It is common knowledge that making cars is an expensive process, and a time-taking one with very little room for error. With product lifecycles (PLC) squeezing year-on-year, manufacturers are being forced to launch new models so as to keep customers happy. This practice, nonetheless, isn't profitable yet in the present scenario. The best solution than is to create a platform, which can underpin multiple body styles, keeping cost low, while making the customer realise he's driving something entirely different from other cars of the same brand.
One such example is the new Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class, which is based on the MFA (Modular Front Architecture) platform, a front-wheel drive platform, which also underpins the A-Class, B-Class and GLA-Class. The GLA and CLA have AMG variants too! We recently drove the CLA200 and here's our detailed report.
The CLA undoubtedly is an impressive car to look at with multiple contours and a mix of edges and curves. The front is dominated by a wide grille and dynamic headlamps with the star taking central presence. The side profile is primarily characterised by a pronounced shoulder line, which runs all the way to the rear. This, coupled with a tapering roof and boot lid, gives the car a forward-biased and aggressive stance. The tail lamps are the main attraction at the rear, especially at night, and when fully-lit.
In a nutshell, the CLA200's styling is quite busy and hence eye-catching, a trait preferred by young customers. During our test, it was clear that even in white shade, which isn't exactly a striking colour, the CLA managed quite a few head turns. The new design philosophy of Mercedes-Benz seems to be working well for most of its cars and the CLA is expected to fall in the same league. We liked the design and didn't find anything in particular to be out of place. However, we do feel that the design is a little too busy and might not age as well as a C-Class or S-Class would. But with shortening PLCs, the design's age factor might not be a factor at all.
The CLA200 is powered by a 2 l four-cylinder, turbocharged engine producing about 180 hp and 300 Nm of torque. The engine is equipped with 3rd generation high-pressure direct injection system, improvised injectors and a better spray-guided combustion process, all of which the company claims to aid efficiency, while the turbo enhances the power and torque output.
We found the engine to be smooth overall and responsive off the line. While low-end response is good and the top-end is acceptable, it's the mid-range where the action lies. Between 3,000 and 5,000 rpm, the CLA200 maintains an impressive balance between power delivery and smoothness. Closer to the red line, things start to get noisy and the engine feels strained.
Helping acceleration is the 7G-DCT transmission, which is a dual-clutch seven-speed unit. The gearbox moves through the gears quick enough to maintain a nearly constant surge of acceleration. Selectable modes on offer include Economy, Sport and Manual. The unit responds well to kick-downs and doesn't hesitate in dropping a couple of gears in one go. During our test, we were able to record a 0-100 km/h acceleration time of 8.1 s, while our average fuel-efficiency turned out to be 11.7 km/l with almost 80 % of the distance being covered in city. As numbers suggest, the CLA200 offers impressive performance without losing out on efficiency.
Ride & Handling
Often, European cars imported or assembled in India turn out to be too stiff for an average Indian consumer's liking. Thankfully, that isn't the case with the CLA as the car's suspension has been tuned specially for Indian conditions. As a result, the CLA handles broken surfaces in an impressive manner, ensuring the cabin doesn't become a roller-coaster even at high speeds. Straight-line stability is worth mentioning as the car doesn't feel nervous even at 150 km/h.
At the end of the straight though, things change a bit as turns begin to show up. Being a front-wheel drive, the car has more of its weight biased towards the front. It's this additional weight, which gives it a nose-heavy feel along with some understeer, when attacking corners at rapid pace. Body-roll too is evident at this pace but the chassis rigidity and tyre grip keep things in control. The steering is quick and accurate and weighs up too but artificially, which means that feedback is very little from the front wheels. All of this combined makes the CLA200 a car that delivers reasonably well if pushed occasionally. However, as a driver-oriented car, the CLA200 wouldn't rank right up there.
The interior of the CLA is quite similar to the A-Class, and understandably so, as they share the same platform. That isn't a negative though as the interior continues to look modern and upmarket, dominated by the central screen, (which supports HD colours) and the chrome propeller-like AC vents. Material and fitment quality is of top order and not for a moment would anyone feel as if this is a low-priced Mercedes-Benz.
Seats upfront are large and supportive, especially for the back and side. Rear legroom is decent but not a strong point of the car, which is fine given its dimensions. The rear seat itself offers decent back and thigh-support but the coupe-like tapering roofline can be uncomfortable for taller passengers. The boot is quite generous on paper with a volume of 470 l, but the spare tyre's presence eats up into that considerably.
In terms of kit and features, Mercedes hasn't held back to bring down cost but has instead gone ahead and provided the whole hog to enhance the value proposition. The multimedia system offers navigation, twin-USB ports, SD card slot, iPhone interface, reverse camera, Bluetooth and a Harman Kardon sound system. There's also a panoramic sunroof and all of these features inside a high-quality cabin ensure you get an authentic Mercedes-Benz experience inside the car.
The CLA200 is yet another model from the company aimed at attracting young customers and we have no doubt that it will succeed at doing so. The reasons of it being successful though are specific, the foremost of which is styling, followed by a luxurious cabin. Those looking for a driver-focussed or a chauffeur-driven car might not find too much going for the CLA and might have to look elsewhere.
However, those looking for a head-turning exterior design and impressive interior quality have multiple reasons to instantly fall in love with the CLA-Class. It's a purposeful and eye-commanding design, both being traits which rank high in majority of the consumers in this space. Keeping that in mind the CLA200's only competition, the Audi A3 comes across as more of a sedate and conventional design, making the CLA the king of extravagant looks.
The CLA200 is priced at Rs 35 lakh, ex-showroom, Delhi, and at that price we can't think of any other car, which comes close to the CLA-Class, at least in terms of styling.
Text: Arpit Mahendra
Photo: Bharat Bhushan Upadhyay
Adventure motorcycles, contrary to what the name suggests are no longer a niche class within motorcycles. Even with cosmetic changes, there are 'adventure' bikes on sale with little or no off-roading credentials. Amid the sea of marketing-driven product off-shoots, there have been a few genuine off-roaders launched this year, one of which is the Triumph Tiger. The model is now in its second-generation and has been updated with new variants. Whether the 2015 Tiger has retained its old strengths, build thereon or has made compromises is a question we tried to answer by riding the Tiger XCx the way it's supposed to.
Since its introduction in 2010, the Tiger has earned global recognition for being a capable off-road machine. Engineers at Hinckley – the Triumph Motorcycles Ltd headquarters – encouraged by the model's evolution and success thought it was a good time to expand the products in the Tiger brand. As a result, we have the XR, a road-focussed motorcycle and the XC, which performs better where there are no roads. Both of these models now have a sub-model with an 'x' against the name. These variants are equipped with more advanced electronics and have better rider and body protection. We tested the XCx, the extreme version of the off-road inclined XC.
THE NEW BITS
Triumph decided not to make drastic changes to the styling, and that's fine since the Tiger already has a design that goes well with its purpose. There have been some changes including new tank side panels and radiator shroud, both lending the bike with a sharper look. The redesigned fuel tank also helps direct hot air away from the rider's legs but things can still get pretty hot in traffic and a bit inconvenient, particularly on warm days. Our test bike being an 'x' version also featured hand guards and an aluminium skid plate, the latter being helpful for off-roading.
The focus on improving the riding experience is pretty evident from the time one lays an eye on the spec sheet. The improvements do not come in form of increased power output but improving the tractability and usability of the available power on varied surfaces.
The new Tiger 800 XCx features ride-by-wire throttle, which smoothens power delivery and sharpens throttle response, thereby enhancing the riding experience. This, however, is just the tip of the iceberg as the ride-by-wire opens up the possibility to have higher digital control over the engine. Hence, riders now have access to multiple throttle maps, electronic cruise control and riding modes.
There are four throttle maps on offer – rain, road, sport and off-road – each of which adjusts the throttle response according to the condition suggested by their name. Interestingly, these maps do not restrict the power output like in many other motorcycles. Instead, the throttle opening for a specific output of power changes in each mode. We particularly liked this system as it imparts the rider with greater control over the computer, which otherwise can cut in at unexpected/ unwanted times. On the road, the sport map was our preferred choice as the throttle response is quicker, increasing riding fun.
Next up in the arsenal of the XCx is the riding mode functionality, which offers a choice between three modes – road, off-road and rider. In the road mode, ABS and traction control are set to intervene the moment a slip-up is detected. Of particular interest was the off-road mode, which reduces the throttle response and lowers the traction control and ABS intervention.
While restricted traction control enables some wheel slip, crucial to off-road handling, the ABS too allows for the rear wheel to lock but not the front one. This helps negotiate steep unpaved inclines by allowing the rider to continue accelerating with the mental comfort of knowing that electronics would reign in matters if the rider overcooks.
The rider mode allows for individual customisability of the electronic aids along with the option to turn the ABS off. While these modes and throttle maps work impressively in their targeted environments, toggling between them is not as easy as Triumph claims. The modes can be selected by the small button on the instrument cluster but maps need to be selected by a not very easily operable switch on the left handle. Add to this the small font, which makes it difficult to make changes while on the move.
The engine is a liquid-cooled, DOHC, 799 cc, in-line three-cylinder unit, developing about 94 hp and 79 Nm of torque. The engine offers a wide spread of torque, which is accessible right from about 3,500 rpm to about 9,000 rpm. Over 5,000 rpm in particular, the exhaust emits a loud and addictive sound and the engine pulls strongly.
While power output hasn't been bumped up, there have been many internal changes aimed at improving combustion performance and lowering friction. These combined with the ride-by-wire technology help increase fuel-efficiency. Engineers also focussed on reducing the mechanical noise of the engine, the results of which are evident on the road. The engine operates smoothly across its rev band and even close to the 10,000 rpm rev limit vibrations aren't unpleasantly intrusive.
We recorded an average fuel-efficiency of 18.8 km/l over a mix of city, off-road and highway, with the former two accounting for a larger part. With a 19 l fuel tank, the Tiger XCx can manage over 350 km/h in rough riding conditions, making it a good adventure motorcycle in true terms. Add to it the optional panniers, and one can carry a significant amount of luggage.
Owing to the broad torque curve, the motorcycle felt pretty much like an automatic at times. We were able to brake from about 80 km/h to just under 50 km/h and then accelerate back to 140 km/h, all while being in the sixth gear and without any shakes or clatter! The 0-100 km/h acceleration run was done in 4.4 s during our test, making it a strong performer on the road as well. That the engine revs up quickly adds further to the overall riding experience.
The engine is paired to a six-speed transmission, which now borrows some internals from the Daytona 675's gearbox. We found the gearshifts to be smooth, requiring little effort, making it easy to shift even while standing on the foot pegs, a position the rider will be in for most of the time when off-roading. The only issue was that at times shifting into 1st from neutral, while stationary, wasn't seamless.
DYNAMICS ON AND OFF-ROAD
The Tiger XCx, despite being a hardcore off-road version, offers impressive on-road dynamics. Rider geometry triangle has been revised to lower the weight on wrists and increase leg-room. Coupled with the light wet weight of about 220 kg, riding the XCx is effortless over long durations and even during off-road stints. Owing to its off-road intent, the XCx comes equipped with a WP 43 mm suspension set-up comprising of upside down forks offering a generous travel of 220 mm. The 43 mm rear monoshock offers a 215 mm travel. Adjustable damping combined with long suspension travel translates into impressive off-road capabilities and comfortable on-road ride quality. An electronic cruise-control also helps you make easy task of those long highway stretches before forests and valleys begin taking shape on the horizon.
In favour of off-road performance, the XCx features spoked-wheels, a 17-inch unit at the rear and a large 21-inch wheel upfront. This combination comes in handy over rough terrains, ensuring reliability and better control. We tested the Tiger extensively over inclines on a surface of mud, over which it shone. The programmable control of electronics makes it easy for riders, right from beginners to experts, to enjoy off-roading on the Tiger XCx and improvise further. On somewhat deep and loose sand, the XCx is fairly manageable in the off-road mode. Even with an open throttle the motorcycle was able to maintain predicted direction despite a slightly oscillating rear.
The effectiveness of the XCx's technology package can be gauged from the fact that despite the lack of much off-roading experience on two-wheels, we managed an impressive dose of off-roading on the XCx.
The Tiger 800 XCx is an impressive package, when looked at from a lifestyle perspective. Particularly aimed at off-roading, the XCx isn't a product for the pretentious lot and will only keep a certain type of rider happy. In terms of value, the XCx offers an impressive list of technologies aimed at a specific purpose of off-roading.
While the motorcycle impresses there, it's equally comfortable on the bits in between off-roading and your home, the roads. In a city like Delhi though, there is one issue with the XCx. The windshield is effective, but in the process obstructs the air flow to the rider's chest, making it uncomfortable to ride the product over a long duration. The solution to this is simple in the form of removing the screen in summer and putting it back in cooler days.
All read, said and done, the XCx left us impressed with its focussed intent yet versatile character. If you're struck by wanderlust, prefer to get lost from civilisation and envelope yourself in the arms of nature, the XCx is pretty much the best tool on sale in the Indian market presently. It's plethora of rider-focussed technologies, long travel range and good ergonomics make it a reliable companion for those days you spend in wilderness. In case being cut-off from digital communication is a concern for you, the XCx comes with two 12v power outlets to keep those communication & navigation devices charged. One wouldn't expect anything less from a genuine adventure motorcycle. The impressive package of the Triumph XCx is on sale at just Rs 12.7 lakh, ex-showroom, Delhi, which in our opinion is one of the best value-for-money propositions in the Indian premium motorcycle market.
Text: Arpit Mahendra
Photo: Bharat Bhushan Upadhyay
By any measure, MINI is one of the most recognisable car brands in the world. The company has changed hands many times through its five-decade-plus history, but the cult status it has generated through these years is hard to match for any hatchback manufacturer. All through, the company has managed to retain its intrinsic qualities and features – be it in terms of look, or in terms of what it adds to the owners’ personality. Some time back, BMW India introduced the MINI Cooper D 3 door variant to add to its 5 door siblings. We recently drove the vehicle around Delhi to bring you this review.
Under The Hood
The MINI Cooper D 3 door is powered by a new three-cylinder, 1.5 l, twin-turbo engine that delivers a decent 116 hp at 4,000 rpm. Linked to a six-speed automatic transmission that powers the front wheels. The 270 Nm of torque adds to the element of fun that the overall package offers. Made of an aluminium block, the engine features a double Vanos infinitely variable camshaft control and valvetronic variable valve timing as well. In principle, the engine design is basically common for all of BMW’s in-line units, with optimised cylinder modules, displacing 500 cc each.
The engine is fuel-efficient, with ARAI tested figures at 20 km/l. During our drive cycle though, we managed a machine indicated 13.9 km/l mileage. The engine provides high low-end torque and rapid response, making overtaking and cruising effortless. The company claims that the unit is free of first-and second-order inertial forces, while roll torque, much smaller than the six-cylinder, is eliminated by the use of balancer shaft. The engine also has a torsional vibration damper that results in a smooth and fine-sounding engine. Add to that the three driving modes to adjust to and enjoy various driving conditions.
The diesel engines on the MINI Cooper D have a turbocharging system with variable turbine geometry and the latest generation of common rail direct injection. The fuel injection pressure has been increased as compared to the predecessor engines so as to achieve high-precision fuel metering and clean combustion. This results in increased efficiency and adherence to the EU6 exhaust emission standard, claims the company. CO2 emission for the car is rated at 125 g/km.
The six-speed automatic transmission includes a more efficient transmission control system, a more direct connection and optimised hydraulics. For the first time, the AT has also been combined with an automatic engine start/ stop function. The steering is powered electromechanically, and is as energy-efficient as the map-controlled oil pumps in all engines. The energy required to start the diesel engines is reduced by around half with an optimised preheating process.
The Way It Looks
Historically, the overall design theme for the MINI Cooper has worked favourably with its consumers, and designers didn’t fiddle around much with how the car looks from the outside. Underneath, the suspension set-up both at the front and rear has been retuned, and the front MacPherson struts, damper & springs have been upgraded. The wheelbase too is longer by 28 mm, and the front and rear dimensions have been widened by 42 mm and 34 mm respectively. All of these have also resulted in increased space inside the cabin, as well as the boot. From a visual perspective, the grille and bumper has been redesigned and the addition of LEDs around the headlights gives the car a whole new feel.
There are more changes inside the car. Material quality is plush, and most of the controls are better laid out. The most visible change though is the large speedometer that has now been moved back to behind the steering wheel, right in front of the driver. Readers would recall that the speedometer was placed in the centre of the dashboard in the earlier generation of the car.
At the centre of the dashboard now is a funky circular multi-coloured, programmable LED that lights up to display driving modes, engine revs or ambient lighting. At the middle of that cluster, is a large eight-inch colour display that allows you to access the menu for various options, including navigation and media.
The new MINI Connected in-car infotainment programme, which is derived from BMW’s iDrive platform, offers the opportunity for on-going expansion due to apps, allowing integration in the car through a smartphone. It also offers internet-based services encompassing infotainment, communication, and driver experience. Online connection also allows the use of social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. Head-Up-Display, parking assistant, rear-view camera, high beam assistant and road sign detection are some of the other driver assistance systems that come as standard on the Cooper D.
One of the primary concerns with all three-door cars is about getting in and out of the rear seat – the ease of entry and exit, and of course, space and comfort. Getting into the MINI 3 door isn’t the easiest of tasks, and once you’re inside, even for an average built Indian, the knee and shoulder room is limited. But there is adequate headroom for all. At best, the rear seats should be reserved for kids only.
In the development of the new MINI, engineers reportedly focussed on optimising the body structure, which impacts positively on both the driving properties and the crash response of the car. The manufacturer has undertaken an “intelligent” lightweight construction approach, which combines weight reduction with an increase in rigidity, thereby promoting both agility and occupant protection. Interestingly, despite addition of an extended range of fittings, all variants of the new MINI Cooper are lighter than their respective predecessor models.
To begin with, the MINI Cooper has a good driving position, and is an easy car to drive. In addition to offering good visibility, controls inside are easily accessible to the driver. Overall ride quality is good and acceptable. Power delivery of the engine is linear and because of the retuned suspension, as mentioned earlier, the car behaves pretty well even over hard road conditions. One could, however, expect better comfort levels considering the price one has to pay.
It is in the sports mode that you can have the best fun with the MINI Cooper. Thanks to the well sorted out chassis and steering, the car doesn’t lose its character under any situation. Getting into a corner, or exiting it, the car doesn’t disappoint one bit.
The standard MINI Cooper D 3 door is priced at ` 31.85 lakh in Delhi (ex-showroom), but should you wish to have all the bells and whistles to be added to your car, the cost would go up by another ` 5-6 lakh. That would mean getting everything from a multi-functional steering wheel to a dual zone climate control, driving modes, head-up display and a multimedia system with navigation and Bluetooth. On the safety front, the company offers ABS and ESP as standard, while there are airbags for both passengers in the front seats. Also on offer is a cornering braking function. But at close to ` 40 lakh for the high-end car, one would have expected the company to throw in a couple of curtain and side airbags as well.
Text: Deepangshu Dev Sarmah
Photo: Bharat Bhushan Upadhyay
The exterior design hasn't been altered significantly, considering this is only a special edition. Already a massive car, the Signature Edition looks more dynamic due to the addition of larger 19-inch wheels. Another change on the outside was the Midnight Blue Metallic colour of the car, which is exclusive to the Signature Edition. In flesh, the car appeared a tad statelier in this colour than the usual shades.
These few changes do not alter the way the Signature Edition looks but adds a small flavour of distinctiveness to it. It would, however, take an informed and keen observer to distinguish the Signature Edition from the regular 7 Series. That said the 7 Series does manage to stand out, owing to its refined character.
The powertrain on offer in the Signature Edition includes only a diesel engine, which is the same as found in the standard 7 Series. The unit is a 3 l diesel engine, producing 258 hp at 4,000 rpm and 560 Nm of torque at 1,500 rpm. On the road, the updated engine offers a dynamic experience, to such an extent that it's almost impossible to believe the car weighs close to two tonne. TwinPower Turbo technology means that there's a twin-scroll turbo, which has two scroll phases, one for low and high rpm each. This means there is almost no lag right from the start with acceleration staying strong across the rev band. The ZF eight-speed automatic transmission further improves drivability. Closely stacked ratios enable smooth acceleration at any speed.
Overall acceleration is impressive and during our tests, we recorded a best 0-100 km/h time of 6.6 s, using a handheld GPS device. We achieved a fuel efficiency of 7.9 km/l in city traffic and 12.6 km/l on the highway. These are impressive figures for the car considering its weight and performance.
There is just one key change in the Signature Edition over the 730 Ld in the form of Active Steering. This system enables the rear wheels to steer in the direction opposite to that of the front wheels, enabling a tighter turning radius. Electric motors add the steering functionality to the rear axle and utilise information such as wheel rotation speeds, steering wheel movement, yaw rate and lateral acceleration.
On the roads, this technology not only makes parking and navigating through traffic easier but also improves handling at higher speed. During our test we found the car to be more confident through long curves and maintaining a tighter line than the regular 7 Series was easier, primarily due to the Active Steering.
In general, the 7 Series offers a good ride quality at slow and high speeds and the Signature Edition felt marginally better than the standard 730 Ld we tested earlier. This could be down to the Active Steering again. On the dynamics front, one still gets access to driving modes, which alter the engine and ride character and left us quite impressed. That said, the car does make its weight and size feel clearly over tight turns but given the purpose that the car is aimed at, we have no reasons to complain.
The key change inside the cabin is the inclusion of a 1,200 W, 16-speaker Bang & Olufsen surround sound system. The system offers and impressive sound output and clarity and will be well-appreciated by music connoisseurs. The system has an acoustic lens in the centre speaker on the dashboard, which improves the acoustic experience by offering 3D sound to all occupants.
The cabin colour scheme too has been changed in the Signature Edition with a dual-colour leather dashboard with wood inlays. Space and other features remain largely unchanged from the regular 730 Ld, which in the first place is impressive by segment standards. One new inclusion at the rear is a boot-mounted refrigerator, which can be accessed through the rear seat armrest. This however eats into the boot space significantly, making it hard to fit the large travel bags for the airport run. Rear passengers also get individual reading lights in this model.
Overall, the cabin continues to offer the positives of the 7 Series platform but adds luxury perception in the form of higher quality materials, sound system and rear seat features.
Like most special editions, the 7 Series Signature Edition adds a few premium features to the existing model in an attempt to offer higher value to a certain set of customers. In this case, it's the chauffeur-driven customer on the lookout for a premium luxury saloon. The 7 Series, due to its natural platform age, might not be the most advanced vehicle in the segment.
The Signature Edition hence might not be the best luxury car out there but with the extra bits it offers added opulence, which in some cases is unique to this vehicle. One of those, as is the case with BMW vehicles, improves the driving experience and that is where the Signature Edition finds its niche within the high-end luxury segment. The BMW 730 Ld Signature is priced at Rs 1.22 cr, ex-showroom, Delhi.
Text: Arpit Mahendra
Photo: Bharat Bhushan Upadhyay
By its sheer presence, the Isuzu MU-7 with its 3 l engine, 5 m length and 210 mm ground clearance, is a giant among existing SUVs in the Indian market. However, in the 15 months since its launch in India, the MU-7 hasn't quite excited the consumers. Loaded with brawny exteriors, and appreciable space inside, the MU-7 is gifted with attributes one would attach to a large utility vehicle with sporty characteristics. But does it have the wherewithal to take on the likes of the immensely popular Toyota Fortuner?
We recently drove the vehicle through the oft-maddening Delhi traffic, and indulged in some spirited driving out on National Highway 1 towards Chandigarh on a somewhat chilly morning, to find out what the MU-7 delivers. Here's our report.
In the 11 months of FY2014-15 starting April, the Japanese manufacturer has sold 239 units as reported by SIAM data – an average of 22 units a month. While the numbers don't really paint a bright picture, it is impossible to miss its presence on the road. A rather late entrant in the Indian market, Isuzu was never expected to have it easy against the likes of Toyota Fortuner, or the Hyundai Santa Fe, Honda CRV, HMFCL Pajero Sport and Ford Endeavour. But Isuzu has packaged the MU-7 in a manner that it offers all that a typical SUV customer would ask for.
Lengthwise, the MU-7 is measured at 4,995 mm and has a wheelbase of 3,050 mm. The aggressiveness of the size is accentuated by the wide tooth grille and large bumpers. Add to that the large intercooler intake scoop on the bonnet, and projector headlamps that gel well with the bulky design of the front. Built on a body-on-ladder frame, the side and rear profiles of the MU-7 are subtle and go well with the overall design of the vehicle. On offer are wide foot-boards, body coloured roof rails and large wheel arches that maintains the tough look of the MU-7. The exterior look of the vehicle is further helped by generous amount of chrome offered on door handles, the exhaust tip and around the rear number plate.
Inside the cabin lies the MU-7's real USP – space. The feel inside, however, isn't quite lavish one would expect in a vehicle that is priced at Rs 23.90 lakh for the BS IV variant of the MU-7 4x2 MT HI PACK that we drove. Barring the comfortable leather seats, the quality of plastics in the cabin or even the wood-finish on the dashboard, weren't quite upmarket. We particularly liked the driving position of the MU-7, but the missing steering-mounted controls came as a surprise considering even mass market B segment hatchbacks have steering-mounted controls as a standard feature these days.
The touchscreen DVD player offers numerous options, but the buttons are quite small for the driver to operate, especially while on the move. Additionally, there's a roof-mounted DVD player for the rear passengers, which should appeal to the chauffeur driven. Like we've mentioned earlier, space inside the cabin is the MU-7's biggest USP. There is ample space in both the rear seat rows, and folding the third row of seats gives you generous amount of space to carry cargo. The door pockets nonetheless, are too small even for half litre bottles to go in.
From a comfort perspective, AC vents are offered on both rows of seats. Airbags, however, are only offered for the driver and passenger in the front seat.
Engine & Performance
The MU-7 is powered by a 2,999 cc, inter-cooled VGS turbo diesel engine that delivers about 163 hp of peak power and 360 Nm of torque at 1,800-2,800 rpm. The want of features and the missing dashes of plushness inside the cabin are more than compensated for by the spirited unit under the hood. The engine is mounted longitudinally, which powers the rear wheels through a five-speed manual transmission. The drivetrain is a 4X2 rear wheel drive. The gearshift though could be better.
The engine may not come across as very refined for some, but it roars aloud when revved. It pulls well from around 1,000 rpm with no visible turbo lag. The power delivery is linear and the narrow power band and short gearing ensures your drive is effortless around cities. It responds very well to any amount of throttle action, under any condition – be it on the highways or city traffic. We didn't measure the 0-100 km/h dash, but one can experience great energy in the way the engine pulls to about 4,000 rpm. As a service initiative, the company also offers Isuzu Insight, which informs the driver of his/ her driving habits and ways of improving them based on data taken from the ECU.
The suspension set-up includes independent double wishbones with torsion bar springs upfront, while the rear suspension unit is a gas-sealed, twin-tube shock absorber. The brakes – disc in the front and drum in the rear – have adequate bite to ensure no nervous decisions even for first time drivers of an SUV of this size.
The dimensions of the vehicle, especially the high ride height, may not suggest agile handling but the MU-7 stays grounded and is very stable even through corners. SUVs are not particularly kind to passengers in the rear, but the MU-7 is quite different in this area and offers passengers a very decent ride experience. We couldn't manage to go off-roading with the MU-7, but the overall package supported by the 210 mm ground clearance clearly suggests a lively experience with the vehicle.
Being a relatively new entrant in the Indian market, Isuzu is still building up its network across the country. The current network only means it could reach out to a few metro and Tier II cities. The Japanese CV major has announced a Rs 3,000 crore investment to set-up a manufacturing facility in Sricity, Andhra Pradesh, where it will manufacture SUVs and pick-up trucks, starting 2016. Currently, products are being manufactured at the Hindustan Motors facility in Chennai to manufacture about 5,000 units a year. By the end of next year, the company also plans to establish a network of 60 sales and service outlets.
That Isuzu is serious about its India foray requires no reiteration. That the MU-7 is a true-blue SUV has also been well established. But from a customers' perspective, the company would do well to add some more equipment to the vehicle, including a 4X4 variant, and that could become a serious option in the large SUV segment.
Text: Deepangshu Dev Sarmah
Photo: Arpit Mahendra