26 May 2017 Written by Naveen Arul
Even as the market for sub-4 m sedans seems to be flattening out a bit, OEMs are going the extra mile to spruce up their offerings in this segment in a bid to boost sales. The latest example is the Dzire, which has just received a comprehensive upgrade from Maruti Suzuki India Ltd (MSIL) and now looks all set to annihilate the competition all over again.
The 2017 Maruti Dzire compact sedan is built on Suzuki’s new HEARTECT platform and uses 36 % higher tensile strength steel. This has led to reduced weight and improved structural rigidity, which in turn gives it the best of both worlds – improved fuel economy as well as better occupant safety.
DESIGN & STYLING
The main highlight of the new-generation Maruti Suzuki Dzire is the changes seen to the all-round design. The car features a brand new hexagonal grill with chrome surround (which MSIL calls Impact Design Grill), with the Suzuki logo in the centre providing a floating effect. There are new LED headlamps, which come with an automatic feature, while the top Z+ variant also gets LED DRLs. There are chrome insets on the corners of the front bumper below the fog lamps, which add to the appeal of the new design.
The new Dzire’s bonnet features curved lines, which are also carried over along the sides of the vehicles over the wheelarches. These soft lines make for a very fluid design, which looks much better when compared to its predecessor. The rear of the new Dzire is equipped with wrap-around LED combination tail lamps connected by a chrome-highlighted number plate garnish. This garnish also encloses the rear-view camera, making it less susceptible to tampering. The car’s newly-design boot now gels well with the overall design of the car, giving it much improved sedan-like proportions.
When viewed from the side, the profile of the new Dzire features a curved roof design that extends right from the A-pillar to the C-pillar. The angles of the front and rear windshields of the car have also been altered, giving the compact sedan a very aerodynamic profile. The sleek, electrically-adjustable outside rear-view mirrors, with integrated turn indicators, also add to the smooth design language that the new Dzire features. The new Dzire comes with newly-designed 15-inch precision-cut dual-tone alloy wheels, shod with 185 section tyres. The design and colour of the alloy wheels go well with the overall design theme of the car.
INTERIORS & INSTRUMENTATION
The new Dzire’s interiors get a host of subtle changes, some of which add to the premium feel of this compact sedan. The car features a dual-tone dashboard with black on the top and beige at the bottom – the two colours are offset by a faux wood insert, which is also found on the lower part of the flat-bottom steering wheel. This burl wood ornamentation garnered mixed reactions, with our view being positive. Another small detail on the dashboard is the satin chrome insert surrounding the central AC vents, climate controls and instrument cluster meter rings, which looks good.
The Dzire also gets MSIL’s new Smartplay infotainment system, which features a seven-inch touchscreen. This system, available in the top-end ZXi+ and ZDi+ variants, features satellite navigation and voice command recognition, as well as smartphone connectivity enabled through Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. The system provides multiple audio output modes via USB, AUX, CD, and FM/AM, has Bluetooth connectivity and also displays the video from the rear parking camera. All this is controllable via steering wheel-mounted controls that are ergonomically placed, without hindering regular driving in any way.
The interiors of the new Dzire are a little more spacious than that of the outgoing version, with the wheelbase now being increased to 2,450 mm. At the rear, legroom has been increased noticeably, which rear seat passengers will appreciate, along with the new AC vent for the rear seats, which provides much-needed cabin cooling at the back. One issue that we’ll note here is that the rear AC vent’s angle means that passengers’ knees get most of the cooling, which may be uncomfortable for some, especially when there are three passengers in the back seat.
The front seats feature adequate bolstering, which keeps occupants comfortable even when the car is being driven across mixed terrain. The driver seat is offered with six-way manual-adjustment for height, reach, and inclination, along with the tilt-adjustable steering. A feature that is missed out, and which would have added to better driving ergonomics, is telescopic adjustment for the steering. Also, the front wheel well bulge takes up a fair bit of space, leading to a reduction in legroom available for the driver and front seat passenger.
In terms of the quality of materials used in the Dzire’s interiors, things seem to be a bit inconsistent, with some plastics being soft and plush, while a few others don’t look and feel as good. That said, bits like the steering wheel, gear lever, touchscreen and control buttons feel and perform like high-quality parts, which is reassuring. Meanwhile, parts of the dashboard, the centre console and door trim materials could do with some improvement.
ENGINES & TRANSMISSION
The only thing that remains unchanged in the new Dzire is the engines. The car continues to be offered with the four-cylinder, 1.3 l, DDiS turbocharged diesel engine, as well as the four-cylinder, 1.2 l, K-12 VVT petrol engine. Power output for the diesel motor remains at 74 hp at 4,000 rpm, with peak torque of 190 Nm at 2,000 rpm. Meanwhile, the petrol delivers 82 hp of power at 6,000 rpm, and 113 Nm of torque at 4,200 rpm.
Both the petrol and diesel variants of the new Dzire are available with a five-speed manual transmission or a five-speed automated-manual transmission (AMT), which MSIL refers to as Auto Gear Shift (AGS). The company offers AMT right from the second-level VXi and VDi variants of the car, making the AMT available in a total of six variants. MSIL said the new Dzire is more efficient now, with fuel economy figures of 28.40 km/l and 22 km/l for the diesel and petrol variants, respectively. These fuel efficiency figures remain constant for the manual transmission, as well the AMT variants. The company is said to have reworked the engines to increase their thermal efficiency, which has translated into better fuel efficiency.
RIDE & HANDLING
The 2017 Dzire’s new HEARTECT platform seems to have helped the car in not only shedding weight and improving efficiency, but has also improved the driving dynamics. Body roll on winding roads seems to have been reduced, with the car also feeling more stable around corners and at speeds of above 100-120 km/h. Suspension set-up feels slightly softer than what we used to get on the older Dzire, which may be good for dealing with bad roads everywhere. The increased ground clearance of 163 mm means the car did not bottom out at any time during our drive.
The Dzire’s larger 15-inch wheels, with the 185 section tyres, add to stability and road grip, which is further accentuated by the car’s braking prowess. The brakes provide good bite and feedback to the driver, and seem to be well-tuned for both the manual and AMT engine variants. The level of confidence provided by the brakes could lead one to drive at higher speeds, without compromising on safety.
In terms of the driving performance, the manual transmission variants of the new Dzire provide a more refined driving experience and, notably, the higher torque level of diesel engine needs fewer downshifts. The manual transmission in both versions offers short throws and precise gear shifting, along with a light clutch that provides a refined driving experience.
The Dzire’s AMT/AGS isn’t as good as the manual, with lag in gear shifts and slow operation when driven hard. The system works much better when the acceleration input is linear or gradual, especially in city conditions. Given their different power and torque curves, between the diesel and the petrol engines, the latter seems better suited to the AMT gearbox.
It must be noted here that MSIL seems to have tuned the AMTs for higher fuel efficiency rather than sporty behaviour – something that prospective owners may want to bear in mind. Also, the manual mode on the AMT variants is better to shift into when trying to push the car harder on the road. This mode does not up-shift gears automatically, requiring a manual tap on the shift lever even when redlining the engine. The manual mode would offer enthusiastic drivers a slightly better feel of the power of the engines and provide more control.
The new Maruti Suzuki Dzire is offered with dual front airbags, ISOFIX chid seat restraints, and ABS with EBD and Brake Assist as standard safety equipment. This is the first car in its segment to offer airbags and ABS with EBD as standard across its model range, showing that MSIL is improving the level of safety in its cars. Additionally, introduction of AMT in all variants except the base shows that the company is promoting AMTs in the Indian market, to keep up with the growing demand for automatics. In terms of NVH, the petrol variant is, as you would expect, better than the diesel, but then the latter provides better fuel economy.
The 2017 Maruti Dzire is priced from Rs 5.45 lakh to Rs 8.41 lakh for the petrol variants and from Rs 6.45 lakh to Rs 9.41 lakh for the diesel versions (all prices ex-showroom Delhi). While the prices are higher than those of the outgoing models, there seems to be enough in terms of upgraded features to justify the increase in prices. With all its added features in terms safety, technology and convenience, as well as changes in interior and exterior design, we believe that the Maruti Suzuki Dzire will easily maintain its lead in the sub-4 m compact sedan segment in India.
TEXT: Naveen Arul
PHOTO: Bharat Bhushan Upadhyay
17 May 2017 Written by Sameer Kumar
As most of its predecessors, the current model Mercedes-Benz E-Class (2016-spec, but launched in India in 2017) is a veritable technological tour-de-force. The German OEM has been building cars for all of 90 years, and fully brings that experience to bear – when it comes to sheer refinement, the way the engine performs, the way the chassis and the suspension have been optimised for optimum ride and handling, the fit and finish, or anything else that you care to name – the new E-Class has it all. We recently had an opportunity to spend a few days with the new E350d, and here’s our detailed review of the car.
DESIGN AND STYLING
The E350d is big. Really, really big. The mid- to late-1990s Mercedes-Benz E220 (the W124 series) sold in India was 4,740 mm long, 1,740 mm wide, 1,428 mm tall, had a wheelbase of 2,800 mm and a kerb weight of 1,390 kg. The current E350d (specifically, the long wheelbase variant that’s being offered in the Indian market) is 5,063 mm long, 1,860 mm wide, 1,494 mm tall, has a wheelbase of 3,079 mm and a kerb weight of 1,800 kg. So there you are, like many of the humans it’s supposed to carry, the E-Class has also become bigger. And, of course, vastly more luxurious and much safer as well.
Despite its increased dimensions (as compared to its predecessor from 20 years ago), the E350d is unquestionably good looking. As befits a German luxury car with the kind of heritage that the E-Class has, the E350d has a proud, authoritative stance, with a long, streamlined hood, pronounced wheelarches, high beltline, subtly sculpted silhouette, a gently tapering rear and full-LED headlamps and taillamps. The car rides on 10-spoke 17-inch alloy wheels, which, along with the car’s blacked-out B-pillars, lend a sporty touch to the E350d. And while it looks good, it’s also very aerodynamic, with a drag coefficient of just 0.23.
Overall, the way the E-Class’ styling has evolved is, perhaps, a reflection of how global car markets have evolved over the last two decades. Twenty years ago, the E-Class, with uncompromisingly angular, upright lines was resolutely Germanic. Now, as Asian and Middle-Eastern markets have become increasingly important for European car manufacturers, design trends have also changed and evolved, partly also to cater to buyers in various global markets. But any which way we look at the new E-Class, we quite admire its lines – it’s simply brilliant.
ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION
The E350d is powered by a 3.0 l turbo-diesel V6, which produces 258 hp at 3,400 rpm and a massive 620 Nm of torque at 1,600-2,400 rpm. The engine features Mercedes-Benz’s latest-generation common-rail direct injection and fuel preheating system, along with an inlet-metered high-pressure pump that sends fuel to the high-pressure fuel rail, where pressures of up to 1600 bar are developed. The V6 engine’s piezo-electric injectors inject fuel directly into the combustion chamber, and due to the very high injection pressures, combustion efficiency (and thereby performance and efficiency) are maximised.
The E350d’s turbo-diesel V6 is mated to a 9G-TRONIC nine-speed automatic transmission, which gets the best out of the car’s engine. Indeed, performance figures provided by Mercedes-Benz, for the E350d, are quite impressive – zero to 100 km/h takes 6.6 second, while top speed is 250 km/h. For a large luxury saloon, that’s not bad at all.
On the move, the E350d’s turbo-diesel V6 is creamy smooth, providing effortless acceleration at any road speed. Once you’re inside the cabin, the only giveaway that the car is being propelled by a diesel engine is the substantial and instant torque delivery. Apart from that, the engine is smooth, quiet and refined – which, of course, is how you’d expect it to be.
The 9G-TRONIC works seamlessly, responding to throttle inputs with an admirable immediacy. Mash the throttle to the floor and the E350d accelerates like a runaway diesel locomotive, whipping past traffic relentlessly at triple-digit speeds. For those who like performance customised to their own tastes, the E350d has five driving modes – Eco, Comfort, Sport, Sport+ and Individual – which affect throttle, suspension and steering response, as well as the gear shifting pattern.
We actually preferred the gentler responses of ‘Comfort’ mode, but if you intend to take your E-Class to the track (or if you’re in the mood to take on your BMW 5 Series or Audi A6 owning neighbours!), yes, the Sport and Sport+ modes really do make a difference to the way the car responds to driver inputs. With firmed-up suspension, more immediate steering responses and a more aggressive gear shift pattern, the big E can be made to perform like a boy-racer in Sport/Sport+ modes, though we really don’t believe that that is the car’s forte.
The only thing we didn’t like here is the ECO start/stop function, which conserves some fuel by switching the engine off automatically at stop lights (or anywhere else, in traffic, where the car is not moving for some time and the driver has taken his foot off the accelerator pedal), and switching it back on when the throttle is pressed. We found this system to be a bit jerky at times, which can be irksome in a luxury sedan like the E-Class. If Mercedes-Benz insists on having start/stop, they should work on making it smoother in operation.
CHASSIS AND SUSPENSION
For this generation of the E-Class, Mercedes-Benz has used a higher proportion of aluminium for the car’s bodywork (as compared to earlier-generation E-Class cars), along with ultra-high-strength steel for select components. The bonnet, boot lid and large sections of the front and rear ends are made of sheet or cast aluminium, which has helped reduce the car’s weight, thereby leading to reduced fuel consumption and more agile handling. At the same time, with the use of ultra-high-strength steel in critical areas, the car’s safety standards have also simultaneously been improved.
Coming to the suspension, the E350d gets AIR BODY CONTROL, Mercedes-Benz’s full, multi-chamber air suspension system with continuously variable damper control, which offers a near-perfect mix of ride comfort combined with driving dynamics. Depending on the driving mode selected by the driver (which alters the suspension system’s responses), the damping system automatically adjusts to any given set of road conditions.
The air suspension remains soft at lower speeds and progressively becomes tauter as speeds increase, making for tightly controlled body movements. Of course, the E350d is a large luxury sedan, not a sports car, but the air suspension ensures that it never gets wild and woolly, especially when pushed hard. Other practical benefits of this system are, one, that it’s self-levelling all around, so the car’s ‘stance’ doesn’t change if there are passengers in the back seat (and/or heavy luggage in the boot) and, two, the entire car can be raised by up to 25 mm, which is useful when you need more ground clearance to deal with poorly designed speed breakers.
Overall, the E350d’s air suspension system allows the car’s occupants to waft along in proper luxury, without bothering about the terrain and road conditions. Real-world performance of this system is superlative.
INTERIORS AND SAFETY
In India at least, more often than not, E-Class cars are bought for their plush, well-appointed and luxurious interiors, and the new E350d dutifully delivers in that area. There’s open-pore black ashwood trim on the dashboard, while the vast, ergonomically designed and electrically adjustable seats are upholstered in high-quality vinyl. Mercedes-Benz refers to this as ‘ARTICO man-made leather,’ and it does look and feel like real leather, though it isn’t as soft and supple as the real leather upholstery that we’ve experienced in some even more expensive cars. Still, this ARTICO stuff is probably more eco-friendly than real leather, so let’s not complain.
Notable bits in the E350d’s cabin include a three-zone automatic climate control system that can be operated in ‘diffuse’ mode (for indirect ventilation and reduced direct airflow, so that occupants don’t get hit by drafts of cold air!), a panoramic sliding sunroof, rain-sensing automatic windscreen wipers, full smartphone integration (both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are supported) with smartphone navigation and infotainment systems, and various driver assistance functions, including parking assist and 360-degree camera (which gets switched on automatically when reverse gear is selected).
There’s also a 13-speaker Burmester surround-sound hi-fi system that audiophiles will love, and the car’s 12.3-inch full colour display allows users to control the E350d’s infotainment system with ease. Yes, it does take a fair bit of time to figure out the car’s controls – the steering wheel-mounted buttons, central touchscreen, rotary-dial controller and a smattering of buttons and toggle-type switches all work quite well, but if you want to go deep into system settings, be prepared to spend some time trying to configure things exactly the way you want.
Coming to safety, the E350d is equipped with seven airbags, electronic stability assist (ESP), anti-lock brakes (ABS), adaptive brake lights that flash during very hard braking (helps prevent rear-end collisions) and PRE-SAFE, which identifies critical situations, and automatically initiates a host of measures to ensure occupant safety. These measures could include automatic tightening of safety belts, closing of any side windows that might be open and so on. With its advanced safety electronics and driver assistance systems, plus the use of ultra-high-strength steel in critical areas, the E350d has been designed to be one of the safest cars on the planet.
Priced at Rs 70.15 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi), the long-wheelbase Mercedes-Benz E350d is one of the best luxury sedans in its segment in the Indian market. The turbo-diesel V6 provides a superlative driving experience – unrelenting power and torque delivery, combined with a high degree of refinement. The air suspension system provides great ride comfort, while the car’s host of electronic safety systems and sheer build quality ensure that the E350d provides maximum safety on the road. If you’re in the market for a premium luxury sedan, you simply cannot go wrong with this vehicle.
TEXT AND PHOTO: Sameer Kumar
06 April 2017 Written by Anwesh Koley
Triumph India wants to leave no stone unturned in being the bike maker of choice for riders willing to shell out a premium for an exquisite set of wheels. Keeping its old-world charm and legacy intact is Triumph’s Bonneville range of parallel-twin motorcycles, which combines 1960s/70s design cues with modern technology.
The Bonneville range currently comprises the entry-level Street Twin at one end, and the range-topping T120 and Thruxton R at the other end of the spectrum. Slotting between the Street Twin and the T120 is the new T100, which offers adequate power and performance, retro styling and all-purpose capability.
DESIGN & STYLING
The T100 is unmistakably British, unmistakably classic. Its thinly-padded seat, an analogue-digital instrument console, wide set handlebars, dual-colour paint scheme, peashooter exhaust and wire-spoked wheels all exude a 1960s vibe, while its saddle height of 790 mm is a boon for shorter riders, as one is able to plant boot feet comfortably on the ground while the bike is at standstill.
The T100’s instrument cluster provides basic information like speed and engine rpm, and also has indicators for fuel level, gear position, an odometer, and mileage-related information. Switchgear is ergonomically laid out and is of superior quality, while the handgrips are comfortable to hold. The bike’s 14.5-litre fuel tank is adequate for longer rides and occasional weekend trips. Devoid of short-lived styling trends and gimmicky knick-knacks, the T100 is a simple machine that manages to look quite good.
ENGINE & TRANSMISSION
The T100 uses the same 900 cc, liquid-cooled, 8-valve, SOHC, parallel twin that’s also used on the Street Twin, which produces 55 hp at 5900 rpm and 80 Nm at 3230 rpm. With the use of ride-by-wire throttle management, Triumph has ensured that power delivery and refinement are beyond reproach, and the bike feels relaxed and comfortable at most speeds, though going very fast isn’t really its forte.
The engine is mated to a 5-speed gearbox, which is precise and slick, and ably complements the smooth and linear flow of power across the engine’s rev range. Acceleration through the gears is super smooth and low- and mid-range performance remains the key strength of the T100 motor.
CHASSIS & SUSPENSION
The T100 uses a tubular steel double cradle chassis, coupled with a tubular steel swingarm. Its 41 mm KYB telescopic front forks and preload adjustable twin shocks at the rear do a good job of soaking up bumps and potholes, though at higher speeds (100 km/h and above), the softly set-up suspension can sometimes struggle to cope with bumps and potholes . The bike’s 213 kg kerb weight can also be a challenge for some riders, though the bike doesn’t really feel very heavy once it’s on the move.
With its 1450 mm wheelbase, the T100 feels stable when ridden on wide open highways and remains manageable in stop and go city traffic. There’s no wind protection here, of course, which means it’s not the best choice for long distance touring, but if you’re prepared to live with a bit of wind blast, and enjoy riding at a relaxed pace, long weekend trips on this bike should be a breeze.
BRAKING & ELECTRONICS
In terms of braking power, the T100 uses a single 310 mm floating disc at the front and a single 255 mm disc brake at the rear, while ABS is standard. Braking power is quite adequate, with appreciable ‘feel’ at the lever and good stopping power. The brakes don’t fade under hard braking and the bike remains confidence inspiring even when brakes are applied hard on wet, tricky road surfaces. Switchable traction control provides an extra safety net as well.
Other notable bits on the Triumph T100 include an integrated engine immobiliser, a USB power socket, LED DRLs and an LED tail lamp.
Priced at Rs 7.78 lakh, ex-showroom Delhi, the T100 offers a fine mix of classic British styling, combined with modern day features and performance and all-around competence. For mature riders looking for a high-quality motorcycle that looks good, is likely to be very reliable and offers a lot of riding pleasure, the T100 could be a pretty interesting choice.
TEXT AND PHOTO: Anwesh Koley
22 March 2017 Written by Sameer Kumar
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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