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27 August 2015 Written by Arpit Mahendra

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Audi India launched the updated A6 Matrix last week at a starting price of Rs 49.5 lakh, ex-showroom, Delhi. The A6 is an important car for Audi in the growing mid-size luxury sedan segment and hence Audi has not restricted itself to cosmetic changes and addition of some comfort features alone. We were invited by the company to drive the extensively updated A6 Matrix in the royal city of Udaipur, also known as the city of lakes. We find out if the company's claim that the new A6 Matrix is the most advanced vehicle in its segment is true.

The new A6 Matrix isn't a radically different-looking car than the older version, but it does manage to look different even when viewed from a distance. The front has been designed to look sharper with a new grille and bumper, both of which lend a sporty character to the front. The highlight of the new car is the new headlamp, which uses Matrix technology. In simple terms, the headlamp consists of an array of LEDs with reflectors, a combination that always maintain high-beam. In case of oncoming traffic, sensors can automatically switch-off the required number of LEDs to avoid dazzling other drivers.

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On the design front, the headlamp cluster is slimmer than the one found on the earlier model, adding to the sharp and energetic look of the front. The LED pattern resembling an arrow too is impressive to look at and now comes with dynamic turn indicators, which light up from one end to another in a sequential manner. The new 18-inch five-spoke alloy wheels compliment the look of the A6 and adequately fill the wheel well. Offered in S line package, there's corresponding badging too on the front side fender. The rear too has been updated with a new bumper and twin-trapezoidal exhaust pipes. There's also a new chrome strip on the tailgate to enhance the premium-feel of the vehicle.

Inside the Cabin

The interior of the A6 Matrix has been updated considerably and now offers a combination of new and improved safety and convenience features. The MMI infotainment system has been upgraded to its next generation and now offers a 20.32 cm colour-display along with improved user functionalities and interface. There's a remote available at the rear to control the MMI functions, highlighting the focus on the rear-seat passenger. The rear seat itself is spacious and offers good under-thigh and back support. Headroom is generous and one can adjust the front passenger seat form the rear to access extra legroom, which is impressive even with the front seat pulled back.

Audi A6 Sline New IMG 0771

There are new wood inlays and Milano leather upholstery, which add an extra dash of premium-ness to the cabin. Front seats too are comfortable with good all-round support and the control layout is ergonomic. Material quality is of top order and a host of connectivity and comfort features make the cabin ideal for acting as a business centre on wheels. Safety too is impressive with eight airbags in the equipment list, two of which are rear side ones.

Powertrain

The A6 Matrix is being offered with an updated 2 l TDI engine, which is seven per cent more powerful and five per cent more fuel-efficient. The engine now produces 190 hp and 400 Nm of torque between 1,750 to 3,000 rpm. There's also a new dual-clutch 7-speed S Tronic transmission on offer, making this powertrain combination the only choice for now. The car pulls away cleanly without any fuss and the extra power is easily identifiable, when driving on the highway. NVH levels are impressively low, as one would expect from Audi. The impressive torque makes it easy to execute overtaking manoeuvres in a jiffy.

The 7-speed S Tronic transmission left us with mixed feelings, primarily due to its reluctance to downshift. The transmission has been calibrated in favour of fuel-efficiency, a trait which is quite prominent. The unit is extremely eager to upshift at all times, which is a good thing as it helps save fuel. The problem is that the gearbox doesn't like to down the gears too much, as a result of which when you're expecting a gear or maybe even two to be dropped, the A6 will happily stay in the same gear and build momentum gradually, unless you kick-down on the gas pedal.

Audi A6 Sline New IMG 0783

Lot of the A6 cars sold will be chauffeur-driven so for those customers the transmission character is not applicable. For those who at times would like a spirited-drive in their car would have to make use of the paddle-shifters, which improve matters significantly. Audi claims an 8.4 s sprint from standstill to the ton with a terminal velocity of 232 km/h, both of which make it a quick luxury-vehicle.

Audi Drive Select offers four driving modes – Comfort, Dynamic, Auto, Individual. While the first two modes set-up the vehicle in accordance with their names, the Auto involves the computer managing the set-up as per changing conditions and Individual allows the driver to set each parameter in the desired manner. Parameters undergoing changes through these modes include steering, suspension and throttle.

Audi A6 Sline New IMG 0760

Equipped with Adaptive Air Suspension, the A6 Matrix offers a brilliant ride quality and excellent cushioning over varying surfaces. During our drive, we encountered everything from smooth tarmac to almost no roads and not for a moment any of the occupants, both at the front and the rear felt uncomfortable. The air suspension reacts quickly to changing road conditions and offers good handling too for a car nearing 5m of length, 4.93 m to be precise.

Some people at the drive pointed out the lack of Quattro as a shortcoming since the A6 Matrix is only available with a front-wheel drive layout. We, however, didn't find this to be a negative since we've already mentioned the A6 is not a car designed specifically to delight the enthusiast. We drove the car through sections of tight and long curves and the A6 Matrix held onto the tarmac pretty well. One can feel some body-roll but the car continues to follow the intended line. The steering weighs up nicely with increase in speed but doesn't deliver much feedback.

Round-Up

The new A6 Matrix is an impressive update to the earlier model and offers an improved experience in multiple areas. It's more powerful, more efficient, smarter and more connected than earlier. The update for this car is so extensive that we aren't left with any doubt of it being the most technically-advanced car in its segment presently. Except the transmission, which takes away a bit from the joy of exploiting the boundaries of a capable engine, the A6 Matrix left us impressed.

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Being a short drive, there still are parameters we need to test, which we will at a later stage. For now though, our verdict on the A6 Matrix is clearly positive and if you're looking to be chauffeur-driven mostly, the A6 Matrix is the best on offer right now. We'll bring you a more detailed insight into the new features and technologies of the A6 Matrix in our October 2015 edition.

Text: Arpit Mahendra

Photo: Arpit/ Audi

12 August 2015 Written by Deepangshu Dev Sarmah

46-49 Guest-Commentary ATR Aug15 1

First showcased ahead of the last Auto Expo in 2014, the Ford Figo Aspire has been launched today at a starting price of Rs 4.9 lakh, ex-showroom, Delhi.

The company has put to good use the feedback it has received in the 18-odd months since then. We recently drove the vehicle to get a first-hand experience of the newest offering in the fast-growing sub-four-metre compact sedan segment. And we believe Ford India has a product that could dent the fortunes of the existing vehicles in the segment. Read on to learn more.

Introduction

Circa 2006: the then UPA government at the centre came up with a new legislation that seemed confounding at that time, but one that went to create a fairly successful vehicle segment in the Indian industry. Vehicles sub-four-metre in length with sub-1,200 cc petrol and sub 1,500 cc diesel engines were eligible to benefit from lower excise duties. Tata Motors jumped in first with the launch of the Indigo CS in 2008, and in the last seven years, the segment has seen the phenomenal success of products like the Swift Dzire, Honda Amaze and Hyundai Xcent. Add to that the success of the Ford EcoSport in the sub-four-metre SUV segment.

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The latest to enter this highly-competitive segment is the Ford Figo Aspire. Ford had the advantage of benchmarking the Figo Aspire against all its competitors in the market, and naturally, one could expect it to score better on most counts. Ford officials we spoke to are supremely confident that they have a winner in hand. This is a product that has been engineered from scratch, unlike many of its predecessors that were adaptations.

So, just how good is the Figo Aspire? We were recently invited by the company to drive the vehicle around Udaipur. In this feature, we take a deep dive into the vehicle, its features and the technology introductions that Ford has brought in; in addition to giving you the first drive impressions.

Tech Advantage

The Figo Aspire is a result of some very smart and thoughtful engineering from the American carmaker. To our mind, the vehicle appears to have a distinct advantage over competition in terms of how it looks both from the outside and inside. We are particularly impressed by the commitment the company is making towards safety, which we shall delve into a little later. Inside the vehicle, there are a few segment-first features that we think would get the consumers' nod of appreciation.

Engine options:

Ford is lining up three engines for the Figo Aspire – 1.2 l petrol, 1.5 l diesel and 1.5 l petrol that will be available only with a six-speed automatic dual-clutch transmission (DCT). On the pre-launch drive, we got to sample the first two engine options.

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The 1,196 cc Ti-VCT petrol unit is the same engine found on the outgoing Figo hatchback. The company has now modified the cylinder head intake ports and also optimised the cam timing to help the engine deliver more power. Theoretically, the Twin independent Variable Camshaft Timing allows for variable control of valve overlap, which results in improved low speed torque and better fuel efficiency. We found the engine to perform well within city limits, but on the highway the 86.8 hp of power and 112 Nm of torque doesn't quite translate into an engaging drive.

On the other hand, the 1.5 l TDCi diesel engine is much more fun to be with, and responds very well to throttle inputs. The turbo kicks in at about 1,400 rpm and there is ample power till 4,000 rpm, but at those levels, the engine tends to get quite noisy. The 98.6 hp of peak power and 215 Nm of torque results in a fuel economy of 25.8 km/l, based on ARAI tests. Our short drive with the diesel indicated a mileage of 17.3 km/l on the meter console. Interestingly, this same engine on the Fiesta and EcoSport delivers only about 90 hp of power. The improved power on the Aspire is due to the tweaks made to the ECU and fixed-geometry turbocharger.

Gearbox:

As mentioned earlier, the Aspire has two transmissions on offer: the five-speed manual and a six-speed PowerShift automatic mated to the 1.5 l petrol engine. Once launched, the Aspire will be the only compact sedan in the market with a six-speed automatic transmission.

Safety:

Ford India has put a lot of onus on making the Aspire a very safe car. The Figo Aspire is the first car in its segment to get dual front airbags as standard on all trim levels – a move that deserves appreciation. The top trim level, in fact, gets six airbags including side and curtain airbags – another segment-first. ABS with EBD will be available on the top two variants, while an electronic stability programme with traction control and hill launch assist would be offered on the top Titanium petrol variant (with AT). An interesting security feature on the Aspire is the perimeter alarm, which detects any unauthorised attempt to enter the car.

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Ford MyKey:

This is an interesting new feature added to the Ford portfolio. We feel this would especially be popular with parents letting their children take the wheel at times, or even with chauffeurs. The MyKey allows you to programme and set speed warnings and limits, or activate a seat belt reminder and set the volume levels of the audio system.

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MyFord Dock:

You must have seen mobile phone docking solutions available in the aftermarket, or even the ones offered by some manufacturers. The MyFord Dock comes with the same objective, but seems like a far more practical solution. Placed atop the centre console, the dock smartly holds a phone or any other device, be it for music or navigation.

Overall Drive Feel & Round-Up

It is fairly clear that Ford wanted to build a vehicle that addresses almost every demand of the targeted consumer – it offers safety, allows connectivity, has over 20 storage points inside the car, generous space even for more-than-average commuters, efficient engines, comfort and overall decent ride and handling.

From a design perspective, the Figo Aspire is sculpted with passion. In its class, it is one of the best looking with the right amount of aggression and subtlety. The front grille is inspired from Aston Martin, and is part of Ford's design language. The slightly flared wheel arches give the side view of the car a lot of character, and the rear design is simple, yet elegant.

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The suspension of the Figo Aspire has been set-up very well, and it makes driving through bad patches of road fairly easy and comfortable. The 175/65 section tyres on 14-inch rims offers a fair amount of grip around corners to complement the able chassis. However, braking around a corner might lead to the tail moving about a bit. This was more prominent on the lighter petrol variant.

Overall, Ford India has been able to develop and design a vehicle that should set new benchmarks in the sub-four-metre segment. It looks smart and young, is good to drive, and packed with features both to aid convenience and safety. If it's priced anywhere closer to the segment leader, there is no reason why Ford wouldn't head the pack.

Prices (In lakh Rs ex-showroon, Delhi):

1.2 l Ti-VCT Petrol MT

Ambiente: 4.90

Trend: 5.77

Titanium: 6.70

Titanium +: 7.25

1.5 l Ti-VCT Petrol AT

Titanium: 7.80

1.5 l TDCi Diesel MT

Ambiente: 5.90

Trend: 6.77

Titanium: 7.70

Titanium +: 8.25

 

Text & Photo: Deepangshu Dev Sarmah

 

05 August 2015 Written by Deepangshu Dev Sarmah

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Every attempt in recent times to introduce a product that isn't from the conventional segments has met with limited success in the Indian market. But then, many of those products did not have the organisational back-up to ensure their success. So what happens when market leaders Maruti Suzuki India (MSIL) enters a hitherto untested segment? The S-Cross is being positioned as a premium crossover, somewhere in between sub-four metre offerings and SUVs. Does it have the wherewithal to create a mark of its own? We find out.

INTRODUCTION

With the S-Cross premium crossover, Maruti Suzuki India (MSIL) is trying to get two things right. One, the product marks the company's re-entry into the premium segment of the market, a segment that hasn't been kind to its earlier offerings. Two, to give its consumers that feel and experience of buying a premium vehicle, the company has launched NEXA – a chain of dealerships aimed to retail 'only' premium products. We shall discuss the merits of the NEXA idea later in this report.

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The first, and – till some time to come – the only product to adorn the NEXA showrooms would be the S-Cross. Suzuki had unveiled the S-Cross concept for the first time at the Paris Motor show in September 2012, and the company also had this product on display at the last two Auto Expos in New Delhi. In the global markets, the product is called the SX4 S-Cross, but the company has decided to drop the SX4 prefix in India. Naturally, MSIL doesn't want consumers to associate the new crossover to the now withdrawn SX4 sedan.

The buzz normally associated with an impending launch of a new vehicle in the market was somewhat missing. This could be attributed to various market parameters, and we won't get into discussing their merits. It will be seen over the next few months how the Indian consumers accept the S-Cross – will it be the harbinger of a new dawn for MSIL in the premium segment, or will the company's attempt to create a new segment recoil?

THE WAY IT LOOKS

The design of the S-Cross reflects well the positioning of the product in the market – it is bigger than the usual hatchbacks, but is not quite an SUV. There are similarities to the SX4, especially in the front styling and stance. But the S-Cross has been built on a new platform, ground up. The front design looks dated, but we feel it might just age well among Indian consumers. The rear though is quite attractive, and although minimalistic in embellishments, it looks practical and purposeful. Faux skid-plates at the front, rear and sides add to the character of the car. We liked the way the high intensity discharge projector headlamps have been designed. The LED position lamps too go well with the headlamps.

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The cabin has been designed well – it looks smart and sporty with a clean layout. The fit and finish is top notch, and so are the materials used. We especially liked the soft-touch plastic used on top of the dashboard. The vehicle also gets generous amounts of leather on the seats, steering wheel, gear lever and the door pads. The low dashboard coupled with good seating position gives a sound view of the outside, even to average-built drivers like this writer. The overall space – both in the front and rear – is generous and appreciable. The smart play infotainment system with an 18 cm touch screen aids Bluetooth and smartphone connectivity, and also has a navigation system built-in. the TFT screen is of high quality and the haptic feel is very good.

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What we didn't like though were some parts of the roof compartment. The plastic used in the overhead console felt cheap, and so did the plastic used on the sun visor. These were the only blots we found on an otherwise very impressive S-Cross interior, which has been engineered smartly, with a lot of practicality built-in.

HEART OF THE MATTER

The S-Cross is an all-diesel offering from Maruti – a first. Doing duties under the hood are two diesel engines – the DDiS 200 displaces 1.3 l producing 88.5 hp of power and 200 Nm of torque @ 1,750 rpm, and the 1.6 l DDiS 320. This is the largest diesel engine in Maruti's portfolio, and it generates 118 hp and a hefty 320 Nm of torque. During the drive from Mumbai to Nashik, it was this DDiS 320 engine that we had for company. There is no automatic transmission on offer though, and the DDiS 320 comes mated with a six-speed manual transmission, while the DDiS 200 gets a five-speed manual unit.

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The engine has a variable geometry turbocharger that kicks in around the 1,800 rev mark. We did experience a bit of a turbo lag at the low end of the rev band, but it pulls nicely through about 4,500 rpm. At this point though, there is considerable amount of noise that the engine starts to make. The strong mid-range makes the engine a delight on the highway.

The driving dynamics of the vehicle is fairly sorted with good ride quality overall. The NH 3 between Mumbai and Nashik offers a mix of road conditions, and the S-Cross didn't disappoint. NVH is appreciable, and the overall clutch and steering feel is pretty good. The company claims its engineers undertook several kaizens to improve NVH, drive quality and fuel-efficiency of the S-Cross. For instance, noise and vibration has been enhanced by using pendulum mounts for the engine, while sound absorbers and advanced dampers and sealants have made the cabin quieter, MSIL claims.

Maruti S-Cross IMG 2454

The company has also looked at adding to the safety quotient of the vehicle by offering all wheel disc brakes with ABS, and dual side airbags. The body has been built using high tensile steel. Although MSIL has a decent list of safety and security features, we expected the company to offer more to go with the vehicle's premium positioning, especially when the vehicle is offered, for instance, with up to seven airbags in certain markets.

NEXA & BRANDING

The New Exclusive Automotive Experience or NEXA has been developed exclusively to see the company's premium range of vehicles. As mentioned earlier, the S-Cross will be sold only through these NEXA outlets, scheduled to come up only in metropolitan markets. However, consumers keen to buy the product in other areas would be brought to the nearest NEXA outlet to offer them the experience of buying a premium product.

 

Maruti S-Cross IMG 2593As a concept, NEXA seems to have solid credentials, but we aren't too sure how this would be perceived by consumers nationally. Initially, there will be about 30 NEXA outlets, leading to about 100 by April 2016. Interestingly, the S-Cross doesn't feature the Maruti badge but the NEXA showrooms, through which the car will be retailed, is prominently badged Maruti Suzuki. We aren't quite sure how that would work positively for the brand. Moreover, till the company starts showcasing more products in these NEXA outlets, keeping customers excited and engaged with the Maruti brand might turn out to be very challenging.

ROUND-UP

For sure, Maruti has a good new product in hand with very capable engines. The only challenge we see is the way consumers take to the positioning of the vehicle as a premium crossover. There is little doubt that Maruti Suzuki is a master strategist when it comes to sales, and it continues to have a solid perception as a reliable and trustworthy brand. If only that leads to the success of the S-Cross as a successful premium offering from the Japanese carmaker. Time will tell.

Detailed price list of the S-Cross premium crossover:

Maruti Suzuki S-Cross (Price, ex-showroom Delhi)

DDiS 200

DDiS 320

Sigma

Delta

Zeta

Alpha

Delta

Zeta

Alpha

8,34,000

9,15,000

9,99,000

10,75,000

11,99,000

12,99,000

13,74,000

 

Text: Deepangshu Dev Sarmah

Photo: Bharat Bhushan Upadhyay

27 July 2015 Written by Arpit Mahendra & Deepangshu Dev Sarmah

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Never ending coverage in the media and non-stop questions from the market is what the new Hyundai Creta has achieved in a short span of time, further testified by over 18,000 bookings till date. Clearly, the most hyped vehicle of this year, we’ve been driving the Creta around Pune soaked in a heavy downpour and have found out whether the Creta lives up to its popularity explosion or not.

Styling

Hyundai’s Fluidic Sculpture has in general found good acceptance in the Indian market and the Elite i20 is the most popular of them all. With the Fluidic Sculpture 2.0, the Creta follows the same approach. Sharp angles, edges and multiple lines is what defines this design language and while it may not be a timeless design, it surely is attention-grabbing.

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The triple slat chrome radiator grille nestled between a smooth hood and aggressive bumper lend a premium and modern look to the Creta. Projector headlamps with LED positioning lamps and a skid plate add further to the dynamic and SUV look. As a result, the Creta looks like a smaller Santa Fe and that is good praise for a compact SUV.

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The side angle is quite dramatic for the Creta and totally in the positive sense. An upward sloping shoulder line along with a tapering roofline create a sharp and dynamic glasshouse area. The diamond cut 17-inch optional alloy wheels are the pick of the wheel options and are praiseworthy. 

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Tail lamp design bears resemblance to headlamps and on a clean tailgate give the rear a tall look. The sporty bumper along with the skid plate complements the design theme well.

Inside the cabin, the Creta impressed us more than expected with its modern, aesthetic and functional design. The material quality is impressive by segment standards and build quality too deserves appreciation. Seats upfront are adequately sized and offer good under thigh, back and side support.

Rear seats too offer good comfort as space is in abundance inside the Creta. Rear legroom is exceptionally good and although the roofline tapers, headroom isn’t inadequate for people as tall as 5ft 10 inches or so.

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Equipment list is long and segment-best in the Creta and this will draw many buyers to Hyundai showrooms with their cheque books.

The smart-looking dashboard houses a well-equipped infotainment system with a seven-inch touch screen showing navigation and rear camera display. The touch is responsive and control layout on the screen is user-friendly. Media inputs include USB, Bluetooth, Aux, iPOD, CD and a 1 GB on-board memory.

Powertrain

Like most Hyundai offerings, the Creta offers multiple engine and transmission options including a 1.6 l Gamma Dual VTVT petrol engine, developing about 121 hp and 151 Nm of torque @ 4,850 rpm. This engine is only available with a six-speed manual transmission. Diesel options include a 1.4 l U2 CRDi unit making about 89 hp and 220 Nm between 1,500 and 2,750 rpm.

 

 

 

 

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The more powerful option is a 1.6 l U2 CRDi VGT unit, developing about 126 hp and 260 Nm between 1,900 and 2,750 rpm. This engine can be ordered with a six-speed manual or a segment-first six-speed automatic unit. The 1.6 l diesel unit offers a good surge of power, provided the tacho needle floats above the 2,000 mark. Below that engine response is a bit dull in traffic scenarios.

The diesel engine when coupled with the automatic transmission is the version to go for in our opinion. Not only does one get the convenience of an automatic but the unit shifts pretty quick to make for a pleasurable drive as well. The only slight downside to it is its momentary hesitance to downshift but you’ll only notice that when pushing the vehicle really hard.

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NVH levels are impressive and even when accelerating, the cabin is insulated from engine noise very well. A host of insulation materials along with NVH-optimised design end the Creta with best-in-segment refinement. Owing to an aerodynamic design, wind noise too is minimal when travelling at high speeds.

Hyundai has also ensured these engines are fuel-efficient and claims 15.29 km/l for the 1.6 petrol unit and 21.38 km/l for the 1.4 l diesel unit. The 1.6 l diesel unit is claimed to return 19.67 km/l with a manual box and 17.01 km/l with an automatic one. The difference of about 14 % between these units though is something we would’ve liked to be lesser, given the technical advancements in automatic transmission technology.

Ride & Handling

The Creta is equipped with a McPherson strut with coil spring upfront and a torsion beam axle with coil spring at the rear. Ride quality is good and the suspension soaks most of the bumps efficiently, keeping the passengers comfortable. Although the Creta has convincing SUV looks, the ride quality is more like a sedan. Even at high speeds, the cabin remains largely insulated from road cracks and expansion joints.

Handling like most Hyundai vehicles is biased towards a soft setup but not to an extent to make the Creta a nervous handler. The Creta changes direction with confidence and agility and only at limit one experiences understeer. Body-roll is evident at this point but in normal operating conditions, the Creta comes across as a decent handler and better than a few other vehicles from the Hyundai stable. The steering is a light unit at slow speed and although it does weigh up with increase in velocity, the feedback isn’t great but is better than a few other Hyundai cars.

Round-Up

Having driven the Creta through the day we're convinced that the Creta is a winner for Hyundai. Styling, features, space and an exhaustive variant list has a lot going for the Creta. Appreciably, the Creta has been designed to be a safe vehicle instead of being just equipped for the same. 'Hive' structure design consists of ultra high strength steel (UHSS) & advanced high strength steel (AHSS) with high strength welding joints.

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The safety configuration though could've been better in our opinion. ABS is standard across the range but airbags are only available on the S+ variant onwards in petrol option. Six airbags are on offer but only on the top diesel variant. That could be an issue if you're planning to opt for the diesel automatic since it isn't available in top trim and hence one only gets dual-front airbags.

That said, the overall packaging of the Creta is impressive and will give a hard time to the competition. It has the ability of serving varied needs for almost everyone while ensuring it delivers in spades. Master of all trades is what we think the Hyundai Creta is.

Text & Photo: Arpit Mahendra & Deepangshu Dev Sarmah

24 July 2015 Written by Arpit Mahendra

20150723 112150

Launched in 2010, the Mahindra Thar has remained unchanged through the years and has managed to grow at a CAGR of about 13 %, despite the fluctuating market conditions. Over these years, customers have highlighted some areas of improvement for the vehicle, especially in urban areas. Paying heed to the 'King' (customer), the company has now gone ahead and upgraded the Thar CRDe, while the Di variant remains unchanged. We drove the new Thar in its home territory, which excludes anything close to being like roads. Here's our first impression of the vehicle.

Styling

The new Thar features a refreshed design but only enough to make it a bit different from the outgoing version. The new bumpers now merge into the fenders giving a more muscular look to the front. The removable roof has been redesigned but it doesn't look too different than the older version, except for the sloping rear. The new 16-inch wheels now wear 235 section Bridgestone rubber. One can also opt for 245 section Maxxis Bighorn tyres, which were equipped on our vehicles.

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The CRDe variant accounts for about 30 % of total Thar sales, almost all of which comes from urban centres. The key changes in the Thar CRDe have been made inside the cabin. Naturally, people opting for a lifestyle vehicle with limited daily usability wanted more modern amenities inside. As a result, the cabin has been overhauled and is in the right direction. The new dashboard features a dual beige and black layout and looks significantly better than the older version.

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The new steering wheel and instrument cluster have been taken from the parts bin, Bolero to be precise. There's a demister available in the Thar now with its controls sitting below the air conditioner controls. One also gets access to a 12 V charging socket now along with cupholders, all of which add a dose of practicality to the cabin, which was missing earlier.

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The seats too are new and significantly more comfortable than the older ones, which should make that long highway drive more comfortable before reaching the off-road site. Of course, the cabin continues to have its share of quirks and shortcomings. The pedals continue to be a bit off-set but the steering seemed to be less off-set than earlier. Door handles and some other plastic bits still look cheap and prone to breaking.

Performance

We tested the new Thar only on off-road territory but we do not expect its road dynamics to change significantly since the powertrain and suspension has not been changed. The Thar CRDe continues to be powered by a 2.5 l CRDe engine producing about 105 hp and 247 Nm of torque. The only mechanical change in the new version is the inclusion of a manual differential lock. This unit sense the difference in rotation speed between two wheels and applies lock accordingly to balance the rotation on both ends. This result in better traction, especially over steep inclines with wet and undulated surfaces.

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We found the system to work well over the course of the test and the Thar maintained grip over the entire course. Our vehicles were equipped with mud tyres, making it easy to decimate the challenges thrown by the test course. Slotting into 4x4 low ratio allowed us to descent from or ascend upon steep inclines with wet soil without a fuss.

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While the engine seemed adequate to handle extreme off-road conditions, we felt the sound to be a bit lesser than the older version. Mahindra, however, didn't attribute this change to any specific part.

Round-Up

Thar's off-road capabilities were always appreciated, and various off-road clubs across the country swear by its capability. With the inclusion of the new differential lock, this ability has been increased further, making the vehicle more appealing to off-road enthusiasts.

The new cabin is a welcome change and is undoubtedly a far better place to be in than the older Thar CRDe. Inclusions of features such as demister and charging sockets along with new and more comfortable seats mean that the cabin experience is much better for urban customers, who demanded these features in the first place.

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At Rs 8.07 lakh, ex-showroom, Nashik, the Thar CRDe isn't too expensive than the older version. In fact, there is no other off-roader available at this price point offering similar capability, and the peace of Mahindra's service network. The changes in the new variant definitely improve the Thar by a considerable margin. Add to it the growing demand of lifestyle vehicles. The impressive growth of off-road clubs and events across the country, in particular, make the That CRDe's future look good.

Text & Photo: Arpit Mahendra

 



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