables to have a launch control in this car. Launch control essentially works in such a way that the car automatically skips gears while launching the car perfectly from 0-100 kmph. The 0-100 kmph by the way comes up in 5.7 seconds with the launch control whereas my colleague tested the car without launch control and it crossed the 0-100 kmph barrier in 5.8 seconds. The top speed of this car has been electronically limited to 283 kmph. Derestricted German autobahns have seen this car racing to 315 kmph. The engine is red lined at 7000 rpm and once engaged in the PASM sports+ mode, the engine lets each gear to race till the red line and then upshift to the next one. The essentially smooth gearbox also sometimes skips ratios when down shifting to make way for a better driving experience. Other than the exciting engine, the performance can also be attributed to the PDK or Porsche Dual Klutch. This dual clutch provides for lightning fast shifts. All this makes for a loud car but not so loud as to spoil its luxury car tag.

Bringing this car to a halt is handled by carbon ceramic brakes on all the 4 wheels along with the latest ABS, ESP, traction control, brake assist, brake booster and DTC. This car is at par on the safety gradient as well with the 3 point seat belts for all occupants along with built in anti whip lash aids. The head rests are also integrated ones. The front bumper is so designed keeping in mind pedestrian safety. There is also a radar assisted anti collision device, 6 air bags, anti roll package and the collapsible steering column.

Fuel efficiency may not mean much to buyers in this class and considering the fun on tap with this car. However just to be sure that we give our readers all what they want, I did check the average of this car to satisfy the “average kya hain?” minded people. The Porsche Panamera S returns 5.5 kmpl in the city and 11.2 kmpl on the highway. The improvement in the highway figures is due to the well spaced out gear ratios of the 7 speed gear box. The city figures would have been even more dismal had there not been the stop start technique. This system can be automatically turned off from the dash board however not many would be doing that since it saves a good 5-10 % of fuel in heavy traffic conditions.

Verdict

Senseless is what one would call the person buying the Porsche Panamera S. This is because of the low utility factor. However buyers in this segment deserve a sense of exclusivity and this, the car delivers in spades. Infact, it is more exclusive than even the Jaguar XF, forget the other German luxury car makers. But I did definitely get over its external looks after the 5 hours I spent with the car. Actually the exteriors didn’t matter much to me but the interiors did. They are a world class apart from what the other Germans have to offer. Materials used are of the highest quality, even higher than its German compatriots. Its performance is also mind blowing and handling is world class. Safety features are also top notch whereas the fuel efficiency is not too stellar. It does exhibit the hooligan nature when wanted and can also be driven sanely. Its high sticker price of Rs 1.4 crores {ex-showroom, Delhi} is a dampener though as is the far and few service outlets.

Porsche Panamera S specs

Length: 4971 mm
Width: 1934 mm
Height: 1416 mm
Wheelbase: 2923 mm
Ground Clearance: 150 mm
Minimum Turning Radius: 11.1 meter
Weight: 1745 kgs
Engine Type: 4.8 liter V8
Displacement: 4798 cc
Transmission: 7 speed auto with paddle shifts
Front brakes: Ventilated Ceramic Disc
Rear brakes: Solid Ceramic Disc with auto adjust
Steering Type: Hydraulic power assisted with variable ratios
Front Tyre Size: 245/50 ZR 18
Rear Tyre Size: 275/45 ZR 18

Number Of Doors: 4
Seating Capacity: Four
Fuel Tank Capacity: 80 liters

Tata Aria review


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Tata Motors have been on a roll since the acquisition of Jaguar Land Rover and also the launch of the Tata Nano. Though a small car, it has captured the world’s attention and also has projected Tata Motors and India into the world’s view. People who believed that India can only work in conjuction with MNCs need to bite the dust as the Tata Nano proved to the world that all it takes is some dedication and vision to make the things the way they are intended to. Not quite content with the success of the Tata Nano, Tata Motors have moved on to the other spectrum of the automobile industry. This one is an all unabashed pricey, spacious and premium crossover called the Tata Aria. First showcased as a concept car in the Geneva Motor Show in 2005, few thought that it would be a production car 5 years down the line and more since it was a premium car. Tata Motors in India are not known for cars having classy interiors, low NVH as well as good design cues. They are best known for delivering bang a buck in their cars and the tag line for the Indica “more car per car” is apt for all the cars from Tata Motors stable.

Looks

Now, Tata Motors cars look okay but not segment defying. They have been at best inoffensive. The new Tata Aria changes that all. It is a radical looking car or should I say SUV. It is one of the most eye catching designs from Tata Motors. It is what you would call a proper crossover. Penned from IDEA design house from Italy, the same one which penned the earlier version of the Indica as well as the new Indica Vista, it is a sure shot design. This car is huge meaning the Toyota Innova looks pint sized in front of it.

The head lamps are double barelled and it has a roofline swoop similar to the newly launched Mercedes R-class. Nowhere does it look boxy like the other MUVs in its class.The front grill is all highlighted in chrome and the paint job is also quite glossy. The Tata logo is fitted into the horizontal slats. The wind screen area is also big and has a Civic like kamikaze wipers. The air dams are wide and gaping. They are a single piece unit and house the fog lamps in them.

Viewed from the side, the first striking feature in the Tata Aria’s 2850 mm wheel base is its 17 inch tubeless alloy wheels. They fill the wheel arches well and give the MUV a good ground clearance of 205 mm. This vehicle is after all intended to be used for some off-roading as well and hence the ground clearance is on the higher side. Wonder of Wonders, there are no quarter glasses for this huge cabin and the swooping cabin meets the tail of the car. The door handles are body colored. Special mention must be made of the big outside rear view mirror. They have the turn indicator lights embedded onto them. The mirrors though seem a bit big for their own liking and its very likely that they would brush against the other cars or bikes in the city.

The rear throws a coupe like roof line and has those same vertically stacked tail lamps. Tata Motors could have done well to give it some other kind of look however the current arrangement looks classy as well. The rear windscreen is also huge like the rest of the car and has a lone washer and wiper doing duties. A step forward for Tata Motors is the twin tail pipe unit which are also chunky and first for a MUV in India. There is a chrome strip running along the length of the tailgate handle.

Interiors

A big change and a leap ahead for Tata Motors for what they done with the Tata Aria’s interiors. There are those perfect seats and even leather as an option. Not one thing looks out of place and the cabin has that ambient quality elements in it. It’s loaded to the gill with features like GPS navigation system, cooled glove box, rain sensing wipers, auto head lamps, climate control, Bluetooth pairing, 6 CD changer system with 8 speakers, reverse camera, parking aids and electrically controlled rear view mirrors. There is also no dearth of cubby holed around the dash. There are seven of them on the roof and there are also many bottle holders. There are twin glove boxes on the well sculpted dash. Everything has a soft and premium feel to it. Gosh! We never thought we would be saying this about a Tata vehicle and that too an Indian spec one.

The steering wheel is a new unit and has cruise control, Bluetooth pairing and the audio controls added to it. It feels chunky to hold however could do with some more weight. The steering is rake and reach adjustable. The seats are comfy and have pretty of travel. Even the second row of seats is quite comfortable for seating three upright. The third row of seats can be accessed by pulling a lever next to the second row. Seating at the third row though is not upto the mark and would only be fit for kids. There is plenty of boot space even with the 3rd row of seats in place and flopping over the second row shows a big storage space. All row passengers are pampered with pillar mounted aircon.

Handling and ride quality

Tata Motors passengers cars have been always appreciated for their ride quality and this stands good even for the Tata Aria. It has a pliant ride quality and those independent double wish bone suspensions in the front and 5-link suspension at the back do a great job of isolating one from the road irregularities. It is only jolted by some sharp irregularities at low speeds and rest everything is smothered by the huge tyres.

The handling is also well sorted out with Electronic Stability Program{ESP} which cannot be turned off. Aiding it is also the traction control and the 4 wheel drive system. The new Tata Aria doesn’t do anything funny and is quite sorted out. The lifeless steering is something which Tata has to improve in this MUV. It detracts from enthusiastic cornering. It is too light and this aids in parking speeds. Also Tata Aria feels quite composed even on high speeds and there is no road or wind noise inside the cabin. There is also Automatic Level ride control that keeps the suspension stable, irrespective of the vehicle load. To ensure that things don’t go out of control, Hill Descent control system and Limited Slip Differential are also present. Though it isn’t built for off-road travel, the Tata Aria can fairly well handle the rough with its wide array of off-roading equipment. It actually mates the convenience of an MUV with that of a SUV.

Engine,Performance and fuel efficiency

The Tata Aria uses the same 2.2 liter DICOR engine from the Tata Safari. This means that the Tata Aria gets the same power output of 140 Ps and 320 Nm of torque as the Safari. However due to use of dual flywheel, a cast aluminum stump and fitting of rubber mounts has enabled the Tata Aria to be a better performer. Those mounts ensure that the engine noise is down to minimum. The Aria is quite a performer with 0-100 kmph coming in at 14.3 seconds. This is commendable for a MUV weighing more than 2200 kg. The Tata Aria is also quite sprightly to drive and much in likeness to the Suzuki Swift. The gearbox is also a nice shifting unit with no extra nudge required to slot the gear into its gate. The floor pedals are also aluminium drilled however since the foot well is small, there is no place for a dead pedal.

Brake pedal modulation is also good and features a segment first, disc brakes on all 4 wheels. These are assisted by ESP, ABS and traction control. All these electronic nannies haul the MUV safely without any drama or fuss. Safety is taken care by another segment first, 6 airbags, Hydroformed body chassis, collapsible steering column, seat belt pre-tensioners and active head restraints.

Fuel economy so paramount to Indians is also well taken care of with the Tata Aria returning 9.8 kmpl in the city whereas these figures rise to 14.6 kmpl on the highway run. This makes it one of the better performing MUVs with decent fuel efficiency to boot for.

Verdict

The Tata Aria in India is a giant step for Tata Motors image.  They have been usually associated with low rent interiors, cheap cars. However with the Aria, Tata Motors have changed it all. It has the usual Tata strengths like a good packaging, extensive features list, fuel efficient engine, loads of space in the cabin and good road presence. However the one thing missing is the price quotient. The Tata Aria is offered in 4 variants namely Tata Aria Pride, Tata Aria Pleasure, Tata Aria Pleasure Leather  and Tata Aria Prestige. The price start from 12.4 lakhs {Ex-showroom, Delhi} for the base variant to 16.1 lakhs {Ex-showroom, Delhi} for the topmost one. The price is the fouling factor here as none of the MUVs are so costly in this segment. Moreover, Tata Motors are gunning squarely for segment leader, the Toyota Innova and pricing is in the Ford Endeavour’s territory. We would recommend that you settle for the base variant of the Tata Aria and you still have more equipment on hand than the Toyota Innova.

Tata Aria specifications

Displacement: 2179cc, DiCOR, 16 Valve, 4X4
Engine Type: Diesel
Maximum Power: 140 Bhp @ 4200 rpm
Maximum Torque: 320 Nm @ 1800 rpm
Length: 4790 mm
Width: 1885 mm
Height: 1770 mm
Tyre Size: 235/65 R17 tubeless alloys
Suspension: Independent Double Wishbone at front and 5 Link Suspension at the rear
Turning Circle: 5.80 mtrs.
Steering: Hydraulically assisted and tilt adjustable
Brakes: Front Ventilated disc, Rear solid Disc
Gears: 5 speed Manual
Ground Clearance: 205.00 mm
Fuel Tank capacity: 60.00 liters
Seating Capacity: 7

Hyundai i20 Diesel Road Test


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Hyundai introduced the i20 model after the initial success of its Hyundai i10 model which made it the largest passenger car exporter in the country. The Hyundai i20 in India is targeted at the B and B+ segment customers in the Indian market. Globally the Hyundai has replaced the Getz model but in India the Hyundai i20 will be sold along with the Getz and the Hyundai Getz will be positioned below the Hyundai i20. Check on Road Price

The Hyundai i20 has been designed to meet the needs of the European market specifically and Hyundai’s move of shifting its manufacturing plant from Koran to India has resulted in the Indian market benefiting from it. The plant which is situated in Chennai has the proud distinction of producing up to 30 percent of Hyundai car globally.

The Hyundai i20 was designed based on Hyundai’s larger offering the i30 which has been released in Europe and Korea and is doing really well. Hyundai i20 in India competes with very competitive rivals like the Ford Figo, Honda Jazz, Skoda Fabia and the Fiat Grande Punto. We were lucky enough to get out hands on a Hyundai i20 and take it around for a spin to see how it fares in comparison to its rivals. Read further to find out what we now know…

Exteriors and Interiors

Although this is a test drive, let us start out with the overall look of this very impressive offering from Hyundai Motors. The exterior of the Hyundai i20 is similar to its smaller i10 offering and it features many similar parts as well. It has new muscular, aggressive styling that differentiates it from previous Hyundai cars that were criticized for being very softly styled and tended to lift designs from other car models namely the Honda and Jaguar.

The front of the Hyundai i20 gets a few well placed lines and curves on the hood that accentuate it and all the hood to have a clear definition. The grille gets a touch of chrome plating that adds some further character to the front end. The headlights are designed to be some form of curvy triangle and slope smoothly upwards and curve slightly around the bonnet and they also integrate the turn indicators. The new Hyundai i20 also incorporates turn indicators on the outside rear view mirrors which are also electrically heated, making the i20 one of the only cars in its class to offer this feature. The front is also enhanced by the look of the bumper, which now get a wider lower air intake and accented slots for the fog lamps. The low slung bumper makes the i20 look lower to the ground and gives it a sportier look.

The interior of the Hyundai i20 should be the most surprising part as it features some of the most advanced gadgets found in this class of car not only in India but internationally as well. The Hyundai i20 is one of the largest hatchbacks being offered in the Indian automotive market. There is ample head room as well as leg room for all passengers both at the front and the back and comfortably fits in 5 passengers and their shopping as well. The interior has a lovely two tone brown-beige color and the instrumentation cluster panel is also well lit so the driver has no problem to view it whether day or night. The various audio and climate controls and knobs are ergonomically placed and the center console is tilted towards to driver to enhance ergonomic feel and ease of use. It also has a silver lining that provides a sleek look to the console.

The power steering is well balanced and has some features that reminds of the Honda Civic and houses the audio and climate controls on it making it safer for the driver to concentrate on the road. The steering wheel is also tilt and telescopic and allows drivers to get the most comfortable position while driving. The rear seats are also very spacious and afford maximum space for rear occupants with ample head room and leg room. Another cool feature of the rear seats are the height adjustable rear head rests.

The car is also fitted with numerous storage holders and pockets that allow travelers to sore bottles in the door trim and other knick knacks behind the front seats. The interiors are well adorned with high quality fabric and highly durable plastics and leather finish.

Engine and Ride

The Hyundai i20 is fitted with the 1.4 liter 16 V DOHC, CRDI Diesel 4 cylinder engine that produces 90 horsepower and 224 Nm of torque making the Hyundai i20 a powerful and responsive vehicle. Driving in the Hyundai i20 is very enjoyable and the fact that Hyundai makes some good engine these days unlike the days of old speaks volumes about the distance the company has come. The engine is well refined and silent even when pushed to the limit. Noise levels in the cabin are significantly reduced due to the damping and insulation and this CRDI engine is mated to a six-speed manual gearbox.

The gearbox has a nice, smooth feel to it but is not ideal for quick shifting and is more suited to cruising around the streets. The Hyundai i20 diesel comes with a turbocharger that kicks in at around 1900 rpm and when this happens you feel the oomph of torque beneath the hood, which makes you want to floor the accelerator pedal. Driving at high speeds is also safe as the car has very little roll and even at speeds in excess of 120 kmph the driver will feel that he has total control over the car.

Verdict and Recommendations

Comparing the Hyundai i20 diesel with its closest rivals like the Swift diesel, Skoda Fabia, Tata Indica Vista and Fiat Punto we feel that is offers a bit more value for money in terms of its offerings. This is hardly surprising as Hyundai Motors prides itself on being able to offer its customers that little bit extra for a whole lot less.

The Hyundai i20 is a very capable car and for the starting price of 5.75 lakhs could prove to be a real bargain. Handling, ride and safety features are very good and the various options that customers can choose from make it a very attractive vehicle. The Maruti Swift which is probably its closest rival and other top selling car in India is definitely under threat from the newest offering from Hyundai.

Hyundai i20 Specifications

Hyundai i20 Diesel Engine

Engine Type – Diesel
Engine Description – 1.4 litre 90PS Diesel Engine
Engine displacement – 1396 cc
No. of Cylinders – 4
Maximum Power – 90PS at 4000rpm
Maximum Torque – 224Nm at 1750-2750rpm
Valve Configuration – 16V DOHC
Fuel Supply System – Common Rail Diesel Ignition

Transmission

Transmission Type – Manual
Gear box – 6-Speed

Suspension System

Front Suspension – Mc Pherson Strut along with Gas shock absorber
Rear Suspension – Couple Torsion Beam Axle along with Gas shock absorber
Shock Absorbers – Gas-filled, Telescopic Dual acting type

Steering

Steering – Power steering
Steering Column – Rake & Reach
Turning Radius – 5.20 mts. (wheel base)

Brake System

Front Brake Type – Disc
Rear Brake Type – Disc
Fuel Tank Capacity – 45 liters
Emission Compliance – BS III, BS IV (For Metro Cities)

Tyres

Tyre Size – 185/65 R14
Tyre Type – Tubeless
Alloy Wheel Size – 14 inches