2016 Indian Car of the Year (ICOTY) & Indian Motorcycle of the Year (IMOTY) announced

2015 will soon be past us and with that we have come to the end of yet another year that saw several significant new cars and motorcycles being launched. So, which amongst all these launches were the best when it comes to what they offer in the Indian context? This is what the jury of the Indian Car of the Year (ICOTY) and Indian Motorcycle of the Year (IMOTY) awards get together and decide every year.

Currently in their eleventh year, the ICOTY and IMOTY awards are modeled on the lines of prestigious automotive titles like the North American Car and Truck of the Year and European Car of the Year. With the list of jury members including personalities like Yogendra Pratap and Rahul Ghosh (Auto Today), Dhruv Behl, Arup Das, Jared Solomon and Ishan Raghava (Auto X), Rohin Nagrani (Motoring World), Aspi Bhathena and Aninda Sarda (Car India), Bertrand D’souza, Shubhabrata Marmar, Halley Prabhakar and Bob Rupani (Overdrive), Girish Karkera (BBC Top Gear), Sirish Chandran and Ouseph Chacko (Evo India), Muralidhar Swaminathan (The Hindu Business Line), Kartik Ware (Motoring World) and Pablo Chaterji (Mans World), it just doesn't get better than this for choosing the best in two and four wheels.

Of all the new cars launched in 2015, there were a few key models that stood out like the S-Cross and Baleno from Maruti-Suzuki, Hyundai Creta, Mahindra TUV300, Honda Jazz, the Figo twins from Ford, Renault Kwid and DC Avanti. Judging each and every new car launched this year based on parameters like price, fuel efficiency, styling, comfort, safety, features, performance, practicality, technical innovation and value for money, the jury narrowed down the list to ten cars with the Creta, Baleno, Kwid, Jazz and Figo Aspire emerging as the top contenders.

For the third year running, it was a Hyundai that came out on top at the end of the evaluation. Following Grand i10 and i20 that won the title in 2015 and 2014 respectively, it was Creta's turn to take the honours this year as the 2016 Indian Car of the Year (ICOTY). This is the fourth ICOTY win for Hyundai with the first-generation i10 also taking the crown in 2008. Offering space, comfort, power, efficiency and features in a stylish package, the Creta just proves the fact that Hyundai has read and understood customer's minds and preferences perfectly. Its no doubt then that the Creta has decimated competition in the sales charts. Well done, Hyundai!


1. Hyundai Creta - 96 points
2. Maruti-Suzuki Baleno - 85 points
3. Renault Kwid - 71 points


* 2015 - Hyundai i20
* 2014 - Hyundai Grand i10
* 2013 - Renault Duster
* 2012 - Maruti-Suzuki Swift
* 2011 - Ford Figo

While the Creta is no doubt an excellent package, the Renault Kwid is the model in which we had our bets on. Challenging Maruti-Suzuki in its home turf and garnering phenomenal response in the market, the Kwid is a sensation and would have been a worthy winner as well.

Moving on to two wheels, it was yet another slug fest with no less than 15 new motorcycles vying for the title. The evaluation criteria remained similar to cars with suitability to Indian riding conditions being an unique factor for consideration in motorcycles. While 2015 saw significant new launches, it was the Yamaha YZF R3 that emerged in pole position at the end. With stunning looks, a great engine, a superb chassis and that trademark  Yamaha handling, the jury felt that the YZF R3 delivered much more than the other new launches. The Honda CBR 650F came a distant second with the Benelli TNT300 finishing a close third.


1. Yamaha YZF R3
2. Honda CBR 650F
3. Benelli TNT300


* 2015 - Harley-Davidson Street 750
* 2014 - Royal Enfield Continental GT
* 2013 - KTM Duke 200
* 2012 - Honda CBR 250R
* 2011 - Honda CB Twister

Ever since the launch of YZF R15, Yamaha has been on a roll in India and it continues with the launch of the YZF R3. With the Indian two-wheeler market still maturing, we need more and more launches like this to set the bar high.


Volkswagen launches the new Beetle in India

Volkswagen launched the all-new Beetle, its iconic small car, in India today. The car is imported as a Completely Built Unit (CBU) and is priced at INR 28.73 Lakhs, ex-showroom Mumbai. Available for a short while in its previous generation, this is the Beetle’s second stint in India.

Carrying over the retro styling elements from its predecessors, the new Beetle is instantly recognizable and, as it has always been, adorable. The rounded silhouette still stays very similar to the original but the detailing around the front and the rear have changed substantially to keep up with the times. The edgier face of the new Beetle is characterized by the circular Bi-Xenon headlight clusters with LED Daytime Running Lights. Fog lamps with static cornering function are also standard in the new Beetle. As you walk around, the chunky wheel arches, the arched roof and the smartly-styled taillights are sheer eye candy while the rear spoiler and twin exhaust pipes hint at the aggression hidden underneath.

The new Beetle is powered by a 1.4-liter, 4-cylinder TSI petrol engine that churns out 148 horsepower and 250 Nm of torque. The power is transferred to the wheels through a 7-speed DSG dual clutch automatic transmission with paddle shifters. Vying with cars like the Mini Cooper and the Fiat 595 Competizione for the crown of the best premium hatchback, the Beetle is adequately equipped to justify its price. Standard equipment in the Beetle's colour-coded cabin include dual zone climate control, auto-dimming IRVM, cruise control, automatic headlamps, rain-sensing wipers, a 8-speaker music system with USB, Aux-in and BlueTooth connectivity, leather upholstery and ambient lighting. Safety is taken care of by the six airbags, ABS and ESP on offer amongst others. 

While the new Beetle may be an insignificant launch for most of the Indian population, its a good addition for the lifestyle-conscious buyers out there who don’t mind spending for exclusivity and luxury. Providing that in a package as legendary and, dare we say, as sexy as the Beetle, Volkswagen has just made their buying decisions a whole lot more complicated.


Driven #31: 2015 Honda Jazz i-VTEC (V MT)

Making a comeback in the Indian car market is next to impossible. Ask Fiat, if you’re in doubt! But, Honda did just that with the Jazz. When the car was originally launched in 2009, it was massacred by the Hyundai i20, its chief competitor. The absence of a diesel engine, lack of features and premium pricing meant the Jazz could hardly defend its position. In its second avatar now, all those shortcomings appear to have been addressed. The i-DTEC has joined the i-VTEC for duty under the hood, there are tons of features and the pricing isn’t insane as it was before. As a result, the Jazz is off to a good start.

Will the new Jazz overcome the odds and make it big in India this time around? We spent the better half of a day with the V petrol variant to find that out. 


Internationally, the Jazz is in its third generation and all three iterations have followed the same ‘monobox’ design theme with just evolutionary updates differentiating each of them. This time though, those evolutionary updates are far more significant. The new Jazz resembles its predecessors, but also looks chic and contemporary.

Honda's new found obsession with thick chrome bars and complex fascias means simple and staid designs are a thing of the past. The new Jazz is no exception. It is sharp and aggressive like all new Hondas but isn't tacky like some of them. The car shares a lot of its frontal styling elements with the City but what earns more brownie points for the Jazz is the absence of the chrome bar in the grille. The piano black finish underlined by a thin chrome strip looks classy and exudes a premium feel. The short hood, steeply-raked windshield and the large glasshouse hint at the car’s practical nature that prioritizes function over form. Jazz’s wheelbase is longer than most of its competitors and the overhangs shorter. As a result, it transcends segments and does look like a MPV from several angles. We have seen people commenting that it looks like a mini Innova!

Just like the City, the new Jazz has cuts and creases all around. It appears as if Honda poached design engineers from arch rivals Hyundai and put them in charge of these newer models. Look at the silhouette to know what we mean. The prominent shoulder line that originates in the front door runs across the length of the car before merging with the taillight and changing course to go with the rear bumper. There is also this inverted swoosh just above the rocker panels. The rear lights are so Volvo-esque and look striking with those reflector extensions at the top. The good thing is, the taillights have LEDs inside and not just lenses that mimic their appearance. As is the norm these days, there is a chrome bar running across the boot that also acts as the number plate garnish.

Honda has tried its best to reduce Jazz’s visual bulk by incorporating plastic inserts in the rear bumper and a roof spoiler but the car still looks bulbous from the rear. From the rear three-quarters, it appears under tired too. Indians love fuel efficiency and Honda has rightly skimped on tire specs for better efficiency. They can’t be blamed for that, can they?

The V variant we drove misses out on the bigger and sporty rear spoiler that ups the style quotient significantly. But, the rich ‘Carnelian Red’ shade, one of the two pearl finishes on offer apart from Orchid White, more than made up for the lost glamour.


Jazz’s cabin belie its external dimensions and it dawns on you the moment you get close to the car. The doors open wide, ingress and egress are straightforward and adult-friendly and the space inside is truly incredible for a car that measures less than four meters in length. All this packaging brilliance results in a cabin that's spacious enough to accommodate five well-built adults comfortably. This is one hatch that could put a lot of sedans to shame in that aspect. Having said that, the comfort levels offered by the rear bench is just about average. The front seats fare much better and offer better lateral as well as under-thigh support.

Step in and it’s hard to mistake this cabin for anything but a Honda. The steering wheel, the instrument binnacle, the center console and, in fact, the whole dashboard is similar to Honda’s best-selling sedan sans a few niceties here and there. The instrument cluster, for instance, does not have the attractive ECO rings that illuminate blue or green depending on our driving style, the multi-functional steering wheel loses the cruise control switches and the dashboard has an odd plastic cap in place of the nice Start/Stop button. Crucially, several features from the City are retained as well. The MFD (Multi-Functional Display) is comprehensive and has twin trip meters, average and instantaneous fuel efficiency indicators as well as a Distance To Empty readout. The intuitive touchscreen climate control system that responds nicely to the touch with a firm beep is a popular show-off feature in the City and is standard on all but the base variant of the Jazz too.

The asymmetric dashboard with uniquely-shaped air-conditioner vents is angled towards the driver with controls falling nicely in hand. The black dashboard with beige upholstery is an unique combination but it works in making the cabin feel bigger and airy. The glossy-black center console has a 5-inch display screen with USB, Aux and BlueTooth connectivity. Storage options are aplenty with the Jazz offering more than enough space, be it for keeping that expensive mobile phone of yours safe from prying eyes or stowing a drink you just grabbed without spilling on the move. Build quality, fit and finish are good but nowhere near the benchmark set by the Hyundai i20. We are sure the previous Jazz had better quality inside and out. But, Honda had to cut costs somewhere and its clear where they have done that!

The Jazz is a feature-rich car with the V variant that we drove coming with ABS, dual airbags, power mirrors, rear parking camera and steering-mounted audio controls apart from the features we covered elsewhere. But the incredibly useful ‘Magic Seats’ that was standard in the previous Jazz is now exclusive to the VX variant. We know people who stretched their budget and bought the base variant of the previous-generation Jazz just for this feature and Honda has done people like them no good with this strategy. Forget the Magic Seats, the top-but-one V trim level doesn’t even get adjustable headrests at the back! Can you imagine this in a premium hatchback that costs 8 Lakhs on road? 

Ironically, the V trim level betters the top-end VX in some aspects. The USB and Aux inputs in VX are crudely routed through the glove box while the V gets them neatly integrated in the dashboard. The parking camera in the VX offers just a single view in the touchscreen-equipped VX while the V gets three views including an useful wide-angle option. The fact is the product planning team at Honda India have got this wrong. The V trim level should have got the Magic Seats and the VX shouldn't have been left wanting. What were they thinking?


The new Jazz's party trick against its big-selling rivals is the 1.5-liter 'Earth Dreams' i-DTEC engine that's not just the most powerful in the class but also amongst the most fuel-efficient. But the car we drove had the 1.2-liter i-VTEC petrol engine under its not-so-big hood. The engine, that also powers the Brio and Amaze in Honda's Indian lineup, generates 89 horsepower at 6000 rpm and 110 Nm of torque at 4800 rpm. While the bigger 1.5-liter mill from the City would have made the Jazz a hoot to punt around town, the smaller and less powerful 1.2-liter unit is all we have right now.

Turn the ignition on and the Jazz impresses with superb refinement levels. The i-VTEC is a smooth gem and stays that way as you pass through the low revs. Though the engine gets quite audible at high revs, it is nowhere intrusive or disturbing. Get going and the i-VTEC's weak bottom end raises its ugly head. Up until 2000 rpm, the response is weak and the car feels lethargic. From there, things get progressively better. An acceptable mid-range and a strong high-end try to make up for crucial time lost flogging the engine at low revs. Like other i-VTECs, Jazz's mill is rev happy and shoots cleanly up to its marked 6500 rpm redline, making rapid progress while doing so. The clutch is light and gearshifts are smooth and precise with narrow well-defined gates.

The current crop of Hondas roll out of the factory tuned for comfort over corner-craving capabilities and the Jazz continues that tradition. Handling is safe and predictable all the way upto 130 km/h (That's the highest we achieved all day!) and the Jazz doesn't throw nasty surprises on the move. But this isn't a car that will leave you smiling at the end of a long drive. Blame it on the Jazz's steering which is too light. Sure, it does weight up as speeds build up but that's still not reassuring enough. The i20 need not fret! If fun-to-drive factos is what you need, the Swift is still the better choice. Ride quality is good at all speeds with the Jazz ironing out small and medium-sized bumps and potholes with ease. Larger craters still filter into the cabin with strong thuds.

Gone are the days when premium hatchbacks offered all disc brakes. The Jazz, like its competitors, offer the standard front discs and rear drums. Braking is good and the Jazz sheds speed and comes to a stop without losing its composure. The tires could have offered more grip though and gives up much before the car does.


| Engine Type: SOHC i-VTEC |
| No of Cylinders: 4 |
| Displacement: 1199 cc |
| Maximum Power: 89 bhp @ 6000 rpm |
| Maximum Torque: 110 Nm @ 4800 rpm |
| Transmission Type: 5-Speed Manual |
| Tires: 175/65 R15 |
| Brakes: Disc (Front), Drum (Rear) |


* Incredibly spacious cabin and boot
* Edgy and sharp styling
* Long feature list
* Multiple engine and transmission options


* Weak low end performance
* Quality levels a notch below previous-gen Hondas
* Presence of Magic Seats only in the VX trim
* Priced at a premium vis-a-vis rivals


Indians are unforgiving and the fact that the new Jazz is off to a good start in our market speaks volumes about the car's strenghts. Honda has worked to iron out most of the flaws of the previous model while continuing to improve on its strengths. Sure, it does have its own set of flaws - the quality levels are falling, it misses some important features and the petrol engine has a lousy bottom end. Look beyond them though and the Jazz comes across as a stylish and spacious hatchback that offers tons of features and acres of space to keep its occupants happy. Moreover, the strong brand pull enjoyed by Honda and the multiple engine and transmission options (1.2-liter petrol manual, 1.2-liter CVT petrol and 1.5-liter diesel) on sale makes the Jazz a complate package.

If they aren't already, Maruti-Suzuki and Hyundai should be watching over their shoulders now. Well done, Honda!

Photography: Venkat NarasimhanEditing & Text: Aravind Ramesh


Mahindra's upcoming S101 (KUV100) seen undergoing pre-launch testing

Mahindra, India's largest utility vehicle manufacturer, is in the midst of a launch spree. Three of its popular models - Scorpio, XUV500 and Thar received substantial face-lifts over the course of the year and the all-new TUV300 was launched recently. Hot on the heels of these launches, Mahindra is getting ready for its next big launch that could potentially be called the KUV100.

Codenamed S101, this diminutive model shared it's development timeline with the TUV300 and the two were often spotted testing together on public roads. Caught testing last evening near Mahindra's Chakan facility where its being produced, the vehicle appears to be in its final legs of testing before the official launch happens sometime next month.

While the TUV300 is a ladder-on-frame construction, the KUV100 is said to have a monocoque body. It’s worth noting here that the XUV500 is the only other Mahindra out there built on a monocoque platform. Looking at the spy shots, it is clear that this upcoming Mahindra belongs to the compact segment measuring less than 4 meters in length. But we are still unsure of where this is going to end up. While its tall nose and raised body height make us think that this could be marketed as a compact and affordable crossover, its footprint that's not much larger than a Hyundai i10 makes us think otherwise.

That said, the styling is unmistakably Mahindra with the grille bearing a strong family resemblance to the ones in Scorpio and XUV500. The LED Daytime Running Lamps (DRL) are also visible in some of these shots. As with all other Mahindras, there are a few interesting cues thrown in to up the glam quotient. We will however reserve our final judgement until the vehicle's expected launch some time next month. All new petrol and diesel engines with displacements less than 1.2 and 1.5 liters respectively are expected to do duty in this smallest Mahindra yet and an Automated Manual Transmission (AMT) is also on the cards.

With Mahindra and Honda slugging it out to becomes India's third largest selling automotive brand behind Maruti-Suzuki and Hyundai, this model could make all the difference for the Indian brand. Bring it on, Mahindra!

Edit: While it was speculated this new Mahindra could be called XUV100, recent developments suggest this could be badged KUV100. We have changed it accordingly in this post.

2016 Ward's 10 Best Engines announced

The annual awards season has begun and kicking things off as usual is Ward’s list of 10 best engines for 2016. In its 22nd year now, this list is unique in the sense that it recognizes automaker’s efforts in developing advanced engines and electric propulsion systems instead of the automobiles themselves. 

Candidates for the award include the 10 Best Engines of 2015 as well as all-new or significantly improved engines that debuted in the USA over the course of the year. To be eligible for the award, the vehicles in which these engines are fitted should have a base price no higher than $ 61,000. A total of 31 engines contested this year which the editors at WardsAuto evaluated based on horsepower, torque, fuel economy, technology applied and NVH characteristics. 

For the first time in the history of the awards, three electrified powertrain made it to the list. Crucially, each of them represent a different technology within electrified engines. One is a gasoline-electric hybrid, one is a plug-in hybrid and the other an extended-range electric engine. Joining them are three turbocharged engines, two naturally aspirated V6 units, a V8 mill and an inline four with turbocharging and supercharging. 

General Motors is the only automaker with two entries in the list while BMW, Volvo, Toyota, Hyundai, Ford, Fiat Chrysler, Nissan and Subaru join GM to share the honors with one entry each. Due to the ongoing emissions scandal related to its diesel engines, the Volkswagen Group brands were not considered for the honors this year.

The award-winning engines and the automobiles they are applied in are listed below in no particular order:

* 3.0L Turbocharged DOHC I6 (BMW 340i)
* 3.6L DOHC V6 (Chevrolet Camaro/Cadillac ATS)
* 1.5L DOHC 4-cyl./120-kW Drive Motor (Chevrolet Volt EREV)
* 5.2L DOHC V8 (Ford Shelby GT350 Mustang)
* 2.0L DOHC 4-cyl./50-kW Drive Motor (Hyundai Sonata PHEV)
* 3.5L DOHC V6 (Nissan Maxima)
* 3.0L Turbodiesel DOHC V6 (Ram 1500 EcoDiesel)
* 2.0L Turbocharged DOHC 4-cyl. Boxer (Subaru WRX)
* 1.8L DOHC 4-cyl./53-kW Drive Motor (Toyota Prius HEV)
* 2.0L Turbo/Supercharged DOHC 4-cyl. (Volvo XC90)

The winners will be honored at a ceremony in Detroit to be held 13th Jan, 2016 as part of the North American International Auto Show.


BMW unveils 'made in India by TVS' G 310 R motorcycle

TVS made it to the headlines sometime back when it announced its partnership with none other than BMW. It was an interesting announcement given that TVS's highest capacity motorcycle has all of 180cc while BMW does not have anything less than 500cc in its lineup. This gap is exactly what the two brands intended to bridge. Here is the result, the all-new BMW G 310 R.

Previewed in concept form a couple of months back before being unveiled in all its glory last month, the G 310 R has several firsts for a BMW. It is the brand's first single cylinder motorcycle as well as the first with an engine displacement less than 500cc. Developed by BMW in Germany, this compact sports bike would be manufactured in India by TVS Motor Company. Yes, the BMW G 310 R would be made in India for the world.

Visually, the G 310 R is one striking motorcycle that has an uncanny resemblance to some of its rivals from Japan as well as BMW's own S 1000 R. The striking V-shaped headlamp with its tiny mask on top, chiseled fuel tank, half-fairing and the tall rear gives this naked motorcycle an aggressive and athletic stance. A couple of other stand-out design elements are the upside-down forks finished in a shiny golden shade and the beefy, raked-up exhaust can.

Powering this compact BMW is an all-new 313cc liquid-cooled single-cylinder engine. That cylinder has four valves, two overhead camshafts and is fuel injected. Housed in a compact tubular steel frame, the engine produces 34 horsepower at 9500 rpm and 28 Nm of torque at 7500 rpm. Coupled with its light weight, compact dimensions and short wheelbase, this is going to be one swift and nimble BMW on road. Shod with a 110/70 R17 tire with a 300 mm  disc up front and a 150/60 R17 tire with 240 mm disc at the rear, the G 310 R is fitted with a 2-channel ABS as standard.

With the G 310 R, BMW now has an offering in its lineup for a whole lot of first-time riders with premium aspirations. Once in the fold, these folks would have a multitude of models to choose from within the lineup as and when they wish to upgrade. TVS, on the other hand, now has access to technology that its competitors in India can only dream of. Who knows, there could be even be a cheaper TVS-badged version of the same bike headed to the showrooms in India! Come on TVS, don't disappoint us.


Mitsubishi is not developing successors for Lancer and Pajero

What’s wrong with Mitsubishi? Are they crazy? How are such decisions even made? These are the questions ringing in our minds right now. And we’re sure we aren’t alone here. There are, probably, thousands of enthusiasts all across the globe thinking on the same lines.

Not so long ago, Mitsubishi dropped a bombshell that a successor to the highly-successful and much-loved Lancer and its sporty Evolution series, or ‘Evo’ as its fondly called, isn’t on the cards. After 10 iterations and almost 25 years in the market, the Evo is a car that has a legacy of plastering smiles across the faces of those behind its wheels. Its not a surprise then the Lancer and Evo have legions of fans worldwide, us included. As shocking as the decision was, it at least made sense as Mitsubishi wanted to focus on its strengths – SUVs, 4WDs and Electric Vehicles. The Japanese brand, whose automotive revenues and volumes are just a fraction of Toyota, Honda and Nissan, apparently didn’t have funds to undertake development of an all-new generation of Lancer independently and its search for a partner was taking it nowhere. The Lancer is doomed.

And now, if reports from a leading US-based automotive publication is to be believed, Mitsubishi has sealed the fate of its popular Pajero SUV too with no successor on the cards. No, they aren’t ceasing production yet but the nameplate would be consigned to the history books once the current-generation model is taken off the production lines. Now, what the heck is that? Didn’t Mitsubishi say its focus would be on SUVs and 4WDs going forward? Isn’t Pajero (badged Montero in some markets) its most recognizable SUV? How does these two even add up? 

Yes, the Pajero is old, heavy, guzzles gas and is nowhere as agile as its modern competitors. But its sturdy underpinnings, rock solid reliability and supreme off-road ability has, over the years, earned the Pajero scores of fans. The current-generation model has been on sale since 1999 and in the same time frame, the Toyota Land Cruiser has gone through three generation changes. All that the Pajero needs is a revamp, albeit a significant one! Why wouldn’t the Pajero be denied a chance to get its mojo back and win back customers?  

In established markets like the USA, China and Europe, Mitsubishi isn’t really setting the sales charts on fire. In the growing markets, the situation isn't remarkably better either. It’s clear Mitsubishi has to take some drastic steps and reorganize itself if it wants to make money selling cars and be relevant in the automotive industry. While the Outlander PHEV and the all-new Pajero Sport are steps in the right direction, killing two of the most-desirable models in the lineup isn’t going to help Mitsubishi do what it intends to. 

Now, will someone convey this to the top bosses at Mitsubishi?


2015 Los Angeles - Fiat 124 Spider returns

Come 2016, the much-loved Fiat 124 Spider will be celebrating its fiftieth anniversary. What better way to commemorate the occasion than revive the model itself? That's exactly what Fiat did with the all new 124 Spider that made its debut at the just-concluded Los Angeles Auto Show in California, USA. 

Affordable sporty roadsters are a dying breed with the Mazda Miata having the segment all to itself, well almost. Enter Fiat, with a deal struck with Mazda enabling the Italian brand to use Miata's underpinnings, to create a roadster of its own. That's right, Mazda helped Fiat develop a rival for Mazda's own Miata!

Essentially, the 124 Spider is a Miata wearing Italian clothes. Does it look sufficiently different to create its own identity? Yes, it is. Fiat's idea with this car is to pay homage to the original 124 Spider from 1966, a popular roadster in the USA that's widely considered to be one of Fiat's most beautiful designs ever. The mesh grille and circular LED ring in the headlights are a clear ode to the original as are the 'power domes' in the hood. The profile is a work of art and features a flowing design that oozes appeal with the roof down. The rear, again, is inspired by the 124 Spider of yore and has rectangular taillights with twin chrome-tipped exhaust pipes. Despite sharing its mechanicals with the Miata, the Fiat is longer and wider than the Mazda as evident from the longer overhangs. 

The interiors appear well finished but are very similar to the ones seen in the Mazda Miata. This is where Fiat could have made a difference and brought in Italian flair. Sadly, they have chosen not to. But then we aren't complaining as this borrowed cabin is a nice place for two to sit back and enjoy a relaxed ride. Classy bits in the cabin include beautiful chrome-ringed buttons in the center console and a 7-inch multimedia screen popping out of the dashboard. A 9-speaker premium sound system from Bose including dual headrest speakers is on offer too. Active safety suite include adaptive front headlamps, Blind-spot monitoring and Rear Cross Path detection.

Powering the rear wheels of the 124 Spider is a turbocharged 1.4-liter MultiAir engine. For North America, the engine delivers 160 horsepower and 249 Nm of torque, mated to either a 6-speed manual or automatic transmission. The Mazda Miata is one of the best driver's cars currently in production and the 124 Spider sharing its mechanicals is expected to be no different. With such an accomplished chassis and forced induction underneath, the 124 Spider should be a hoot to drive.

When it goes on sale in summer 2016, the first 124 vehicles would be offered in a limited 'Prima Edizione Lusso' edition to celebrate the return of this classic nameplate. Exclusivity is guaranteed in the form of Azzurro Italia (Blue) exterior paint, premium leather seats in Saddle, individually numbered commemorative badge, custom wearables and a poster.


Hyundai's 'Genesis' luxury brand will make its debut shortly

So yes, it has finally happened. After resisting the urge to carve off an independent brand for its luxury cars, Hyundai has finally decided to launch a new luxury brand shortly. Guess what, it would be called 'Genesis'. That's hardly surprising, given that Hyundai tasted commercial success and critical acclaim with its first luxury sedan that carried the same name.

The South Korean brand's decision to launch a new luxury division wasn't unforeseen either. Hyundai dropped enough hints along the way with the biggest one being the debut of the HCD-14 Genesis Concept at the 2013 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. 

The Genesis brand, Hyundai says, will adopt a modified version of the winged emblem that is currently used in the Genesis sedan. With plans to launch as much as six models by 2020, the Genesis brand will also adopt an alphanumeric naming nomenclature. With the 'G' prefix denoting Genesis, models would be named G70, G80, G90 and so on depending on the size and segment in which they compete. A new "Prestige Design Division" has been formed within Hyundai with Luc Donckerwolke, ex-Volkswagen Group designer who has penned Audis, Lamborghinis, Bentleys and Skodas before, at the helm. Peter Schreyer, the man behind the design transformation of Hyundai and Kia in recent years, would continue to oversee the work done in the Prestige Design Division too. 

Remember the impressive Vision G Concept that debuted earlier this year? That could be an hint on what to expect from Genesis going forward.

The current Equus sedan is likely to kickstart things for the new luxury brand, albeit with a different name, followed by the Genesis sedan and another smaller sedan. A coupe and a couple of Sport Utility Vehicles are rumored to be in the fray too. To maintain their exclusivity, image and appeal, all Genesis models are expected to come with a rear wheel drive layout with optional all wheel drive in some.

While other details like the investments to be pumped in and plans for setting up exclusive dealership networks aren't available, Hyundai has said that South Korea, China, USA and the Middle East would be the first markets to retail Genesis-branded cars. Europe and the rest of the Asian markets will figure later in the business plan. 

When it does make its debut, Genesis would be having its hands full dealing with brands with irresistible pull like Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz and well-established rivals like Lexus, Acura and Infiniti. Will Hyundai succeed in its luxury venture? Or is it taking a step too far too fast? Let's keep our fingers crossed.


Cara Mia Fiat, grazie infinite

Ah no, we aren't posting this from Italy, if you are wondering after reading the title of this post. 'Cara Mia' is Italian for 'beloved' and all we are saying is 'Dear Fiat, thank you so much'.

We bloggers have a moral responsibility to control our emotions and think more than once before we type what we want. At times though, pent up emotions get the better of us and make us go bonkers. This post is a result of one such instance. Something similar happened earlier too and that's when this happened. Lamenting on the lack of sporty performance-oriented hatchbacks in India, we poured our hearts out hoping for a change.

It’s been almost four years since and an automotive brand we least expected has finally satisfied our plea. Yes, with sales of just a few hundred cars every month, Fiat was least expected to whet the appetite of car enthusiasts in India. With brands like Maruti-Suzuki and Hyundai, the two biggies that enjoy fat profits and control close to 65% of the Indian car market between them, choosing to remain silent, Fiat didn’t have to do this. With brands like Ford, Volkswagen, Renault and Honda that have successful sporty sub-brands in their global lineup choosing to remain silent, Fiat didn’t have to do this. But they did and we mean it when we say we can’t thank them enough.

You could argue Fiat is desperate to garner attention hoping it adds to its minuscule sales tally. But then, Skoda and Nissan aren’t doing much better either. Why hasn't their desperation led to something like this? Let’s give credit where its due. Fiat gave us the first 100 horsepower hatchback with the Palio 1.6. Fiat gave us the first affordable turbo petrol engine with the Linea T-Jet. And now, with the launch of the Abarth Punto a few days back, Fiat has gifted us Indians our first ‘true’ hot hatchback.

Take a look at the car's specifications. 145 horsepower. 212 Nm of torque. Acceleration from 0 to 100 km/h in 8.8 seconds. 0 to 1 km covered in 30.4 seconds. Powered by a 1.4-liter turbocharged petrol engine mated to a 5-speed manual transmission. All this in a hatchback that you could drive for your daily commute to work, do your monthly grocery shopping in, take out for that road trip with family every quarter and even indulge in that occasional, once-in-a-year fun outing in a race track. 

If this isn’t reason enough to go crazy, what else is? Yes, the Abarth Punto isn’t perfect in every sense but then, no other car is.

The Abarth Punto not just packs a punch under its hood but looks the part too. Some of its elements like the bright red fog lamp surrounds in the bumper are garish but the car makes a loud statement for sure. In fact, with its 16-inch scorpion alloys and tastefully done decals on the sides, it screams sportiness and aggression. Let’s not forget the big scorpion pasted on the roof while we are at it! The changes aren’t restricted to the exteriors and the cabin is mildly spruced up too. The instrument cluster is Abarth badged and features the performance brand's red and yellow theme. The seats and gear lever have contrasting stitches in the same colours and the entertainment system can finally stream music through BlueTooth. There are sportier Abarth pedals available as an option too. 

Apart from the Abarth Punto, the Avventura also gets the T-Jet engine finally in a slightly lesser state of tune. Visually, there is just a ‘Powered by Abarth’ sticker on the rear door that hints at the power under the hood. The rest of the car is similar to the regular Avventura launched earlier. 

The Abarth twins might not add significant volumes to Fiat but they sure have done a world of good to Fiat's image and prospects in our market. Now that the Italian brand has done its part, let's hope its rivals take a cue and come out with performance cars of their own.