20170616

Volkswagen unveils the all-new Polo in Berlin

Volkswagen Polo is the type of car that’s not easy to replace. It debuted way back in 2009, yet the Polo ended 2016 as the world’s best-selling sub-compact car. Volkswagen’s super-mini was so competent at launch that it was crowned the 2010 World Car of the Year. Eight years later, the Polo still wins comparison tests with much-newer rivals and considered amongst the best in the segment. How many cars you know can claim doing these at the fag end of their life cycles? 

Having said that, the Polo can’t go on forever in its current form. Volkswagen knows this well and the result is the all-new Polo that was unveiled in Berlin today.


As with every new car launch, there are good things and bad things to report about the new Polo. Let’s alternate between them to see how the car stacks up. 

The Good:

The biggest disadvantage of the current Polo is the rear seat space, or the lack of it to be precise. That should be history now as the new Polo is longer, wider and boasts increased wheelbase vis-à-vis the current model. With spec sheets that read 4,053 mm long, 1,751 mm wide and 1,446 mm tall, the Polo is now all grown up. Crucially, the wheelbase has gone up to 2,564 mm from the current model’s 2,470 mm, so expect better knee room, shoulder room and boot space in the new car. Potential buyers will no longer have to strike the Polo off the list if space is a key consideration. 

The Bad:

If you thought your eyes deceived you for a moment when you looked at the new Polo, worry not. It might be an all-new car built on a brand-new platform but the sixth-generation Polo is, at best, a mild evolution of its predecessor. We aren’t complaining, the current Polo is still one of the better-looking hatchbacks out there. But, casual onlookers would be having a tough time telling the new model from the existing Polo. It’s clean, it’s timeless, the detailing in the headlights and taillights look terrific and the mini-Golf looks create quite an impression but we all expected more, didn’t we?


The Good:

Built on Volkswagen’s latest MQB-based modular platform that’s shared with the newly-launched Seat Ibiza and the upcoming next-generation Skoda Fabia, the new Polo benefits with a lighter kerb weight than the outgoing model. Apart from the obvious gains in fuel efficiency, the new Polo is claimed to be stiffer and safer than ever before, designed to meet the stringent European crash test norms. 

The Bad:

While the new platform is undoubtedly beneficial in some aspects, folks who have driven the previous-generation Volkswagens will vouch for their tough build and indestructible feel. Those traits are still there in the new-generation model, albeit not to the same level. Just drive the Skoda Laura and the current Octavia back-to-back and you’ll know what we mean. Sadly, the new Polo would be no exception to this. 

The Good:

A key strength of the existing Polo is its interior quality, fit and finish. The new Polo, in addition to gaining an all-new cabin with richer materials and nicer features, is likely to carry forward the traits that have made the current Polo’s cabin a much-revered place to be in. 

Certainly, the new Polo has gone premium in terms of kit offered. Amongst the features on board are full LED headlights, panoramic sunroof, wireless charging for smartphones and the fully-digital Active Info Display. Safety is top notch too with advanced tech like Adaptive Cruise Control, Front Assist area monitoring system including City Emergency Braking and Pedestrian Monitoring, Blind Spot Detection with Rear Traffic Alert and semi-automated Park Assist system with a ‘maneuvering function’ doing all they can to protect the occupants in the event of a crash.


The Bad:

The ‘dieselgate’ scandal might not have significantly affected Volkswagen’s sales numbers but the resulting cost-cutting initiatives put in place to cut the losses short means the new Polo loses a few variants, engines and transmissions vis-à-vis the current model. For instance, the Polo 3-door is no more and the power-train lineup is consolidated.

Having said that, the engine and transmission lineup is no slouch.

Base variants get a 1.0-liter MPI engine in two states of tune (64 HP & 74 HP) while the mid variants get a 1.0-liter TSI engine in two states of tune (94 HP & 113 HP). At the top of the petrol range is a 1.5-liter TSI mill generating 148 HP. Diesel options are confined to a sole 1.6-liter TDI engine in two states of tune (79 HP & 94 HP). In select markets, a Natural Gas-propelled 1.0-liter TGI variant would also be on offer. Depending on the engine chosen, a 5-speed manual, 6-speed manual or a 7-speed automatic transmission is paired with it.

The Good:

Since its debut in 1975, the Polo has been a strong-seller for Volkswagen with over 14 million units sold till date. The new model is likely to take off from where its predecessor left - right at the top of the segment. In 2015, 2016 and so far in 2017, the Polo has been the best-selling sub-compact car globally. Expect this to continue in 2018 and beyond. 

The Bad:

Despite being a popular Volkswagen in India, the new Polo’s launch here is uncertain. The Polo has always been an expensive proposition in its segment and the new model is said to be increasingly so. In a cost-conscious market like ours, that’s going to be a tough sell. Moreover, the new Polo has breached the all-important 4-meter mark, losing the excise benefits.

Will the current Polo soldier on with more facelifts and feature additions? Will Volkswagen Group’s association with Tata to use the latter’s AMP platform spin off a replacement for the current Polo? We do not know yet. All we know is the new global Polo isn’t headed here, which is a shame.

And, finally, the Best:

The good old GTI goes on sale alongside the regular variants with hot looks and a stonking 2.0-liter TSI generating 197 HP under the hood.  Obviously, we won’t be getting behind the wheel anytime soon but who stops us from drooling at it over and over?


The new Polo will make its public debut at the 2017 Frankfurt Motor Show before going on sale in select markets later this year. Stay tuned for more!

20170613

Hyundai unveils Kona, its all-new compact SUV

Hyundai Motor took the wraps off the Kona, its all-new compact SUV, today. The Kona is the South Korean car-maker's first global B-segment SUV and joins the likes of the Tucson, Santa Fe Sport and Santa Fe in the growing SUV lineup. 

What strikes immediately on looking at the Kona is its aggressive, impactful design. Trying hard not to be the regular 'hatchback-on-steroids' kind of crossover, the Kona is bold, daring and distinct. Whether it looks good or not is completely up to one's tastes though.


Up front, the now-familiar 'Cascading Grille' sits right at the center with a thin slat above and a prominent air dam right below. Surrounding the grille are three separate pairs of lights. The slim unit at the top houses the LED Daytime Running Lights and the turn signals while the bigger ones below has LED headlights. The third pair placed further towards the center, we presume, are the fog lights. The aggressive profile features prominent character lines, contrasting roof and thick plastic cladding for that rugged look and feel. The cladding extensions that encompass the lighting clusters at the front and the back look busy and rather unusual. The stacked lighting configuration continues at the rear, with the brake lights on top and the turn indicators and reverse lamp housed in separate units below.

Sporty and vibrant colour combinations are likely to be offered for those who would want their Konas customized.

The Kona's dimensions read 4,165 mm long, 1,800 mm wide and 1,550 mm tall with a wheelbase that measures 2,600 mm. The long wheelbase and minimal overhangs give the Kona a planted stance.


While the Kona's interiors have not been seen yet, Hyundai claims best-in-class passenger and luggage space in its newest compact SUV. Apparently, this has been made possible by optimizing the underfloor layout including the 4WD drive-train, exhaust system and suspension layout. Depending on the market, the Kona is equipped with a 5-, 7- or 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system with advanced connectivity options that include Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. A new Head-Up Display (HUD) is on offer too, projecting vital information like speed, navigation instructions, audio information and Lane Departure Warning messages. There's more, the Kona even offers first-in-segment wireless smartphone charging.

Advanced safety suite on board include Forward Collision Avoidance Assist, Lane Keeping Assist, High Beam Assist, Driver Attention Warning, Blind Spot Collision Warning and Rear Cross-Traffic Collision Warning.

Three petrol engines - a turbocharged 1.0-liter, 3-cylinder mill with 118 horsepower, a turbocharged 1.6-liter, 4-cylinder mill with 174 horsepower and a 2.0-liter, 4-cylinder unit with 147 horsepower, are on offer while select markets will also have the option of a 1.6-liter diesel engine under the sculpted hood. Transmission options include 6-speed manual, 6-speed automatic and 7-speed DCT (Dual-Clutch Transmission) gearboxes.


The Kona is available in 2WD and 4WD configurations. Front suspension features McPherson struts while the rear gets either a high-stiffness torsion beam or a dual-arm multi-link system for the 2WD and 4WD variants respectively.

The Kona will go on sale in Korea later this month, followed by North America and Europe. We believe India doesn't feature in the list of probable markets for the Kona in the near future. That makes sense as the Creta, developed specifically for emerging markets like ours, sits in the same segment and price band as the Kona.

20170526

BMW unveils 8-Series Concept, sends the internet into a dizzy!


Every year, the grounds of Grand Hotel Villa d’Este bordering the waters of Lake Como in Italy plays host to one of world’s most exclusive gathering of historic automobiles and motorcycles. Called “Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este”, the event is quite popular amongst automotive historians and enthusiasts. The 2017 edition is ongoing and BMW has used it to unveil the 8-Series Concept, the brand’s take on a luxury coupe of the not-so-distant future. 

Expected to make it to production as early as 2018 with minimal changes, the concept previews the future design direction of the brand. And boy, does it look exciting!

With the 8-Series Concept, the designers at BMW have done a commendable job of mixing the iconic design cues of the past with an eye on the future. 


Up front, the large kidney grille is placed lower and wider, flanked on either sides by laser-lit slim headlights with hexagonal detailing. Further emphasizing the car’s width are the large side air intakes in the bumper. The silhouette looks brilliant, with the long hood and the flowing roofline giving the car a fast and dynamic look. BMW’s expertise in surfacing comes to the fore on that scooped-out portion in the door that appears to have been formed by air gushing out of the side intakes. The massively-flared rear wheel arches take over seamlessly from there and lead to a dynamic rear that’s dominated by thin L-blade taillights stretching out to the flanks. How can we not drool over those gorgeous 21-inch light-alloy wheels that feature functional aero elements as well? 


Giving not-so-subtle hints at the speed and power in store are the carbon-fiber diffuser, the twin trapezoidal tailpipes and the integrated lip spoiler. The front bumper also gets a carbon-fiber element between the two side air intakes. 

The interiors in the 8-Series Concept are clearly amongst the best we have seen in a BMW. The flat-bottomed steering wheel looks fabulous with aluminium spokes that gravitate forward and the red-anodised shift paddles. The instrument cluster gets a TFT display with an all-new user interface and revised graphics. The cabin is tastefully appointed in Merino leather in Dark Brown and Fjord White accentuated by contrasting elements made of carbon-fiber and hand-polished aluminium. Further adding to the luxury quotient are the faceted ground gearshift lever and the iDrive Controller made from Swarovski glass with a smoky quartz finish! The slim sports seats are wrapped around a carbon-fiber shell and aimed at providing the driver and the passenger a snug and cossetting fit and feel.


Details of what’s under the hood aren’t known yet but the 8-Series is expected to share engines and transmissions with the brand’s current flagship, the 7-Series sedan. A faster and more powerful M8 is also in the works, some say, as is a roadster based on this. When the production version debuts sometime next year, the 8-Series will proudly sit atop BMW’s lineup, rivaling the Mercedes-Benz S-Class Coupe.

If you can't have enough of the pictures, we suggest you fly to Italy right away. If you can't make it there before this Sunday, wait for the next movie in the Mission Impossible franchise. Tom Cruise might just be driving one of these!

20170521

3 Best-selling cars in India that have destroyed the competition...

Success in the automotive industry doesn’t come easy. That’s all the more truer these days with cut-throat competition being the norm and customer loyalty almost non-existent. But, there are some exceptions that have not just swung the success barrier wide open but have also completely decimated their opponents while doing so.

Here are three such examples in the Indian passenger car industry. 

All three are in the midst of an incredibly successful spell right now. What’s incredible, you wonder? Well, each of these three models sell more than all their competitors combined, month after month, year after year! This, despite their rivals trying every trick in the trade to usurp them. If that isn’t incredible, what else is?

Maruti-Suzuki Swift Dzire

The first in the list is the car that’s been in the news these past few days. It’s the Maruti-Suzuki Dzire we’re referring to, the third generation of which was launched last week. Tata might have pioneered the segment with the Indigo CS but it was the arrival of the Swift Dzire (the first and second-generation Dzires carried the ‘Swift’ prefix) and the stupendous success it achieved that really gave compact sedans a fillip. Honda, Hyundai, Tata (again, with an all-new model), Ford and Volkswagen would follow but the level of success and popularity the Swift Dzire enjoyed remained exclusive to Maruti-Suzuki. 

The Amaze had a more powerful diesel engine and Honda’s strong brand pull to boot. The Xcent had better rear seat space and comfort in addition to Hyundai’s trusted sales and service network. The Zest was supremely spacious and offered incredible value for money. The Figo Aspire came with a stonker of a diesel engine and came kitted with safety features unheard of in the segment. The Ameo had everything we love in a German automobile. 

The result? Not one of these cars could snatch a share of the pie the Swift Dzire enjoys all to itself. Instead, the segment grew accommodating all these new entrants and saving their makers from further embarrassment.


Let’s look at the numbers. Out of the 344,474 compact sedans sold in 2016, a whopping 202,076 were Swift Dzires. That’s a staggering 59% of the segment’s share. The remaining 41% was what the Amaze, Xcent, Zest, Figo Aspire and Ameo fought for with the Honda and Hyundai faring better than the rest. 

With the new Dzire ironing out all the shortcomings of its predecessors, the future looks bleak for every other competitor. It would take extraordinary circumstances for any other compact sedan to challenge the new Dzire.

Maruti-Suzuki Alto

Next up is yet another Maruti-Suzuki, this time the car that carries the tag of “India’s largest-selling car” with aplomb. Yes, the Alto it is! Unlike the Swift Dzire, Alto’s rise to the top wasn’t easy. In fact, the Alto just did not take off when it was first launched in 2001. Maruti-Suzuki had to resort to price cuts and discounts to keep the cars moving off the showrooms before the changeover to Euro-III norms meant the 800 died a premature death in the metros. The baton was thus forcefully handed over to the Alto and, since then, the diminutive hatchback has ruled the roost at the top, fending off competition above and below.

From the cheaper Tata Nano to the relatively expensive Hyundai Eon, both of which debuted with much hype and hoopla, competition in the A-segment has always been tough. In fact, both the Nano and the Eon were labelled Alto-killers at launch. With due respect to those two cars, neither of them could even come close to threatening Alto’s position for various reasons. Renault’s recent foray in this segment with the Kwid has met with a stellar response though, proving the Alto isn’t invincible after all. But then, Kwid’s sales are still just about half of Alto’s every month. Datsun tried it’s luck too but sales are only a fraction of what Maruti-Suzuki’s best-seller manages every month.

Maruti-Suzuki is said to be pursuing SUV-like design cues (like the Kwid) and feature-rich interiors for the next-generation Alto. If that becomes a reality, expect all hell to break loose in the A-segment!


A grand total of 451,010 entry-level hatchbacks were sold in India in 2016 out of which the Alto accounted for 245,094 units. That’s an incredible 54% of the segment in Maruti-Suzuki’s pocket. Though nowhere close to the Alto, Kwid and Eon have fared reasonably well too. The same can’t be said of the Nano and the Datsun twins - Go and redi-Go.

Toyota Fortuner

The next on the list isn’t a Maruti-Suzuki. It isn’t a Hyundai, Mahindra, Honda or Tata either, the second, third, fourth and fifth-largest car-manufacturers in India last year. It’s the Toyota Fortuner, the premium SUV that has smashed sales records for any car priced above INR 20 Lakhs in India. To give you a perspective, Toyota consistently sells 1500 to 2000 Fortuners every month. With an average asking price close to INR 30 Lakhs, that’s a cool INR 6,000 Crores in revenue for Toyota India in 30 days, massive by any standards.

For a country that’s obsessed with high-riding Utility Vehicles, it’s surprising no other global car-maker apart from Toyota got it right until recently. The two biggies, Maruti-Suzuki and Hyundai, otherwise known for plugging gaps in their lineups with amazing regularity, were hardly present in the SUV space until the Creta and the Vitara Brezza came along in the last two years. Even Ford, known for its big and brawny SUVs and pickups, hardly gave Toyota a fight until the new Endeavour started threatening Fortuner’s supremacy last year. But, things were back to square one when Toyota unleashed the all-new Fortuner in response.

From the monocoque CR-V and Santa Fe, both of which are globally successful models, to the body-on-frame Pajero Sport, a hardcore SUV with a rich legacy to boot, competitors have come in all types and forms. All they managed to do is sink without a trace. Such is Toyota’s brand pull and reliability that many potential premium SUV buyers aren’t even willing to walk into other brand’s showrooms, let alone look at their offerings and take a test drive. The current Ford Endeavour, an arguably better product than the Fortuner in most aspects, sells one third of the latter and that’s on a good month. That says a lot about the sheer dominance of Toyota in this segment.

Strong brand recognition, bold and muscular styling, high ground clearance, ability to outlive their owners, legendary reliability, incredible resale value and low cost of maintenance - the Toyota Fortuner ticked every box in the list and some more. In its latest form, add feature-loaded interiors to the repertoire and you know why the Fortuner will continue to be a best-seller.


Of the 18,242 premium SUVs Indians bought in 2016, 9,524 were Fortuners. That’s a 52% share of the lucrative premium SUV segment that’s known for fat profit margins. This is despite Toyota running out of vehicles for a few weeks when the model change was happening in November, a period that coincided with Endeavour hitting an all-time high on the back of the launch of the new-generation model.

Yes, Ford has finally managed to end Toyota’s monopoly in the segment but is it enough to put Toyota under pressure? Nope, not at current levels at least. Fortuner’s reign at the top looks all set to continue!

Fiat's all-new Argo revealed, will replace Punto in the lineup

Right from its launch in 1993, the Punto has been a big-seller for Fiat in quite a few markets including Italy, Brazil and parts of Europe. The third-generation model debuted in 2005 and between then and now, there was just a minor facelift bestowed on the car. That was way back in 2012 and the Punto was admittedly getting long in the tooth. Fiat couldn't unveil its replacement soon enough and that's where the Argo steps in. 

Yes, expected to be formally unveiled in Brazil in a few weeks from now, the Argo will replace the aging Punto in Fiat's lineup.

All we have right now are a couple of official images of what is likely to be Argo's sporty, range-topping trim level. And the car is quite a looker. The Punto, in its current form, looked a million bucks, with its Italian flair and clean lines making it stand out. The Argo is quite the opposite in terms of its design approach. In trying to keep up with the trend, the Argo has ditched the terms 'clean and European' for 'aggressive and contemporary'. 


Up front, the heavily sculpted hood and Fiat's new family grille imparts a sense of aggression to the Argo we don't generally associate with European hatchbacks. Large sweptback headlamps with LED DRLs on either sides appear to be seamless extensions of the grille. The profile of the bumper and lower air dam mimics the shape and size of the upper grille and headlights while the bright red accent indicates this is a sporty variant we are looking at. In profile, the prominent character line that runs the full length of the car, the flared wheel arches and the upward-sloping window profile imparts the same aggressive theme as the fascia. Potentially exclusive to this sporty trim level are the plastic cladding in the wheel arches and those snazzy-looking alloys shod with low profile Bridgestone Potenzas. The bootlid, again, is heavily sculpted and feature split wraparound taillamps and large 'FIAT' lettering at the center. Red accents in the bumper and the roof spoiler are possibly add-ons the regular variants won't get. The low-hanging exhaust is an eyesore, just as it is in the Linea T-Jet here, and has to go.


Fiat hasn't released official images of the interiors yet while Argo's powertrain options are still under wraps as well. 

Together with the Tipo sedan (which vowed us as the Aegea Concept), the Argo would be an excellent addition to Fiat India's lineup. Cars as appealing as these, powered by punchy T-Jet and frugal MultiJet engines, boasting the solid build and near-perfect ride and handling that Fiats are known for - who in their right minds would say no to such a combination? 

If priced and marketed well, these two cars could bring Fiat back in the fight and ensure the brand is not just dependent on revenue from selling engines to Maruti-Suzuki and Tata. Its highly unlikely though with FCA choosing to focus on the 'Jeep' brand for India. Still, miracles do happen and we are hoping for one to see these new-age Fiats on Indian roads.

20170520

Porsche builds one-millionth 911 at Zuffenhausen

Manufacturing and selling a million units of the same nameplate is quite a feat. The iconic Porsche 911 achieved the milestone recently, 54 years after its debut.


Over five decades and seven generations of its existence, the 911 has been the flag-bearer of “Brand Porsche” globally. Apart from being the gold standard in driving dynamics against which rivals are measured, the 911 consistently tops quality and reliability studies across countries and continents. Porsche proudly claims over 70 percent of all 911s produced are still in running condition and we aren’t surprised. Most importantly, the 911 plays a key role in consolidating Porsche’s status as one of the most, if not 'the' most, profitable car makers around. Unconfirmed reports claim every new 911 that’s delivered to a customer fetches Porsche a profit to the tune of 20%.

It’s no wonder then the 911 has become the centerpiece around which the brand has been built. For all that the 911 has done, the designers at Porsche has come up with a good gesture in return. Every model in the brand’s lineup, be it the Boxster, the Panamera or the Cayenne, carries a piece of 911’s design philosophy.


Speaking of which, the 911’s design is as iconic as the car itself and quite unlike anything else in the automotive industry. Ever since it debuted as the 901 at the 1963 Frankfurt Motor Show before being renamed the 911 when it went on sale in 1964, the timeless shape has remained the same, only getting better and better with every successive generation. The flat hood flanked by free-floating fenders, the legendary fastback profile, the shape of the windows and the rear-engine layout are all an ode to the 1963 classic. Its amazing what Ferdinand Alexander Porsche penned more than 50 years ago is still relevant and, crucially, likable.

Porsche is a well-known name in motorsport with over 30,000 victories in various forms of racing. Over half of those race wins are courtesy the 911, a stat that speaks volumes about the car's ability to tame the track. Road or track, one thing is for sure - the 911 makes you grin ear to ear and that's what is important!  

For a car with such credentials, one million units, all of which have been produced at Zuffenhausen, an urban district in Stuttgart, Germany, couldn't come soon enough.


Here's how the million units are split between the seven generations of 911 that have graced the roads:

  • 1st Gen - The original 911 (1963-1972): 81,100
  • 2nd Gen - G-Series (1973-1989): 198,414
  • 3rd Gen - 964 Series (1988-1992): 74,008
  • 4th Gen - 993 Series (1993-1998): 67,535
  • 5th Gen - 996 Series (1997-2005): 179,163
  • 6th Gen - 997 Series (2004-2011): 215,092
  • 7th Gen - 991 Series (2011-Present): 152,659


The one-millionth 911 sports an 'Irish Green' paint job, the same colour that the company founder had his car from the first series painted. Badges with the text '911 Nr. 1,000,000' are stuck on to the B-pillars while the Porsche and 911 badges at the rear are gold in colour. Inside the cabin, the instrument cluster, that's back-lit in a shimmering green, feature the numbering 1,000,000 while the seats get an historic chequered pattern. The steering wheel hub gets a 1964 Porsche crest on the hub while the mahogany rim is reminiscent of the wooden steering wheels that adorned one too many sports cars in the 1960s.


Based on the 911 Carrera S with a power-boosted 450 horsepower engine mated to a 7-speed manual transmission, this one-off piece would embark on a World Tour before going on to embellish the 'Porsche Museum' collection. If you happen to be somewhere around the Scottish Highlands, the Nürburgring or parts of China or the United States, watch out for this green piece of history!

20170517

Maruti-Suzuki launches the new Dzire in India, prices start at ₹5.45 Lakhs

One of the most-important and hugely-anticipated new cars of 2017, the all-new Maruti-Suzuki Dzire, was launched yesterday. Currently in it's third-generation, the Dzire has now ditched the Swift prefix and grown into an independent nameplate.


The petrol variants are priced between INR 5.45 Lakhs and 7.94 Lakhs for the manual and INR 6.76 Lakhs and 8.41 Lakhs for the automatic variants. Prices for the diesel range between INR 6.45 Lakhs and 8.94 Lakhs for the manual and INR 7.76 Lakhs and 9.41 Lakhs for the automatic variants.

Unlike the two previous iterations in which the Dzire was just a Swift with an ungainly boot added on, the third-generation model has been designed and developed as a sedan from scratch. That has worked out very well as the integration of the boot and the overall proportions have improved considerably, making the new Dzire a good-looking car. That's a statement we do not make often for compact sedans. 


The fascia is similar to the upcoming new-generation Swift that recently went on sale globally. The swept-back headlamps and the profile of the new hexagonal grille are pretty much the same as the hatchback but the bumper and the chrome detailing are unique to the Dzire. The profile is where the Dzire really makes a mark with styling cues inspired by the lines in the Baleno and the Ciaz. You would also notice that the A-pillar itself has been redesigned to suit the characteristics of a sedan and isn't upright as it was before. The short and stubby boot doesn't look forced and has a Kizashi touch to it, something we can't complain about. As is the norm these days, a thick strip of chrome running across the bootlid adds bling.


The new Dzire is built on Suzuki's safer and lighter HEARTECT platform that also underpins the Baleno and the upcoming new Swift. As a result, the car is wider by 40mm, sits lower to the ground by 7mm and has a 20mm longer wheelbase. 

Though the basic layout of the interiors are shared with the new Swift, Maruti-Suzuki has redesigned the center console and the air-conditioning vents to give the Dzire a distinct look and feel. The two-tone beige and black cabin gets shiny wooden inserts and bits of chrome for good measure. The leather-wrapped flat-bottom steering wheel is all new and looks well-designed. The rear seat appear to be significantly more spacious and comfortable than the previous generation model, thanks to the increased wheelbase and features including rear air-conditoning vents and a center armrest with cup-holders.


The new Dzire has a standard safety pack with all variants coming with a driver and passenger airbag, Antilock Braking System (ABS) with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist, ISOFIX child seat anchorages and seat belt pretensioners with force limiter.

Other features across the lineup include LED projector headlamps and Daytime Running Lamps (DRL), precision-cut alloy wheels, automatic climate control, push Start/Stop button with smart keyless entry, automatic headlamps, one-touch up/down power window for the driver, electronic trunk opening and electrically-adjustable and retractable rear view mirrors. Like all recent Maruti-Suzukis, the new Dzire also gets the SmartPlay infotainment system with inbuilt Navigation and Voice Command. The touchscreen unit is compatible with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Mirror Link, offering a host of connectivity options.

Powering the new Dzire are the same pair of engines as the previous generation model - the 1.2-liter, 4-cylinder K-series petrol and the 1.3-liter, 4-cylinder DDiS diesel. While the former generates 82 horsepower and 113 Nm of torque, the latter churns out 74 horsepower and 190 Nm of torque. Both the engines are mated to a 5-speed manual transmission while some variants are also offered with the option of a 5-speed Automated Manual Transmission (AMT).

When Maruti-Suzuki teased the all-new Dzire a month back, we wrapped up the post stating it's time for competition to run for cover. We couldn't have been more truer. Even before it's prices were announced, the new Dzire has apparently amassed 33,000 bookings across the length and breath of the country. That's about ten times the monthly sales of the next best-selling compact sedan. Expect the new Dzire to shatter sales records and command a long waiting period.

20170511

Kia is India-bound. What could they bring along?

One car-manufacturer that always seemed to have the right products that could have made a mark in India was Kia. It’s a pity they didn’t bother to set shop here all these years. For those who do not know much about them, Kia is South Korea’s oldest car-manufacturer and, of late, one of the world's fastest-growing too. Partly owned by Hyundai, the two brands share a ‘Volkswagen-Skoda’ kind of relationship when it comes to designing and developing their products. Cars from the two brands share platforms, engines, transmissions and pretty much everything that can be shared.

Now that Kia are headed here, speculations are rife on the cars we could buy from them, right here in India, in about two years from now.

An India-specific compact sedan and a compact SUV are on the cards but that apart, Kia has been tight-lipped on their game plan for our market. That gives us a chance to come up with a wish list of our own. Kia might never launch them here but, if we were the product planners at their Indian subsidiary, these are the vehicles that would be India-bound.

Optima Hybrid

You didn't see this coming, did you? To make it big in India, you need a competent hatchback. For that to sell, a widespread dealer network is essential. Dealers won't be on board without a product to sell. That's where the Optima Hybrid steps in.


A direct rival to the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord, the Optima could be the perfect launch-pad and image-builder Kia needs. The Optima is a stylish, fully loaded entry-luxury sedan and in its ‘Hybrid’ guise, more than a match to its Japanese rivals in terms of technology. Before Kia gets their mainstream models rolling out of their assembly line, the Optima Hybrid can be imported as a CBU to keep the dealers happy. Who knows, a bit of a helping hand from Hyundai could even open up the CKD route.

Sure, that's an almost-abandoned segment for a debutant brand to step into but Toyota and Skoda have proved you could be successful if the product and positioning are right. And before you bring up brand image and Kia’s lack of it, remember we are a country where Skoda is placed above Volkswagen on the image pedestal!

Expected Price: INR 28 - 30 Lakhs
Rivals to watch out for: Toyota Camry Hybrid, Skoda Superb, Honda Accord Hybrid

Picanto

Now, this is where the typical hard-hitting that Korean brands are famous for begins. If Kia plays the right cards, the Picanto could do to Kia what the Santro did to Hyundai.


Chic looks, no-nonsense interiors, the peppy 1.2-liter Kappa petrol, the frugal 1.2-liter U diesel and road manners that are said to be a cut above Hyundai - the Picanto has all the attributes to impress the discerning Indian small car buyer. That Hyundai stretched the wheelbase of the i10 specifically for India and slapped a 'Grand' prefix is common knowledge. Kia could mirror the strategy with the Picanto, making it a spacious and comfortable car for Indian families. 

Hatchbacks are dime a dozen in the market but this little Kia has got what it takes to stand out, we think. The previous-generation Picanto was spied testing in Chennai more than once which proves Kia is seriously considering this for the Indian market. If not, they better do. 

Expected Price: INR 4.5 - 6.5 Lakhs
Rivals to watch out for: Maruti-Suzuki Swift, Hyundai Grand i10, Ford Figo

Rio

Not so long ago, hatchbacks priced above INR 5 Lakhs were considered a no-go for India as there were more than one example of expensive hatchbacks not moving off the showroom floors. Hyundai busted the myth with the i20 and Maruti-Suzuki is rewriting history with the Baleno. With the Rio, Kia can join the party too, albeit a bit late.


Sharing it’s platform, chassis and powertrain with the i20, the Rio has got the basics covered. All it needs is proper positioning, a value-for-money price tag and a strong marketing push to break through the minds of potential premium hatchback customers. The design might need a bit of tweaking though, as the new Rio that just debuted globally might end up being too bland for Indian tastes. 

Will Kia hit gold in a segment that has failed to reward Honda and Volkswagen, brands that enjoy an enviable brand reputation in India? It’s tough, obviously, but it isn’t impossible. If Hyundai can do wonders with the i20, why can’t Kia? 

Expected Price: INR 6 - 8 Lakhs
Rivals to watch out for: Maruti-Suzuki Baleno, Hyundai i20, Honda Jazz, Volkswagen Polo

Sportage

SUVs are a rage in our country and Kia cannot afford to make do with just an India-specific compact SUV in its lineup. Well, they don’t have to, with the Sportage offering an excellent option to embellish the lineup that's tough to ignore.


Over the last two decades, Kias have come a long way and the Sportage is a shining example of that evolution. From being an anonymous-looking, Mazda-based SUV of the past to the radical-looking head-turner that it is today, it’s been quite a journey for the Sportage. With more than adequate space for five, a laundry list of standard features and a price tag that possibly slots in just below the Hyundai Tucson, the Sportage has a sure shot at success.

That said, Kia shouldn’t forget that the Tucson isn’t doing very well in India and one possible reason is its ambitious pricing. Kia sure would not be wanting to miss out from making it to the shopping list of premium customers. 

Expected Price: INR 18 - 22 Lakhs
Rivals to watch out for: Hyundai Tucson, Honda CR-V

Forte

This is a gamble. A dying segment, competition that has all but given up, similar-priced SUVs and crossovers ruling the roost - that isn’t a nice place to step in. Not at all. But, Hyundai hasn’t given up yet and the new Elantra seems to be doing a good job. If Kia’s top bosses have the same thought process, the Forte could be here as well.


Among the best-looking premium midsize sedans we have seen in a long time, the Forte can take up the space vacated by the erstwhile Honda Civic in India. Stylish, spacious and feature-loaded, the Forte has all but one of the attributes the once-popular Civic had. What’s missing, you wonder? The Forte is nowhere as fun to drive as the Honda, if international reviews are anything to go by. That hardly matters though, given the fact that the segment’s two best-sellers aren’t known for their handling prowess. 

The Forte might not end up being a smart business decision for Kia if it makes it here but the car will sure fetch fans for the brand. And that could prove invaluable later!

Expected Price: INR 15 - 18 Lakhs
Rivals to watch out for: Toyota Corolla, Hyundai Elantra, Skoda Octavia

That would be a lineup covering an entire gamut of segments and price range!

Will they make it here though? That's something Kia will answer. Watch this space and wait for the 2018 Auto Expo!

20170427

It's official: Kia is coming to India, first car to roll out in 2019

After years of dilly-dallying and scores of rumors predicting their entry every now and then, Kia Motors has officially announced their plans for India today. 


Mr. Han-Woo Park, President of Kia Motors, declared that a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed with the state government of Andhra Pradesh where the brand's first manufacturing plant would be set up with investments to the tune of US $ 1.1 Billion. The fully-integrated plant would incorporate stamping, welding, painting and assembly facilities inside spread across 536 acres. 

Kia has also announced that a host of suppliers would be joining them in setting up their facilities in and around the site at Anantapur. It's safe to expect high localization levels then, atleast in the long term.


Mass production is due to start in the second half of 2019 with an annual capacity of about 300,000 cars. Though Kia has not revealed its product plans for India yet, they have been magnanimous in declaring that a compact sedan and a compact SUV would be specifically made at the plant for the domestic market. From the Picanto hatchback to the Stinger GT luxury sedan, Kia makes cars to suit wide range of pockets and tastes. Certainly, quite a few of them have potential to make it big in India. 

India is the fastest growing major automotive market in the world while Kia is amongst the fastest growing mainstream automotive brands globally. It was just a matter of when and not if Kia would make it to the country.  

Kia, South Korea's oldest manufacturer of motor vehicles, was founded in 1944. In 1998, Hyundai acquired a controlling stake in Kia when the latter went bankrupt. Since then, Kia's cars and utility vehicles are developed in conjunction with Hyundai with the two brands sharing the underpinnings. 

That said, cars from the two brands end up cometing with each other in almost every market they are present in. India would be no different despite the fact Kia appears to be mirroring Hyundai's strategy from a couple of decades back. It would be interesting to see how these two brands work in tandem to rival Maruti-Suzuki, Tata and Mahindra here.

20170423

Competition Alert: Maruti-Suzuki has teased the all-new Dzire and it's looking good

As if to spice things up this weekend, Maruti-Suzuki released Friday a sketch of the upcoming, third-generation Dzire sedan. Yes, this time, the car might not get the 'Swift' prefix given the fact that the Dzire nameplate has clearly established itself as a force to reckon with in the industry.

For the folks at Maruti-Suzuki, the teaser might just be a part of the pre-launch build-up leading to the actual launch in May. For the competition though, this is nothing but an official warning urging them to be prepared for an impending assault in the compact sedan segment.

Here's why.


Few cars have dominated their segments the way Swift Dzire has. Ever since it's launch in 2008, the Swift Dzire has been India's largest-selling car that's not a hatchback. Maruti-Suzuki have been selling more Swift Dzires than all it's competitors combined every month over the last few years. Rivals tried every trick in the trade to snatch sales and market share - Honda shoe-horned a more powerful diesel engine in the Amaze, Hyundai offered more features and a comfortable rear seat in the Xcent, Tata redefined space and value for money with the Zest, Ford brought in safety features unheard of in the segment with the Figo Aspire and Volkswagen joined the party with the famed 'German' build and solidity in the Ameo, but the Swift Dzire continued unabated. In fact, since 2014, only the Alto sells more than the Swift Dzire if you look at the annual sales charts.

Interestingly, the Swift Dzire accomplished the feat despite being butt-ugly. The Swift was such a good-looking car but it was designed to be a hatchback. Maruti-Suzuki's idea of forcing a boot on to the Swift's butt didn't look like a good idea when the car's pictures were first released. The Dzire wasn't looking desirable! But then, the car launched and silenced nay-sayers by becoming a massive hit with the masses. Sales zoomed past 100,000 units within two years of launch and kept increasing year over year. 

The second-generation came in 2012. This time, the car was designed to accommodate a boot grounds up, which meant it wasn't as shock-inducing as it's predecessor. Still, the 4-meter length restriction meant that the Swift Dzire still looked as if it was rear-ended when rolling off the line at Manesar. The car was still not as feature-loaded as it's rivals and Maruti-Suzuki were still depending on Fiat for the 1.3-liter diesel engine. But the car-buying public cared the least. Sales hit through the roof and the Swift Dzire massacred competition with cumulative sales crossing 1 million units in 2015.


The teaser pic and the spy-shots floating around in the internet has all but confirmed that the third-generation Dzire is a genuinely good-looking car. For the first time ever, the car's boot looks well-integrated and doesn't look like an afterthought. The profile is well-designed with lines inspired by the more-expensive Baleno and Ciaz. That's half the battle won already. If the recent launches from Maruti-Suzuki are any indication, expect the all-new Dzire to be fully loaded as well with an assortment of engine and transmission options being offered.

A good-looking Dzire with segment-leading features and technology isn't exactly what the competition wants right now. But, that's precisely what is on the way from Maruti-Suzuki. It's time for Honda, Hyundai, Tata, Ford and Volkswagen to run for cover. The undisputed king of compact sedans is back, this time with no potential chink in it's armour!