Skoda launches the all-new Superb in India

The all new Skoda Superb luxury sedan was launched in India today. Based on the Vision C Concept that was showcased at the 2014 Geneva Motor Show, the new Superb looks sharp and very European. Currently in its third generation, the Superb will be locking horns with the Toyota Camry and the upcoming Honda Accord in the Indian market.

Skoda’s new design language has been the cynosure of all eyes since it was introduced in India in the new Octavia. The Superb promises to take it to the next level. A modern incarnation of Skoda’s trademark trapezoidal grille with a slit to accommodate the logo dominates the redesigned fasica. A muscular hood and chiseled bumper with well-defined cuts oozes appeal while the Bi-xenon headlights with LED Daytime Running Lights inside look cool. The profile is home to two strong character lines running the length of the car while the rear is reminiscent of a similar-sized Audi sedan. If you want to turn heads wherever you go, the Superb should be one of your top choices!

Skoda is not known for offering gracefully-designed interiors in its cars. The Superb is no different. While the design might not be eye-pleasing, the build quality, fit and finish and the features on offer will impress the toughest of critics. We have seen that in the old Superbs and the new car, looking at the official images, carries that trend forward. Feature list is exhaustive too with a 3-zone climate control, 12-way power-adjustable front seats, panoramic sunroof, ambient lighting, 6.5-inch SmartLink touchscreen infotainment system with a 12-speaker CANTON audio, adaptive dampers with three driving modes and ambient lighting making it to the car.

Safety is top notch too with a plethora of advanced features like 8 airbags, Stability Control, Multi Collision Braking, Fatigue Detection System and front Adadptive Lighting System. 

A choice of two stonking engines are on offer in the new Superb - a 1.8-liter TSI petrol and a 2.0-liter TDI diesel.  While the former generates 180 PS and 320 Nm of torque, the latter churns out 177 PS and 350 Nm of torque. The TSI gets a choice of 6-speed manual and 7-speed DSG dual clutch automatic transmission while the TDI is exclusively offered with the DSG gearbox only. 

Prices start at INR 22.68 Lakhs for the TSI Manual Style variant and goes all the way upto INR 29.36 Lakhs for the TDI AT L&K variant. Both prices are introductory and ex-showroom, Mumbai. Considering that the cheapest Camry variant retails around INR 29 Lakhs and the Honda Accord’s estimated prices are around INR 30 Lakhs, the Superb is superbly priced and is incredible value for money!

With sharp looks, spacious cabin, luxurious interiors with an exhaustive feature list and two fast engines, the Superb is a superb choice in the luxury segment, pun intended. The only thing going against the car is Skoda’s brand image and notorious after-sales reputation. But that wouldn’t stop us from putting our money for one.


Driven #33: Ford Ecosport TDCi Titanium+

When Ford launched the Ecosport in 2013, it took the Indian market by storm. Why not? It had the perfect recipe that Indians were waiting for - snazzy 'SUV'ish styling elements, high ground clearance and seating position, a truck load of features and compact dimensions to boot. The result? Waiting time to own one extended to almost a year for some variants. While the Ecosport enjoyed a free run all these days with no direct competitors to speak of, the scenario is changing now. The recently-launched Mahindra TUV 3OO is making life tougher for the Ecosport while Maruti-Suzuki is coming all guns blazing with the Vitara Brezza. Tata Nexon would join the fray later this year while Hyundai, Volkswagen and Toyota are rumored to be closely watching this space too.

Ford has acted quickly with a mild update to the Ecosport, bestowing it with some additional features and a more powerful diesel engine. Has it got what it takes to still be the darling of the masses? Or, is it time to move on to one of the newer crossovers? Let's find out. 


A day before the 2012 Auto Expo, the Ecosport was unveiled in concept form to a packed audience in New Delhi. That it met with a phenomenal response would be an understatement. Unlike most cars that lose a major chunk of their style quotient in their journey from concept to mass production, the Ecosport retained almost all the elements of the concept when it went on sale. Like most of you, we were smitten!

Three years since, the Ecosport still looks snazzy and stylish. Of course, it no longer charms like it did on day one but that's because it has become too common a sight on our roads. Though it’s based on the Fiesta platform, the Ecosport was conceived, designed and developed as a crossover. To add to that, there is a generous dose of SUV styling elements all around, making the Ecosport look like a proper compact SUV. It all starts with the aggressive and mean-looking fascia that's characterized by the gaping three-part grille and the massive bumper. Be it in the contours at the edges of the hood, the way they merge with the A-pillars, the flared wheel arches or the tailgate-mounted spare wheel, the Ecosport flaunts its muscles wherever possible. The slim headlights and the split taillights that extend into the tailgate complement the overall design while the wraparound rear windscreen with glossy black inserts look chic.

With the recent update, Ford has added LED light guides to the Ecosport's headlights while the fog lamps now get an integrated Daytime Running Light as well. The profile has remained untouched while the rear gets a blink-and-you-miss kind of update. The request sensor to open the tailgate has now moved underneath the chrome handle unlike the previous model that had it outside. That's all that has changed. While we get a feeling that this update has given the Ecosport’s exteriors a raw deal, it still is such a fantastic looker and can carry on as it is for a few more years atleast.

Build quality is solid and the Ecosport looks and feels heavy with the doors closing with a reassuring thud. While the 'Panther Black' colour of our test car hides many of the Ecosport's details like the black plastic cladding all around, it highlights the chrome trimmings perfectly. For those who don't want the spare wheel to be exposed, Ford offers the painted spare wheel cover like the one fitted to our test car as an official accessory.


The Ecosport's cabin is a familiar place to be in. Starting from the Fiesta sedan, all Ford models launched in India with the exception of Endeavour have the same interior theme and design carried over.

Among the few distinct things in the Ecosport's cabin is the instrument cluster. Housed in twin circular shrouds with pointed edges, the unit gets a small but informative LCD screen and a fuel gauge in between. The white on black dials are easy to decipher on the move while the needles illuminated in blue look great especially in the dark. Apart from the odometer, the LCD screen lets you toggle between a trip meter, distance to empty readout, average fuel efficiency, average speed and speed limit. The real time fuel efficiency reading is a constant fixture at the top of the screen, a smart way of keeping our adrenaline in check.

Though the Figo Aspire that we drove recently shares the same steering wheel and center console, the Ecosport is well differentiated with a darker cabin that uses black and light grey shades instead of the more popular beige. The bottom half of the dashboard and the door pads use the lighter shade while the rest of the cabin is black. The area surrounding the air-conditioner vents have a bright silver finish while a glossy black finish is used around the climate control switches and on both sides of the gearbox, providing a nice contrast and preventing the cabin from feeling claustrophobic. Though a bit dated in appearance, the buttons, rotary switches and the control stalks felt durable and should have no qualms in lasting the distance.

Being a crossover with 200 mm of ground clearance, the Ecosport is taller than the regular hatchbacks and sedans. As a result, you have the convenience of just sliding in and out of the seats with minimum fuss. The Titanium + variant we drove had decent leather seats with contrasting red stitching. The front seats are very comfortable and offer good lateral support for the back but a bit more bolstering on the sides as well as under the thigh would have made them better. The seats have a healthy height adjustment range and the driver's lumbar support is adjustable too, a key comfort feature that not many cars provide. The rear seat, that lets us choose between one of the two recline angles, is a great place for two passengers while a third person would be a bit of a squeeze. The protruding center piece with a bottle holder and the raised tunnel in the floor makes it a not-so-nice experience.

When the Ecosport was launched, it was the most feature-loaded car this side of 10 Lakh Rupees in India. Subsequently though, cars like the Honda City, Hyundai i20 and Maruti-Suzuki Baleno have nudged ahead of the Ford. In fact, even the Figo twins now get some features that the Ecosport doesn't.

Having said that, the Ecosport in its Titanium + trim is no slouch and comes with a long feature list of its own that includes SYNC with voice commands and emergency assistance, ABS with ESP, six airbags, automatic climate control, music system with BlueTooth, USB and Aux capability, keyless entry and go with push button start, automatic headlamps, rain-sensing wipers, rear fog lamp, rear parking sensors and a leather-wrapped handbrake lever. SYNC's voice commands are a breeze to use and comes in handy in places where you can't take your eyes off the road. It even understands Indian accents and words quite easily. For such a loaded car, there are a few glaring misses like power-folding mirrors, Ford's recently-launched Mykey and leather-wrapped steering wheel and gear knob.


The biggest change in the updated Ecosport is under the hood. The 1.5-liter turbocharged TDCi engine now generates a maximum power of 100 PS. With the smaller and cheaper Figo twins getting this more powerful state of tune, it was clear the Ecosport will soon follow suit. It was a matter of when rather than if and it finally happened with this update. Still, the lighter Figo twins boast a higher torque output of 215 Nm compared to the Ecosport’s 205 Nm, unchanged from the previous version!

Push the ‘Power’ button and the engine cranks to life with the unmistakable diesel clatter. Refinement levels at idle have improved compared to the previous version and the car is noticeably smoother and silent. Sound deadening and insulation is good and doesn't get intrusive unless you rev the engine hard. Press the throttle and the additional power makes its presence felt the moment you get going. Bottom end has improved and the Ecosport feels peppier off the line. Drive an old and the new Ecosport back to back to know what we are talking about. The linear power delivery and the lag-free nature of this engine makes driving the new Ecosport in the city a breeze. Give it an open road and the engine stretches its pace in a relaxed fashion. With the turbo whining in all its glory and the engine revving at a little above 2000 rpm, the Ecosport can munch miles happily at triple digit speeds. The 5-speed gearbox is not the best out there and feels a bit notchy, especially when engaging the first and reverse gears.

When the Ecosport was launched, its light clutch and steering setup was a departure from the Ikons and Fiestas of yore. Ford loyalists might have been disappointed with that but that’s what the mass market wanted. The setup hasn't changed in the updated Ecosport. The light clutch continues to be a boon in stop-start traffic while the light steering that can be flicked around with a finger is a blessing in crowded city roads and parking lots. The steering does weigh up as we go faster but the feedback is just so-so and we felt it to be more sensitive than needed to our inputs.

Given its high ground clearance, body roll is remarkably well controlled and the Ecosport maintains its composure while negotiating direction changes. Handling, like in every Ford car, is impressive and the Ecosport could give a few hatchbacks out there a run for their money. On the other hand, the ride quality suffers due to the firm suspension setup. As impressive as it is at higher speeds with minimal vertical movement, the low speed ride quality is nothing to write about. This is where the Duster remains invincible. When it comes to shedding speeds, the Ecosport impresses and stops with no drama.

Fuel efficiency is another forte of this engine and, with a light foot, the Ecosport easily delivers upwards of 14 km/l in normal city traffic. Stretch its legs out on a highway and the number goes up to 17-18 km/l.



When it was launched, the Ecosport was an exceedingly competent product that also had the first mover advantage in the compact crossover segment. With more players joining the segment, the benchmark is likely to go up but as things stand, the Ecosport is still the king in its own little space. With appealing looks, a long list of features, peppy yet frugal diesel engine and remarkable handling, the Ecosport is a solid 'you-can't-go-wrong-with-it' choice. That said, the Ecosport might require a comprehensive facelift, once Maruti-Suzuki, Tata, Hyundai and the rest of the gang starts breathing down Ford's neck.

Photography & Editing: Bharath Rengaraj & Aravind Ramesh


2016 Chicago - Kia Niro previews a 'hybrid' future for the brand

Having a dedicated hybrid vehicle in the lineup is a good thing. If that hybrid comes in the shape of a crossover, the in-vogue automotive body-style worldwide, it’s a double whammy. That’s exactly what Kia has finally with the Niro. Displayed in production form at the just-concluded 2016 Chicago Auto Show, the Niro is the first dedicated hybrid model in Kia’s lineup. It joins the Soul EV and Optima Hybrid in the car-maker’s environment-friendly ‘Eco Dynamics’ line.

Niro’s claim to fame is a combination of almost-conventional styling that doesn’t scream hybrid, the practicality and appeal associated with the crossover body-style and a targeted 50 miles per gallon fuel economy. Given that there are no dedicated crossover hybrids in the market right now, that’s quite a power punch from Kia. If the Niro gets anywhere close to the targeted fuel economy when it goes on sale later this year, Kia might be laughing all the way to the bank with swelling order books for the Niro. The fact that the Toyota Prius and Honda Insight hybrids are oddly-styled might only serve to help Niro’s cause.

What's most impressive about the Niro is its wide and planted stance accentuated by the long roof-line, shorter overhangs and flared wheel arches. Surprisingly, for a car of Korean origin, there are hardly any cuts and creases in the sheet metal. The muscular hood contours, the prominent shoulder line and the plastic cladding all around with front and rear bumper inserts complete the crossover look while the signature grille ensures the Niro isn't mistaken for anything but a Kia. Despite its bulky crossover shape, the Niro's drag coefficient is still a pretty impressive 0.29.

Powering the Niro is an all-new 1.6-liter GDI 4-cylinder engine from the Kappa family developed specifically for hybrid applications. With a rated power output of 103 horsepower, the engine is paired to a 6-speed dual-clutch transmission (DCT). Working in tandem with the gasoline engine is a 43-horsepower tractive motor aided by a lithium-ion battery pack stacked underneath the rear seat. The same hardware would be shared with Hyundai's upcoming dedicated hybrid model, the Ioniq.

The cabin is neat, uncluttered and features contrasting white textures that livens up the overall ambiance. Apart from features like Cruise Control, Lane Departure Warning, Autonomous Emergency Braking and Blind Spot Detection with Rear Cross Traffic Alert, the Niro also debuts a couple of Eco-Driver Assistance System features. There is a Coasting Guide that coaches the driver on when to coast and brake and Predictive Energy Control that dynamically manages the stored energy, both aimed at maximizing fuel economy.

The Niro might be a bit late to the hybrid party but it has the potential to make it big, we think!


Tata Nexon compact SUV spotted testing near Pune

Visitors to the 2016 Auto Expo in New Delhi would unanimously agree that Tata Motors' display was amongst the most impressive with a slew of upcoming vehicles unveiled one after the other. One of them was the futuristic and funky Nexon compact SUV. After debuting in concept form at the 2014 Auto Expo, the Nexon came back as a concept again to vow visitors this year too, albeit in a toned-down production-ready avatar. Just days after it's spectacular outing in New Delhi, here is proof Tata is already at work preparing for these launches.

Spotted testing over the weekend on the outskirts of Pune, the two test mules of Tata Nexon zoomed past our Xylo and quickly sped into a distance. Considering we were already doing close to triple digit speeds, that was an impressive high speed show by the two Nexons. With the makeshift headlights and taillights combined with some clever camouflaging, the test vehicles revealed next to nothing apart from their identities. Despite craning our necks trying to shoot the interiors, all that welcomed us were thick sheets of camouflage on the dashboard! We scratched our heads trying to figure out those ungainly protrusions at the rear of the test cars in vain. Are they just intentional distractions planned by Tata? Is that a practical roof-mounted carrier? Is it a funky style accessory? We don't know yet.

What we know is that the Nexon would feature Tata's new 'Impact Design' philosophy which is debuting in the soon-to-be-renamed Zica. If the design of the show car makes it to production, the Nexon would be one truly impressive automobile on our roads. With Tata's trademark honeycomb grille, the Humanity Line that extends into the 'frog's eye' headlights, the distinct window line that's shaped like a swoosh, the dual-tone paint job and the floating roof, there's a lot to like in the Nexon. The rear is likely to split opinions and is a definite hit or a miss. The interiors, again, are refreshingly cool for a brand that's struggling to impress private retail customers. Be it the two-tone dashboard with contrasting elements, the Mercedes-style 6.5-inch touchscreen that pops out of the dash or the rotary drive mode selector in the center console, there are quite a few party tricks up the Nexon's sleeve.

When it goes on sale, engine options for the Nexon would include a turbocharged 1.2-liter Revotron petrol engine and a 1.5-liter turbo diesel that generates 110 PS and 260 Nm of torque. Transmitting all that power to the front wheels would be a 6-speed manual transmission. An Automated Manual Transmission (AMT) is also expected to be launched at a later stage. Riding on 16-inch alloy wheels with a ground clearance of 200 mm, the Tata Nexon would rival the Ford Ecosport, Maruti-Suzuki's upcoming Vitara Brezza and the Mahindra TUV 3OO for a pie of the booming compact SUV segment.

What are you waiting for Tata? Waste no time, launch the Nexon already and see customers flocking your showrooms with cheque books on hand!


2016 Auto Expo - Tata woos show-goers with a startling quartet of upcoming models

There's a lot going on at Tata Motors right now. Be it battling sales declines for the Zest and Bolt, scouting for an all-new name for its upcoming Zica hatchback or planning for the launch of the Zica-based compact sedan, the Indian automaker is having its hands full. Despite all that, the Pune-based automotive brand put on a dazzling display at the ongoing Auto Expo in New Delhi, previewing it's upcoming models to the media and the public.

The most important of them all, obviously, is the soon-to-be-renamed Zica hatchback that's slated for launch in the next few weeks. Though this is the first time Zica is officially presented to the public, representatives from the media have driven it and the car is all over the social media, thanks to Tata's new brand ambassador Lionel Messi. Why do they have to rename the car after all this, you ask? It's because of the Zika virus, ​a fast-spreading global health threat.

The renaming apart, the Zica is one stylish hatchback that debuts Tata's new 'Impact Design' philosophy. While we tend to dismiss phrases like that as​ mere​ marketing jargon, the Zica does create an impact with its mature looks and 'subtle yet noticeable' detailing. The trademark honeycomb grille, the new three-dimensional logo and the humanity line outlining the grille found in the Zica will be standard fixtures on all upcoming Tatas. More importantly, the Zica has no resemblance to the Indica, a problem plaguing Tata for years!

Every new hatchback these days brings along with it a compact sedan. Tata pioneered this with the Indica-based Indigo CS in 2008 and it continues with the Zica-based compact sedan. Internally codenamed 'Kite 5', Tata's new compact sedan looks ​great. Surprised that we mentioned 'compact sedan' and 'g​reat looks' in a single statement? We're surprised ourselves​ but that's what Tata has done! ​Their designers have done a tremendous job and the Zica-based compact sedan doesn't look disproportionate or awkward from any angle.​ Who says compact sedans have to look butt-ugly?​

Both these cars would have all-new 3-cylinder engines developed in-house by Tata. The​ petrol ​is a 1.2-liter mill from the 'Revotron' family​ churning out 84 horsepower and 114 Nm of torque​ and the ​diesel is a​ 1.05-liter unit christened 'Revotorq'​ generating a modest 69 horsepower and 140 Nm of torque​. ​Tata hasn't confirmed the diesel power and torque figures for the sedan, hinting at the possibility of a revised state of tune.

Also present in Tata's stand was the Nexon Concept, a star of the 2014 Auto Expo. This time, the upcoming compact SUV shed its concept elements with Tata deciding to showcase the vehicle in a mellowed-down production-ready avatar. Still, the Nexon looks amazing and futuristic with its floating roof, steeply rising beltline and dual-tone paint job. Projector headlamps and LED taillights add more bling to the Nexon. If its launched as it is, expect this Tata to be a head-turner on roads. The views might be polarizing though.

When it goes on sale, the Nexon-based compact SUV will be powered by a turbocharged 1.2-liter 'Revotron' petrol engine and a new 1.5-liter diesel engine developing 108 horsepower and a peak torque of 260 Nm​.

Production version of the soon-to-be-launched Hexa and a sexy Bolt Sport with a more powerful engine and body kit added pizzazz to the Tata stand.

Having displayed cars and SUVs as impressive as these, the pressure is now on Tata to get the pricing right and the marketing strategies, promotions and after-sales sorted before​ launching them in the market.​ Given its current plight, Tata just can't afford to screw up. As for us, we​ wish we could take these snazzy Tatas ​out for test drives ​​already!

2016 Auto Expo - Hyundai brings in Carlino concept, unveils Tucson for India

Hyundai sprung a surprise at the ongoing 2016 Auto Expo in New Delhi by bringing in its Carlino concept. Designed by the company's Namyang design center in South Korea, the Carlino, codenamed HND 14, previews a potential compact SUV from Hyundai targeted at the Ford Ecosport and Maruti-Suzuki's just-unveiled Vitara Brezza.

Sporting slim headlights, flat hood, boxy taillights, front and rear skid plates and an overall squarish design, the Carlino concept looks butch and macho, just how an SUV is supposed to look. Of course, there are conceptual elements like suicide doors, massive wheels shod with ultra low profile tires and side air intakes that aren't going to make it to the production version. But, considering how well the Santa Fe and Creta turned out, we would be really surprised if the Carlino's production version doesn't turn out to be as good-looking, if not better.

Neither the interiors nor the technical specifications of the concept were revealed, indicating that this is just a design preview to keep the competition and potential compact SUV buyers interested.

Along with the Carlino concept, another Hyundai SUV stole the limelight at the Auto Expo. The Tucson, that had a forgettable first stint in India, made a comeback at the biennial event. Now that Indians have warmed up to buying expensive Hyundais and SUVs are all the rage, the all-new Tucson can hope for a better outing this time around. To be slotted between the smash hit Creta and the Santa Fe, the Tucson would be locking horns directly with the Mahindra XUV5OO when it goes on sale later this year.

A smaller Santa Fe or a bigger Creta, depending on how you look at it, is coming your way. So what do you do? Just hold on to the 15-20 Lakhs you thought of spending on a new car and watch this space!

​2016 Auto Expo - Maruti-Suzuki unveils 'red hot' Vitara Brezza

Maruti-Suzuki, India's largest car manufacturer, kicked off proceedings at the 2016 Auto Expo in New Delhi by unveiling the Vitara Brezza, it's upcoming compact SUV. Conceptualized, designed and developed completely in house by Maruti's engineers in India using a Suzuki global platform, the Vitara Brezza is aimed straight at the Ford Ecosport and Mahindra TUV3OO.

From the looks of it, the Vitara Brezza is quite a style statement from Maruti-Suzuki. It heavily borrows design elements from the international Vitara and presents it in a compact footprint, with its length falling short of the all-important 4-meter mark. It's compact dimensions notwithstanding, the Vitara Brezza looks butch, sports an upright hood and squarish wheel arches, gets short front and rear overhangs and boasts a high ground clearance of 198 mm, all of which are typical SUV traits. The two-tone paint job exclusive to the top-end variant promises to be an unique differentiator as well. 

Did we mention the top-end Vitara Brezza in red-black and blue-white combos look snazzy?

While the exteriors are all new, the engine isn't. The Vitara Brezza's power source remains the tried and tested 1.3-liter DDiS diesel engine that churns out 89 horsepower and 200 Nm of torque. The power is transmitted to the front wheels through a 5-speed manual transmission. It's interesting given that the premium Baleno gets the same engine in a lower state of tune while the Vitara Brezza gets the same tune as the S-Cross. Though not officially confirmed, we expect Maruti-Suzuki to launch petrol-engined variants and automatic transmission at a later stage. 

From the official images released, the interior design doesn't break new ground but we expect Maruti-Suzuki to load the Vitara Brezza with features. The official brochure lists cruise control, multi-coloured instrument cluster and touchscreen infotainment system with GPS navigation amongst others! Maruti-Suzuki claims the Vitara Brezza meets the frontal offset and side impact crash tests that will come into force in India from 2017. A driver airbag is standard on the Vitara Brezza while front passenger airbag and ABS (Anti-lock Braking System) with EBD (Electronic Brake-force Distribution) is provided as an option from the base variant. 

Pre-bookings for the Vitara Brezza starts immediately while the price announcement and official launch will happen a few weeks down the line. Well, we see "blockbuster" written all over the Vitara Brezza! You do as well, don't you?