Reviews

22 March 2017 Written by Sameer Kumar
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Starting sometime in 2008, a new beast entered in the Indian car market – the sub-4 m sedan – with the Tata Indigo CS being the first such vehicle to be introduced in the country. In order to promote smaller, more fuel efficient cars, the Indian government announced lower excise duties on cars below 4 m in length, with engines of not more than 1.2 l (petrol) or 1.5 l (diesel). OEMs saw an opportunity there – why not target Indian buyers’ penchant for 3-box sedans by offering inexpensive sub-4 m sedans based on existing designs? It was (and is…) a win-win situation, where buyers get their beloved sedans at a pocket-friendly price, while manufacturers rake in the greenbacks. Yes, because of the design challenges associated with building a 3-box sedan that’s less than 4 m long, these cars are not really good looking, but nobody seems to care about that, so it’s business as usual. The Tigor, from Tata Motors, is the latest entrant in this hyper-competitive segment. We drove the car and here’s our take on whether it really delivers.
 
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DESIGN & STYLING
 
The Tigor is, essentially a ‘notchback’ – a 2.5-box sedan where the 3rd ‘box’ (that is, the boot) is not as clearly defined as it would be on a 3-box regular sedan. Tata Motors is using the term ‘styleback’ for this car, stressing upon the fact that the Tigor is a stylish vehicle. Traditionally, if Tata cars’ strengths have been cabin space, fuel efficiency, ride quality and overall practicality, the Tigor also wants to add ‘style’ to that list. And yet, despite their best efforts, the Tigor’s styling looks a bit awkward. The car is based on the Tiago hatchback, which itself measures 3.75m in length. So as you can imagine, designing a sedan based on this platform, with just an additional 0.24 m to play with, would have been an immensely challenging task. Tata Motors has tried its best to make the car look good, but ultimately the Tigor’s proportions are dictated by the need to garner lower excise duties (by sticking to the sub-4 m mandate) rather than by pure design aesthetics. The boot does look a bit tacked-on and/or abruptly truncated, but as long as you make peace with the fact that that’s how it is with all cars in the sub-4 m sedan segment, the Tigor’s styling is not too bad.
 
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At the front, the Tigor is essentially the Tiago – the nicely sculpted front end remains largely unchanged and is fairly attractive. The large honeycomb front grille gives the car a smiling face, the dark, smoked headlamps add a sense of purpose and the 5-spoke 15-inch alloys (on the petrol top-end variant) look good. The blacked-out B-pillar treatment, chrome trim on the window sills, stylish taillamps and the chrome strip that runs across the boot are all nice little touches that buyers will probably appreciate. However, like we said earlier, the proportions suffer because of the sub-4 m constraint, and the boot does look a bit awkward. However, at 390 l, it’s at least reasonably spacious and will no doubt take a few suitcases without too much trouble. Also, the boot features special struts which, unlike conventional hinges found on most cars, do not intrude into the boot space, hence freeing up more space and amping up the practicality quotient.
 
One small detail that we’ll note here is that the diesel variant rides on 14-inch alloy wheels, which look a bit too small for the car. Even with 15-inch alloys (fitted to the petrol top-end version), there’s fair bit of gap between the tyres and the wheelarches, and this becomes more pronounced with 14-inch wheels. We hope Tata Motors will consider offering 15-inch wheels as standard on all variants of the Tigor and perhaps even offer 16-inch wheels as an optional upgrade for buyers looking for that extra bit of style. Overall, the car looks not too bad and the design team, led by the very affable and knowledgeable Pratap Bose, who is deeply passionate about automotive design, has done the best they could, given the dimension-related constraints that they’ve had to work with.
 
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POWERTRAIN & TRANSMISSION
 
The Tigor is available with both petrol and diesel engines. The petrol variant is powered by a ‘Revotron’ 1.2 l three-cylinder engine that produces 85 hp and 114 Nm of torque. This fuel-injected engine is made of aluminium to keep weight in check, and features double overhead camshafts and four valves per cylinder. The diesel variant, on the other hand, is fitted with a ‘Revotorq’ 1.0 l three-cylinder engine, that features a cast iron block, aluminium cylinder heads, double overhead cams and four valves per cylinder. This engine produces 70 hp and 140 Nm of torque.
 
Coming to the driving experience, we first drove the petrol variant and its performance can only be described as modest, at best. With a kerb weight of 1062 kg, the petrol-powered Tigor is not exactly a featherweight, and if you demand too much of it, the Tigor’s 1.2 l 3-cylinder petrol engine struggles to deliver. Please note, it’s not like the petrol Tigor feels drastically underpowered – as long as you remember that this is a basic, entry-level family sedan, it does just fine. It’s only when you start demanding more from this engine – for example, during high-speed overtaking manoeuvres on the highway – that it shows its limitations. The saving grace is the 5-speed manual transmission, which feels reasonably smooth and slick, shifts quickly and seems to have ratios optimised for the engine’s power delivery. Make judicious use of this 5-speed ‘box and you can work with the engine’s limited power output and still make acceptably swift progress through city traffic. Out on the highway, you’ll probably wish the Tigor had the Zest’s (Tata Motor’s other sub-4 m sedan) 1.2 l turbocharged 4-cylinder petrol engine, which produces a rather more impressive 90 hp and 140 Nm of torque. Then again, we expect the Tigor range to be priced well below the Zest line-up, and you get what you pay for, right?
 
And then there’s the ‘Revotorq’ 1.0 l diesel, the other powerplant available on the Tiago. This engine is smaller and less powerful than the 1.2 l, 4-cylinder ‘Quadrajet’ turbo-diesel fitted on the Zest, which produces up to 90 hp and 200 Nm of torque. The Tigor’s unit only produces 70 hp and 140 Nm of torque, which is just about adequate for the car. With an extra 26 Nm of torque as compared to the petrol-engined Tigor, the diesel offers slightly better drivability in certain road and traffic situations, though definitely don’t expect a huge difference between the two in terms of power delivery. Also, the 1.0 l diesel is not as smooth and silent as the 1.2 l petrol, but should certainly offer much better fuel efficiency and that will be an important benefit for many.
 
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RIDE, HANDLING & SAFETY
 
Ride quality is one area where the Tigor really shines. With fully independent McPherson strut set-up at the front and a semi-independent twist beam at the back, the Tigor rides beautifully over rough, broker roads that are commonplace everywhere in India. While the petrol and diesel variants ride on different size wheels and tyres (175/60 R15 rubber for the petrol, 175/65 R14 for the diesel), there seemed to be no discernible difference in the ride quality – both cars rode very well, and handled bumps, potholes and speed-breakers etc. with remarkable aplomb. And while we did not have an opportunity to push either car very hard, we do suppose the 15-inch wheels fitted to the petrol version will offer a small advantage in terms of high-speed stability and cornering ability. The Tigor’s rack-and-pinion steering, with electric power assist, offers light and easy manoeuvrability at all speeds, but don’t expect a lot of feel or feedback from the car’s nicely textured multi-function steering wheel. We suppose that’s perfectly all right for a sub-4 m sedan, where 99 % of all buyers are probably not even looking for things like steering feedback.
 
In terms of safety, the Tigor features a specially designed energy absorbing monocoque chassis, that’s designed to progressively crumple in the event of a crash, thereby protecting the car’s occupants from harm. Also, the car gets dual front airbags, an anti-lock braking system (ABS), which we think should simply be made mandatory for all cars across all segments, an electronic brakeforce distribution system (EBD) that allocates optimum braking force across all four wheels for the shortest possible braking time and distance, and even a cornering stability control (CSC) system, which should keep things from going spectacularly wrong in the event of a driver’s high-speed cornering ambitions outstripping his/her actual talent for such manoeuvres. On the whole, despite its ‘entry-level sedan’ positioning, Tata Motors seem to have done a fair bit in making the Tigor as safe as possible, though we only hope that ABS and airbags are made available as standard fitment across all variants and not just the top-end models.
 
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INTERIORS & CONNECTIVITY
 
Interiors are another area where we feel the Tigor does quite well. With a wheelbase of 2450 mm (50 mm more than the Tiago hatchback) and a maximum width of 1677 mm, the Tigor’s cabin is fairly spacious. Both, the adjustable front seats as well as the rear bench, are amply padded and are well contoured for long-distance comfort. We spent time in the driver’s seat as well as in the back seat, and had no complaints with headroom, legroom or shoulder room. The cabin is not just comfortable, but also boasts very good levels of fit and finish, with Tata Motors having used quality plastics for the dashboard and other interior trim, along with very good cloth upholstery for the seats. The combination of up to three different kinds of textures and finishes for the plastics used on the dashboard and the multi-function steering wheel also looks and feel pretty good – no complaints there whatsoever.
 
The Tigor’s 8-speaker Harman infotainment system is also pretty good, offering a comprehensive set of functions and ease of use. With a 5-inch touchscreen, the system offers USB and Bluetooth smartphone connectivity for music playback and navigation, voice command recognition (activated by a button mounted on the steering wheel), rear-view camera for parking assistance, and a suite of apps including NaviMaps, Juke Car App, Tata Smart Remote and Tata Emergency Assist app, which automatically shares vehicle co-ordinates (with emergency contacts saved in the system) in the event of an accident. During the time we drove the Tigor, the navigation system worked without any glitches and music playback quality was not bad at all. The touchscreen, while a bit on the smaller side, is probably the best you can get at the Tigor’s price point.
 
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CONCLUSION
 
The Tigor is Tata Motor’s third product in the sub-4 m sedan segment, after the Indigo CS and the Zest. The company hasn’t announced prices for the Tigor, but we expect it to be positioned below the Zest, which gets more powerful petrol and diesel engines. Despite its ‘styleback’ nomenclature, the Tigor is not particularly good looking, but that’s a limitation imposed by size constraints rather than lack of effort from the Tata Motors design team. Mechanically, it’s a fairly capable package, with both petrol and diesel engines offering adequate performance and, at least in the case of the diesel, we hope very good fuel economy as well. The cabin is spacious and comfortable, ride quality is outstanding, and all the safety features that you’d expect in a car of this segment are all present – at least in top-end model. We hope the lower-end variants will also get at least ABS and twin airbags at the front. The one thing that does seem to be missing on the Tiago is an AMT option. With an increasing number of buyers, even in the entry level segments, now beginning to opt for AMTs, probably because these offer all convenience of a conventional automatic, without hurting fuel economy the way a torque-converter automatic does, the lack of an AMT on the Tiago could be a missed opportunity. That said, we do expect Tata Motors to start offering an AMT on this car within the next six months.
 
On the whole, the Tiago is a well-rounded car that ticks most boxes, and offers the features and specifications that are high on the priority list of most buyers in its segment. Priced sensibly, this car should do quite well in the Indian market.
 
TEXT: Sameer Kumar
 
PHOTO: Bharat Bhushan Upadhyay
09 March 2017 Written by Sameer Kumar
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Launched in India last year, the all-new, second-generation BMW X1 compact luxury SAV (Sports Activity Vehicle) is quite different from its predecessor. As some readers might remember, the first generation X1 was built on a rear-wheel-drive platform, while the new X1 is based on BMW’s UKL2 front-wheel-drive platform, which it shares with the BMW 2 Series, as well as the Mini Clubman and Mini Countryman. And while the new X1 is based on an FWD platform, off-road driving enthusiasts needn’t despair – the vehicle is available with BMW’s ‘xDrive’ intelligent all-wheel-drive system, which constantly monitors traction and sends power to the front and rear wheels, varying power delivery between the two ends continuously to maximise grip and traction at all times.
 
With the X1’s 50:50 front/rear weight distribution and electronics like dynamic stability control (DSC) helping the xDrive system, the new X1 really does drive like a ‘proper’ BMW. We recently spent a few days with the X1 xDrive 20d xLine (whew!) to take a closer look at just how good it really is, and here’s what we found.
 
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DESIGN, STYLING & INTERIORS
 
The new X1 is a handsome beast, and definitely better looking than its predecessor. Riding on Y-spoke 18-inch alloy wheels (shod with 225/50 R18 rubber) that properly fill out its wheel arches, the X1 is very well proportioned and gives off an elegant, understated vibe that whispers – not screams – things about it being luxurious and expensive. Which is probably just as well, since it does cost all of Rs 36.99 lakh, ex-showroom Delhi. But, yes, it’s the little touches that come together to make the new X1 look good – the blacked-out window sills, LED headlamps and tail lamps, matt aluminium kidney grille at the front, matt silver side sill trim, carefully sculpted front and rear bumpers and bodywork that features straightforward Germanic lines. If you signed up for a German SAV, that’s exactly what you get with the X1.
 
The other thing is, apart from looking good, the new X1 is also very aerodynamic, with a drag coefficient (Cd) of just 0.29. With its underbody panelling for smooth airflow, air deflectors on the front wheel arches and prominent roof spoiler at the back, BMW engineers have made sure that the X1 slices through the air as cleanly as possible.
 
The subtle luxury theme continues with the X1’s beige-and-black interiors, which are lavishly appointed with all the high-grade leather and wood that you might expect. Full electric adjustment for the front seats, 40:20:40 split rear seats, fancy ambient lighting (plus foot well lights front and rear, as well as exterior door handle lights that look pretty cool…), sporty leather steering wheel with integrated controls for various functions, paddle shifters for the 8-speed automatic transmission, Bluetooth connectivity for smartphones, 7-speaker hi-fi, and BMW’s iDrive system with a 16.5 cm colour display – it’s all there, it’s all very well put together and it all just flat out works. Brilliant. We’ll also note here that the seats are broad, plus and very comfortable indeed – probably more so than what you get with some of the X1’s other German competition. It’s a big, airy, spacious cabin and most people should be able to get quite comfortable in the X1.
 
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ENGINE & TRANSMISSION
 
The X1 xDrive 20d is powered by a 1,995 cc, four-cylinder, common-rail turbo-diesel that produces 190 hp at 4,000 rpm and 400 Nm of torque at 1,750-2,500 rpm. This 2.0 l diesel features turbocharging with variable turbine geometry, and a common-rail direct injection system that generates maximum pressure of up to 2,000 bar. BMW’s claimed zero to 100 km/h acceleration time for this X1 is 7.6 seconds, while claimed top speed is 219 km/h. ATR does not perform instrumented testing, but both numbers seem entirely credible. In fact, the X1’s 2.0 l turbo-diesel engine feels refined, boasts low levels of NVH and, when you stamp on the go-pedal, delivers acceleration that’s thoroughly entertaining, with especially strong mid-range power delivery.
 
BMW claims a fuel efficiency figure of 20.68 km/l for the X1 xDrive 20d, which is pretty impressive. With some help from the vehicle’s automatic start-stop system (which was working overtime with the car being driven on Delhi’s traffic-clogged roads!), we’re sure the X1 can actually achieve that figure, or at least something that’s very close. That’s BMW’s ‘EfficientDynamics’ technology for you.
 
The X1’s 8-speed ‘Steptronic’ automatic transmission (which BMW sources from Japanese supplier, Aisin) works quite well, with swift, seamless shifts. There’s the option to shift gears manually via shifter paddles mounted behind the steering wheel, but honestly, I never felt the need to use those paddles since the X1’s performance – whether it’s getting along smoothly on traffic-jammed roads at crawling speeds, or pulling overtaking manoeuvres on the highway at triple-digit speeds – is beyond reproach.
 
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RIDE & HANDLING
 
The X1’s relatively soft-ish suspension set-up works very well, especially in the context of our general road conditions. Potholes, broken and rippled tarmac, speed breakers of all shapes and sizes – the X1 takes it all in its stride, though its low-profile (225/50 R18) ‘runflat’ tyres, with reinforced sidewalls, can sometimes get a bit overwhelmed by bad roads. Sure, those tyres offer excellent high-speed grip and stability, but 18-inch wheels with low-profile runflats, on potholed Indian roads, can sometimes be a challenging combination.
 
Coming to the suspension itself, the X1 features a single-joint strut set-up at the front, and a multi-link rear axle. Aluminium swivel bearings and axle carriers, with control arms made of steel, help reduce weight, improve agility and increase rigidity. Anti-roll bars at the front and rear axle further help improve ride and handling. Also notable is the X1’s ‘Servotronic’ speed-sensitive steering, which feels sharp and responsive, delivering the much-vaunted ‘feel’ that BMW enthusiasts hanker after. The driving experience can also be further fine-tuned via driving modes – Comfort, Sport and Eco – which alter steering response and throttle response, but not suspension behaviour. We actually quite liked Comfort mode, though more aggressive, hard-core drivers might prefer Sport.
 
Out on the highway, at higher speeds, the X1 feels quite planted and confident – sudden steering inputs and hard cornering manoeuvres don’t upset its composure (as long as  you stay within limits of reason, of course). We suppose the X1’s xDrive ‘intelligent’ 4WD system also contributes here, juggling power between the front and rear wheels in a way so as to minimise understeer and oversteer, and keep the vehicle tracking true at all times. And yes, the X1’s braking performance is exceptional, with a beautifully-calibrated ABS working efficiently, yet unobtrusively.
 
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SAFETY & ELECTRONICS
 
As you would expect, the X1 gets a host of safety kit, including six airbags, ABS with Brake Assist, Cornering Brake Control (CBC), stability control (DSC) and traction control. The X1’s DSC system can be deactivated by the driver, though if you do that, an electronic locking function for the front axle differential is automatically activated. This system, the Electronic Differential Lock Control (EDLC), kicks in during tricky conditions and on slippery road surfaces, where it can prevent wheelspin by braking a wheel that has lost grip, and diverting power to the other. It’s advanced electronics like this that make the X1 safer than most other SUVs/SAVs in its segment.
 
Of course, the X1’s xDrive 4WD system is also optimised for enhancing safety. Working closely with the DSC system, xDrive monitors grip levels constantly, and directs power to the wheels with maximum grip, thereby maximising traction at all times. The xDrive system consists of two parts – a single-speed bevel gear in the front-axle drive unit, and a rear-axle drive unit with an electro-hydraulically controlled multi-plate hang-on clutch. The two units are connected by a drive shaft.
 
While power is sent only to the front wheels in normal driving conditions, when the xDrive system detects loss of traction at the front, it can send up to 100 % of the power to the rear wheels in a fraction of a second, via the hang-on clutch. The X1’s DSC system supplies critical information (road speed, lateral and longitudinal acceleration, steering lock, wheel speed, pitch, accelerator position, DSC setting and chosen driving mode etc.) to the electro-hydraulic hang-on clutch’s control unit, which then instantly and seamlessly splits power between the front and rear wheels for maximum forward motion. It’s a high-tech system and given the X1’s intended usage patterns, xDrive is probably a suitable substitute for a full-time mechanical AWD set-up.
 
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CONCLUSION
 
The X1 range starts at Rs 30.99 lakh, though the X1 xDrive 20d xLine that we drove for the purpose of this review is priced at Rs 36.99 lakh, ex-showroom Delhi. This is within 5-7 % of the competition’s (mainly, the Mercedes-Benz GLA and the Audi Q3) prices, and represents fair value for money. The X1 is an extremely well put together vehicle, with high levels of refinement, fit and finish, exemplary performance and very good ride and handling. It looks good, scores high on safety and delivers the ‘proper’ BMW driving experience that potential buyers would expect. If you’re in the market for a compact luxury SUV/SAV, you owe it to yourself to test drive the BMW X1 before taking a buying decision.
 
TEXT & PHOTO: Sameer Kumar
09 March 2017 Written by Naveen Arul
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Compact crossovers are a fairly new segment in the Indian automotive industry, with OEMs providing SUV-inspired design cues and making relatively minor styling changes to their hatchbacks to create such models. Such crossovers – cars like the Hyundai i20 Active, Volkswagen Cross Polo, Fiat Urban Cross and Toyota Etios Cross – have not done too well in the Indian market, but that hasn’t stopped Honda from trying their hand in this segment.
 
Enter the new Honda WR-V, a ‘Sporty Lifestyle Vehicle’ that’s based on the Honda Jazz hatchback. The WR-V uses the Jazz’s underpinnings, including the chassis, most of the bodywork, engine and transmission. Yes, there are some design changes to the car’s bodywork, especially at the front, and the addition of the inevitable cladding on the wheel arches, which is supposed to give the vehicle some off-road cred. The WR-V compact crossover has been designed locally by Honda’s R&D team in India, and this is the first market where the WR-V will make its global debut.
 
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ENGINE & TRANSMISSION
 
The new Honda WR-V is available in petrol and diesel variants, featuring the same engines that power the Jazz. The petrol variant is powered by a 1.2 l, four-cylinder, i-VTEC unit delivering 90 hp at 6,000 rpm, along with peak torque of 110 Nm at 4,800 rpm. The diesel version comes with a 1.5 l, four-cylinder, turbocharged, i-DTEC engine delivering 100 hp at 3,600 rpm, and 200 Nm of torque at 1,750 rpm. While the petrol engine is the exact same unit running on the Jazz, the diesel engine has been tweaked to help increase efficiency and reduce emissions.
 
The WR-V’s 1.5 l, i-DTEC diesel engine is a double overhead cam unit, which is from Honda’s ‘Earth Dreams Technology’ series. The engine is claimed to deliver a best-in-segment fuel economy of 25.5 km/l, which is enabled by friction reduction of all components, offset oil supply crankshaft, eccentric groove main bearing and an improved cooling system. Emissions have been reduced by using various new technologies, including a high swirl head port, high intake flow and compression ratio, and, for the first time in Honda’s India line-up, a Lambda Sensor (LAF sensor or oxygen sensor), which is applied before the catalytic converter. This LAF sensor is essentially an electronic device that monitors the level of air-fuel mixture being fed to the engine, and provides this information to the vehicle’s engine management system. It enables the engine to supply the most efficient ratio of air and fuel, thus enabling the car to run efficiently, while keeping emissions to a minimum.
 
The WR-V will be available with manual transmissions only on both the engine variants, with the company not looking at offering the CVT that is currently available on the petrol variant of the Jazz. The petrol variant of the WR-V features a five-speed manual transmission, while the diesel engine gets a six-speed manual gearbox. The five-speed manual transmission on the petrol variant is claimed to be a newly-developed transmission, which is said to be a heavy-duty unit for a higher weight category than that of the WR-V. The transmission features a gear ratio that is 10 % lower than that of the Jazz to enable improved acceleration.
 
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DRIVING DYNAMICS
 
We drove the turbo-diesel variant of the Honda WR-V first, and a point worth mentioning is the way the power is delivered by this engine. With the turbo kicking in at 1,500 rpm, turbo lag is so minimal that this can be easily mistaken for a naturally-aspirated engine. The lack of lag in power delivery means the car is easy to drive in city traffic as well as on the highway, where overtaking manoeuvres are never a challenge. The 200 Nm of torque that this engine delivers makes the driver’s life easy, and frequent downshifts are not required. The transmission itself is slick and provides smooth, precise shifts.
 
The 1.2 l petrol variant, meting out power to the front wheels via a slick 5-speed manual transmission, lacks the sheer torque of the diesel, but the car still feels peppy across the engine’s rev range and drivability is never an issue.
 
According to Honda, the The WR-V’s suspension has been tuned to handle the car’s increased wheelbase (as compared to the Jazz) for improved stability. The suspension also features a larger stabiliser bar to improve roll stability, and higher rigidity lower arm and knuckle for better handling. The increased tyre size and higher ground clearance also help the car over rough, broken terrain.
 
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DESIGN, STYLING & INTERIORS
 
The exterior of the new Honda WR-V has all the typical features of a compact crossover. It includes plastic cladding around the car, with skid plates at the front and rear giving it a butch, SUV-inspired stance. The front facia is in line with Honda’s new front-end design that can be seen on most of its other models, featuring a dual chrome and black front grille, with sculpted front housing fog lamps. The crease lines on the bonnet and headlamps make the car look beefier and more SUV-like at the front.
 
The rear of the new Honda WR-V has some resemblance to the Jazz, but a lot has changed here. The car features a re-designed tail lamp cluster that extends onto the hatch lid, for an ‘L-shaped’ design. The design of the hatch lid itself has been changed, with the number plate cluster now moved towards the lower end. The rear gets its share of chrome in the form of a bezel above the number plate area. The side profile of the WR-V carries resemblance to the Jazz, with the addition of the side-cladding, black and silver dual-tone roof rails, chrome door handles, smaller rear spoiler and new 16-inch alloy wheels.
 
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The interiors of the WR-V are almost identical to that of the Jazz, with the same dashboard design, instrument cluster and buttons, in addition to a steering wheel with tilt and telescopic adjustments. The dashboard features silver accents that add a premium look to the interiors of the vehicle, and the top-end variants also come with an electric sunroof. The only difference inside the car between the two engine variants is that top-end diesel models get push-button engine start/stop and cruise control. The WR-V, has ample space for its occupants, with comfortable leg room in the front and rear rows, along with a 363-litre boot. However, under-thigh support for rear passengers could have been better, which would make longer journeys more comfortable. The car also has a number of storage spaces and cubby holes that can be used to store all kinds of knick-knacks while on the go. The seat fabric, dashboard and door plastics are all high-quality, and feel good to the touch.
 
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The highlight of the interior is the DIGIPAD capacitive touchscreen audio, video and navigation system of the top-end WR-V model, which was recently launched with the 2017 Honda City. The DIGIPAD features Wi-Fi support, voice recognition for media, navigation and phone, as well as multimedia playback through two USB ports, two microSD card slots, an HDMI port and 1.5 GB of internal storage memory. The WR-V also gets the touch-panel automatic climate control, and all these systems on the centre of the dashboard are angled slightly towards the driver for ease in use.
 
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CONCLUSION
 
The Honda WR-V is a capable compact crossover and with its finely-tuned driveline, reduced NVH, very good ride and handling, extensively reworked exteriors (as compared to the Jazz) and standard safety features like ABS, dual front airbags, EBD and multi-angle reverse camera, this is a well thought out product that could do well in the market. Honda will launch the WR-V on 16 March, and we hope the vehicle is priced in a way that makes it attractive for buyers.
 
TEXT: Naveen Arul
 
PHOTO: Bharat Bhushan Upadhyay
06 March 2017 Written by Deepangshu Dev Sarmah
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In the 16 months since its launch in India, the Maruti Suzuki Baleno has had a lot going for it. It created a lot of excitement and somewhat redefined the premium compact hatchback segment in the Indian market. And sales of close to 150,000 cars during this period tell us how popular the Baleno is.
 
Even as consumers continue to make a beeline for the Baleno, the company has upped the game in the segment by introducing the performance-oriented Baleno RS, powered by a new 1 l Boosterjet direct injection turbo engine. And to ensure we could test the vehicle to its limits, the company invited us to experience the Baleno RS at the Buddh International Circuit in Greater Noida.
 
The Baleno RS – Road Sport in this case, unlike the Rally Sport that most enthusiasts would associate the RS badge with – is primarily about the new engine. The suspension has been retuned compared to the standard Baleno, and the exterior has been refreshed to complement the positioning of the car, and the changes thereof are pleasingly appealing. But first, let’s take a detailed look at the Boosterjet engine.
 
Engine pic
 
NEW ENGINE
 
The Boosterjet 1.0 is one of the two engines Suzuki produces in the Boosterjet series, the other being the more powerful 1.4 l unit. The 998 cc, three-cylinder engine on the Baleno RS is a direct injection turbo engine that produces around 100 hp of peak power and 150 Nm of torque. The Boosterjet 1 l engine is claimed to deliver 20 % more power and 30 % more torque compared to a regular 1.2 l naturally aspirated petrol engine.
 
There are technical advances that enhance the performance quotient on the Boosterjet engine – at the core of the engine lie the direct injection system that delivers fuel at pressures of about 200 bar into the cylinders, giving the engine very efficient combustible air-fuel mixture that help reduce fuel consumption as well as emissions. In a DI engine, to quickly create an air fuel mixture inside the cylinder, the fuel to be injected must be atomised. Additionally, the shape of the intake ports and the pistons are optimised to generate a stronger tumble flow.
 
The turbocharger, on the other hand, utilises the energy of the exhaust gases to drive the turbines and force feed the compressed air into the cylinders. The result is not only output equivalent to an engine of much greater displacement, but also high torque at low revs. The turbine runs at around 200,000 rpm and this result in an output that is equivalent to the output of a much larger engine, , explained CV Raman, Executive Director (Engineering), MSIL.
 
Boosterjet 1 l
 
Some of the other highlights of the compact and lightweight engine include reduced friction timing chain, short port intake manifold, roller rocker follower with hydraulic lash adjustor, a dual relief oil pump, and integrated exhaust manifold.
 
From a performance perspective, the first thing we noticed was the ease at which the engine builds power. There is no visible lag, as the engine revs quickly through to the peak rpm limit. We could push the car to a maximum speed of around 162 km/h on the back straight at BIC, and at all times NVH levels on the engine was refined, albeit with a constant humming, yet not-so-unpleasant noise. Transmission on the Baleno RS is the same 5-speed manual unit found on the regular Baleno hatchback.
 
Now, the Boosterjet engine that is available globally delivers around 170 Nm of torque and 85 kW, or approximately 14 hp of additional power compared to the one launched in India. The engine has actually been detuned to cope with the poor quality of fuel available in our country at the moment. Most vehicles in India today run on petrol with octane rating of 91, while the European-spec Boosterjet needs to run on 95 octane rating petrol. One of the key parameters for petrol is the octane number, which essentially is a measure of its resistance to knock.
 
rear
 
DESIGN CHANGES
 
Apart from the engine, the other way to distinguish the RS from the regular Baleno is its exterior styling. The bumpers in the front and rear are new, with body spoilers all around the vehicle. The grille on the front has also been redesigned. The other notable change is the black-coloured set of wheels, and they look good. Overall, the Baleno RS offers freshness to an already popular car, and that should make things easy for the company to attract more consumers to its NEXA outlets, through which the Baleno is retailed.
 
Inside the Baleno RS cabin, there is no change compared to the standard car. We were fairly impressed with the interior of the Baleno, and that is not simply restricted to the way the dashboard or the instrument cluster looks. The all-black look continues to charm, while the materials used and the fit & finish are good for the segment it will play in. The only doubt we have here is whether the consumers would expect some sporty elements in the interiors to go with the RS badge.
 
pic 1
 
ROUND-UP
 
Maruti informed us that the suspension on the Baleno RS has been re-tuned and stiffened by about 10 %, to add “character” to the car. The ride and handling on the Baleno RS is fairly sorted, and it never felt nervous on the circuit. The only complaint we had was with the tyre grip, which seemed to lose confidence with every additional lap we took. The 14-inch disc brakes in the front and 13-inch disc brakes at the rear do their jobs well.
 
The Baleno RS has been launched in a single variant – Alpha – and it complies with top-notch safety norms. Dual airbags, ABS, seatbelt with pre-tensioners and force limiters add to the safety quotient of the car, which has been tested at the company’s R&D centre in Rohtak and meets future pedestrian safety, side impact and frontal offset impact regulations.
 
interiors
 
At a price of Rs 8.69 lakh, (ex-showroom, Delhi), we believe the Baleno RS has been decently priced. This is not meant to significantly drive up the numbers for the Baleno. The standard Baleno, any which way, continues to have a long waiting period. The RS, for sure, will add some extra dose of power and performance for the customers, who demand that little bit extra from their vehicles. And to that effect, the Baleno RS doesn’t disappoint one bit.
 
We had done a detailed review of the Baleno, when it was launched in 2015. You could read our review of the standard Baleno here (http://autotechreview.com/reviews/item/2780-maruti-suzuki-baleno-review.html).
 
TEXT: Deepangshu Dev Sarmah
 
PHOTO: Bharat Bhushan Upadhyay
17 February 2017 Written by Deepangshu Dev Sarmah
IMG 6694-2
 
The iconic Honda City, for long Honda Car India’s flagship model in the country, has received a midlife upgrade, primarily to add vigour to its persona. The new City 2017 gets no mechanical changes, but there are significant changes made both to the exteriors and interiors to bring about freshness into the product, which of late has lost market share to newer introductions in the market. Launched in 2014, the current City model is in its fourth-generation and has sold over 2.2 lakh units in the past three years. Whether the City 2017 edition will eventually lead to Honda reclaiming the top spot in the premium midsize sedan segment is for future analysis.
 
With the 2017 edition, Honda has added a new ‘flagship’ ZX variant to the City line-up, one that is aimed to “address customers that want everything in their car.” We drove a petrol ZX variant during the drive organised for the media, and this feature would highlight the changes as well as the new additions made to the popular midsize sedan.
 
IMG 9080
 
Bulk of the changes in the new City is visible on its front. The bumper has been reworked to give it a wider stance, and the grille is all-new. Honda designers have focussed a lot on the lights – both at the front and rear – to add not just aesthetics but functionality. The integrated LED daytime running lights are being offered as standard across all variants, an industry first.
 
Then, on the ZX variant, there are inline LED headlamps, LED fog lamps, LED rear combination lamps, trunk spoiler with LED stop lamp. The ZX variant also gets LED interior lamps. Headlamps get automatic control with light sensors, and are featured with auto-off timer. Two other additional features on the ZX include automatic rain sensing wipers and rear adjustable head restraints.
 
IMG 6560
 
INFOTAINMENT
 
The biggest change Honda has brought into the City is in its infotainment system. The DIGIPAD, as the 17.7 cm capacitive touchscreen AVN (audio, video & navigation) system is called, has been designed – in the company’s words – to keep occupants connected to their music and social network. There’s Wi-Fi support to access the internet, voice recognition for media, navigation and phone, standard music playback including two USB ports, one SD card slot, and 1.5 GB of internal storage memory. The navigation system is a satellite-linked 3D set-up with preloaded maps, and during our morning run with the car, it worked fairly well.
 
Surprisingly though, there’s no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. The smartphone projection standards developed by Apple and Google are gradually becoming standard features in this segment, as well as segments below the midsize premium sedan segment. The new system is Android-based, and can be customised for various applications. The system gets MirrorLink support aiding smartphone connectivity.
 
With these new additions, and the well laid out functional dashboard, Honda has been able to maintain the overall impressive feel of the City’s interiors.
 
IMG 6540
 
SAFETY
 
Like most other manufacturers today, Honda too has committed itself to offer more safety features to its customers. The ACE body structure, dual front airbags, ABS with EBD, impact-mitigating front headrest system, and the pedestrian injury mitigation technology are standard across all variants of City 2017. The ISOFIX anchors and tether in the rear seats is a sensible feature on all the variants as well. For the uninitiated, ISOFIX is the international standard for attachment points for child safety seats in passenger cars. The top ZX trim gets six airbags – two front, two side and two curtain airbags. The other notable feature that would add to the safety quotient of the City 2017 is the rear-view camera that offers multiple views – normal, wide and top-down – with guidelines.
 
IMG 6613  IMG 6553
 
POWERTRAIN
 
From a powertrain perspective, there aren’t any changes. The two engines – the 1.5 l i-VTEC petrol as well as the 1.5 l i-DTEC diesel – continue to power the Honda City 2017. The petrol engine gets two transmission options. In addition to the 5-speed manual as earlier, the ZX grade gets a new 7-speed continuously variable transmission (CVT) with torque converter that also gets paddle shifters. The 1.5 l i-VTEC petrol engine, which produces approximately 117 hp of peak power and 145 Nm of torque, delivers a certified mileage of 17.4 km/l in manual mode, and a slightly better 18 km/l in the automatic mode. The 1.5 l diesel engine delivers 25.6 km/l, and produces 99 hp and 200 Nm torque. The diesel engine is paired with a 6-speed manual transmission.
 
IMG 6611
 
CONCLUSION
 
For close to 19 years, Honda City has enjoyed a premium space in the consumer mind-set. In recent times, as in other occasions in the past, the City has lost out to newer competitors in the market. Currently, it lies in the second position behind Maruti Suzuki India’s Ciaz. Ciaz, incidentally, also benefits from the demand it enjoys for its mild hybrid version.
 
Honda has offered a significantly better package on the new City 2017. The company has also offered customers the option of choosing for an extended warranty of five years, with unlimited mileage – a first in the Indian car market.
 
But is that going to be enough, especially with refreshed editions of competing vehicles lined-up for launch over the next few months? At a starting price of Rs 8.50 lakh (S, petrol) going up to Rs 13.57 lakh for the all-inclusive ZX variant (ex-showroom, Delhi), the new City 2017 might look a tad expensive but it does come with a lot of excitement built in, in terms of features and technologies. And with a strong legacy and loyal customer base, there isn’t much reason why Honda won’t pull out a winner with the new City 2017.
 
 
TEXT: Deepangshu Dev Sarmah
 
PHOTO: Bharat Bhushan Upadhyay
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