Training academy by Volkswagen in Pune

Not one to suffice with the introduction of their world class cars in India, Volkswagen India have now decided that they would provide Indian aspiring auto technicians with their commendable knowledge. They have opened an automotive technical knowledge center in Pune and this is the first of the many more in the offing. This is a 1500 square foot facility. The automotive technical knowledge center will provide for both theoretical as well as practical training for production technologies and vehicle production means. There are many halls for seminars as well as different section for information on vehicle technology as well as production details.

There would be also separate discourses and focus would also be given on customer serivce personnel, professional development of Volkswagen employees, personality development as also vocational training about Volkswagen in India. The opening of this automotive technical knowledge center was done at the auspicious hands of Lower Saxony’s Minister President, David McAllister and the Chairman of the Board of Management of Volkswagen AG, Dr. Martin Winterkorn. They both flew in specially for this occasion. The many polytechnic colleges in and around Pune can rejoice as the Volkswagen Group are looking to tie up with them for this vocational training course.

Mr. David McAllister mentioned that since the Volkswagen group are giving livelihood to many of the Indian families and this training center wasn’t only a brand building exercise and all the investment wasn’t only about bringing in machinery or ramp up of production but also invest in the people of India. He also notified that for the continued economic development of a country and for its personnel , vocational training is the key force.

Dr. Martin Winterkorn also corroborated this fact by letting the world know that Volkswagen Group wants to become the topmost automotive employer across the world. He said that they don’t differentiate between the developing and the developed regions. He said that Volkswagen’s high quality products can be manufactured only by highly skilled technicians across the world. He also added that all this professional development of the employees and world class vocational training provides strength to its employees and subsequently the entire region as well as the Volkswagen Group company.

President of the regional Chamber of Commerce, Mr. Mukesh Malhotra, was also present at this do. He also commented that this was a great move by the Volkswagen Group and one which would benefit the Indian community to a great extent. He also elaborated that this is a pilot project and one which many other manufacturers should take a leaf from and provide training to employees. In addition, there was a change in the Volkswagen Group’s top management for Volkswagen India. Joerg Mueller has been replaced by Frank Loschmann as the MD and President of Volkswagen India. This shuffle is part of the global one by the Volkswagen Group. Earlier Frank Loschmann was the MD of Engineering at Saschen Volkswagen.

Sales of Tata Nano decline

Tata Motors ambitious project in the Tata Nano had a positive effect and a vision which said that every motorcycle owner can now upgrade to a 4 wheeler and one which is known across the world. First there was the news that an uproar has occurred in West Bengal regarding the erection of the plant. Tata Motors had to subsequently shift base to Sanand in Gujarat and only then could the work on the Tata Nano begin. There was such a hype over the car and with international journalists praising it in galores, it was supposed to be a runaway success. The initial phase of production and selling was met with moderate success due to the limited number of cars been made and Tata Motors adamancy about not giving the car off the shelf.

However once the Sanand plant as well as the one in Maharashtra were fully organized, the cars were been provided off the shelf albeit in phases across some states. Sales figure in July 2010 for the Tata Nano were pegged at 9300 units. Subsequently though, Tata Nano sales declined through August, September and October with number of units been moved off shelfs , pegged at 8103, 5520 and 3065 respectively. November month recorded dismal figures at only 509 cars been dispatched to their new owners homes.

The reason for all this downfall is estimated to be the recent safety issues over the car burning incidents and also inadequate distribution network. It is also claimed that the Tata Nano doesn’t give the fuel efficiency as claimed by the company and even a regular Tata Indica would give the same average. Recent voluntary recall by Tata Motors to fit a heat guard over the silencers and to fit fuses for the same also may have marred the sales figures.

Tata Motors are taking serious heed of this issues and are looking to put out ad campaigns for the Tata Nano and also informing people that the cars are very safe and have been tested for the same across millions of miles.

Volkswagen Passat 2011 preview

Volkswagen India have plans to bring in the new Volkswagen Passat 2011 shown at the Paris Motor Show 2010, to India. The Volkswagen Passat 2011 has got the looks which are inspired by the flagship, Volkswagen Phaeton. Gone are the stately looks of the old Volkswagen Passat, the new one has a youthful zest to it. It has that familiar family grille to it however the front bumpers have been now heavily tweaked. The front bumper is a single piece unit now. It houses the quadrangular fog lamps instead of the round ones found earlier. The head lamps themselves are more angular now and have twin projector units. The design cues don’t end at the front and are carried over to the rear as well. The boot is substantially more wider and longer. Here also the Volkswagen Phaeton design cues are evident. The tail lamps are also clear lens units with LED elements in them.

The head lamps for the Volkswagen Passat 2011 deserve a special mention. They have bi-xenons with Dynamic Light Assist. This system detects oncoming traffic and automatically brightens or lowers itself so that others aren’t dazzled by its effect. This system comprises of a camera situated in the head lamp column and this automatically puts the lights on dipped beam on detecting an oncoming car or bike. The high beam is turned on again once the car has moved past. Another new feature on the outside of the Volkswagen Passat 2011 is the use of a keyless Access function. Apart from giving keyless entry into the car, it can even open the boot. The only requirement is that one should have the key in the pocket and just sweep your foot under the boot. The boot would open on its own accord. This system would suit those singles who would have their hands full of shopping items and have no one to help them out.

The changes don’t end with the external revisions. Most importantly, the significant changes have been made under the hood. There would be two engine options on offer. One would be the 1.4 TSI petrol motor offering 130 Ps of power. The second would be the 2.0 liter diesel motor with DSG gearbox. Both these motors are fitted with stop start technology and also active battery regenration technology. The petrol motor is said to offer class leading fuel efficiency figures of upto 17 kmpl. The diesel motor as we all are aware also offers class leading fuel efficiency numbers.

Safety has also been given top priority with the new Adaptive Cruise control coming into picture. What it does is maintain a set distance from the car in front and doesn’t need the driver to apply the brakes. If the car is running at 30 kmph, and a crash is imminent or if the driver doesn’t take to braking immediately, the automatic city emergency braking function comes into play. It will automatically brake the car and avoid the collision. This is quite similar to the safety features which we have seen in Volvo cars. Actually all this technology is taken under lease from Volvo Motors. Another noteworthy safety feature is the driver drowsy warning system. If the car determines that the driver is drowsy{which it does by checking on his driving habits and how many times has he crossed the markings}, then it gives him an audible as well as message warning on the dashboard. A tea cup would show up on the dash signaling the driver that it is time to take a break. If still the driver doesn’t pay attention, then the car would send shudders via the steering wheel and at the last stage, the car would stop on its own accord to prevent fatalities. When crash tested, the new Volkswagen Passat 2011 mirrored the scores from its outgoing model and that was a perfect 5. This means that the Volkswagen Passat 2011 is one of the safest cars in its class.

The Volkswagen Passat 2011 would be made in India at the company’s Aurangabad facility. Sharing its underpinnings with the Volkswagen Jetta would help its matter as well. The interiors would be as comfy as the previous generation one. They are said to be using a lighter color scheme than the ones on the current generation Volkswagen Passat. There is indicated to be a minimal year price increase to offset the rising prices of production. However for all the goodies that you would be getting, this is just a nominal price to pay. The car would make its Indian debut by May 2011.

Honda’s small car for India to be named as Honda Brio


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Honda Siel Motors Limited are one of the most successful car manufacturers in India. This despite pricing their cars at a sizeable premium than the others. All this attributed to their never say die attitude cars, be it anywhere in the world. Their cars epitomize reliability and cutting edge design at its best. It is rare to see a broken down Honda car by the road side. They are also the most fuel efficient in their class as well as the ones with most thrilling driving experience. They also have bullet proof engines. However all this hasn’t made Honda Siel Motors Limited as a volumes player in the fast emerging Indian market. The reason behind this is quite clear. They don’t have a small car in their portfolio and plus the lack of a diesel engine option also pinches.

The horizon would change soon for the Indian market as Honda Siel Motors Limited are going to introduce a small car for the Indian market and are naming it as the Honda Brio. Now, we know that the smallest car that Honda Siel Motors Limited has in India is the Honda Jazz, which isn’t small by any proportions. It has a length equivalent to the Honda City. The Honda Brio would be showcased at the 2010 Bangkok Motor Show. It would be one of Honda Siel Motors Limited’s most significant launch in the Indian market and this would be after that of the Honda City. The car’s code name is 2CV. It would be exactly as the concept car that Honda displayed at the Paris Motor Show. It is rumored that in India, the Honda Brio would be built in the company’s manufacturing facility in Noida or at Alwar in Rajasthan. It would have about 70% localization and only some components of the engine would be imported from Japan.

The New Honda Brio would be powered by the same unit as found on the Honda Jazz, albeit with a cylinder less. It would be a 3 cylinder engine which may or may not feature Honda’s i-Vtec technology. It would be down sized from the Honda Jazz’s capacity of 1200 cc to about 900 cc. It would make about 70 Bhp of power. Like the others of its ilk, it would have air bags and ABS as standard equipment however as seen in previous generation City, we expect Honda Siel Motors Limited to skimp on this piece of necessity as well. It may be offered as an option.

At launch there would be 2 engine options. The aforementioned one and the second would be a straight lift from the Honda Jazz’s 1.2 liter engine. It would be in the same state of tune as the latter. This engine, as we all know is quite fuel efficient as well as reasonably powered. The third engine would make its debut only by the end of 2011 and it would be the most awaited one as well. It would be a 1.5 liter diesel engine, Honda Siel Motors Limited’s first one in the country . This engine would eventually find its way under the hood of the Honda City as well as Honda Jazz. Whether it would come in the Honda Civic is unknown.

Now pricing has been always Honda Siel Motors Limited’s Achilles heel in India. They however can command a premium over others simply on the virtues of brand name. See for example the fact that Honda City’s are literally flying off shelfs given the Rs.1.5 lakhs that they command over a similarly specced Volkswagen Vento. The Honda Brio in India is expected to be priced at around Rs. 5 lakhs for the base variant and moving upwards to Rs.7 lakhs for the diesel variant. That is a lot of money for a Maruti Ritz sized car. Well, can Honda Siel Motors Limited break the ice in the small car market with this offering remains to be seen. Bookings are expected to start beginning February 2011.

GMI completes target for the fiscal year 2010

The fifth largest car manufacturer in India, General Motors India {GMI} are quite on a roll these days. They have successfully launched two of their global cars first in India and both have been runaway success. So much so that they have crossed the 1,00,000 unit mark on November 27, 2010. This is considering that the year has yet to come to an end. It is the first time that General Motors India have crossed the mark of 1,00,000 units in the 7 years that it has been in India. It has been said that the company have reported a growth of over 63% from the start of year i.e. January 2010 to November 2010. Last year, General Motors India had sold only 61,321 units.

The positive change in the sales chart is due to the introduction of new General Manager for the Chevrolet brand, Mr.Karl Slym. He was the pioneer in launching two of Chevrolet’s global platform cars namely the Chevrolet Cruze and the Chevrolet Beat. Due to their catchy styling, good performance and value for money proposition, both the cars made it to the top of the car buying public’s list. Couple that with Chevrolet Cashless Ownership offer, promise to deliver quality and performance and innovative marketing initiatives, you can never go wrong with them. To cope up with demand, General Motors India have commissioned a state of the art power train facility in Talegaon. This facility boasts of dual engine plant as it can handle loads of both diesel and petrol engines at the same time. This was also awarded the most green plant by the Government of Maharashtra. General Motors India will most likely develop an all new diesel unit for their Chevrolet Beat car. There would also be a petrol variant coming up for the Chevrolet Cruze car. There would also be the Chevrolet Aveo Sail sedan and hatchback coming in late 2011.

We already have reported about the shoehorning of the ICML Rhino’s 2.0 liter engine been put into the BS4 Chevrolet Tavera and this face lifted MUV would be launched early 2011.

Fiat Linea T-Jet – C-Segment gets a Turbo


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Fiat has released an all new much more powerful Linea to its line up and will be powered by its new T-Jet engine. The T-Jet version of the Linea has been introduced as the new flagship vehicle of Fiat in India. Turbochargers have not been an uncommon part of vehicles in India, but until recently there were mainly confined to diesel engines. That mindset is fast changing and with the prices of fuel continuing to stay high it is even more paramount now that there are cars that manufacture petrol engine that also run with turbochargers.

Turbochargers are like spices in a curry. No curry is complete without spices and they add that extra bit of punch to the dish. In the same way turbochargers these days add that extra bit of zest and power to petrol engines. In countries were car owners are not as fuel conscious as us in India, turbos have adorned engines for a while in order to get that extra bit of power generated. If one was not enough then two or more were employed as there was never enough power.

It is all well to slap a turbo onto a large engine, but the trend has been changing when it comes to the smaller displacement engines as well. This is because there are greater gains to be had from turbocharged smaller engines as the increased power output combined with the already efficient engines leads to space saving and weigh saving in smaller vehicles, which can be very paramount. Also as emission regulations are getting stricter and fuel prices are rising, the lower emission, smaller engines seem to be the way forward.

Until recently the only petrol car of note that employed a turbocharger was Skoda’s Octavia vRS and even more recently the Laura TSI. But now smaller 1.2 liter petrol engines fitted with turbos are capable of producing about 100 PS. The Fiat Linea is the first car in the C-segment to offer a turbocharged engine as the heart of the vehicle, but the engine is not the only upgrade from the normal Linea petrol. There are about a dozen more improvements that Fiat has made to its new flagship vehicle.

The Fiat Linea since its launch has always been considered quite a looker with typically Italian styling and seductive lines embellishing the vehicle and its driving dynamics have also been commended. So far the engine of choice has also been the MultiJet Diesel as the 1.4 liter FIRE petrol driven engine was just way too underpowered at 90 PS for a car of this size. Installing the turbo sorted out this issue making the car stand out in the C-segment. The new 1.4 liter turbocharged FIRE engine now produces around 114 PS of power but the biggest improvement is in the maximum torque it generates of 207 Nm at a modest 2,200 rpm. This represents a big gain over the normally aspirated petrol engine which produces 115 Nm of torque putting it in the diesel category. The increase in the torque should improve low-end power and add that punch to the vehicle at low speeds as well as enhance the drivability of the Fiat Linea. One criticism of the new engine though is that for the Indian market it has been tuned down as opposed to the 120 PS of power and 260 Nm of torque the international version produces.

What makes the new Fiat Linea tick is the fact that engineers have not just added the turbo to the 1.4 FIRE engine and left it at that. The engine although quite similar with shared engine blocks has a different head. The T-Jet uses a reworked head with a steel crankshaft and stronger piston heads to be able to handle the extra torque. The gearbox has not been left out and also has strengthened improvements and overall the engine also meets Euro 5 specifications. Currently the base engine is being imported from Fiat’s plant in Brazil, but if demand increases in India then Fiat Powertrain Technologies (FPT) does not rule out the possibility of it being produced in the country.

Driving the car around the roads of Aamby Valley gave us the chance to put the new Fiat Linea through its paces. Firstly the usual fear of stalling the car (like the other manual petrol – the Laura) was absent. Releasing the clutch allows the car to smoothly pick up speed and it is hard to resist flooring it, which was duly done in second gear. At around 2000 rpm u wait for the turbo to kick in and knock you back in your seat but instead there is only a smooth transfer of power that glides the car quickly forward. The new engine is tuned to deliver good power at the low-end and this is very linear.

Shifting through gears allows the engine to transfer power smoothly and the car picks up speed quite rapidly. The new Linea T-Jet is considerably faster than the normal petrol engine and get to the 100 kmph mar in just over 11 seconds, which is a whole 4 seconds faster than the normal petrol version. The top speed of the car has also increased to around 187 kmph and these improvements translate to better fuel efficiency figures of 10.5 km/l in the city and around 17.6 km/l on the highway.

Another first for the segment is the introduction of disc brakes at the front and rear of the car and the straight road of the Aamby Valley area was the perfect place to test out the braking of the Linea. Buyers will be happy to know that braking has been tremendously enhanced by the introduction of the disc brakes and this inspires a lot of confidence while driving, even if you have to brake from a high speed suddenly to a standstill. Ground clearance in the new T-Jet is also better with the car being 5mm higher than before at 170mm.

When Fiat launched the petrol Linea it faced some criticism with regards to its interiors, with observers feeling the inside did not match up to the exacting standards of the exterior. Fiat has taken these feedbacks into consideration and the T-Jet now uses better quality of materials to furnish the inside of the car. The dashboard is now a two-tone affair, with nicely contrasting dark grey and a lighter beige color giving the inside a much richer feel. The central console also looks more refined with the introduction of some well placed chrome inserts giving the driver a sense of a more expensive vehicle. The older cheaper looking finish to the centre console has been replaced with a better looking shade of gold that further improves the interior look of the vehicle.

The cabin of the Fiat Linea T-Jet is very spacious and provides ample head as well as legroom for all occupants, but what owners will like the best is the inclusion of leather seats to the T-Jet trim. These seats provide the final touch to the rich aspect of the interiors and complete the transformation in the new T-Jet.

The Linea T-Jet will only come in the full Emotion specs and this will include power windows on all doors with auto-down feature, front dual passenger airbags, chrome exhaust pipe tip and rear seat audio controls for rear seat occupants all as standard. The T-Jet will also were sporty 16-inch multi-spoke alloy wheels with 205/50 tires to enhance grip and handling. As an option the Fiat Linea T-Jet comes with a rear boot spoiler to augment its sporty nature.

Pricing of the T-Jet is one of the best aspects of the vehicle and has allowed Fiat to gain a good foothold in the segment. The T-Jet will start from around Rs. 8.84 lakhs with the ‘plus’ trim available for around Rs. 8.99 lakhs. Prices will vary though depending on location in India as these are ex-Delhi prices. Coming in at about one lakh rupees more than the normal petrol Linea, the T-Jet feels like the car the first Linea version should have been. It seems as though the best option for Fiat would be to do away with the normal petrol version as quality has improved greatly along with performance, handling and driving dynamics. The new engine does its job superbly of making the car more fun to drive now and will no doubt have potential buyer flocking to Fiat showrooms for their free test drives. As the tag line for the Linea T-Jet goes, this is ‘Admiration Guaranteed’.

Fiat Linea T-Jet Specification

Vehicle Category: sedan
Engines (standard): 1.4 L, turbocharged,  inline 4 cyl, 114.2 PS, 207 Nm torque
Drive train: 5 passenger, Front engine, 5-door sedan, FWD
Transmissions (standard): 5-speed manual
Curb Weight: 1684 kg
0-100 kph: 11.08 secs (est.)
Mileage city/hwy: 10.5 / 17.6 kmpl
Base Price: Rs. 8.84 – 8.99 Lakh (est)

Comparison between Tata Aria and Toyota Innova


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Toyota Kirloskar India Limited had introduced their people mover in India in 2006 and since then this has been one of their greatest success stories in India. It got a mid life face lift in 2009 and since then it looks have been more palatable. It had to fend of competition by the name of a desi brand named as Mahindra Xylo. The Mahindra Xylo sure did steal some of the lime light from the Toyota Innova but it was short lived and the Toyota Innova got back its share due to the sheer value of the Toyota brand name. Not that there weren’t other competitors like the Tata Sumo. ICML Rhino and the Chevrolet Tavera. But these were too rural to even break a sweat for the mighty Toyota.

Come October 2010 and a new competitor emerged in the form of the Tata Aria. It was launched as a more up market version of the Toyota Innova and has been packed with goodies galore. So a comparison between both these stalwarts was inevitable. Here is how the show down between the both worked out.

Looks

Toyota Innova – Now, this may be a subjective thing however I personally prefer the Toyota Innova’s bland look to that of the bold in your face style of the Tata Aria. It might be that the Toyota has been around for so long that we conveniently forgot that it features an outdated design. It is too much mini van like. However after the recent botox treatment that it received, the Toyota Innova looks like a desirable car. The corporate grille sits atop its bonnet and houses the Toyota logo on it. The head lamps are big parallelogram shaped and have blacked out inserts in them to give the vehicle a sporty look. The air dam is a slightly smaller affair than the grille and houses two big fog lamps. The wing mirrors are also huge and aren’t body colored. They are of the chrome variety. The door handles are also chrome plated. The wheels are 15 inch alloy ones for the top of the line Toyota Innova VX version. The rear features a big glass area with a roof mounted spoiler and stop lamp. It has a chrome tail gate as well. The tail lamps are clear lens unit post the face lift. Overall, it has a van like silhouette.

Tata Aria – The new kid on the block is a mix of design cues. It borrows heavily from its cousin, the Tata Indigo Manza. The front is Manza type however the Tata Aria features a more raked in version of the same. It has swept back head lamps and has a chrome grille with the Tata logo. The air dam is quite big and has two circular fog lamps complementing it. The front screen wipers are much like the Honda Civic’s. The overall front design is curvier than the Toyota Innova’s. The wing mirrors are quite big as compared to the Innova’s and house the turn indicators in them. The wheels are also considerably huge with their 17 inch size on the Tata Aria Pleasure. The door handles are partly in chrome and partly in body color. The rear is coupe type {note the Honda CR-V inspiration}and has typical MPV style vertically stacked tail lamps. The tail gate handle is in chrome and a notable feature is the twin tail pipes.


Round 1 goes to the Toyota Innova of been looking so fresh inspite of the age it has endured.

Interiors

Toyota Innova – The Toyota Innova is flawless in the interior department. It features highly luxurious interiors. The build quality is impeccable. There are orange wood dash inserts in this car and there are cubby holes as well. The recent face lift brought along with it steering mounted audio controls as well. There are roof mounted air conditioner vents as well. These do a very good job of blowing hair right into the hair of taller passengers and messing them up. The Toyota Innova comes with a usable third row of seats which can seat three in reasonable comfort. The rear seats can fold down completely to give one storage space of about 895 liters. The middle row of seats are captain chairs in the Toyota Innova VX version. The Toyota Innova is still the bench mark in this segment as regards quality is considered.

Tata Aria – I never expected to go wow after looking at a Tata car’s interiors. Well, the Tata Aria Pleasure’s interiors did make me go wow. I really couldn’t suppress it. It is a frog leap or should I say, an antelope’s leap ahead for Tata Motors. The dashboard materials are all soft to touch and feel. Not one plastic looks out of place. Infact, the Tata Aria Pleasure’s 7 roof mounted cubby holes aren’t surpassed by even the mighty Toyota Innova VX. The Tata Aria Pleasure has got beam mounted air conditioner vents. It however doesn’t have captain seats. The seats themselves are quite comfortable be it the front or rear. Speaking of the rear, the third row of seats are only for kids and very uncomfortable for grownups. The steering wheel is also quite easy to fit in the hands and has cruise control, Bluetooth and audio controls in them. There is also a satellite based navigation system, leather upholstery, darkness sensing head lamps, rain sensing wipers, glove box chiller, 6 CD audio system and reverse camera. The space at the rear when the third row of seats are pulled down is 923 liters. The loading lip is also quite low and this makes it quite easy to plonk in one’s luggage.

Round two goes to the Tata Aria for the sheer number of goodies offered and convenience offered. It has build quality to match the Toyota Innova’s as well.

Handling and ride quality

Forget everything and this would be one thing that you would be living with your whole life and that is with the ride and handling quality of your esteemed set of wheels.

Toyota Innova – That the Toyota Innova had a car like handling is well known however its ride tends to pitch and bob a bit is also evident. This is due to the high center of gravity for the IMV platform. It is based on a monocoque chassis and this establishes itself well with the handling capacity. The Toyota Innova just grips at the road and all this at the absence of 4 wheel drive. The Toyota is also quite good to drive with, the steering wheel playing a major role here. It is communicative however not that communicative as I would have liked. It has a dead spot in the center. The Toyota Innova just smothers all the pot holes and small undulations that its encounters with en route.

Tata Aria – Tata Motors products have been always known to have a sorted out ride quality. Throw whatsoever at them and they would come out unscathed with the occupants barely knowing what kind of ordeal the tyres went through. This is true for the Tata Aria as well. Based on its size and those huge tyres. It just smothers everything in its path. It is firmly tuned however not overtly to make some one uneasy after sitting a few hours in the seats. As far as the seats go, I have decided to take them home after the test is over. Hope any of the Tata personnel aren’t hearing or reading this. Automobile journalists have always complained about the handling of Tata Motors products. I wouldn’t complain about the Tata Aria’s though. It seems that Tata Motors have taken a leaf out of their newly acquired property, the Land Rover company. It has been said that Tata Motors took help from the technicians at the Land Rover company for fine tuning the handling of the Tata Aria. It is definitely an improvement from the handling of the Safari and Sumo days. The Tata Aria does roll when leaned into corners however not as much as we would expect. In fact, after driving the Tata Aria, I felt that the Toyota Innova does roll slightly a bit more. Here also, the Tata’s 4 wheel drive comes into play.

Round three goes to the Tata Aria because of its perfectly sorted out ride and handling characteristics though the Toyota Innova doesn’t lag far behind.

Engine,Performance and fuel efficiency

Toyota Innova – The Toyota Innova features a 2.5 liter diesel engine. This has been the bench mark for efficiency as well as NVH characteristics. It is butter smooth and has a 5 speed gear box to complement it. It makes only 102 Ps of power @ 3600 rpm and about 200 Nm of torque between 1400-3400 rpm. It is car like to drive and has good spread of the torque throughout its rev range. Even at close to ton speeds, the rpm needle would be barely ticking at 2200 rpm. You can slot the gear in third and potter around in town at speeds of 30 kmph whole day. The gear box has slightly long throws however slots effortlessly into its gates. The Toyota Innova goes from 0-100 kmph in 17.95 seconds and reaches a top speed of 152 kmph. Braking is handled by 298 mm ventilated discs at the front and  282 mm drums at the rear. Supporting it are ABS and EBD. Safety is taken care by the GOA body of the Innova as well as 4 air bags, side intrusion beams and a collapsible steering column. The Toyota Innova registers a fuel efficiency of 9.8 kmpl in the city whereas on the highways, it gives 16.2 kmpl. Overall, the fuel efficiency works out to be 12.2 kmpl.

Tata Aria
– The Tata Aria makes do with the DICOR engine from the Tata Safari. It is a 2.2 liter diesel motor making 140 Ps @ 4000 rpm and a huge 320 Nm of torque @ 2200 rpm. These figures are enough to haul this crossover from 0-100 kmph in 15.65 seconds. That is considering the nearly 2225 kerb weight of the Tata Aria to that of the 1655 kerb weight of the Toyota Innova. Having a smaller engine and one which glistens with technology helps the Tata Aria post better acceleration figures. It reaches a top speed of 170 kmph. This motor easily overshadows the one found in the Toyota Innova on all counts. It is quite tractable and very silent in its operation. Its only at the top of the rev range does the engine murmur a bit. Braking is done with the help of 320mm ventilated discs at the front and 280 mm solid discs at the rear. These are aided by Electronic Stability Program {ESP}, ABS and traction control. Safety aspect has been taken care with a segment first, 6 air bags, cruise control, side intrusion beams and a collapsible steering column. The Tata Aria returns 10.9 kmpl in the city and an excellent 18.3 kmpl on the highway. This translates to over all figures of 14.6 kmpl.All this was achieved in 4 wheel drive and it can be turned off with the flip of a button.

Round 4 sees the Tata Aria best the Toyota Innova on all counts.

Verdict

Time to announce the winner and as you see, it’s the new kid on the block staking a claim for the ultimate MUV throne. It wins by a decisive margin. Yes, the winner is the Tata Aria and that too over a Toyota product namely the Toyota Innova. The Tata Aria does everything what the Toyota Innova excels in and plus offers some more. It is loaded to gills with features available only in some premium D segment cars. It has good looks to go with as well as effortless performance and fuel efficiency from its 2.2 liter engine. The Toyota Innova on the other hand is a proven war horse and one which has been around since quite a long. The Toyota brand is enough to pull customers to its show rooms even though our test results show the other way. The only things going against the Tata Aria are its brand name as well as the highish price that it commands over the Toyota Innova. The Toyota Innova VX sells for Rs.11.64 lakhs {ex-showroom, Delhi} whereas the Tata Aria Pleasure goes for Rs. 13.48 lakhs {ex-showroom, Delhi}. This about Rs.1.5 lakhs more and I personally feel that not many would fork out that kind of money for a Tata car. However only time can tell if the Tata Aria sells or not. It is not designed to be a bread and butter model and hence Tata should be happy if they manage to move about 800 units per month for starters.

Technical Specifications of the Tata Aria Pleasure

Displacement: 2179cc, DiCOR, 16 Valve Diesel
Maximum Power: 140 Bhp @ 4000 rpm
Maximum Torque: 320 Nm @ 1700 rpm
Suspension: 5 Link Suspension, Ind Double Wishbone
Length: 4783 mm
Height: 1782 mm
Width: 1897 mm
Tyre Size: 235/65 R17
Turning Circle: 5.60 mtrs
Brakes: Front Ventilated discs , Rear Solid Disc
Gears: 5 speed Manual
Steering: Tilt and telescopic, electronically powered
Ground Clearance: 200.00 mm
Fuel Tank: 60.00
Kerb Weight: 2225 kgs
Seating Capacity: 7

Technical Specifications of the Toyota Innova VX

Displacement: 2494cc, 16 Valve, CRDi, diesel
Maximum Power: 102 Bhp @ 3600 rpm
Maximum Torque: 200 Nm @ 1400 rpm
Suspension: Coil Spring, Double Wishbone With Stabilizer
Length: 4570 mm
Height: 1756 mm
Width: 1780 mm
Tyre Size: 205/65 R15
Turning Circle: 5.50 mtrs.
Brakes: Front Disc, Rear Drum
Gears: 5 speed Manual
Steering: Hydraulically assisted with tilt and telescope functions
Ground Clearance: 178.00 mm
Fuel Tank: 55.00
Kerb Weight:1640.00 kgs
Seating Capacity: 8

Skoda Fabia vs Volkswagen Polo – New Found Brothers Battle it Out (Part I)

When Skoda decided to venture into the small car market in India with the introduction of the Skoda Fabia hatchback it asked the question if the Indian market was ready to pay a small sedan price for a largish hatchback with supreme build quality, engineering, space, handling and ride. The answer it received back in 2008 was unfortunately not in the affirmative and Skoda has had to wait for its half-brother, the Volkswagen Polo to spark this segment into life in India.

Riding on the coat-tails of the attention that the B+ segment in India is now receiving, Skoda has decided to launch the second generation Fabia which will now make this segment a two-horse race. If you are in the market for a premium hatchback with solid engineering then you may want to continue reading to help make up your mind.

Buyers in India today are comfortable will sacrificing the boot of a sedan for the practicality and functionality of a hatchback in the city, especially if it involves a quality made vehicle. The Polo is a testament to this going by its month long waiting period. Skoda has taken advantage of its relationship with Volkswagen (the Fabia is now manufactured at Volkswagen’s plant in Chakan, Pune) and shares most of its critical parts like platform, valvetrain, engine, etc with the Polo. Pricing in India now also matches its global trend as the localization of assembly has led to it being cheaper than the Volkswagen Polo.

Round One: Styling

There is no doubt that the Volkswagen Polo looks better although the new styling of the Fabia gives it quite a good look as well, with its new front fascia that contains the bulging hood as well as a front grille that looks to be inspired from the Laura. The headlights, which are now halogen bulbs and reflectors as opposed to the previous projector lights, also slope upwards and wrap around the sides of the fender slightly more that the previous model giving it a wider appearance. The front bumper is also now lower and wider and incorporates the fog lights taken from the Laura. These seem slightly large for the bumper which also houses the air dam.

All this is unfortunately still not enough to surpass the sleek, smooth, curves and lines of the Polo. The crisper curves give the Polo a more aggressive look and just has that little extra “wow” appearance about it. The fact that the Polo sits on 15-inch wheels makes quite a difference, as they fill out the wheel arches better and give the Polo that added macho look. The engineering on the Polo is slightly better with more attention paid to the details as can be seen with the VW logo at the rear doubling up as the tailgate lever. The Polo in India gets an added Volkswagen badge at the rear as Volkswagen claims it hopes to increase brand awareness that did not exist previously in the country. Overall the Polo is probably the best looking hatch in its segment in India today with styling that should last for a while. The Fabia with its safer more organic styling comes of second best in round one then.

Round 2: Interior

The interior of the Polo is a mix of colours matched to offer the most luxurious vibe to passengers and contains black and beige dashboard and door panels that combine well with the red luminescent backlight of the instrumentation panel. As the functionality of the instrument cluster is the same in both cars, with both displaying kms till service, trip meter, right gear for driving, etc, the fact that the Polo displays it in red lettering on a black background as opposed to regular green backlight with LCD letters gives it a more sophisticated feel.

Also the quality of materials used in the VW Polo look and feel better with a good example being the faux chrome door handles in the Polo looking better than the plastic ones installed in the Fabia. On the other side although the new Fabia does not get steering wheel audio controls and reverse parking sensors, it comes with a/c vents for the rear passengers, rear reading lamp, dual glove-box as well as an auxiliary port for the music system all of which are missing from the Polo. But there is no mistaking that the Polo has an irrefutable attention to detail and quality which is superior to that of the Fabia. Boot space in the Fabia put it at the top of its class with 315 liters but the Polo weighs in with a respectable 294 liters.

The Fabia scores points in “apparent” space and I say “apparent” because actually measurements reveal that it has only 1 centimeter more rear head and legroom, but this insignificant centimeter makes the cabin of the Fabia seem much larger. The front cabin is also better suited for the driver as he has a slightly higher seating position and the steering wheel in the Fabia also has both the rake and reach function compared to the steering wheel of the Polo which only has the rake feature. The Fabia edges out the Polo in round two as it has those small touches that make the cabin more comfortable for all passengers although negatives like styling are edged out by slightly more spacious interiors.

Round 3: Power train

Both the Skoda and the VW have the same 1.2 liter 3-cylinder turbocharged common rail diesel unit tuned in the same way to produce identical 76 PS of power and 180 Nm of torque. The engine is a huge step up from the older 1.4 unit employed by the Fabia and is also very silent for a diesel engine. The engine does not produce as much power as the Maruti Suzuki Swift but the torque is spread very linear and their lag from the turbo is not noticeable.

Accelerating past traffic is not as easy as one would like as the gearbox has notches that prevents quick shifts and you need to rev it past 2000 rpm to generate the pull. There is nothing to separate the two cars based on their powertrain and this round is a tie.

Look Out for Part (II) in the next few days to see which car comes out on top.

Skoda Fabia vs Volkswagen Polo in India – New Found Brothers Battle it Out (Part II)

Hottest deals on Indian cars till December 2010

Honda Jazz-

Honda Siel Motors India’s big hatch back offering, the Honda Jazz was never meant to be the bread and butter model for the company. It never caught the fancy of the car buying public mainly due to its Honda City rivaling price. However in lieu of the festive season and to clear stocks, Honda Siel Motors India is offering up to Rs.21,000 worth of free insurance and also straight out cash savings of Rs. 38,000 on all of the Honda Jazz variants except the freshly launched Jazz X variant.

Honda City-

The Honda City with its high price always had enough buyers to be the bread and butter model for Honda Siel Motors India. Well, Honda Siel Motors India is in a generous mood and is offering first year’s insurance free on all the variants of the Honda City. This translates to about Rs. 28,000 savings and makes the Honda City more accessible to the car buying public.

Honda Accord-

Just another highly desirable Honda with a discount and this is a big one at that. It also gets the same first year comprehensive free insurance and that amounts to discounts ranging from Rs. 57,000 to Rs. 77,000, depending on the variant selected. This would ease of some amount from the premium, the Honda Accord commands over its rivals.

Hyundai i10-

India’s second largest car manufacturer Hyundai Motors India Limited have the Hyundai i10 as one of its best selling car models. They launched the face-lifted Hyundai i10 recently and hence aren’t offering any discounts on it. If you are a first time car buyer, then this would dishearten you however if you are going to trade your old car for the Hyundai i10 at the Hyundai showroom, then you can avail of the Rs.10,000 exchange bonus.

Hyundai Accent Executive-

Hyundai’s long in the tooth warhorse and one which has been globally replaced by the Hyundai Verna, the Hyundai Accent Executive isn’t offered with any cash discounts as of now. However to compensate for this, Hyundai Motors India Limited are offering the Hyundai Accent Executive with a free MP3 player and 4 front speakers. These items otherwise purchased as a dealer option would cost you Rs. 8,000. The same deal of exchanging your old car at a Hyundai showroom for a new Hyundai Accent Executive will fetch you an exchange bonus of Rs.10,000.

Hyundai Verna Transform-

Hyundai’s slow selling Hyundai Verna Transform is been offered with a flat cash discount of Rs.10,000 and not to mention the Rs.15,000 on the Hyundai Verna Transform petrol and the Rs.10,000 on the Hyundai Verna Transform diesel if you chose to trade in your existing car at the Hyundai showroom. This makes a good deal on what is an underestimated car.

Hyundai Sonata Transform-

From the time it has been launched, the Hyundai Sonata Transform was never offered with a discount. However things have been changed and now Hyundai’s flagship in India is been sold with attractive cash discounts of Rs.30,000 on any variant that you select. There are a variety of variants on sale and we reckon that this is the right time to buy a Hyundai Sonata Transform.

Maruti Suzuki A-star-

Maruti Suzuki India Limited’s small car offering, the Maruti Suzuki A-star is been offered with a flat cash discount of Rs. 12,000 on any variant, the exception been the 4 speed automatic version. And similar to Hyundai’s offer, the Maruti Suzuki A-star makes do with a Rs.10,000 exchange bonus if you are trading your old car for an A-star at the Maruti Suzuki showroom.

Fiat Punto-

Fiat Motors India limited are not one to be left behind in the discount scheme and hence are offering Rs.24,000 of comprehensive insurance free for the first year on the Fiat Grande Punto. It is said that some dealers are even ready to offer Rs.2,000 more on outright purchase. However these generosities don’t extend for the recently launched 90 Hp diesel variants.

Tata Safari-

Tata Motors old warhorse, the Tata Safari is also been offered with a discount. One can take advantage of the Rs.15,000 exchange bonus if you trade in any of your old cars at a Tata showroom and purchase the Tata Safari. In a competitive mood, some of the dealers are also throwing an additional Rs.5,000 cash discount and that too on all the variants available.

Mahindra Scorpio-

Mahindra & Mahindra’s flagship model, the Mahindra Scorpio is been offered at a flat cash discount of Rs.15,000 across all variants save for the Mahindra Scorpio Automatic. You also get an additional exchange bonus of upto Rs.10,000 on exchange of any old make car for the Mahindra Scorpio.

Ford Fiesta-

Ford Motors India Limited have been concentrating more on marketing of its small car, the Ford Figo and the Ford Endeavour that they conveniently forgot the Ford Fiesta. To remedy this and to move more Ford Fiestas out of the show rooms, Ford are offering Rs.20,000 worth of free first year’s comprehensive insurance package. Plus you get an additional exchange bonus of Rs.10,000 if you plan on exchanging an any make car at the Ford dealership for the Ford Fiesta. There is also Rs.15,000 cash discount or an equivalent of accessories up for grabs. This totals the discounts offered on the Ford Fiesta to approximately Rs.45,000. This brings it to within 8% of the base model’s on-road price.

Mahindra Xylo-

Mahindra & Mahindra’s Xylo is a good option to Toyota’s worthy Innova. There were no discounts on the Mahindra Xylo till now however for the festive season, Mahindra dealers are offering upto Rs.5,000 off on any variant of the Mahindra Xylo. Moreover, if you plan to trade in your existing car for a Mahindra Xylo, you plan to gain Rs.10,000 as an exchange bonus. Some of the Mahindra dealers are also offering 50% discount on the first year’s comprehensive insurance and this works out to be Rs.15,000 in discounts.

Chevrolet Aveo U-VA-

The slow selling and especially so after the arrival of its younger cousin, the Chevrolet Beat, the Chevrolet Aveo U-VA is been offered with a cash discount of upto Rs.15,000 and also a corporate discount of upto Rs.4,000 plus Rs.8,000 worth of accessories. This should enable car buyers on a tight budget to gravitate towards the Chevy. It is a good combination of space, practicality and the addition of the discount makes the deal sweeter.

Volkswagen Jetta-

Not one to be left behind especially in the competitive Indian market, German automobile major Volkswagen are offering first year’s comprehensive insurance free on the Volkswagen Jetta. This would mean savings of upto Rs.50,000 to Rs.70,000 on the Volkswagen Jetta depending on the variant you choose. Buyers interested in the finance option get an additional 6% finance discount. This would be our deal of the month for all the aforementioned vehicles. All this is been done to make way for the 2011 Volkswagen Jetta model which is slated to hit the show rooms soon.

2011 Fiat Grande Punto in India

Fiat Grande Punto Review

Fiat India Automobiles Limited (FIAL) is coming out with the new version of its latest Punto. The Fiat Grande Punto is the best selling car from the Fiat range in the Indian market and Fiat is looking to further increase sales and capture a greater market share in the small care segment. Competing with the likes of the Hyundai i20, Maruti Swift, Hyundai Getz and Chevrolet Aveo UV-A in the B segment, the Punto is the most powerful diesel hatchback in its class with 90 horsepower.

The Fiat Grande Punto is an excellent car offering a wonderful driving dynamics, ride, braking, handling and fuel economy. With prices expected to be between 4 lakhs and 7 lakhs the Grande Punto is a very competent and competitive vehicle for those looking to own a small car.

Fiat is launching two new variants of its Punto the 1.2 Dynamic and 1.2 Emotion and being an Italian model prides itself on being one of the best styled cars in its segment as well.

Performance – Fiat Grande Punto in India

The Fiat Grande Punto is being released in India as a joint venture between Fiat and Indian car manufacturer Tata Motors. The Punto has received rave reviews globally since its introduction in 2005 and has won accolades like “car of the year 2008” in Brazil. Safety features in the Punto are also at a premium and it enjoys a 5 star rating from the Euro NCAP tests.

The Fiat Grande Punto is going to be introduced to the Indian market with three types of engines – a 1.2 liter petrol, 1.4 liter FIRE petrol and 1.3 liter multi-jet turbo diesel. Being smaller than 4 meters it fits into India’s category of a small car and benefits from a number of reductions in excise duties.

The Fiat Grande Punto will be available with both petrol and diesel powered engines. There are two types of petrol power engines, one which is a 1.2 liter and the other a 1.4 liter engine. The petrol version of the Grande Punto comes in a choice of 5 trims, with the 1.2 liter model available as 1.2 Active, 1.2 Dynamic and 1.2 Emotion. The 1.2 liter, FIRE petrol engine produces 68 horsepower and 96 Nm torque and is one of the most fuel efficient engines on Indian roads today.

The 1.4 liter engine is available in Emotion and Emotion Pack trims and is also powered by the FIRE petrol engine which produces a max output of 90 horsepower and 115 Nm torque.

As opposed to the petrol versions of the Grande Punto, the diesel models come with different versions of Fiat’s 1.3 liter multi-jet diesel engine. This engine further improves the fuel efficiency of the Grande Punto allowing it to do 14 kmpl in the city and 19 kmpl of the highway. The engine also uses a variable geometry turbocharger to improve the performance. The 1.3 liter, Multi-jet VGT diesel engine puts out a max power of 93 horsepower and 209 Nm of torque and is more powerful than the base version of the 1.3 liter which puts out only 76 horsepower and 197 Nm of torque. The diesel engine models also come with various trim options of Active, Dynamic and Emotion.

Just because the Grande Punto is powered by what looks like a small engine it does not mean that the car is sluggish. The Punto has a decent acceleration the 1.2 liter FIRE petrol engine powers the car from 0-100 kph in about 14.5 seconds while reaching a top speed of 155 kmph. The 1.4 liter petrol engine with that added power helps get the Punto from 0-100 kph in 10.9 seconds and helps it achieve a top speed of 178 kmph.

The 1.3 liter diesel version with Multi-jet VGT also provides good acceleration allowing the vehicle to reach the 100kmph mark in only 13.6 seconds while giving it a top speed of 165 kmph.

Styling

The Fiat Grande Punto is available to international markets with the option of two body styles, the three-door hatch and a five-door hatch, but buyers in the Indian market will have to make do with only one version the five-door model.

The interiors and exteriors of the car are very striking and are bound to take people by surprise as they incorporate some unique design features. The Italian design heritage comes through the updated look with its fluid lines, steep hood and curved roofline. The front fascia is further accentuated by the grille which adds to the vehicles aggressive look and the smooth, vertically sloped headlights give the car an almost curvy look.

The sharply sloping front windshield, that leads from the roofline and joins with the hood also give the car a hunched down, low slung almost crouched look like it is about to spring up and jet off. The rear of the Punto is also freshly designed with the c-pillar smoothly integrating with the lift back that incorporates the long taillights and also has a slight lip spoiler to aid with down force.

The Grande Punto is fitted with 15 inch wheels that come in both steel and alloy variants. The base models of Punto, the Active and Dynamic come with the steel wheels but the top line Emotion pack has the ultra sporty and sleek alloy rims. Tires provided are tubeless, puncture resistant, all weather R14’s or R15’s.

Interiors of the Grande Punto are also designed neatly and have typical Italian influences. The front cabin is not cluttered with unnecessary buttons and knobs and the red speedometer and tachometer display gives the car a cool, chic, trendy look that would no doubt attract younger buyers. The controls on the dashboard are ergonomically placed for maximum driver comfort and the steering wheel also has the audio and climate controls embedded in it.

Other styling features of the Punto that make it exciting are the leather wrapped steering and gear knob, steering wheel one touch controls, adjustable driver’s seat and Bluetooth connectivity. The Grande Punto is the first car in its segment to offer hands free Bluetooth connectivity.

The Grande Punto has a very open and spacious cabin and allows both the front and rear passengers ample headroom and legroom. The rear sets are 60:40 foldable split seats and ensure additional space if required although the boot is pretty spacious as is.

The Punto is also loaded with a powerful audio system that supports MP3, inbuilt USB port, auxiliary port and has six-speakers. The climate controlled air conditioning is also powerful and enhances the comfort levels in the Grande Punto.

Fiat Grande Punto Price and Recommendations

The Fiat Grande Punto is one of the best options presently available in the Indian small car segment. It provides maximum safety incorporating safety features like Dual front airbags, anti-lock brakes, electronic brake force distribution (EBD), fire prevention system (FPS) to automatically shut off fuel supply in case of a collision, Fiat Code System (FCS) with immobilizer to prevent theft, Crash Severity Algorithm (CSA) which calculates the severity of impact and deploys airbags accordingly and Early Crash Sensor (ECS) that makes the airbags deploy early and prevents passengers from hitting the dash and steering in case of a heavy impact.

It has all the necessary requirement to make it a very comfortable car, while offering the best power in its class. The fuel efficiency of the 1.3 turbo diesel is also impeccable and combines economy with great looks. The Grande Punto will be available in six exciting colors – Minimal Grey, Electric Blue, Exotica Red, Boss Nova White, Medium Grey and Hip Hop Black.

Fiat has had a history of being appreciated for its quality and the Grande Punto continues in the same vein. The impressive interiors are also satisfying and fit in well with the overall feel of the car. The Fiat Grande Punto is a very strong contender in this competitive segment and the safety and performance upgrades should continue to make it one of Fiat’s best selling cars in India.

2011 Fiat Grande Punto India Specifications and Price

Vehicle Category: Hatchback
Engines (petrol): 1.2 L, 4-cyl, FIRE, 68 HP, 96 Nm torque
Engine (petrol): 1.4 L, 4-cyl, FIRE, 90 HP, 115 Nm torque
Engines (diesel): 1.3 L, 4-cyl, Multi-jet, turbocharged, 93 HP, 209Nm torque
Drive train: Front engine, 5 passenger, 5-door hatch, FWD
Transmissions (standard): 5-speed manual
0-100 kph: 11.5 sec (est.)
Mileage city/hwy: 12/ 16.2 kmpl
Fiat Grande Punto Price: Rs.4 – 7 lakhs(est.)