Renault launches Kwid in India with shock pricing

When Renault unveiled the Kwid for India earlier this year, we were super excited and went as far as  to proclaim this as the ‘next big thing’ in the Indian automotive industry. That could well be true as Renault launched the Kwid today at a mouthwatering starting price tag of INR 2.57 Lakhs. Yes, you read that right! That’s not all. The Kwid would be available in six variants - Std (2.56 Lakhs), RXE (2.89 Lakhs), RXE(O) (2.95 Lakhs), RXL (3.11 Lakhs), RXT (3.44 Lakhs) and RXT(O) (3.53 Lakhs). When Renault harped on 98% localization levels, we thought it was just marketing jugglery. Boy, have they proved us wrong!

At these prices, alarm bells would soon start ringing at rivals Maruti-Suzuki and Hyundai, with the Alto and Eon likely to be the major affected parties here. 

With the Kwid, Renault has broken new ground by taking a completely fresh approach on what an entry-level small car should look like. Smartly incorporating key SUV design elements like high ground clearance and black plastic cladding all around, the Kwid boasts appealing proportions that are sure to impress the car-buying public in India. Renault’s trademark slotted grille, the simple yet smart headlights, the pronounced wheel arches and the chunky rear bumper ensure the Kwid doesn’t lose the plot due to its tall ride height. There are certain angles from which the Kwid looks a bit odd but then, the Eon and Alto look odd from some angles too. If butch looks for less than 5 Lakhs is what you are looking at, look no further than the Kwid. 

At first glance, the Kwid’s interior design and layout might not impress but wait until you read the features on offer. Wearing a two-tone grey and black combination, the cabin features an all-digital instrument cluster, a 7-inch touchscreen Media-NAV infotainment system with USB, Aux and BlueTooth connectivity and piano black inserts, things that we don’t see in cars a segment or two higher. The tall proportions liberate loads of space inside with headroom and legroom easily emerging the best in segment. Renault has added a lot of cubbyholes and storage spots in the cabin, making it an extremely practical place to be in.

Doing duty under the Kwid’s hood will be a new 799-cc, 3-cylinder petrol engine with 53 horsepower and 72 Nm of torque. The engine displacement as well as the power and torque figures are par for the segment and should be capable of hauling the Kwid and its occupants along nicely.

Sadly, safety isn’t a priority in this segment and the Kwid does not try to change this aspect. ABS and passenger side airbag isn’t available even as an option on the entire range while only the top-end RXT variant gets an optional driver’s airbag.

With its butch looks, several segment-first features and incredible pricing, the Kwid should easily find its way to the top of the sales charts. It might not end up challenging the Alto yet but the Kwid definitely has what it takes to unsettle the segment and taking a big pie off the Eon and Alto every month.

Ford launches the new Figo hatchback in India

Ever since its launch in India, the Ford Figo struck all the right chords for the American manufacturer. It was an instant sales success, it transformed Ford’s fortunes in India from being a fringe player to a mass-market brand, boasted mature ride, handling and composure that was a rarity in the small car segment and was spacious than some sedans we know. Half a decade later, Ford is trying to replicate all that with the launch of the all-new Figo hatchback.

Sharing its styling, platform and underpinnings with the recently-launched Figo Aspire compact sedan, it is immediately clear that the new Figo is nothing but the Aspire with its boot chopped off. That’s not a bad thing at all, given that the Figo Aspire comes with pleasing styling and appreciable proportions for a compact sedan. 

As with most new Fords, the most striking design element sits up front in the form of the Aston Martin-inspired hexagonal grille with subtle chrome highlights. This, combined with the sculpted hood with power bulges and peeled-back headlights, adds a lot of character to the new Figo. The silhouette is equally sporty, thanks to the flared wheel arches and the prominent character line that runs the length of the car cutting across the door handles. The rear is a bit underwhelming compared to the rest of the car but the nicely-shaped taillights and two parallel lines cutting across the boot-lid ups the ante. The new Figo is worlds apart from the dated and boxy styling of the car it replaces but still can’t hold a candle to stylish premium hatchbacks like the Hyundai i20 and Honda Jazz. 

Inside, it’s the same Aspire story all over again. We guess the Ecosport’s interior layout and design had received an overwhelmingly positive feedback as Ford has adopted it for all its subsequent launches. The dashboard and center console are lifted straight off the Aspire sedan with a major difference being the absence of beige in the Figo. The glossy black garnishing in the Aspire seems to have been given a miss too, with the hatchback getting light grey inserts instead. Just like the Aspire, Ford has loaded the Figo with a long list of equipment with the top Titanium+ variant featuring segment-redefining six airbags along with notable inclusions like automatic climate control, keyless entry and a 4.2-inch infotainment system with SYNC, voice control and AppLink, Ford MyKey and Emergency Assistance.

If the exteriors and interiors haven’t interested you yet, this surely will. Powering the new Figo would be the same engine and transmission options from the Figo Aspire. The 1.5-liter TDCi diesel engine churns out 99 horsepower at 3750 rpm and 215 Nm of torque between 1750 to 3000 rpm, figures that are amongst the best in the hatchback segment. Two petrol options are available - a 1.2-liter TiVCT engine generating 87 horsepower and 112 Nm of torque mated to a 5-speed manual gearbox and a 1.5-liter TiVCT unit with 110 horsepower and 136 Nm of torque paired to an advanced 6-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission (DCT). While the 1.2-liter petrol is nothing to write home about, Ford has nailed it with the diesel and petrol automatic options that should see good acceptance in the market.

Prices for the 1.2-liter petrol variants start from INR 4.29 Lakhs for the Base and go up to INR 6.40 Lakhs for the Titanium+ variant. The 1.5-liter automatic is available only in Titanium trim and retails for INR 6.91 Lakhs. The diesel options are priced between INR 5.29 Lakhs for the Base variant that extends up to INR 7.40 Lakhs for the top-end Titanium+ variant. All prices are introductory and ex-showroom Delhi. 

With the Ecosport continuing unthreatened by the Creta and S-Cross, the Figo Aspire compact sedan comfortably doubled Ford’s sales tally last month. Will the Figo hatchback make it a triple for the American brand and hit jackpot? It certainly has the potential to do so. Let’s wait and watch.


2015 Frankfurt - Bentley Bentayga, the world's fastest SUV, debuts

These days, profits and revenue in the automotive industry are driven by Sport Utility Vehicles (SUV) and crossovers. With fat margins and ever-increasing demand, this is one segment that just can't be ignored by any manufacturer. Bentley is the latest to give in to this trend. Under the spotlights of the recently concluded Frankfurt Motor Show, Bentayga, the British luxury brand's first SUV, made its debut. Its interesting to note that the weirdly-named Bentayga is also the most powerful and the fastest SUV on earth now.

When Bentley previewed its future SUV with the EXP 9F Concept at the 2012 Geneva Motor Show, the reception was lukewarm at best. Critics and loyalists were aghast at what the Crewe-based manufacturer came up with, forcing Bentley to go for a redesign. The Bentayga is the result of that. Sure, it does look better than the EXP 9F to start with. 

The large matrix grille with its characteristic diamond meshes up front, flanked on either sides by twin circular LED lights, gives the Bentayga an unmistakable Bentley identity. Walk around and the Bentayga's massive proportions make their presence felt. This sure is one imposing SUV, helped in large parts by that sculpted hood with the center ridge, prominent power lines on either sides and the muscular, if slightly odd-looking, rear haunches. At the rear, Bentley's new horizontal segmented taillights gives the signature touch while the fat dual exhausts hint at the power hiding under all that aluminium and sheet metal. Roof rails and skid plates at the front and rear completes the SUV look.

Just one look at the images released by Bentley is sufficient to convince us that this has got to be one of the most luxurious cabins in the automotive industry. Said to be made of hand-crafted wood and leather with polished and knurled metallic bits sprinkled here and there, the Bentayga is a true-blue Bentley inside. Available in four and five seat configurations, the Bentayga's cabin can be personalized to individual tastes through Bentley's bespoke division with almost unlimited options for paint, leather and veneer. An 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system comes with in-built navigation, a 60 GB hard drive and a choice of upto 30 languages. Those seated at the rear benefit from removable 10.2-inch Android-based entertainment tablets with 4G and WiFi capability that are fixed to the headrests.

Other notable features include 22-way adjustable front seats with massage function, panoramic sunroof, hands-free tail gate, four-mode adjustable air suspension, world's first electronic active roll control dubbed 'Bentley Dynamic Ride'. As usual, a full suite of active and passive safety technologies would ensure the Bentayga offers complete protection to its occupants in all circumstances. 

At the heart of the Bentayga is a 6.0-liter, twin-turbo W12 TSI engine. Developing 600 horsepower at 6000 rpm and a peak torque of 600 Nm between 1250 to 4500 rpm, the Bentayga can accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h in just 4.1 seconds and reach a top speed of 301 km/h. That's sports car territory! If you want a high-riding vehicle with go 'almost' anywhere capability and yet keep pace with the Ferraris, Lamborghinis and Porsches, the Bentayga should be your choice. A high-performance diesel and plug-in hybrid options would join the lineup later as will a 7-seat version.

The Bentayga is to Bentley as Cayenne was to Porsche. Purists may cringe but the Bentayga is sure going to bring in sales and profits for the brand. That's ultimately what it wants!


2015 Frankfurt - Jaguar leaps into crossovers with the F-Pace

It had to happen. And finally, it has! With competitors like Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo making merry with their crossovers and Sport Utility Vehicles, Jaguar was left to fend off with just its sedans and sports cars. True, Land Rover makes just SUVs but a Jag customer is unlikely to settle for a Land Rover and would head to the German trio or Volvo instead. Jaguar had to have one in its lineup.  Jaguar announced its intentions to join the burgeoning luxury Crossover Utility Vehicle (SUV) segment when it debuted the C-X17 Concept in Frankfurt earlier. Two years later, at the same venue, the ‘leaping cat’ has pounced on the segment in style.

Staying true to the concept’s styling cues, the F-Pace is amongst the most beautiful crossovers we have seen. The best part is Jaguar didn’t have to stray far from its existing design direction while penning the F-Pace. The best aesthetic elements that make the rest of Jaguar’s lineup so special find their way into the F-Pace too.

Up front, the familiar large mesh grille and the gaping air dams at the edges of the bumper sets the tone while the sleek headlights with their signature ‘J-Blade’ design ups the ante. The power bulge in the bonnet, the flared wheel arches with the optional drool-worthy 22-inch wheels, the rakish line of the rear windows and the fender vents emphasize the F-Pace’s performance capabilities. Those sexy taillights that we fell in love with in the F-Type sneaks its way and creates the same impact in this large crossover as it did on the diminutive sports car.

Looking especially gorgeous in the ‘S’ trim wearing that glossy blue paint, the F-Pace is a stunner. We aren’t surprised then that this Jag is one of the stars of the 2015 Frankfurt Motor Show.

Inside, the F-Pace stays true to its Jaguar lineage and offers a luxurious cabin littered with premium materials and meticulous craftsmanship. The ‘Sports Command’ driving position is accentuated by an optional 12.3-inch virtual instrument cluster offering four visual themes and full-screen navigation. Jaguar’s InControl Touch infotainment system features an 8-inch capacitive touchscreen takes care of the entertainment quotient. The short overhangs and the long wheelbase means space is not at a premium, with the F-Pace offering luxurious seating for five and their luggage.

Three engine choices would be offered on the F-Pace. The lineup includes two supercharged V6 gasoline mills with 340 and 380 horsepower and a 4-cylinder Ingenium diesel engine with 180 horsepower. With a standard torque-on-demand All Wheel Drive system and Jaguar’s Adaptive Surface Response technology, the F-Pace need not be restricted to paved motorways.

Jaguar expects F-Pace customers to actually take the vehicle off-road and engage in adventure activities. Helping such owners would be the ‘Activity Key’, a wearable technology that gives access to the vehicle while allowing the actual key-fob to be kept safely locked inside. 

In addition to the regular suite of safety features that are standard on a vehicle of this class, the F-Pace boasts of multiple advanced driver assistance systems including All Surface Progress Control, Low Traction Launch, Autonomous Emergency Braking with pedestrian detection, Lane Departure Warning, Lane Keep Assist, Traffic Sign Recognition, Intelligent Speed Limiter, Laser Head-Up Display (HUD), Adaptive Cruise Control with Queue Assist, Blind Spot Monitor, Reverse Traffic Detection and Park Assist.

Slated to go on sale in 2016, we expect the F-Pace to grab a major share of Jaguar’s sales pie in no time. Together with the new XE compact luxury sedan, Jaguar is headed towards a major growth phase!

2015 Frankfurt - Rolls-Royce goes topless with the new Dawn

A new Rolls-Royce motorcar makes its official debut. In automotive parlance, things just don’t get bigger than this. Amidst the glitz and grandeur of the ongoing 2015 Frankfurt Motor Show, Rolls-Royce decided to go topless for the first time in full public view. Needless to say, it must have been a sheer joy watching the whole episode unfold.

An ode to the Silver Dawn drophead, a rare and unique name that Rolls-Royce applied to just 28 cars between 1950 and 1954, the new Dawn is a four seat convertible that promises unparalleled open-top luxury motoring. Let's not forget the Dawn was previewed at the 2015 World Dealer Conference in Los Angeles, California in March this year. Sharing a lot of its underpinnings with the Ghost sedan and Wraith coupe, the Dawn could be dismissed as a Wraith with its roof chopped off. But that’s not the case according to Rolls-Royce, with the British brand claiming that 80% of the Dawn’s body panels are unique.

Externally, the Dawn is a typical Rolls-Royce motorcar that would not be mistaken for anything else. The trademark design elements that we associate with Rolls-Royce like the beautifully-detailed kinked headlights, the massive radiator grille embellished with chrome, the long sculpted hood, the pinstripes running the length of the car, the tapering rear and the classy chrome-outlined taillights makes the Dawn stand apart. The sweeping shoulder line that flows over the rear wheel arches are particularly impressive, giving the car a bold and athletic stance. Polished wheels, stainless steel waistline finisher and chrome inserts in the front and rear bumpers that Rolls-Royce calls ‘bumper jewellery’ look classy and adds to the overall appeal.

As with every other Rolls-Royce, the interiors are an epitome of luxury and oozes class any which way you look at it. Generous application of rich wood and finest quality leather makes this convertible the most luxurious moving thing on earth without a roof. While the classic ‘coach’ doors aid easier ingress, four cosseting bucket seats offer complete luxury for the occupants. Rolls-Royce highlights that the Dawn is a proper four-seat convertible and not the regular 2+2 convertible offered by many other brands. Rolls-Royce’ bespoke audio system and the trademark ‘Spirit of Ecstasy’ Rotary Controller ensures the occupants are kept entertained while an array of creature comforts and safety features cocoon and pamper them simultaneously.

Under that long hood sits a 6.6-liter, twin-turbo V12 engine that churns out 563 bhp at 5250 rpm and a whopping 780 Nm of torque from as low as 1500 rpm. With such figures, it is no surprise that the Dawn is the most powerful four seat convertible ever made. The Dawn gets the same Satellite Aided Transmission that made its debut in the Wraith. Utilizing GPS data to read the road conditions ahead, the unit anticipates driver inputs and selects the most appropriate gear from the 8-speed ZF gearbox resulting in an effortless and seamless drive experience. 

The Dawn is the fourth model in the Rolls-Royce lineup, complementing the Phantom limousine, Ghost sedan and the Wraith grand tourer. Expect the affluent around the world to queue up for the Dawn for experiencing the ultimate open-top motoring nirvana!


Mahindra launches the TUV 300 in India priced between INR 6.90 and 9.12 Lakhs

One of the most frequently spotted models on test in Indian roads over the last year or so has been the Mahindra TUV 300. In fact, we have personally seen this Sport Utility Vehicle testing in the harsh mountains of Ladakh as well as in the plains south of Chennai. We were also the first automotive site in India to reveal the TUV 300 almost uncovered, thus revealing its design direction. Just when we thought we have had enough of it, Mahindra finally launched the TUV 300 in the Indian market last week.

Said to be inspired by a battle tank, the TUV 300 is a departure from the prevailing trend in vehicular design. In this age of swoopy and curvy designs with cuts and creases everywhere, the TUV 300 is refreshingly straight and boxy. The tall nose, flat hood, slab-sided profile and the upright rear with tailgate-mounted spare wheel imparts the TUV 300 with that much-needed SUV appeal. But, certain aspects of the design could have been much better. The headlights, for instance, doesn't gel too well with the otherwise squarish design while the rectangular wheel arches accentuates the gap between the body and the tires. Beefier rubber would have made a significant difference to the overall appeal of TUV 300. 

As we saw with the refreshed Scorpio and XUV 500, Mahindra is cleaning up their messy design language and the TUV 300 is yet another step in the right direction for the brand.

From the looks of it, the interiors of the TUV 300 appears to be the best effort yet from Mahindra. The interiors of the TUV 300 is a tasteful mix of biege and black plastic with the twin-pod instrument cluster and the hexagonal center console being the highlights. The top-end TUV 300 comes loaded with features such as automatic climate control, steering-mounted audio and phone controls, Mahindra's Blue Sense app, Bluetooth capability, keyless entry, static bending lights and USB/Aux-In supportability. Quality seems to have gone up too, with the TUV 300 appearing nowhere as crude as some of its stablemates like the Bolero and Thar.

For a change, an Indian automobile manufacturer is embracing safety! Not only does Mahindra claim the TUV 300 is capable of meeting the current Indian and European safety regulations, it also says the TUV 300 is ready for the future regulations coming into effect in India from 2017. Anti-lock Braking System (ABS), Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD) and dual airbags are standard on the top variant but can be bought as optional extras from the base variant itself. Kudos to the product planning team at Mahindra for taking this small but significant step forward!

Powering the TUV 300 is a new 1.5-liter three-cylinder diesel engine dubbed 'mHawk 80'. Equipped with a two-stage turbocharger, this mill is capable of producing 84 horsepower and 230 Nm of torque. Mated to this engine is a 5-speed manual transmission. Jumping into the AMT bandwagon finally, Mahindra is also offering the option of an Automated Manual Transmission called 'AutoSHIFT' in the top two variant of TUV 300.

Prices for the base T4 variant start at INR 6.9 Lakhs while the top-end T8 variant with AMT retails at INR 9.12 Lakhs ex-showroom Pune. While the overall pricing is pretty bang on and offers good value for the money, the AMT variants are priced at a premium of INR 72,000 which is a whopping margin for what's essentially an hydraulic actuator.

Agreed, the design is polarizing. But with Mahindra playing its cards wisely, the TUV 300 looks boxy, is kitted well, can seat seven occasionally and is propelled by a frugal yet reasonably powerful engine. Will the car-buying public overlook some of its weird styling elements and embrace the TUV 300? Let's wait and see.


Hyundai unveils the all-new sixth-gen Elantra

Hyundai, South Korea's largest car manufacturer, unveiled the all-new Elantra (badged Avante in Korea) earlier this week. The Elantra is not only Hyundai's best-selling model but also a regular fixture in the list of world's best-selling cars. Now we don't have to tell you this mid-size sedan plays a key role in Hyundai's growth prospects.

Though the Elantra nameplate has been around for more than 25 years with more than 10 million units sold, it is the current fifth-generation model that brought in success, fame and accolades. The sixth-generation model unveiled this week aims to build on that. Wearing what's arguably the finest form of Hyundai's 'Fluidic Sculpture' design philosophy, the current Elantra is a class act. It was always going to be difficult sketching a replacement for such a beautiful car. But Hyundai's designers, with Peter Schreyer at the helm, appear to have done some impressive work.

As we saw with the Genesis and Sonata, the wild cuts and creases that were synonymous with the 'Fluidic Sculpture' design language are being refined in Version 2.0. The Elantra gets the same treatment and, as a result, looks a whole lot sleeker and simpler. Hyundai's corporate hexagonal grille occupies prominent real estate up front, this time a whole lot bolder with a thick outline and chunkier horizontal slats. Matching the grille's shape and profile are boomerang-shaped enclosures that house circular chrome-ringed fog lights. The silhouette is still coupe-like but loses its curves for a couple of prominent character lines. Sleeker wrap-around taillights extend well into the boot lid and feature i20-esque triple LED-lookalike elements. The bold rear bumper adds to the appeal.

The Elantra in red has its chrome elements blackened and looks particularly sporty and impressive!

The interiors are totally transformed with the swoopy and curvy cabin making way for an angular layout complete with a plethora of buttons. Soft-touch materials have apparently been applied with the whole dashboard tilted 6.9 degrees towards the driver for a cockpit-like ambience. For an improved music experience for the occupants, the new Elantra features a premium quality Harman audio system. Safety has taken a front seat with a full suite of technologies including Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB), High Beam Assist (HBA), Blind Spot Detection (BSD) and Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA). Additional convenience features in the new Elantra include Integrated Memory Seat (IMS) for the driver and a hands-free Smart Trunk feature.

While the power-train options for the rest of the global markets is still a wild guess, the South Korean home market has three engines - a 1.6-liter diesel and two petrols with displacements of 1.6 liters and 2.0 liters. Paired with these engines are 6-speed manual and automatic transmissions while the diesel also gets an exclusive 7-speed Dual Clutch Transmission (DCT). 

Expected to go on sale in its home market this year followed by a launch in global markets next year, the all-new Elantra looks set for bigger things within the Hyundai family. As for us Indians, let's hope Hyundai follows the trend it set with its small cars and launch the new Elantra at around the same time as other important global markets.


Mahindra Genio facelift caught testing near Pune

​Mahindra appears to be having its hands full at the moment. Hot on the heels of launching extensive facelifts of its big-selling Scorpio and XUV500 SUVs, the Indian manufacturer is already lining up two new SUVs for launch in the coming months. At the same time, its products in the commercial segment aren't left in the lurch either.

The Genio pickup, launched in India in 2011, seems to be the next in line for a facelift. Parked near Mahindra's manufacturing facility at Chakan in Maharashtra, this camouflaged test vehicle was snapped by one of our eagle-eyed readers from Pune and is probably amongst the first spy shots ever of the vehicle. While the makeshift circular headlights and the tacky turn signals try to make things a bit difficult to judge, the rest of the vehicle is ample sheet metal for us to conclude that this is indeed the Genio.

Long dominated by old workhorses from Tata and Mahindra, the commercial pick up segment got a fillip a couple of years back with the launch of Isuzu D-Max. Being a global model, the D-Max raised the bar with a powerful engine and quality interiors loaded with features that were hitherto found in passenger cars. If Mahindra is smart, the upcoming Genio could be it's answer to the challenge thrown in by Isuzu.

Though details are scarce at the moment, we expect the Genio facelift to feature changes majorly concentrated on the headlights, grille and bumper. We could already see hints of Mahindra's new corporate grille behind the messy black and white camouflage of the test vehicle. While we do not have pictures of the sides and the rear, the fact that Mahindra has not bothered to cover them hints that not much changes should be expected in those areas. All said and done, customers do not buy products like the Genio for their aesthetic appeal. All that matters is ruggedness and go-anywhere capability which this Mahindra appears to have in loads. The interiors could receive significant upgrades too if Mahindra intends to pose a serious threat to its modern rivals with the Genio.

Expect no changes to its power train and mechanicals though with the same 2.5-liter mDI CRDe engine producing 75 horsepower and 220 Nm of torque being the mainstay of the Genio range. Going by Mahindra's track record, we wouldn't be surprised if the Start-Stop system dubbed 'Micro Hybrid' makes its appearance in the Genio. That's all we have now. Stay with us for more!