ROAD TEST REVIEWS

Audi Q2 – Pocket Rocket

February 21, 2021 / 0 Comments / 234 / ROAD TEST REVIEWS

The Audi Q2 Is Globally positioned below the Q3, Q5 and Q7.  It was the easiest entry ticket to The Lord of the Rings club until recently when the A4 made its debut on Indian shores. The Q2 is based on the VW Group’s scalable MQB platform that’s shared across VW group cars such as Octavia, Polo, Karoq to name a few. The Audi q2 that we have here was launched way back in 2016 in the international markets but it took 4 years to reach Indian shores. that said,  the facelift of which is already on the international cards.

Pros

+ Looks really Sporty, with barely any usage of chrome on its exteriors, this beautiful shade of Red enhances the sporty quotient
+ Top-notch quality of materials used – soft-touch panels, flat-bottom steering wheel and the buttons are built to withstand an apocalypse
+ Ride – Slot it into the comfort mode and it absorbs most of the craters thrown at it easily
+ Drivability – responsive 2L engine churns 188 bhp and 320 Nm. This bundled with customised driving modes and paddle shifters ticks all the boxes for an enthusiast, the steering is responsive too
+ Quattro –  delivers power to the wheels with the most grip, maximising traction in wet-weather conditions or rather any weather conditions with the all-wheel-drive system
+ The boot is easily accessible, the absence of a deeper boot lip ensures it’s very easy to load and unload the luggage
+ 7-speed S-Tronic is slick! Not the best but it’s beautifully paired with the motor, negligible turbo lag in fairly-spirited driving
Wind-tone Horn is LOUD. Enough to scare away a 64 wheel trailer on an expressway

Cons

– Expensive, at 62 lakhs, on-road BLR for the flagship trim, this is targeted for deep pockets
– Outdated Tech – No touchscreen, you would have to do navigate using the rotary knob
– Rear seating – The seat has the most upright angle we have seen, a large tunnel means the 3rd passenger at the centre will be disappointed. The small rear window makes you feel claustrophobic in the longer run, Absence of rear AC vents are a let down in our tropical summers
 -Lacks Features – No electric seats, manual sunroof cover (Harrier gets an electric release), no 360 deg cam, ventilated seats etc
– Horn Pad is hard. Blessing in disguise is it should prevent unnecessary honking
– The international facelift of the Q2 is almost on cards, making the current-gen Q2 feel aged

Exterior

The design elements in the Q2 works towards giving it the look of a bigger SUV but in reality, it is not that big. Honestly, it’s more of a generously sized hatchback than a proper SUV but then again, that’s not that bad because what you get is a sporty-looking package with good enough ground clearance to tackle anything that comes your way and a car for which finding a parking spot will not be a cumbersome process. Although, do keep in mind that while the height of the Q2 isn’t all that tall, the width is quite a lot. The roofline drops down almost like an SUV coupe along with thick C pillars and there’s distinctive chiselled bodywork along with the doors. The large but stylishly rounded wheel arches also compliment the side profile although these are not unique to this particular product. The windows are decently sized and there’s adequate ground clearance to make the Q2 stand relatively tall.

The headlights are full-LED and have ‘T’ shaped LED DRLs that look extremely nice.

The car gets a projector unit for the low beam and a reflector for the high and the cornering lights. Sadly the SUV does not get a set of fog lights, which we think is a fairly important parameter to consider for India but the overall visibility from the headlight cluster is good. Moving to the side, the car gets 17-inch multispoke alloy wheels that look pretty nice and go well with the overall proportions of the car. The car also gets an ‘S-Line’ badge on the side fender, along with blacked out ORVMs. The ORVMs get integrated LED indicators as well.

Interior

Q2’s interior quality is impressive. Once you step in you will be greeted by a simple dashboard layout, the design of which looks outdated compared to its rivals but the quality of materials used screams of luxury and the build quality is top-notch. It’s a well-built solid car. The glove box is pretty deep and does a good job of holding on to a lot of stuff. the design of AC vents seems to have been borrowed from the Audi A3 and we honestly felt it goes very well with the sporty characteristics of the car. Even the doors do a good job of holding the water bottles and some utility stuff. The Armrest has a dual purpose to support your arm and beneath it, you will find the wireless charging pad. You get a fully digital instrument cluster that can double up for many things like the entire screen can basically become an entire map for navigation and that is a feature that I absolutely love.

Q2’s cabin also gets funky looking backlit trims that help uplift the cabin’s ambience and go well with the overall youthful, sporty appeal of the crossover. While features wise you largely get everything you’d expect from a luxury car in this segment including wireless charging, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay support, a large sunroof, two-zone climate control, reverse parking camera, front and rear parking sensors to name a few, the lack of powered front seats does seem like a shocking omission especially considering the asking price. 

Front seats have loads of adjustment, so drivers will be able to get comfortable, especially with a steering wheel that adjusts up and down, as well as in and out. Headroom is good, too, even in the rear where Audi’s designers have worked hard to keep the roofline low for a sportier look – there’s a distinct hollowing out of the roofline at the back but a six-foot passenger can sit behind a six-foot driver in reasonable comfort. Your knees will just about be brushing the back of the front seats, but you won’t have to splay your legs out.

Black interiors will make you feel slightly claustrophobic. The back seats aren’t comfortable as one would expect it to be; thanks to their upright design that makes it difficult for tall passengers to relax on long trips. Rear seats are upright and feel a bit of a squeeze for full-sized adults and are best only for shorter journeys. The height of the transmission tunnel is quite evident. There isn’t quite enough room for three adults to sit side-by-side either and it’s good only for two adults. Headroom is decent, there’s some surplus knee room, and since you can put your feet under the front seats, you can even stretch out a bit. The seat base is short. Also, while there are USB sockets in the rear, both are Type C units. The larger side windows and light headlining help create an airier atmosphere, but the Audi suffers from small door openings, making access to the rear bench a little tricky. 

The dashboard-mounted 8-inch Multi-Media Interface (MMI) comes with apple car play and android auto.  The infotainment screen is not a touch screen and feels so outdated that you will have to use the rotary click wheel MMI controller just behind the gear lever to operate it. You can use this to swipe through menus, and also for writing in letters of an address into the satellite navigation and this system is very good at recognizing letters-no matter how scrawled and distorted they may be.

Drivability

The Audi Q2 is fun to drive, easy to squeeze through traffic, comfortable to park. It’s very smooth, linear and pairs well with the 7-speed S Tronic DSG gearbox it comes with. Shifts aren’t super-quick, but they’re acceptable. Driving modes are available that quicken responses and putting the gearbox into ‘S’ mode ignite the spark in the cabin.

The view from the driver’s seat is commanding but unfortunately, it’s a manual seat. The absence of electronically adjustable seats, in spite of paying half a crore, is a big letdown and will drive away a lot of potential Audi customers to its rivals. Even cars costing a million have electronically adjustable seats. No ventilated seats either.

The Audi Q2’s engine feels very refined at idle. There is no discernable turbo lag and while it feels strong enough lower down after around 2,000rpm is when this four-cylinder turbo really gets into its groove. The 7-speed dual-clutch gearbox is quick to respond and doesn’t really give any reason to complain. There are occasions, albeit few and far between, when the transmission can get caught out and might not live up to your expectations by not downshifting quickly enough, but you can always take control via the paddle shifters at your disposal. You also get multiple driving modes including efficiency, comfort, auto, dynamic and individual that alter engine, gearbox and steering response. 

What’s worth mentioning is that It stands at a kerb weight of just 1205 kg! That’s a whole 200 kgs lighter than the Octavia 1.8 TSI. Considering it makes 10 more hp and a whole 70 Nm torque more than the Octavia 1.8 TSI and also has the 7 speed DSG. This beast gives a serious attempt to fly! Real-world 0-100 figure stands at 6.7 sec making it as fast as a VRS and that too with Quattro AWD! A perfect contender for the track days at BIC.

Ride and Handling

The ride is firm at low speeds with sharp-edged bumps filtering in, but it improves by leaps and bounds as speeds build up with the Q2 display great composure at higher speeds.

The steering of Audi Q2 comes from the hot Audi S3 model and it feels meaty enough to put a smile on your face. It’s not too heavy, making it an easy car to drive around town – especially thanks to the raised driving position. And in spite of the car’s short wheelbase and high centre of gravity, there’s not too much body roll when you go around corners – helped by the car’s wide track.

Verdict

The Audi Q2 is an attractive proposition for its stand-apart looks, practical dimensions, superb drive dynamics and the fact that it is coming from a brand that many aspire to own. For those looking to break into the luxury SUV segment, the Q2 makes a solid case. Yes, its cabin space and feature list leaves a lot to be desired and takes some of the charms away but it still has the right ingredients to be a potential star in not just the Q family but in its segment as well. In Fact, Q2 has the advantage of not having a direct competitor. 

Prices start from around Rs 35 lakh (ex-showroom) for the base variant. The top of the line Audi Q2 we drove retails at 62 lakhs on-road Bangalore and that is a high asking price for a car this size. Plus, entry-level crossovers like the BMW X1 and Volvo XC40 are bigger and cheaper with low sticker price considerably lower asking price which makes the Audi Q2 a very hard sell indeed. It has a slight edge over rivals being the only one available with all-wheel drive. The Audi Q2 is worth considering if you want a compact luxury car with good looks and a high-quality cabin and one that is genuinely exciting to drive.

Currently, Audi India is betting big on after-sales revenue. Sooner or later, old cars might stop coming. They can easily launch some limited numbers at no profits and get the people back to their showrooms. Once you have a crowd, it’s possible to convert some of these leads to higher models. But with this kind of launches where Audi is getting ambitious with the pricing, they would have to reshuffle their portfolio for it, thankfully the A4 should be the game-changer, but how good is it? Stay tuned for our road-test review coming shortly.

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Maruti Suzuki S Cross – Jack of All Trades

February 19, 2021 / 0 Comments / 256 / ROAD TEST REVIEWS

The Maruti Suzuki S-Cross made its debut in the Indian market in 2015. Back then, it was offered two engine options – both types of diesel. The first being the tried and tested 1.3-litre DDiS unit and the second was the more powerful and fun-to-drive 1.6-litre DDiS unit enthusiasts to date. The 1.6-litre version found few takers over the years and became extinct soon enough owing to lukewarm market response, the S-Cross has only managed mixed responses over the course of these several years and still remains under-rated as the segment truly lacks a potent premium crossover. If there’s something that ticks most of the boxes right, it’s the robust-service network. 

Pros:

  • Solid build & good quality, inside out. Panel gaps are minimum especially in the sensitive areas where the metal meets the plastic cladding
  • Punchy 1.5L petrol offers great driveability in terms of responsiveness & Efficiency
  • Mature ride & handling package.  Feels extremely planted at triple-digit speeds
  • Practical interiors, spacious cabin and supportive seats,  loads of space in the first row
  • Features such as LED headlamps, cruise control, auto headlamps & wipers etc.
  • Maruti’s excellent after-sales support network,  massive coverage in the tier-2 and tier 3 cities

Cons:

  • No diesel option! Maruti’s BS6 1.5L diesel engine is still some time away
  • Unappealing styling. Looks like a big hatchback (not a crossover / SUV). Is quite old too, Maruti will have to up the game of S cross to stay competitive in the segment
  • Sunroof, wireless charger and other features like air purifier (which the competition offers) are sorely missed
  •  Although the boot is satisfactory it’s not big enough for a car of this size
  • Steering feedback is mediocre, could have weighed up better with speed

Exterior

The front end on the SCross comes with the bold looking 10 vertical slats engulfed in chrome. The headlights have received an update in the facelift. The sharp-looking crystalline headlights get a lot of busy elements and come with projector beams and DRL’s as well. The front bumpers come with nice blending black portions that run across the lower half of the bumper and on the air dam. The bumpers also get a faux skid plate in the silver-grey finish along with round fog lamps that add essence to the SUV-like front fascia.The side profile also remains the same with blacked-out window frames and door-mounted wing mirrors with LED turn lights.

The wheel arches come with protector inserts and the wheels are wrapped in 16 inches of rubber. The roof also comes with real metal roof rails giving that much-needed Crossover look. The rear profile also remains unchanged with the crisp looking LED tail lamps and the rear bumper with the integrated silver faux skid plate completing the rugged look at the rear. The boot lid comes with the Smart HYBRID badging on it, which IMO looks louder than what it does. The S cross certainly looks very butchy and shouts masculine. Sadly, the competition has got fierce with time and this is only something to worry about for the homegrown manufacturer. A bit of splash on the exteriors is the need of the hour.

Interior

The best part about getting into the S-Cross is that you can just walk into it. It’s neither as high as SUVs nor as low sedans or hatchbacks. The seats are comfortable and the low dash means very good visibility. The fit and finish are quite good, the cabin is one of the roomiest in the segment  If you’re familiar with the S-Cross, you’ll notice there aren’t too many changes on the inside. The S-Cross petrol gets the updated SmartPlay screen interface, with its improved user experience. The dashboard, dials and everything else in the cabin is just the way it has been since its inception. If there’s something the Millenials might crib about, is the absence of a sunroof. While the segment is upping the game with a panoramic sunroof, Maruti should have given a serious thought in plonking a conventional sunroof at least. 

While it’s a clean dashboard layout with the big 7-inch screen, the design layout looks a little dated. What also does not help is the all-black layout with no dual-tone colours. The plenty of chrome surround touches across the dash help in breaking the monotony of the design. Quality of plastics is acceptable and nothing to complain about. The S-Cross also has one of the most comfortable rear seats in its class. There’s plenty of legroom, The under-thigh support is good and what makes sitting in the rear even better is that the backrest is nicely angled and can even be reclined by a small amount. The rear passengers, adults or kids should not complain much about long-distance journeys. However, you don’t have AC vents in the rear, and there are no USB or 12-volt sockets to help you charge your devices. While we could still live with the absence of USB charging ports, our tropical summers will crave AC vents. The reason being the glasshouse of the car is quite big and it actually takes quite some time for the cool air to traverse all the way to the rear of the cabin. 

Drive

The K15 naturally-aspirated petrol engine is quite a versatile unit. Along with other chief cars from the Maruti Suzuki stable in our country,  including the widely-popular Brezza in our markets, it can now be found under the hood of the new S-Cross. In terms of power, the 1.5L NA engine develops 105bhp and 138Nm of peak torque. It’s mated to either a 5-speed manual or the easy-going 4-speed automatic torque converter.  While the power figure is higher, it is of no match to some of the modern turbo-petrol in the segment – like the segment-leader Kicks or the South Korean brothers! Customers will also have to forget that characteristic mid-range punch and excellent fuel efficiency of the old S-Cross diesel. The engine fires up with very little noise and without transmitting any vibrations to the cabin, there’s a neatly tucked in start-stop button that should help you in this case. At idle, it is silent. Press the clutch and you’ll find that it is not as light as that of the Ciaz, but is still friendly enough. Thankfully, the travel of the clutch is fairly limited and it’s nothing much to complain about. The gear shifter is light & smooth to use as well. The throws are short and crisp, something that bought a grin on our face every single time. Release the clutch gradually and the car moves forward without any throttle input. You can even pull away from a standstill in 2nd gear if you plan to get ambitious with the throttle input. Throttle response is quite satisfactory. Power comes in smooth & seamless. Out on the open road, the car feels adequately quick, but far from being really f-a-s-t. Simply no comparison to the turbo-petrol of the competition. Power delivery is linear and there is enough performance The S-Cross is more suited to a sedate driving style. Drive it around the town and you would accept that it’s not tailored for an enthusiast, rather meant for someone aspiring to have an extremely spacious crossover in their garage. Maruti appears to have shortened the gearing for the heavier S-Cross. Coming to NVH levels, the engine is silent while idling and acceptably refined at low revs. However, it is audible above 2,500 rpm. You can always hear the motor when you are accelerating. It starts getting loud post 3,500 rpm, and a lot more so after 4,500 rpm. The S cross is definitely not the car that will push you back seat.

Ride and Handling

The ride quality feels premium with good suspension tuning, we drove the car on bad roads of Bangalore and some real bad potholes but the S-Cross just glided through them with a broad smile. Also, the ground clearance of 180mm helps matters on driving on bad roads or big speed breakers to a large extent. As mentioned the Smart Hybrid system works flawlessly and so does the Auto Start-Stop function. The in-cabin comfort level is very good for the front and rear passengers both. The driver getting the best and most commanding view of the road ahead. The ride quality is very good with a premium drive to feel. The S-cross would definitely be one of the strongest contenders for our cross-country drives in twists and turns of one of the infinite ghats of Karnataka, not because it is the most spirited cars to drive there, but the car feels extremely planted with negligible body roll when it is being driven at triple-digit speeds in the hairpin bends. 

Smart hybrid

To make up for the outgoing diesel engine’s higher fuel efficiency and torque, the Maruti Suzuki S Cross petrol gets a technology called the Smart Hybrid. It has various fuel-saving features, such as the engine stops automatically when idling, and has a lithium-ion battery that assists engine power. Maruti tries to pay a lot of attention to this by opting-in for a dedicated badge at the rear of the car. The smart hybrid also assists in increasing the torque when needed.  

Safety kit

The Maruti Suzuki S Cross comes loaded with a long list of safety equipment which includes standard front dual airbags, ABS with EBD, ISOFIX child seat anchorages, pedestrian protection compliance, full-frontal, front offset and side-impact compliance, auto headlamps, auto wipers, Hill hold (AT trim), auto-dimming IRVM to name a few. Glad to see manufacturers paying extra heed to prioritise safety in the era which is dominated by endless feature list which falls prey to the limited usability, practicality and convenience. 

Verdict

The S-Cross not only gets a new compliant engine but also gets a lot of features included on the list. It’s the car that craves for the allrounder tag. It’s The car has always been a great option in its class in terms of performance, safety and looks and now gets better. The S-Cross 1.5L Petrol is super fun to drive and delivers an excellent overall drive feel too. Starting at Rs. 8.39 Lakh for the Sigma MT trims this becomes a very good option if you are out there looking for a sturdy and proven Crossover also making it an attractive proposition for the price-conscious buyer and those looking at a practical buy for daily commutes can keep it high on the list of cars to consider.

What truly impressed us was the sturdy built quality which takes a break from the stereotypes of Maruti’s association with the average built quality. Backed by Nexa, the post-sales service is also excellent. But if you are looking for an engaging drive with features aplenty, the Maruti Suzuki S-Cross is likely to fall short. Especially when you expect the driving experience to be in sync with some of the latest offerings from Europe. That said, the S-cross still remains one of the most under-rated cars in the country, especially when you realise the real estate you get in return for every single penny invested in it. 

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Volvo S60 – The Blind Choice!

December 23, 2020 / 0 Comments / 284 / ROAD TEST REVIEWS

Volvo S60 is the latest offering from the Swedish carmaker and is slated to launch in March 2021. Can it take on the German Trio and the Brit Icon? Let’s find out!

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Mahindra Thar 2020: Heart over Mind

December 4, 2020 / 0 Comments / 457 / ROAD TEST REVIEWS

Mahindra has finally launched the much awaited 2020 Thar. But, can the Thar be the only car in your garage? Let’s find out!

Pros:

+ An absolutely gorgeous head-turner. No kiddin’, the Range Rover sport we drove to Wayanad didn’t turn as many heads like this. Call it the initial euphoria but this still remains a fact

+ Leaps, bounds and LIGHT YEARS ahead than the previous Thar. Plastics, gear levers, refinement levels, safety and literally every damn thing is improved

+ The 2.2 mHawk is an absolute joy to drive. Begs to be pushed harder. Absolutely no nervousness at serious triple-digit speeds on “straight roads” in terms of Thar’s stability

+6 Speed AT is good, if not the best. The manual mode of the automatic is a joy to use as it does not upshift automatically in 1st & 2nd gear, very helpful in off-roading 

+ Feature loaded for a ‘Jeep’. Loved the off-road statistics bundled with cruise control, voice commands, android auto & apple car play

+ A very strong contender for being the only car in the garage. M&M has left no stone unstoned to make it an attractive mass-market proposition

+ The AC is a bone-chiller. Best we have ever seen!

+ Tackled some of the toughest obstacles in off-roading like a cakewalk, rear-diff lock is a boon. Ground clearance, water wading capacity and departure angle are now improved

+ Surprisingly spacious for 4 onboard, squeeze in the kid as a 5th passenger and they won’t complain

+ The entry/exit to the rear seat is fairly easy. Senior citizens will, of course, find it difficult but the Millennials shouldn’t be complaining about it

+ Fantastic braking, better than most of the cars from the M&M’s stable. Really wish the pedal was slightly less spongy though

+ Pretty decent sound clarity from the music system, considering that the speakers are mounted on the roof in an unconventional position. Vocals need improvement though. 

+ The headlamps offer stupendous illumination. Very impressive for OEM standards

+ The steering is calibrated really well. It’s not 100% direct but way better than some of the modern joysticks

Cons:

– Wind Noise at triple-digit speeds is LOUD. Gets worse as the speedo needle rises further

– You need the key every time you want to refuel. A big turn-off. Especially, in such unprecedented times when you want to have minimum contact with the external world

– Absence of dead pedal is a killjoy, especially if you are driving an automatic

– While the absence of a reverse camera is acceptable from the off-roading perspective, most of the buyers will REALLY miss it

– Although our test car was the Hard-top version, it began to squeak when driven over bad roads after day 2 of the drive

– Ride quality, although improved, feels uncomposed when driven at decent speeds over potholes/breakers

– Boot space has been compromised. Stuffing anything more than 2 big duffle bags is a pain. Expect a lot of after-market roof carriers

– The horn-pad needs some effort to operate. Would have preferred something lighter. Blessing in disguise being this should prevent unnecessary honking

– Presence of a USB port at the rear would be very convenient for rear passengers

– On our pre-production test cars (Manual & Auto), the Low air pressure warning light (TPMS) was glowing even after all the tires were refilled with air. Hope this is not present across other production units. 

Exterior

In case you walk into the dealership to check out the all-new Mahindra Thar, you would probably wonder if you walked into one of the 80+ Jeep dealerships across India. That’s the extent of similarity of the new Thar to the Jeep Wrangler. With the old iconic 7 slated grille making way for this make-shift design with radiator and intercooler tucked in, let’s find out if the Thar still retains its charm or has lost significant heritage as it evolved over a decade. 

Mahindra has decided to go the old school way with the Halogens for headlamps and the fog lamps when most of the manufacturers are moving to LEDs. We have nothing much to complain about here because we feel it would be cheaper in replacing them if they are damaged in off-roading. The tiny DRLs are placed above the side-turn indicator console. In our opinion, Mahindra could have spent slightly more bandwidth in designing the front bumper. However, we really loved the retro touches given like the bonnet opener to maintain its Jeep DNA. Small bits like the graphical designs of the camel and cactus add a spark of modern heritage. 

Mahindra has done a stupendous job of adding the hardtop to the Thar instead of a make-shift canopy. The 18 inches blacked-out alloys wrapped in all-terrain tyres in this case, gel very well with the classic design of the Thar and the side steps make the ingress a bit easier. The 4×4 badge reminds you of your quest for adventure. While the new Thar feels modernistic in every way, the old-school way of opening the fuel lid with the key is a big let down especially in these unprecedented times when you want to have minimal contact with the external world

If you have seen the Wrangler closely, the rear of the Thar feels home. The legacy of mounting the spare wheel on the tailgate continues and this occupies a good amount of real estate blocking the rearward visibility and that’s when you really miss the presence of a rearview camera. The tail-lamps are LEDs and this 1 of the 11 Thar badge goes unnoticed. 

The boot is small enough just to stuff 2 big duffle bags. Airport transfers or long-distance road trips mean you would have to fold the rear seats or add a roof carrier. 

Interiors

It’s a no-brainer that you would spend most of your time inside the Thar than the outside. If you liked the quality of the exteriors then we would iterate that the interiors are light years ahead than the previous one. Although the plastics on the dash feel hard, it’s nothing much to complain about. The steering wheel looks like it’s lifted off the TUV and has multiple controls on it. The speedometer and tachometer look conventional, a sportier touch would be more appealing. But it glows up beautifully at night. There is a small MID for a multitude of options which are controlled through these switches including the headlamp leveller and the headlamps are exceptional for OEM standards.  The AC vents feel like you’re in a sedan with a tweak of carbon fibre like between them and we aren’t kidding, this is the most powerful Air conditioning system we have ever been in. There is a 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system for various know-how but one thing that we would love to highlight is the adventure statistics that give information about the off-road parameters of the car like the inclination angle, tilt etc. The glove box feels really small and is nearly useless. There is a grab handle placed on the dash for the front passenger. If there’s something that’s going to fill you with immense pride, it’s the made-in-India badge engraved here. Mahindra deserves applause for finally making the 4WD selector looks much premium than ever before. But, the absence of a dead pedal is something that will hit you hard, more so if you are driving the automatic variant. Not to forget, the floor is washable too. In case you had a tiring day at the off-road academy, there’s dedicated cup holders for your cold coffee, a 12V charging socket for your smartphone and a USB port to delve into the melodies of your favourite artist. The placement of power window switches at the centre pod is a smart move from the off-roading perspective. 

Drive

Mahindra has decided to use Mahindra Thar to debut two of its much-awaited power mills. The 2L turbo-petrol churning 150 bhp and a 2.2 L DIesel producing 130 bhp, with manual and automatic transmission available on both of them. However, our test car was equipped with the Diesel paired with a manual transmission. The engine comes to its full life around 1300 rpm and that’s when it sprints, pushing it further esp around 3000 rpm and it becomes evident that you’re driving the oil burner. The acceleration isn’t as brisk as some of the low-slung cars but the motor feels eager and begs to be revved harder and it’s the mid-range where the joy of driving really lies in.

Mahindra has left no stone unturned to ensure that the Thar appeals to an everyday buyer as a city-friendly car and this was evident in our road trips to pondicherry and Dakshin Karnataka amongst lush green hills and narrow roads. 

Since the Mahindra Thar isn’t a tarmac-focussed leopard, we decided to test the on-road behaviour in a slightly different way. For Example, although we drove the Hardtop variant, we felt that there was a lot of wind noise entering the cabin as we reached triple-digit speeds. More so when I stepped on the gas pedal to raise the speedo needle further. While we were returning from our 3-day drive, we did notice that the hardtop had begun to squeak. Just to reinstate, our test car had clocked just over 2,000 km back then.  

Ride & Handling 

When you push the Thar around the corners, the car reminds you that it’s the body-on-frame construction that is not corner-friendly with some noticeable movement of the chassis affecting the composure. Even a toddler would notice the significant difference in ride quality compared to the previous-gen, but it’s still harsh and it reminds you very often that you’re in a Jeep. The leaf springs at the rear have made way for the coil springs and it’s not even remotely plush to some of the modern crossovers, but the Thar can go places the others can just dream of. In a nutshell, you would prefer to drive over potholes at crawling speeds. With a massive ground clearance of 226 mm, the Thar will never ever kiss the speed breakers. 

The brakes on the Mahindra Thar, the front discs and rear drums, brought a wide grin on our face, it’s one of the best we have seen from the Mahindra’s stable. If we were allowed to be optimistic, We would have preferred a tad less sponginess from the pedal though.  

Conclusion

Can the  Mahindra TharThar be the only car in the garage or is it better as a second car? To answer this we did 2 different kinds of reviews. One – the on-road test and the off-road test in B’lore where we put the thar across various obstacles to check its limits

I can bet my life on it, the all-new Thar is better than the previous one in every possible way. The engine, the features…Had Bought the earlier thar, I would probably be a victim of impulsive buying but that’s not the case with this anymore. I will have absolutely no regrets.

Mahindra had been consistently losing its share of the pie in the Indian SUV segment to new contenders. Will the Thar be the catalyst to the ultimate revival strategy for this homegrown manufacturer? We would leave that to time but if there’s something that’s certainly in their favour, it’s the lack of direct competition with an exceptional overall package that’s biased towards the adventure junkie in you. While the lower variants are a steal for their sticker price, the Mahindra Thar has to be your love-at-first-sight to welcome the top-end variant in your garage as your primary car.  

Click here to read about the incredible Desert Survival experience!

Kia Sonet : The Affordable Seltos

December 4, 2020 / 0 Comments / 558 / ROAD TEST REVIEWS
Road-Test review of the Kia Sonet:

Pros:
+ Feature packed to the brim and more. Equipped with features such as 6 airbags, sunroof, rear AC vents, ventilated seats which even cars of one segment higher can just dream of
+ The iMT gearbox is responsive a delight to use. Takes the convenience to a whole new level. Makes city driving extremely easy
+ Top-notch quality of interior trims. The control stacks feel they are built to last forever
+ Great forward visibility of the road from the driver’s seat. The seat has a healthy range of height adjustment
+ Massive 10.25 inch infotainment system is great to use, neat, clutter-free and really responsive
+ Great amount of safety kit on offer including 6 airbags, ABS, EBD, ESC and HAC
+ Hello Kia, open the driver side window! Say this and the driver side window rolls down instantly, will certainly help in toll booths
Cons:
– The 3 cylinder engine deserves better refinement levels, it gets really vocal at higher RPMs
– Ride quality is average for a car in this segment. Bumps and potholes can be easily felt inside, drive over the potholes little faster and you can notice the suspension making a ‘thud’ sound
– Although the car is built well in most of the places, the doors certainly lack the thud. The plastic quality on the door pads is hard, shiny and average
– The iMT gearbox lagged 1/10 times on an average. You do feel a bit of jerk in such instances especially when you are changing gears in an un-orderly fashion
– The Bose music system does not live up to the Bose standards. Said it in the Seltos and will say it again, it’s not properly tuned. It starts to get unpleasant in very high volumes which is surprising

India is one of the most dynamic auto markets in this world that has been home to more than 30 brands some of which have established their footprints since decades. Last year a Korean manufacturer made its debut here and since then it has taken the market by storm. We are talking about KIA motors which is now the 4th highest selling carmaker in India. The Seltos was a blockbuster success, the Carnival helped them to gain the premium tag and this new kid on the block will help them boost their volume by a significant margin. Thanks to the overall package on offer in what we expect to be competitively priced.

With the automotive market showing signs of improvement after a long time,  KIA is here with its latest player which is the sub 4m compact SUV segment in the form of Sonet, which btw is an abbreviation for Social network. 

 Exterior

One thing that instantly catches your attention is the large distinct Tiger Nose grille which has a 3D geometry kind of finish and is inspired by Indian step wells. The crown jewel LED headlamps and the heartbeat DRLs with integrated side turn indicators gives it a wild stance. The fog lamps are placed below and not to forget we get the front parking sensors too which are a first in the segment and are a boon in the Indian driving conditions. We really love the way the beautiful grille is integrated with the air dams that truly gel with the wild character of the Sonet. Although the side stance does look imposing for a car of this size, small bits like the piano black finish on the rear quarter glass gives it a premium touch. The side mirrors are electrically adjustable with neatly integrated turn indicators on them. Not to forget, the roof rails are inspired by much bigger SUVs and give a sense of tough look to the car, although the roof rails are just show and no go. Just like the one in Seltos, the beautifully crafted crystal cut alloys of the Sonet does not fail to impress us. At the rear, the tail lamps are connected with a unique reflector garnish, imparting a wider look and sports a very unique design of the tail lamps that goes very well with the overall design language. The thin red stripe running between the mufflers goes well with the wilder design philosophy of this sub-4-meter compact SUV.

When you decide to venture into the wild, you get three engine options to choose from, the naturally aspirated 1.2Lpetrol, 1.0 L, 3 cyl Turbo Gdi petrol which is our test car for the day paired to a 6-speed iMT gearbox that churns out 120 bhp of power and 172 nm of torque and 1.5L diesel  

Interior:

Once you step inside the car, you are spellbound by the supreme quality offered on a car of this competitive price bracket. Sensibly designed keeping the comfort of the driver and the passengers in mind, the Sonet’s interiors have been crafted to give a refreshing, unique and enjoyable ambience in the compact SUV segment. The GT Line trim comes equipped with red stitching on the steering wheel, seats and door armrest with controls for the infotainment system and cruise control. The steering too gets the GT line branding on it. The design is also complemented by many first in segment features including the driver and passenger ventilated seats, a feature that will be very useful in the hot and humid weather and will be loved by Indian consumers. The show-stopper on the dash is the largest-in-segment 10.25-inch Touchscreen with Infotainment and Navigation system. To bring alive a concert-like sound ambience, the Sonet offers premium audio experience from the house of BOSE via the 7-speaker system with Subwoofer. The small and stylish console with buttons running around has access to many first-in-segment features.

In case your smartphone’s battery is draining down after a long day of continuous usage of your flagship device, do not worry about fiddling with the cables as the smartly placed wireless charging pad will juice it up while you are going wild in the jungle. 

While we really love the classic analogue instrument cluster of the Seltos, the one in the Sonet did not impress us a lot. While we could still live with the digital speedometer, the quirky tachometer seems short of an ergonomic design. But, we aren’t complaining much because designs are subjective. 

The rear seats offer a centre armrest with cup holders for your piping hot cup of masala chai. The attention to detail on the red collar running across the cabin of Sonet is definitely something to appreciate. The rear AC vents will be a boon for the rear passengers in the scorching summers of our tropical country. In case the premium music system did not uplift your spirit, the mood lighting should do justice for you. If you feel claustrophobic with the limited space inside you could fulfil your daily dose of vitamin-D by pressing this button to open the sunroof. In the unprecedented times of Covid-19, an air purifier with virus protection is the need of the hour and looks like KIA has worked out to add this feature along with an in-built perfume dispenser. We believe this is something that should be adopted by other manufacturers too.

Once I moved here from the driver’s seat I was slightly disappointed due to the limited space on offer. Although the legroom is satisfactory, you would end up complaining if you are headed on a long road trip. Thankfully, the seats offer decent support in terms of under-thigh support and back support. The Sonet offers 392 L of boot space which should be enough for your airport runs or the weekend getaways.

Driving

Every car has distinct characteristics in terms of driving dynamics. While some are really good to drive some offer decent ride and handling characteristics. The Sonet is a blend of both the worlds in fair composition. It’s not the car that will drop your jaws when you push it around the corners but you won’t have much to complain about it either.

Once you tap the throttle, you do acceleration kicking back. The low-end grunt is fine but the mid-range is where you actually go wild with the Sonet but at the same time, you are restricted by the vocals coming from the hood, thanks to the 3 cylinders which are craving for better refinement levels. The steering feels light on the lower speeds but weighs fine and is fairly direct on speeds. 

The most interesting bit in this particular variant of the Sonet is this, the iMT gearbox which is the intelligent manual transmission which is nothing but a blend of manual and automatic. The difference is that there is no physical clutch present here but there is one secretly placed inside this gearbox that is intelligent enough to sense that you are changing gears and it operates by itself. The best part is you really don’t have to take your foot off the clutch while changing gears and you can change the gears while the throttle is completely pressed. The turbo-lag is negligible if you are shifting the gears progressively. But you do get a noticeable lag when you shift from 2nd to 4th or 3rd to 5th. 

Let’s get the fact straight that it is not even remotely responsive as a manual gearbox and it’s slightly slower too but it’s more about offering the convenience of an automatic at a premium of just 20,000 rupees. Having said that, it leaps and bounds ahead of the AMT counterparts. 

Ride quality 

The suspension is on a stiffer side. We drove the Sonet through some of the rough roads and it’s definitely not the most comforting ride we have had. You can actually feel the bumps at various speeds. Considering that this is going to be a mass-market car we would have certainly appreciated if the ride quality was less bumpy. Having said that, the Sonet does show any kinds of nervousness when pushing it hard around the corners are decent triple-digit speeds.

Safety 

Sonnet’s body structure constitutes more than 2/3 high strength and advanced high strength steel – this translates to a lightweight but robust structure for the compact SUV.

The hosts of safety features giving a peaceful ownership

experience are as follows:

  • Six Airbags
  • ABS with EBD,
  • ESC, HAC, VSM and Brake assist
  • Front & Rear parking sensors
  • Projector Fog lamps
  • Highline tyre pressure monitor
  • Auto headlamps
  • Isofix child anchor

Verdict

The Korean carmaker, Kia, is one of those brands that does their homework really well before launching a new product. Sonet is among them as it ticks most of the boxes right. It looks good, drives pretty decent, does justice to the ride & handling and comes loaded with all the bells & whistles one could expect at this segment. While we do not have any info on the pricing front, from the KIA’s pricing trends, we expect it to be priced very aggressively in the sub 4m compact SUV space. If that’s the case, We are confident that this will help them boost their overall sales by a significant margin and establish their strong footprints in the most dynamic automotive market in the world.

Once it’s launched, we expect the Sonet to lock horns with the likes of Hyundai Venue, Tata Nexon, Mahindra XUV 3OO and the segment leader Maruti Vitara Brezza.

Royal Enfield Meteor 350 : Comfort Redefined

December 3, 2020 / 0 Comments / 483 / ROAD TEST REVIEWS

Pros:

  • Excellent rider comfort. Rode it all day and night, yet no signs of discomfort
  • The engine feels refined up to 100 kmph mark. Leaps and bounds ahead of the Classic era
  • Great riding position. Perfect for long rides and twisted roads
  • Tripper navigation is the icing on the cake, very very helpful. Worked flawlessly
  • The windscreen does a good job of redirecting wind, looks stylish too
  • Over 5 lakh customisation options available. An interesting proposition! 

Cons:

  • Fuel meter on our test bike was faulty. Hope this is resolved ASAP
  • Vibrations still evident beyond 100 kmph mark, a comfortable cruising speed of 90 kmph is too less for a modern motorcycle
  • No backlit switches. Found it difficult to operate them on the highway at night
  • The clutch felt slightly hard for city commute
  • Headlight illumination is average. After-market upgrade highly recommended if you intend to ride it on the highway often 

Looks

Once you look into the Meteor 350, you may feel Nostalgic if you have been around the Machismo. Thanks to the large touring visor which can be adjusted using an Allen key. Royal Enfield has decided to stick on with the old school halogen headlamps and LED for the DRL surrounding the headlamps. Although the low beam offers decent throw the intensity distribution of high beam could have definitely been better. The 15-litre fuel tank sports a dual-tone paint scheme. Although the front discs do a good job in dry braking conditions, we felt they lacked the bite as we rode the bike in rain. The ABS works well on good roads and a bit of broken patches. The alloy wheels are wrapped in safer tubeless tyres. Moving to the rear, the bike gets a retro-classic look which feels slightly deviated from the otherwise modernistic theme. The number plate gets a bit of illumination from a small lamp above it. 

We really wish the switches were backlit as it was quite a task in operating them when riding the bike at night on the highway. The quality of the engine start-stop switch felt slightly flimsy. The Meteor also gets an unusual hazard lamp switch. The Speedometer display speed both in kmph and mph. The Instrument cluster has service reminder, trip meter, DTE and a clock. But the architect of the victory is the inbuilt turn-by-turn tripper navigation that uses Google Maps and is connected to your smartphone through the Royal Enfield app via Bluetooth. Expected it to be offered on the other Royan Enfield motorcycles as an accessory.  

If there is one thing that we really loved in the Meteor 350 it’s the excellent rider seat comfort. After riding it for 500 km throughout the day and night I had nothing to complain about from the comfort levels. It’s definitely one of the best we have seen on an Indian Motorcycle. The pillion might however get ambitious of pushing the backrest behind as it eats up into space.

Riding Position 

The riding position feels good for an individual of average height and you will love the way everything falls into place including the handlebar position and switches, we would prefer the horn switch to be slightly larger in size it was a bit of a challenge to use it. Some may prefer the footpegs to be placed slightly closer to the rider. After riding it for 500 km, I had nothing to complain about in terms of shoulder/elbow discomfort. 

 Performance

Before we get to the riding dynamics, let’s check out if the thump lives up to the expectations from a Royal Enfield. The all-new engine is smoother as compared to the UCE engines found in its siblings like the Classic 350. While the Meteor replaces the Thunderbird, these are some of the advantages. The Meteor is the brand’s first motorcycle in the 350cc segment to feature a double-cradle frame which replaces the single-cradle frame found in its siblings.

Once you start the Meteor you will be surprised with the smoothness of the engine at idling. It’s not the Royal Enfield that will push you back  as you raise the throttle, the 650 cc twins do a better job with that. But the Meteor is all about comfortable cruising. The power from the engine is delivered in a linear and smooth manner which goes will with the cruiser characteristics of the bike. Thanks to the fantastic low end torque, you could comfortably ride the bike at low speeds in comparatively higher gears. It takes almost 18 seconds to reach the 100 kmph mark but the Meteor feels out of life just above the 120 kmph mark.

The old pushrod-valve system has been replaced by a SOHC two-valve head. A new balancer shaft has been added to increase the usable range of torque simultaneously reducing the vibrations. The gearshifts are smooth in most cases but there were some rare cases where the gears refused to upshift quickly, The clutch felt slightly heavier for city ride. Royal Enfield’s have always known to be heavy. At 191 kilograms, its still a heavy machine to move around when its turned off. But when it’s on the move you really dont feel the weight making the riding experience easier.

With the full tank method, the mileage with mixed riding conditions of 80% highway and 20% city was 33.5 kmpl

Ride

Although the new suspension is better, It’s not soft and the most comforting of all. Potholes are dealt well at crawling speeds but if you plan to get ambitious with the throttle input, you would be disappointed. 

Inspite of the low seat height, the cruiser motorcycle boasts 170 mm of Ground clearance. This should be good enough to tackle most of the large uninvited speed breakers

The handling characteristics of the all-new chassis is much better than before and is confident inspiring. This is one of those rare Royal enfields in which you won’t think much to push around some the corners, but we highly recommend that you check out the close proximity of the foot peg with the road when doing so.

Customisation

If you love customisations You can choose from a huge list of accessories, including eight different road-legal exhausts, seats, covers, visors and plenty of color options.  Infact RE plans to redefine customisations with upto 5 lakh options and the best part? This could be done from the comfort of your home.  Pretty Helpful, especially in such unprecedented times of covid-19.

Conclusion

After riding the RE for 500 km it doesn’t really feel like one. That’s because its surprisingly biased towards being a relatively refined bike unlike the earlier models. The RE classic was a game changer for this home grown manufacturer which was a catalyst in soaring the stocks beyond the sky. The 650 twins gave a very clear message that the brand is capable of producing excellent engines. The Meteor adds more sophistication, refinement levels better fit & finish and great convenience from the Tripper navigation 

 

Audi A6 : The Trump Card from Ingolstadt

November 8, 2020 / 0 Comments / 538 / ROAD TEST REVIEWS

Pros:

+A supreme all-rounder that strikes a good balance of style, luxury and performance churning out 243 bhp and 370 Nm
+ Interiors feel very plush. Top-notch craftsmanship. Dual screens for MMI and climate control feels lifted off from Interstellar
+ At a starting price of 54.5 lakhs (ex-India), this is your cheapest entry ticket to the World of the premium luxury segment
+ Refinement levels are stupendous, the engine feels so silent that you could hear your clock ticking, okay that was ambitious
+ One of those rare Audis in which the steering feels pretty direct at good triple-digit speeds (It’s no way heavy but it does stiffen up for that added confidence)
+ Feature loaded to a good extent! Lane change assist, individual rear climate control, virtual cockpit, park assist, sunroof etc
+ The carnivorous 530L boot ensures your airport transfers are never disappointing
+ 16-speaker 705W Bang & Olufsen will remind you of your pre-covid PVR days. The bass, the vocals are excellent!
+ Fantastic braking at good triple-digit speeds
+ Attractive purchase schemes and maintenance packages make it a mouth-watering proposition

Cons:

– The huge transmission tunnel on the rear is a turn-off and makes the A6 best suited for 4 adults and a kid
– Although the demand for Diesel is tapering, enthusiasts will miss its additional grunt bundled with better economy
– Omission of Adaptive suspension, V6 and Quattro feels like a slight compromise, more so when you are paying 78 big ones for the top of the line technology trim as a resident of tax-savvy Bengaluru
– While the 7-speed dual-clutch transmissions are generally known to do a good job, a bit of occasional lag was evident in the higher gears
– Interiors have improved at the expense of ergonomics. Wireless charging pod is housed inside the rear armrest and gets tricky to access your phone while on the move
– While the low centre of gravity is a good ingredient for corners, you would have to be careful with uninvited speed-breakers
Audi, DKW, Horch, Wanderer – These are the names of the 4 companies that came together in 1932 to form a union in the form of Auto Union Deutschland Ingolstadt, AUDI, in short. 

The Indian automotive industry is extremely volatile. The complex tax structures, the transition to BS6 emissions norms etc has forced some manufacturers to make some of the historic decisions. According to media reports, 90% of Audi’s sold in 2015 were Diesel, A couple of years later the gap narrowed with 70% of them being Diesel. But fast forward to 2020, in what seems to be surprised every single Audi sold today is a petrol-only Avatar.

There are multiple reasons behind this decision, the dieselgate, the narrowing price gap of petrol & diesel and of course the transition to BS6

Will the 5th generation of Audi A6 petrol be a trump card for the German carmaker to revive or is it a victim of impulsive decision?

Exterior

The Audi A6 follows the mantra of clean and slated design language of the German carmaker. There is a large beautiful grille that occupies half the real estate. The LED headlamps offer a great throw at night. The high beams, however, could have done slightly better justice to the car of this price bracket. The LED fog lamps feel very stylish and you get the front parking sensors too with super cool headlamp washers. 

Moving to the side of the Audi A6, you instantly realise that it’s not the long-wheelbase version. More, so if you are familiar with the E class LWB. The 18” alloys look stunning and go well with the design language of the A6. There is a neat touch of chrome around the silhouette. The car does look imposing and we feel this is the best angle to view the car. 

Going back to the rear and you realise that Audi has put in some serious thought in crafting it close to timeless perfection. The LED tail lamps and the thin chrome strip running across the backyard take the elegance to a new level. The boot space reads 530 litres on paper and is actually deep and wide enough to be a good long-distance companion. Thankfully, the space saver is tucked inside.

Interior

I wouldn’t shy away from the fact that if I had to pick one brand from the German-trio as my retirement home, it would certainly be the Lord of the rings.  Be it the simplistic cabin of the Audi Q3 back then or the uber-luxurious A6 which takes the business class experience a notch above. The twin-screen setup which is the architect of the victory in this Yacht on wheels will absolutely not go unnoticed. The primary 10-inch touchscreen is outsourced with the job to control various functionalities of the car like the multitude of driving modes ranging from Economy, comfort, sport and individual.  The music system controls, navigation etc are controlled with the same dominating screen. The lower glass housing does everything to ensure the mercury levels in the opulent cabin is aligned to the individual passengers’ needs. The multiple layers of the dash, and the use of different materials, make it looks distinctive and fresh. I just love the gloss black panel above the glovebox and the way it blends into the large central touchscreen unit. 

The steering feels great to hold and houses control for most of your on-the-move requirements. The paddle-shifters try very hard to remind you that the A6 too could be a potent driver’s choice as much as it is for the driven. To justify the price tag the A6 splurges you with the rarest of the customization options including the instrument cluster options. 

The 16 speakers 700 watt Bang and Olufsen music system deserves a special mention and undoubtedly it’s excellent at what it does. The drive selector seems very modernistic unlike the traditional sticks of older Audis. The space below the armrest doubles up as a wireless charging pod but I felt it to be tad inconvenient and the larger problem being there was no space to store some basic accessories like wallet and I had no option but to use the same real-estate under the arm-rest for it. 

The Audi A6 is one good looking sedan. And in this generation, it will make people notice it. Inside the cabin, it offers a premium experience and will make onlookers envy the high-tech setup. It is focused towards the driver with all three screens facing him/her. What it lacks, however, is any sort of entertainment for the rear or front passenger. And while the infotainment system performs all of its duties flawlessly, and looks cool while doing it, it lacks depth to deliver a truly geeky experience.

There is a wooden finished trim running across the plush cabin with the rings embedded in it. Small touches like the beautiful craftsmanship of the wooden lid above the cup holders for your espresso reminds you of your return on investment of those 78 big ones. There are an electronic parking brake and auto start/stop button which is used to shut the engine off at traffic signals. As expected in a car of this price bracket, you get up to 2 settings for the memory seats which increase the convenience. There is a sunroof that does a good job to fulfil your daily dose of vitamin D. 

Drive

Audi gets the no-frills petrol edition which is essentially a Turbocharged Fuel Stratified injection commonly abbreviated as TFSI. While the engine does the job that you would expect from a 4 pot churning out 245 horses, enthusiasts will crave for 2 additional cylinders which were available in the earlier A6. If numbers isn’t all, this is probably the most refined petrol engine I have driven this year. The motor barely makes a sound and there is no vibration from the engine once it gets pumping. Get on the gas and it’s quick to pick up speed. The A6 takes just 4.4 seconds to get from 20 till 80kmph. Power is available in the rev band and it never makes you work for it. But while it is effortless, it isn’t exciting. Even a kickdown will be rather calm and won’t push you back in the seat. The front wheel drive layout does mean you have to deal with torque steer. The engine sounds sweet but the cabin insulation gets the better of it.

The motor is also surprisingly efficient for the amount of power it makes, returning 9 kmpl in the city and a surprising 14 kmpl on the highway part of our test. Part of this is down to the mild-hybrid setup in the A6 that consists of a starter motor and additional battery that powers the start-stop system and also maintain any cruising speed below 160kmph for up to 40 seconds with the engine switched off.

Tap the throttle and the car literally sprints and pushes you back around 2000 rpm. One thing that you instantly notice is the exceptional refinement levels. The engine feels way more powerful than it actually is. The steering is light in the city and lets you amble around town and even park in a tight spot with ease. However, it is quite lacklustre compared to its oldest rival, the 530d. 

Ride

The ride quality on broken roads at early double-digit speeds is compliant. But if you plan to get ambitious with the throttle input when the road isn’t prepared for it, the A6 will give you a good reason to complain. Don’t get me wrong, there is absolutely no way, the bumpiness will traverse through the 18 inches of rubbers sourced by Michelin to the plush rear seat. With the low centre of gravity is a good recipe for high-speed cornering, you have another reason to drive the car at crawling speeds on speed breakers else, you might end up scraping one of those large, uninvited speed breakers.

The suspension is beautifully balanced to take on everything from speed breakers to potholes. The fat rubber on the tall wheels make a hell of a combination to keep you comfortable and worry-free. And even though there is no air suspension on offer, the setup is extremely quiet and won’t leave you complaining. It’s only over broken patches of roads when it gets unsettled a bit. Everything else, the A6 can eat for breakfast

Handling

While the Audi A6 wasn’t really known as a luxury car that you could take it to the racetrack on a weekend and take it to the office the next day, but when you pay 78 big ones there isn’t harm in expecting a bang for your every single buck. To arrive at a conclusion, we drove it through the umpteen sharp turns of National Highway 17 that leads us to the outskirts of the beautiful small town, Hassan.

It’s agile around corners too and keeps body roll nicely controlled. The only fly in the ointment is the missing quattro system — with this much power and torque going to the front wheels you do tend to experience both understeer and torque steer if you start to get heavy footed with the throttle around a set of corners. Like most Audis, however, the steering feel is too light, even in Sport, and though it’s great while driving in the city, around bends it saps some of the joy out of the driving experience.

Honestly, the conclusion was fairly simple. The Audi A6 felt calm and composed at triple-digit speeds, there were no evident signs of nervousness, no matter what. Having said that, we did feel that the 2 extra cylinders are the missing ingredient that is falling short in the recipe to make it one of the strong contenders in the pit lane of Buddh international circuit. If you are a Quattro fan, you would be left with dismay as the A6 missed out on this Audi’s breakthrough technology. 

Safety

In terms of safety, the A6 has you covered with 8 airbags, disc brakes on all four corners, ABS, EBD, ESC, and traction control. There are even an active lane departure warning system and a hands-free parking assistant.

Shutterdrives Says

It’s important for every car to have a USP to sell well in India unless you’re a Maruti Suzuki. While the BMW 530d is a ballistic missile, the E class LWB is a house on wheels but the Audi A6 fits in as a jack of all trades and master of none. If there’s something that’s really in the favor of A6 it’s the rather attractive price tag compared to its rivals.

Coming back to where we started off with, the A6 certainly does not really seem to be a victim of an impulsive decision of the petrol-only strategy from the German carmaker and rather feels like the trump card Audi has been long-wanting, especially with the A6 bearing the additional responsibility of being the cheapest Audi you could buy in India minus the recently Q2 which we expect to get our hands on, sometime soon. 

 If we get a chance to be optimistic, we really wish the Audi A6 gets 2 additional cylinders or the power of Quattro to make it an even better contender in the luxury shopping space of one of the most dynamic auto markets in the World. 

Tata Harrier BS6 – The Truly Ultimate SUV

October 22, 2020 / 0 Comments / 806 / ROAD TEST REVIEWS

Tata has finally introduced the Tata Harrier BS6 after all the anticipation and fanfare

Pros:
+ The best Tata vehicle till date. Period. The styling is surely a head-turner
+ 168 bhp and 350 Nm of ample power and torque makes it an effortless highway cruiser
+ Excellent engine-gearbox combo makes it a perfect mile muncher. Absolutely no lag from the Hyundai sourced gearbox
+ Fantastic music system by OEM standards. One of the best We have ever seen
+ Extremely spacious 5 seaters. The cabin looks great with neat faux wood touches and good plastics around this part
+ Built like a Tank. The bonnet, tailgate, doors are heavy and feel they are built to last
+ The AC is a bone chiller. The best we have experienced in recent times. Blower levels 6 & 7 could have been less noisy
+ Great feature list with a panoramic sunroof, electric driver’s seat, auto headlamps, cruise control and safety kit includes 6 airbags, ESP, HDC. Also, the headlights gave a good intensity
+ More importantly, much better than the 2019 model in every possible way. Tata should have launched the diesel-automatic back then

Cons:
– With great power comes great responsibility. Although direct, the steering is very light post 120 kmph. You would have to be really careful in sudden direction changes
– The engine gets noisy in Sport mode where the gears are changed at 4000 rpm and the noise is unpleasant
– The gearbox is a delight but slightly misses out on the wow factor in terms of acceleration. Manual mode doesn’t help much
– No petrol option! A big opportunity missed. Every other competitor is offering this. No AWD either
– Small dead pedal for an automatic, I could not accommodate my foot
– Electric boot release and hydraulic struts for bonnet are missed. Esp the former, it’s a task to open and shut the boot and bonnet
– Small issues like the infotainment lag could be fixed through a software update
– The top-end XZA+ retails at 24 lakhs on road, Delhi

After arriving with a bang at the 2018 Auto Expo with the H5X Concept, Tata promised the final production model was going to be extremely similar to the show car. The design team lived up to its promise when the Tata Harrier made its official debut in production form. The SUV with an all-new design language and butch proportions made the Harrier very desirable. But when the spec-sheet was released, it left a lot to be desired. The Harrier had a 30hp deficit, missed out on an automatic transmission, and there were some initial glitches with the vehicle as well. Now Tata says those glitches are no more, so we drove the new 2020 Harrier to find out.

What’s New?

The 2020 Harrier is more or less the same as the outgoing model. However, there are some small yet significant changes:

  • The 2020 Harrier now gets a massive panoramic sunroof in the top-spec variant, which is largest in its segment
  • It also gets an auto-dimming inner rear view mirror which was sorely missed on the outgoing model
  • A 6-way electrically adjustable driver seat has been added to make things easier for the driver while on the move
  • Extra USB port with improved accessibility
  • A new colour option called ‘Calypso Red’ with dual-tone options
  • Newly designed dual-tone diamond-cut 17-inch multi-spoke alloy wheels
  • Slimmer ORVMs while still managing to offer a good view
  • ESP as standard on all variants
  • Additional warranty of 5 years/unlimited km

Exterior

Why fix something that isn’t broken?  The Tata Harrier was always a stunning car it dropped jaws when it arrived as an H5X concept in the auto expo 2018. Tata promised back then that the production variant would be closely matched to the concept and boy they kept up their words. Although the exterior changes aren’t significant, some additional bits add to the already striking looks of it. It’s one of the very few cars that have styling as its USP. The headlamps follow the trend of being placed below making way for the DRLs on top. This is something that cannot be attempted by many cars and fortunately, Harrier excels in it. While we still couldn’t get over its beautiful front, we were drooled by the superb finish of the rear tail lamps integration. It’s certain that Tata Motors has put in a lot of effort to ensure that there is no stone left unturned especially in the design department. 

Speaking of the roof, Tata has now given the Harrier a large panoramic sunroof which Tata claims is the widest in the segment. Mind you, it’s not just another panoramic sunroof as it comes with some of the most intelligent features such as rain-sensing, anti pitch etc. It’s the small yet significant things like these that separated it from rest of the breed. Apart from the roof, which also does eat a little bit of headroom for the rear passengers, the cabin has largely been left untouched. The roof rails complement the oral characteristics of the Harrier and they do a perfect job in enhancing the appeal. As discussed earlier, Tata has decided to follow the crowd and opt-in for the Diamond-cut alloy wheels. In a nutshell, it’s one of those SUVs that you would look back after parking it.

In case you could, we would strongly recommend you to pick the dual-tone variant as it goes well with the charismatic SUV. TaMo has also bought in the dark edition which looks strikingly hot.

Interior

The interior of the Tata Harrier is not very different from the model that was launched last year. The overall layout of the dashboard remains the same – it still has a 7.0-inch TFT display and an 8.8-inch central touchscreen. The infotainment screen is intuitive to use but could have been wider. however, there is no wireless charging option and no tyre pressure monitors. Also, while the upper half of the dashboard is all premium and plush, the plastics used in the door panels deserved an improvement. 

But, what’s commendable has the home-grown manufacturer has come a really long way from the days of Indica to the mighty Harrier:

There are a few small changes, which, interestingly, have done wonders in improving the overall ergonomics of the car. For instance, in the 2019 Harrier, the USB port under the climate control was tucked in too far below the centre console. Fortunately, now it has been brought forward, making it easy to use without contorting your body. There are also two more USB ports – one in the central armrest and another for the rear passengers.

The steering gets a plethora of control options. Cruise control, a volume control to name a few. Quality of stalks is top-notch, something that we wish to see in other Tata cars as well. We really love the Bangalore option on the interiors. It looks very upmarket and premium. The seats are really supportive, and squeezing three people are there is definitely not a problem unlike its counterpart as always like the creator. If we had to pick one thing that we really loved about the interiors of the Harriet, it’s the wooden trim running across the dashboard this goes very well with the angle of the interiors.

Driving

1 of the 2 most significant changes to the  Tata Harrier is the introduction of a more powerful version of the 2.0L diesel engine. Called “Kryotec170”, the motor now produces 168 BHP (@ 3,750 rpm) and 350 Nm (@ 1,750 – 2,500 rpm). That is a gain of 30 BHP over the old Harrier! And the good news keeps coming. The second one being that the Harrier finally gets a 6-speed AT which does the job perfectly well. The automatic is priced at a premium of around 1.2 L lakhs over the manual variants, although this is marginally higher than the generic price gap between the Manual and the Auto, we really feel its worth it.

Astonishingly, the weight of the car has increased but on the other side, the power-to-weight ratio too has increased from 82 bhp/ton to 98 bhp/ton which is a healthy 20% increase from the earlier one and this is evident when you are munching miles on the highway.

The automatic gearbox has been sourced from Hyundai and is very smooth & competent. It’s one of the BEST we have driven in recent times. Tata has put in the effort to reduce the NVH levels & it shows. On startup, the car does not feel as nervous as before. The AT is superbly tuned and enjoys a good partnership with the Kryotec170. This smooth-shifting AT makes the Harrier far easier to drive in the city. Liftoff the brake pedal and the Harrier will start crawling forward instantly which is a boon in densely congested cities like Namma Bengaluru. The SUV moves off seamlessly from a standstill & there is no lag to speak of. Light accelerator input is all you’ll need to commute. The accelerator pedal is also feather-light and has a minimal throw, which just makes this AT that much nicer to drive. With an easy right foot, the gearbox shifts up early and shift quality is very smooth.

On the open road, the 168 bhp & 350 nm give the Harrier AT enough muscle to please even enthusiastic drivers. Fast drivers won’t be left wanting on long expressways. The acceleration is quick enough. This SUV is a capable cruiser that munches miles comfortably, seeing 100 km/h @ just 1,700 rpm and 120 km/h @ 2,200 rpm. Overtaking slower moving traffic is an effortless experience too & the Harrier AT is a brilliant long-distance companion.

Apart from the default ‘City’ driving mode, you get the ‘Eco’ mode for the ‘Kitna deti hai’ which feels fairly better than the conventional Eco mode of other cars. The ‘Sport’ mode is where the actual fun is. The car begs to be revved harder. The throttle response is fantastic and the gear shifts happen at higher rpm. WIsh the sportiness had transformed into the steering to translating the weight. We would like to see in the Harrier is an all-wheel-drive system. As far as we know, Tata Motors has no plans to introduce an AWD/4WD version and the demand is admittedly minuscule, but they should think about it. An AWD AT will make the Harrier a kick-ass tourer, while also bestowing it with more marketing cred.

NVH levels have overall improved. but the diesel starts getting loud above 3,000 – 3,500 rpm. Once past 4,000 rpm, the engine note is Loud. Nevertheless, the EXCELLENT music system from JBL comes to your rescue. We would rate it a well deserved 9/10. The vocals, the bass and the treble are top-notch.

While the Harrier ticks most of the boxes right, the biggest let down is the way the steering has been tuned. The steering is heavy at parking speeds and is FEATHER-SENSITIVE at triple-digit speeds after 120 kmph. This is a hindrance in over-taking as it’s not the most-confidence inspiring of the lot. We really wish TaMo had spent a good bandwidth in tuning it to good standards. We would have largely preferred steering that is light on the parking speeds and gets heavier with food speeds.

Ride & Handling

Tata has always known to pack punch in the driving dynamics, especially in the handling department. The Safari, the Hexa, the Aria have all-known to handle well without apt nervousness at triple-digit speeds. With the Harrier underpinning the LandRover’s legendary platform, things have moved to a whole new level. There is body roll, a fair bit of it, but there is also good grip and you can carry rather high speeds through bends.

The Harrier still delivers the best ride quality in this segment, a little firm at low speeds but once you pick up speed it steamrolls over everything. You can cruise ad decent speeds over small potholes and frequent speed-breakers in Karnataka and yet you won’t have anything much to complain about.  The braking is spot-on in most of the conditions. On the upside, all variants of the Harrier get ESP as standard and then there’s that Terrain Mode dial which delivers different engine maps for wet roads and off-road terrain, though this remains an FWD SUV with no sign of 4×4 in the foreseeable future.

Shutterdrives Says… 

Without a certain doubt, The Harrier is the best product we have seen from the Tata’s stable. It’s a bundle of Almost everything that you would expect at this price bracket, it drives well it looks astonishingly amazing and is loaded with bells and whistles. If there is something that’s lacking in this otherwise perfect SUV, its the steering sensitivity at higher speeds and we really wish, the sticker price was slightly easier on the pocket because we expect the 7 seater Gravitas to launch shortly and Tata might position it a good couple of lakhs higher in order to avoid the cannibalization for Harrier. Tata has also roped in a Dark edition of the Harrier that takes the styling to a whole new level.

Shutterdrives Rating -> 8.5/10

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Royal Enfield Interceptor 650 – The Best RE!

September 22, 2020 / 0 Comments / 556 / ROAD TEST REVIEWS

Pros:
  1. Undoubtedly, the best Royal Enfield you can buy in India. Period.
  2. It’s one of the most Value for a money cruiser bike. You could drive all day long on the good tarmac and still not get tired
  3. Top-notch quality for a bike of this price bracket has come a long way from the days of the bullet which mark its territory while leaking oil
  4. The gearshift is butter-smooth. Thanks to the light clutch which makes the city riding really effortless
  5. The high-speed stability is fantastic. There was not a single moment of nervousness when pushing the bike around the corners at high speeds
Cons:
  1. The pillion will feel uncomfortable on long rides due to the straight seat
  2. The ride quality could have been significantly better especially at the rear when driven over potholes and broken roads
  3. A small fuel tank of 13 L and a mileage of 21 km/L on an average means you would have to stop frequently for refuel
  4. The instrument cluster feels bare-born. A small multi-information display with at least a clock would have greatly helped
  5. The headlamps could’ve been even better especially the high beam has inconsistent throw at night which isn’t the best for highways

Design 

Not many automotive manufacturers have been successful in maintaining the classic retro look into their modern motorcycles. Fortunately, Royal Enfield is one among them. One look at the interceptor 650 and you know it belongs to the legacy of the renowned Indian motorcycle manufacturer. Although looks are subjective, I would leave it to you To decide if this is the most striking design or anything or did it just fall short of it. Once you look into the eyes of the interceptor 650, You are greeted by the old school halogen headlight when other manufacturers are moving towards fancier LED headlights which would have made it look much smarter. The indicators are neatly placed and for some reason, we felt that the front mud-guard fell short of a length. Moving to the side of it, you are greeted with a large chrome painted fuel tank which instantly grabs the attention. If that’s not enough the black thick strip running across the petrol tank with the Golden strips surrounding it uplifts the premium appeal.  The fuel lid is thoughtfully designed but there were some instances where it did not operate as expected.  Well, some of the enthusiasts would be left craving for a stylish rear, Royal Enfield decided to play safe with the subtle design. You get the conventional tail lamps which are surrounded by indicators which slightly feel old-school, but we aren’t complaining much about it. Blink and you still won’t miss the loud Royal Enfield badging on the petrol tank and the Interceptor tag is placed on the right side, just like every other RE. while the debate would be endless if this is the best looking Royal Enfield, the Indigenous motorcycle manufacturer deserves applause for not going too close to the territory of modernistic motorcycles especially in the design department. Something that they have been known for.

Drivability:

The Royal Enfield Interceptor is a very simple motorcycle. The engine is an all-new 649cc twin-cylinder unit and 270-degree firing order for a lovely twin-cylinder thrum. It has fuel injection and is oil-cooled. At 47PS and 53Nm, it isn’t an outrageously powerful motor that’s stress-free and the engine feels stunning in the feel, sound and the melancholy. Royal Enfield also has a new six-speed gearbox with a slip-assist clutch. Once you start the interception 650 you will be immensely happy with the acceleration provided.  Slot the gear into first And you could feel the brisk acceleration kicking back. The handling is not something to write home about but it’s not disappointing either. The heavyweight of 200+ kilograms makes it Challenging to tackle the obstacles on tough tarmac such as larger potholes. The magic starts when you hit the triple-digit speeds the bike feels very stable. The best part is the bike feels less weighed when you’re cruising on the highway. The low end is fine mid-range is brilliant and punchy. Shutterdrives does not recommend over-speeding, we pushed the bike all the way up to 150 km/h to checks high-speed stability and we were mightily impressed with the behaviour of the bike. It’s not the bike that’s going to drop your jaws When you push it around the corners. Once you slot into the sixth gear that’s when you realise the true potential of this cruiser bike. It shows absolutely no signs of nervousness. We found that the bike did emit warm air when it was taken through the Bangalore’s traffic but its nowhere close to being unbearable.

Braking

Unlike the MRF tires on the other RE’s, the Pirellis on the interceptor do a stupendous job of stopping the 200 kg motorcycle in a very short span of time. But thanks for the hefty kerb weight of the motorcycle, it feels like the bike is having some extra momentum before it completely comes to a standstill. The effort from the engineering team is something to be really appreciated. Really wish, to see the other Royal Enfield motorcycles Being equipped with breaking abilities like this.

Mileage

Having said that, I really wish the efficiency was slightly on an optimistic side or at least a slightly larger fuel tank would have done justice to the cruising segment it belongs to. The circuitous drive of 600 km from Bangalore to Chikmagalur returned an average fuel efficiency of 22 kmpl. The bike was still in the running-in period and we expect the figures to marginally increase post that.

Quality

It’s been 13 years of owning a Royal Enfield Electra 5-speed. It’s incredible to see the way this motorcycle manufacturer has transformed in the last one and a half-decade. The quality of the bike ranging from the switches to the cables to the leavers is very commendable. The front riding position especially the seat is something that looks like time travel back to the era of Rajdoot 350. One thing that we found that was acting finicky was the fuel lid which was a task to open sometimes. The foot-pegs especially in the rear could have been bigger. We loved the Royal Enfield branding on them though.

Ride & Handling:

While this is certainly the best engine that Royal Enfield has produced in its over a century-old history, the overall experience would have been even better if the seating was up to the mark in terms of the overall comfort. This would make long journeys very comfortable for them. On the contrary, it slides down a bit in the rear which makes it uncomfortable for the pillion on long drives. The cushioning is decent enough but having an outright flat design leads to discomfort in terms of thigh and hip support on longer rides. That said, you will need to take a break at least every 150 km. We would love to reiterate the fact that this is one of the most effortless motorcycles in terms of manoeuvring.

The suspension is basic too – right-side-up forks and twin gas-charged rear shocks. Disc brakes at both ends handle the braking and dual-channel ABS is standard. The wheels are aluminium spoked rims running tubed Pirelli SportComp tyres. The biggest let down for us with the Interceptor has been the below-average ride quality on bad roads for the rear passenger, specifically. It’s not as bad as the first-gen Toyota Fortuner, oops, no apple to orange comparisons, but just to give you a vague estimation, it will certainly displace you off the seat and you would certainly be craving for better grip from the seat at least.

Who should buy one?

Buy the Interceptor if:
  • You plan to ride for long hours, ALONE
  • Fuel efficiency isn’t a priority for you but performance is
  • You are okay with occasional niggles creeping up uninvited
  • Don’t intend to ride in claustrophobic traffic for long hours
  • You plan to ride at triple-digit speeds on our wide network of National Highways

We wholeheartedly thank Royal Enfield for bundling a well-engineered package of style, performance and practicality in the form of Interceptor 650. With the asking price of its competitors skyrocketing, the Interceptor feels more value for money than ever before.  If you are still confused whether to bring this lad home, toss the coin. It’s not that the coin will help you to arrive at a conclusive decision, but when the coin’s in the air, you would know what your heart is beating for. Most likely, it would be thumping for you to add it to your garage. If not, Orange is the new black!

Shutterdrives Rating: A well deserved 8/10. 

Hyundai Creta – The Ultimate SUV?

September 19, 2020 / 0 Comments / 789 / ROAD TEST REVIEWS

India loves SUVs. So much that every kid once dreamt of having the Tata Safari in his garage. As that kid grew, he realised that SUVs are an expensive affair. After all, they have an imposing stance and are very practical. Probably, he also realised that he doesn’t need a full size 7-seater SUV that would be challenging to manoeuvre in the city. Hyundai wanted to leverage this and bought the Creta in 2015. Since then it has been a blockbuster success for the Korean car maker. But with the rising competition and panoramic sunroofs being the talk of the town, Hyundai decided to give it a much-needed facelift. Unlike Volkswagen, this facelift is not all about sticker jobs, we have an all-new car.

Will this continue to carry the legacy of the previous Creta or the polarised design will make you head to the nearest KIA showroom? Let’s find out!

Pros:

+ Excellent engine-gearbox combination. Revs beautifully all the way, turbocharger plays a significant role in enhancing the driving experience, the turbo-lag is negligible

+ Feature loaded! Panoramic sunroof, wireless charging, 6 airbags, ventilated seats, LED headlamps, connected car features and everything else you want at 20 lakhs and more

+ Excellent, Theatrical music system is a treat to the ears. Trust me, it beats the Meridian system of the most of the entry-level JLRs which cost 3x which is supposed to be really good

+ Interiors ‘design’ is fantastic. Flat bottom steering wheel, superb speedometer, sporty AC vents loads of cubby holes & storage spaces

+ Extra Length, width and wheelbase than the previous gen means more space inside. Good legroom, under-thigh support and headroom too, wish the rear windows were bigger

+ Ride quality is really good, can’t match the Duster but a lot better than its Mahindra counterpart

+ The 10.25 inch touchscreen system has brilliant responsiveness.It’s also tilted towards the left so that the driver can easily operate. Simply clever. Extremely easy to navigate

Cons:

– Ofcourse, the design. Love it or hate it there is no in between. In our Instagram poll, 44% of them said that the design won’t grow on them over time. It’s a big number for a mass-market car. Also, the alloy wheel in this variant seems more like a wheel cap

– No manual gearbox in turbocharged petrol. A HUGE opportunity missed, a 6 speed MT with a better calibrated steering would have been the perfect small SUV to drive. Why this kolaveri Dii?

– The steering feedback. It’s super light at parking speed, weighs up slightly with speed only in sport mode but even then it’s not precise or direct

– The least you expect after paying 21 lakhs is that all 4 power window switches glow at night, unfortunately only 1 is illuminated. Loads of cost-cutting measures like Hard dashboard plastics, smaller, non-alloy spare tyre, only-driver side request sensor, not a good sign

Exterior:

The new Creta is longer and wider than the previous gen but slightly shorter.

 This has been one of the most controversial design of recent time, love it or you hate it, but you can’t ignore this ferocious design. The front design seems to align with the growing trend of placing the headlamps below and the DRLs on top. The headlamps are LEDs which offer good throw at night, we tested them out in the real-world condition and came out pretty impressed. The turn indicators are integrated with the fog lamps next to the beautifully crafted skid plate. However, the massive grille dominates the real estate in the front.

Moving to the side of the Creta, the thick C pillars finished in silver grabs your attention instantly followed by the alloy wheels which feel slightly out of place for a car of this price bracket. Just as you expect, the mirrors have turn indicators on them. However, I really wished the rear window could have been bigger so that you don’t feel claustrophobic when the turbocharger is taking you places.  Also, only the driver side door gets the request sensor.

 Its not the front that’s polarising, it would eventually grow on you. But things get slightly complicated when you move to the rear. Although looks are subjective, I wouldn’t shy away from calling it an imperfect design. I am not a big fan of the way the LED tail lamps are split. When was the last time you saw the rear stop lamp integrated into the boot of an SUV?

 The cargo space is abundant at 433 litres, but the spare tyre is a non-alloy. That’s totally okay as spare tyres are supposed to be used in an emergency situation only. But what’s surprising is that it’s one inch smaller than the other 4 tyres. Unfortunately, this is the first victim of cost cutting.

 Interior:

When you buy a car, you spend more time inside it than outside. Hyundai knows this and they have been consistently making cars with really good interiors. Unlike the polarising exterior, the interiors are going to be loved by most of us. You definitely feel that you are sitting in a car worth 2 million when you step inside. The all-black cabin in this variant looks premium. But your happiness is short lived when you actually touch and feel the plastics because they are hard, and it steals the luxury feeling from this pocket rocket. This is the second victim of cost cutting.

The quality of switches on the door is good but the problem is only the driver side is backlit. It difficult to spot the other switches when you are driving at night. This is the third victim of cost cutting. The best part about the cabin is the superb steering wheel that feels really good to hold. There are buttons to access the music system controls, cruise controls etc. What makes it special is the paddle shifters on offer. Unfortunately, the steering is adjustable for tilt and not for reach. Thankfully, the speedometer is designed in a beautiful way, just that the tachometer is struggling to accommodate itself in the instrument cluster. Once you turn on the ignition, you are greeted by graphics making you feel like a part of interstellar.

 The quality of interiors is typical European, the plastics used get a soft touch to them and the chrome ascents give it a very premium look. Small yet significant things like addition of red colours make the cabin look sportier than expected. The gear lever seems to be inspired from a Boeing. The practicality of the Creta is taken further with multiple USB ports and a 12v charging socket. You also get the wireless charging option, a feature which was prominent only in luxury cars until recent times. The pedals in this variant are given an aluminium treatment to add a sporty touch to the car. Not to forget, the Creta comes with the start/stop button which is neatly tucked away next to the steering wheel.

 However, One of the super cool feature is the air purifier which displays the quality of air outside and purifies the air in the cabin at the same time. I really wish many more car makers use this in their cars. If they plan to incorporate this in their cars, I hope they position it in the front and not in an awkward place like the arm rest. The dashboard is dominated by a massive 10.25 inch touchscreen infotainment system that comes with android auto and apple car play. You get an inbuilt SIM within the car and that means this is a fully connected vehicle that allows you to do a lot of things, including starting the car, tracking your vehicle’s, location, geo-fencing and pairing it with your smart watch. The touchscreen is sensitive enough so that you don’t have to struggle in navigating through it while driving the car. An interesting bit it that the touchscreen is slightly tilted towards the driver side so that its convenient to operate on the move. Simply clever.

The seats offer great support and the best part is they are ventilated, which means you don’t have to worry about sweating in the scorching Indian summers.

I can read your mind and the anticipation to see the panoramic sunroof, I won’t let you wait further

Hello Blue link, open the sunroof.

The sunroof is absolutely massive. Its electrically retractable and makes the cabin really airy. You would have to fiddle with the controls for a while before getting used to opening it the way you want.

Moving to the rear of the car, it feels kind of claustrophobic, but the sunroof really helps. The legroom is good but scooped out seats would have definitely been better. The headroom is good for a car of this size, the seats offer pretty good under thigh support too. You get the AC vents which here. A large parcel tray means an ample space to store your goodie bags. You also get the rear centre arm rest which has 2 cupholders in it. The rear seats can be split into 60:40 to give you additional boot space for your airport runs.

 

Drive

The test car here is the 1.4 GDI petrol mated to 7 speed DCT. The engine churns out 140 horses and 242 nm of torque. Apart from this you get 13 other permutation and combinations to choose from. But, cars are not smartphones that you could judge them by these numbers on the paper. What’s more important is how does the Crete drive. This is the answer to this lies in this key of happiness. It’s not that I am stereotyping Hyundai’s, but they are known to impress the 80% of the common buyers while leaving the other 20% of enthusiasts gasping for better driving dynamics and that’s the reason, I set my expectations accordingly before I stepped into this car.

The turbocharged motor is eager to be pushed around, especially in the sport mode. The engine feels full of life, there is abundant power available. The best part is you don’t have to wait a lot to extract the maximum torque as its available just at 1500 rpm all the until 3200 rpm.

 The 7 speed DCT gearbox is really quick. Although you have to pay a premium of 1.3 lakhs for the turbocharger, what’s more important is you get this DCT gearbox unlike the old school CVT in the non-turbocharged auto variant. The turbo lag is negligible but there seems to be some sort of miscommunication between the engine and the gearbox as the gears shift earlier than expected. Ironically there is a bit of a jerk when shifting at lower speeds.

If you thought the manual mode or paddle shifters are here to rescue you, probably not. Because after a certain rpm the car upshifts even if you don’t want it to. I am still ok with that because you would buy an automatic to drive it like an automatic but what let me down big time is the steering feedback as it feels feather light.

You get 3 driving modes to choose from. There is a choice between Eco, Comfort and Sport. Eco is for the kitna deti hai where the throttle response is slower apart from reducing the effectiveness of the air conditioner. Sport is the one you want to be in when you want to have fun and enjoy the performance because the gearbox upshifts at a higher rpm. Comfort is a good balance between both these modes. 

 

Ride and Handling

The car is driven on 17-inch alloy wheels. However, the Lower variants get the 16 inch wheels. The ride quality is phenomenal, and the suspension is on the softer side. This also means you really don’t have to crawl in smaller potholes because it absorbs them very well. A light steering and body roll means that it’s not very confidence inspiring to push it around the corners but having said that the straight-line stability at higher speeds is really solid and it effortlessly reaches the ton in just over 10 seconds.

 All 4 wheels are equipped with disc brakes and they do an excellent job of stopping the vehicle from decent speeds to a sand still. I really wish someone from Mahindra drives one someday.

 The fuel tank capacity is 50 litres and you should be able to drive it for 800 km before you need a refill. That said, it would return a fuel efficiency of 16 kmpl in mixed driving conditions.

 

With over 5 lakh Creta’s on road, let’s find out what has been the success mantra for Hyundai Creta in India:

1. TIMING – #hyundai is aggressive in launching cars in India. As soon as they realised that the 5 seater ‘SUV’ market is growing significantly, they left no stone unturned to launch the #creta ASAP

2 BRAND & SERVICE – Hyundai is loved by us since the days of Santro. With an extensive dealer network spread across the country, the 2nd largest car maker has a major advantage over it’s rivals like Kia. They’ve also received the top spot for customer satisfaction in JD power study in 2018 with a score of 848/1000. 55% of them also revealed they would get their car serviced at the dealership after warranty expires

3. STYLING (Old Creta) – Code named as #ix25 the car was ruling hearts in the spy shots across the Globe. It looked more mature than any other ‘SUV’ in that price bracket. A very proportionate design unlike the new model which is polarizing

4. ENGINE-GEARBOX OPTIONS – Manual, Automatic, Petrol and Diesel, it had it all. Also the availability of diesel automatic was a boon. Brands like Jeep who got in the diesel automatic in Compass way too late have lost significant customers to others

5. RESALE VALUE – Creta is pretty dominant in the used car market. Some buyers also consider resale value as one of the parameters while making a purchase. A car with better resale value also means relatively higher ROI

6. SAFETY FEATURES – All variants came with rear parking sensors, dual Airbags and ABS. Period. The higher variants offered rear camera, hill-assist, electronic stability control, static bending lights etc.

7. WONDER WARRANTY – The recently launched flexible warranty of 3 yrs/unlimited km or 4 yrs/60k km or 5 yrs/50k km lets buyers choose it according to thier usage pattern

8. NEW CRETA – Although approx 10% of the sales are from the new model, Hyundai offered (almost) everything the buyer wants. The Panoramic sunroof is enough to play the trump card for most of them. Also, the new model is improved in every possible way, especially in the driving dynamics.

Quick comparision of Creta Vs Seltos:

Advantages of #kiaseltos over #hyundaicreta:

  1. A much proportionately designed car with finer details unlike the love-it-or-hate-it design of the new Creta
  2. Seltos offers the 1.4-litre petrol engine with both a manual and a DCT, whereas the Creta only offers that particular engine with a DCT
  3. Seltos loves to be pushed around the corners(although the steering is still not perfect), the body roll is slightly lesser than Creta. Looses its marks to the ride quality though
  4. No ‘evident’ cost-cutting unlike the hard plastics of the Creta. There is a bit of soft-touch on the interiors of Creta. Both the cars neither get a full size spare tyre nor hydraulic struts for bonnet. Sad.
  5. Some fancy equipments like the heads-up display, front parking sensors and 360 degree camera which actually offer utility. Also, the Seltos gets tilt & telescopic adjustment for the steering while the creta gets the adjustment for tilt only
  6. Neatly laid out instrument cluster. Although the Creta too has a pretty good looking speedometer, it really falls short in the race of tachometer’s unconventional design
  7. one of the best features of the Seltos is its blind spot assist, which uses cameras mounted in the outside rear-view mirrors to project the blind spot on the screen in front of the driver
  8. Seltos gets dual-tone beige interiors which look slightly more plush and premium than the all-black ‘sporty’ interiors of the Creta which probably make slightly more sense for a hot hatch like the Polo, Mini Cooper or Abarth Punto
  9. Much better looking GT line alloy wheels and LED DRLs merging into the grille. On the contrary, the alloys of the Creta Petrol 7 DCT can be mistaken for wheel caps.
  10. Although the OEM for tyres tends to change periodically, the test car of Seltos came with the much grippier set of Michellins than the JK tyres on the Creta

 

Advantages of #hyundaicreta over #kiaseltos:

  1. Firstly, a much larger network of dealership and service centres. For every Kia service centre in India, there are approximately 9 from Hyundai
  2. The middle variants trims of Creta are safer than the respective variants of Seltos with 6 airbags vs 2. Seltos misses out on Electronic Stability Control (ESC) and Vehicle Stability Management (VSM). All variants of Creta get TPMS
  3. Additional equipment level with a massive panoramic sunroof, electronic parking brake with an auto-hold function and of course the paddle-shifters
  4. Negligible turbo lag from the Creta turbo petrol 7 DCT triumphs the slightly noticible lag in the seltos. You can cruise at 100 kmph at 2000rpm vs the 2200rpm in Seltos
  5. Although both are equipped with the same OEM music system vendor, Bose, the sound quality in Creta is miles ahead than the Seltos
  6. For the same engine-gearbox combination, Creta will return 10% more mileage than the Seltos. For sure.
  7. The ride quality offered is definitely better, thanks to the softer suspension but the handling is slightly compromised
  8. Although the touchscreen infotainment system is of same size it is much more user friendly and the responsiveness is amazing
  9. The Creta gets a better driving position, thanks to its higher seat height. You would have complete visibility of the bonnet’s front end

 

Verdict

 Hyundai is one of those manufacturers that does a lot of homework before launching a new product in India. They know what the consumer wants when he is shopping for a car in every segment. The Creta is feature loaded to the brim and more.

 If God asked me what are the 3 features that I aspire for in a 20 lakh car, It would be the panoramic sunroof, wireless charging and a safer car with 6 airbags. The Creta gets all of them. Having said that, I really wish Hyundai had worked on a better steering feedback and not opted for cost cutting measures because at 20 lakhs, it’s not cheap in any way.

 Going back to the question that we started off with – Would you be happy with the polarised design of the Creta or head to the nearest KIA showroom? I would leave that to you because designs are subjective. But if I were you, I would probably wait hoping that the turbo charged variant is also offered with the manual gearbox. Because, replacement for Manual gearbox shall never be found. 

 

 

 

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