09 March 2017 Written by Naveen Arul
Compact crossovers are a fairly new segment in the Indian automotive industry, with OEMs providing SUV-inspired design cues and making relatively minor styling changes to their hatchbacks to create such models. Such crossovers – cars like the Hyundai i20 Active, Volkswagen Cross Polo, Fiat Urban Cross and Toyota Etios Cross – have not done too well in the Indian market, but that hasn’t stopped Honda from trying their hand in this segment.
Enter the new Honda WR-V, a ‘Sporty Lifestyle Vehicle’ that’s based on the Honda Jazz hatchback. The WR-V uses the Jazz’s underpinnings, including the chassis, most of the bodywork, engine and transmission. Yes, there are some design changes to the car’s bodywork, especially at the front, and the addition of the inevitable cladding on the wheel arches, which is supposed to give the vehicle some off-road cred. The WR-V compact crossover has been designed locally by Honda’s R&D team in India, and this is the first market where the WR-V will make its global debut.
ENGINE & TRANSMISSION
The new Honda WR-V is available in petrol and diesel variants, featuring the same engines that power the Jazz. The petrol variant is powered by a 1.2 l, four-cylinder, i-VTEC unit delivering 90 hp at 6,000 rpm, along with peak torque of 110 Nm at 4,800 rpm. The diesel version comes with a 1.5 l, four-cylinder, turbocharged, i-DTEC engine delivering 100 hp at 3,600 rpm, and 200 Nm of torque at 1,750 rpm. While the petrol engine is the exact same unit running on the Jazz, the diesel engine has been tweaked to help increase efficiency and reduce emissions.
The WR-V’s 1.5 l, i-DTEC diesel engine is a double overhead cam unit, which is from Honda’s ‘Earth Dreams Technology’ series. The engine is claimed to deliver a best-in-segment fuel economy of 25.5 km/l, which is enabled by friction reduction of all components, offset oil supply crankshaft, eccentric groove main bearing and an improved cooling system. Emissions have been reduced by using various new technologies, including a high swirl head port, high intake flow and compression ratio, and, for the first time in Honda’s India line-up, a Lambda Sensor (LAF sensor or oxygen sensor), which is applied before the catalytic converter. This LAF sensor is essentially an electronic device that monitors the level of air-fuel mixture being fed to the engine, and provides this information to the vehicle’s engine management system. It enables the engine to supply the most efficient ratio of air and fuel, thus enabling the car to run efficiently, while keeping emissions to a minimum.
The WR-V will be available with manual transmissions only on both the engine variants, with the company not looking at offering the CVT that is currently available on the petrol variant of the Jazz. The petrol variant of the WR-V features a five-speed manual transmission, while the diesel engine gets a six-speed manual gearbox. The five-speed manual transmission on the petrol variant is claimed to be a newly-developed transmission, which is said to be a heavy-duty unit for a higher weight category than that of the WR-V. The transmission features a gear ratio that is 10 % lower than that of the Jazz to enable improved acceleration.
We drove the turbo-diesel variant of the Honda WR-V first, and a point worth mentioning is the way the power is delivered by this engine. With the turbo kicking in at 1,500 rpm, turbo lag is so minimal that this can be easily mistaken for a naturally-aspirated engine. The lack of lag in power delivery means the car is easy to drive in city traffic as well as on the highway, where overtaking manoeuvres are never a challenge. The 200 Nm of torque that this engine delivers makes the driver’s life easy, and frequent downshifts are not required. The transmission itself is slick and provides smooth, precise shifts.
The 1.2 l petrol variant, meting out power to the front wheels via a slick 5-speed manual transmission, lacks the sheer torque of the diesel, but the car still feels peppy across the engine’s rev range and drivability is never an issue.
According to Honda, the The WR-V’s suspension has been tuned to handle the car’s increased wheelbase (as compared to the Jazz) for improved stability. The suspension also features a larger stabiliser bar to improve roll stability, and higher rigidity lower arm and knuckle for better handling. The increased tyre size and higher ground clearance also help the car over rough, broken terrain.
DESIGN, STYLING & INTERIORS
The exterior of the new Honda WR-V has all the typical features of a compact crossover. It includes plastic cladding around the car, with skid plates at the front and rear giving it a butch, SUV-inspired stance. The front facia is in line with Honda’s new front-end design that can be seen on most of its other models, featuring a dual chrome and black front grille, with sculpted front housing fog lamps. The crease lines on the bonnet and headlamps make the car look beefier and more SUV-like at the front.
The rear of the new Honda WR-V has some resemblance to the Jazz, but a lot has changed here. The car features a re-designed tail lamp cluster that extends onto the hatch lid, for an ‘L-shaped’ design. The design of the hatch lid itself has been changed, with the number plate cluster now moved towards the lower end. The rear gets its share of chrome in the form of a bezel above the number plate area. The side profile of the WR-V carries resemblance to the Jazz, with the addition of the side-cladding, black and silver dual-tone roof rails, chrome door handles, smaller rear spoiler and new 16-inch alloy wheels.
The interiors of the WR-V are almost identical to that of the Jazz, with the same dashboard design, instrument cluster and buttons, in addition to a steering wheel with tilt and telescopic adjustments. The dashboard features silver accents that add a premium look to the interiors of the vehicle, and the top-end variants also come with an electric sunroof. The only difference inside the car between the two engine variants is that top-end diesel models get push-button engine start/stop and cruise control. The WR-V, has ample space for its occupants, with comfortable leg room in the front and rear rows, along with a 363-litre boot. However, under-thigh support for rear passengers could have been better, which would make longer journeys more comfortable. The car also has a number of storage spaces and cubby holes that can be used to store all kinds of knick-knacks while on the go. The seat fabric, dashboard and door plastics are all high-quality, and feel good to the touch.
The highlight of the interior is the DIGIPAD capacitive touchscreen audio, video and navigation system of the top-end WR-V model, which was recently launched with the 2017 Honda City. The DIGIPAD features Wi-Fi support, voice recognition for media, navigation and phone, as well as multimedia playback through two USB ports, two microSD card slots, an HDMI port and 1.5 GB of internal storage memory. The WR-V also gets the touch-panel automatic climate control, and all these systems on the centre of the dashboard are angled slightly towards the driver for ease in use.
The Honda WR-V is a capable compact crossover and with its finely-tuned driveline, reduced NVH, very good ride and handling, extensively reworked exteriors (as compared to the Jazz) and standard safety features like ABS, dual front airbags, EBD and multi-angle reverse camera, this is a well thought out product that could do well in the market. Honda will launch the WR-V on 16 March, and we hope the vehicle is priced in a way that makes it attractive for buyers.
TEXT: Naveen Arul
PHOTO: Bharat Bhushan Upadhyay
06 March 2017 Written by Deepangshu Dev Sarmah
In the 16 months since its launch in India, the Maruti Suzuki Baleno has had a lot going for it. It created a lot of excitement and somewhat redefined the premium compact hatchback segment in the Indian market. And sales of close to 150,000 cars during this period tell us how popular the Baleno is.
Even as consumers continue to make a beeline for the Baleno, the company has upped the game in the segment by introducing the performance-oriented Baleno RS, powered by a new 1 l Boosterjet direct injection turbo engine. And to ensure we could test the vehicle to its limits, the company invited us to experience the Baleno RS at the Buddh International Circuit in Greater Noida.
The Baleno RS – Road Sport in this case, unlike the Rally Sport that most enthusiasts would associate the RS badge with – is primarily about the new engine. The suspension has been retuned compared to the standard Baleno, and the exterior has been refreshed to complement the positioning of the car, and the changes thereof are pleasingly appealing. But first, let’s take a detailed look at the Boosterjet engine.
The Boosterjet 1.0 is one of the two engines Suzuki produces in the Boosterjet series, the other being the more powerful 1.4 l unit. The 998 cc, three-cylinder engine on the Baleno RS is a direct injection turbo engine that produces around 100 hp of peak power and 150 Nm of torque. The Boosterjet 1 l engine is claimed to deliver 20 % more power and 30 % more torque compared to a regular 1.2 l naturally aspirated petrol engine.
There are technical advances that enhance the performance quotient on the Boosterjet engine – at the core of the engine lie the direct injection system that delivers fuel at pressures of about 200 bar into the cylinders, giving the engine very efficient combustible air-fuel mixture that help reduce fuel consumption as well as emissions. In a DI engine, to quickly create an air fuel mixture inside the cylinder, the fuel to be injected must be atomised. Additionally, the shape of the intake ports and the pistons are optimised to generate a stronger tumble flow.
The turbocharger, on the other hand, utilises the energy of the exhaust gases to drive the turbines and force feed the compressed air into the cylinders. The result is not only output equivalent to an engine of much greater displacement, but also high torque at low revs. The turbine runs at around 200,000 rpm and this result in an output that is equivalent to the output of a much larger engine, , explained CV Raman, Executive Director (Engineering), MSIL.
Some of the other highlights of the compact and lightweight engine include reduced friction timing chain, short port intake manifold, roller rocker follower with hydraulic lash adjustor, a dual relief oil pump, and integrated exhaust manifold.
From a performance perspective, the first thing we noticed was the ease at which the engine builds power. There is no visible lag, as the engine revs quickly through to the peak rpm limit. We could push the car to a maximum speed of around 162 km/h on the back straight at BIC, and at all times NVH levels on the engine was refined, albeit with a constant humming, yet not-so-unpleasant noise. Transmission on the Baleno RS is the same 5-speed manual unit found on the regular Baleno hatchback.
Now, the Boosterjet engine that is available globally delivers around 170 Nm of torque and 85 kW, or approximately 14 hp of additional power compared to the one launched in India. The engine has actually been detuned to cope with the poor quality of fuel available in our country at the moment. Most vehicles in India today run on petrol with octane rating of 91, while the European-spec Boosterjet needs to run on 95 octane rating petrol. One of the key parameters for petrol is the octane number, which essentially is a measure of its resistance to knock.
Apart from the engine, the other way to distinguish the RS from the regular Baleno is its exterior styling. The bumpers in the front and rear are new, with body spoilers all around the vehicle. The grille on the front has also been redesigned. The other notable change is the black-coloured set of wheels, and they look good. Overall, the Baleno RS offers freshness to an already popular car, and that should make things easy for the company to attract more consumers to its NEXA outlets, through which the Baleno is retailed.
Inside the Baleno RS cabin, there is no change compared to the standard car. We were fairly impressed with the interior of the Baleno, and that is not simply restricted to the way the dashboard or the instrument cluster looks. The all-black look continues to charm, while the materials used and the fit & finish are good for the segment it will play in. The only doubt we have here is whether the consumers would expect some sporty elements in the interiors to go with the RS badge.
Maruti informed us that the suspension on the Baleno RS has been re-tuned and stiffened by about 10 %, to add “character” to the car. The ride and handling on the Baleno RS is fairly sorted, and it never felt nervous on the circuit. The only complaint we had was with the tyre grip, which seemed to lose confidence with every additional lap we took. The 14-inch disc brakes in the front and 13-inch disc brakes at the rear do their jobs well.
The Baleno RS has been launched in a single variant – Alpha – and it complies with top-notch safety norms. Dual airbags, ABS, seatbelt with pre-tensioners and force limiters add to the safety quotient of the car, which has been tested at the company’s R&D centre in Rohtak and meets future pedestrian safety, side impact and frontal offset impact regulations.
At a price of Rs 8.69 lakh, (ex-showroom, Delhi), we believe the Baleno RS has been decently priced. This is not meant to significantly drive up the numbers for the Baleno. The standard Baleno, any which way, continues to have a long waiting period. The RS, for sure, will add some extra dose of power and performance for the customers, who demand that little bit extra from their vehicles. And to that effect, the Baleno RS doesn’t disappoint one bit.
We had done a detailed review of the Baleno, when it was launched in 2015. You could read our review of the standard Baleno here (http://autotechreview.com/reviews/item/2780-maruti-suzuki-baleno-review.html).
TEXT: Deepangshu Dev Sarmah
PHOTO: Bharat Bhushan Upadhyay
17 February 2017 Written by Deepangshu Dev Sarmah
The iconic Honda City, for long Honda Car India’s flagship model in the country, has received a midlife upgrade, primarily to add vigour to its persona. The new City 2017 gets no mechanical changes, but there are significant changes made both to the exteriors and interiors to bring about freshness into the product, which of late has lost market share to newer introductions in the market. Launched in 2014, the current City model is in its fourth-generation and has sold over 2.2 lakh units in the past three years. Whether the City 2017 edition will eventually lead to Honda reclaiming the top spot in the premium midsize sedan segment is for future analysis.
With the 2017 edition, Honda has added a new ‘flagship’ ZX variant to the City line-up, one that is aimed to “address customers that want everything in their car.” We drove a petrol ZX variant during the drive organised for the media, and this feature would highlight the changes as well as the new additions made to the popular midsize sedan.
Bulk of the changes in the new City is visible on its front. The bumper has been reworked to give it a wider stance, and the grille is all-new. Honda designers have focussed a lot on the lights – both at the front and rear – to add not just aesthetics but functionality. The integrated LED daytime running lights are being offered as standard across all variants, an industry first.
Then, on the ZX variant, there are inline LED headlamps, LED fog lamps, LED rear combination lamps, trunk spoiler with LED stop lamp. The ZX variant also gets LED interior lamps. Headlamps get automatic control with light sensors, and are featured with auto-off timer. Two other additional features on the ZX include automatic rain sensing wipers and rear adjustable head restraints.
The biggest change Honda has brought into the City is in its infotainment system. The DIGIPAD, as the 17.7 cm capacitive touchscreen AVN (audio, video & navigation) system is called, has been designed – in the company’s words – to keep occupants connected to their music and social network. There’s Wi-Fi support to access the internet, voice recognition for media, navigation and phone, standard music playback including two USB ports, one SD card slot, and 1.5 GB of internal storage memory. The navigation system is a satellite-linked 3D set-up with preloaded maps, and during our morning run with the car, it worked fairly well.
Surprisingly though, there’s no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. The smartphone projection standards developed by Apple and Google are gradually becoming standard features in this segment, as well as segments below the midsize premium sedan segment. The new system is Android-based, and can be customised for various applications. The system gets MirrorLink support aiding smartphone connectivity.
With these new additions, and the well laid out functional dashboard, Honda has been able to maintain the overall impressive feel of the City’s interiors.
Like most other manufacturers today, Honda too has committed itself to offer more safety features to its customers. The ACE body structure, dual front airbags, ABS with EBD, impact-mitigating front headrest system, and the pedestrian injury mitigation technology are standard across all variants of City 2017. The ISOFIX anchors and tether in the rear seats is a sensible feature on all the variants as well. For the uninitiated, ISOFIX is the international standard for attachment points for child safety seats in passenger cars. The top ZX trim gets six airbags – two front, two side and two curtain airbags. The other notable feature that would add to the safety quotient of the City 2017 is the rear-view camera that offers multiple views – normal, wide and top-down – with guidelines.
From a powertrain perspective, there aren’t any changes. The two engines – the 1.5 l i-VTEC petrol as well as the 1.5 l i-DTEC diesel – continue to power the Honda City 2017. The petrol engine gets two transmission options. In addition to the 5-speed manual as earlier, the ZX grade gets a new 7-speed continuously variable transmission (CVT) with torque converter that also gets paddle shifters. The 1.5 l i-VTEC petrol engine, which produces approximately 117 hp of peak power and 145 Nm of torque, delivers a certified mileage of 17.4 km/l in manual mode, and a slightly better 18 km/l in the automatic mode. The 1.5 l diesel engine delivers 25.6 km/l, and produces 99 hp and 200 Nm torque. The diesel engine is paired with a 6-speed manual transmission.
For close to 19 years, Honda City has enjoyed a premium space in the consumer mind-set. In recent times, as in other occasions in the past, the City has lost out to newer competitors in the market. Currently, it lies in the second position behind Maruti Suzuki India’s Ciaz. Ciaz, incidentally, also benefits from the demand it enjoys for its mild hybrid version.
Honda has offered a significantly better package on the new City 2017. The company has also offered customers the option of choosing for an extended warranty of five years, with unlimited mileage – a first in the Indian car market.
But is that going to be enough, especially with refreshed editions of competing vehicles lined-up for launch over the next few months? At a starting price of Rs 8.50 lakh (S, petrol) going up to Rs 13.57 lakh for the all-inclusive ZX variant (ex-showroom, Delhi), the new City 2017 might look a tad expensive but it does come with a lot of excitement built in, in terms of features and technologies. And with a strong legacy and loyal customer base, there isn’t much reason why Honda won’t pull out a winner with the new City 2017.
TEXT: Deepangshu Dev Sarmah
PHOTO: Bharat Bhushan Upadhyay
16 February 2017 Written by Anwesh Koley
The Roadster from Harley-Davidson is an addition to the Sportster family of motorcycles from the American motorcycle giant and intends to take its touring legacy forward in one of the world’s fastest growing two-wheeler markets. Being part of the 2017 line up of motorcycles in India, Harley-Davidson intends to offer a sporty retreat for new and existing customers with the new Roadster, who prefer the Harley-Davidson moniker, but want their set of wheels to do more than just cruise.
This first step towards this end is the riding position. The rider has to lean a bit forward to reach the bike’s low-set handlebars and the footpegs are positioned higher than the 1200 Custom. Its takes getting used to, but once astride, the bike is easy to ride at all speeds. The Roadster gets a shortened front fender and the engine is done up in an all-black theme, which provides visual mass viewed from any angle. The company says that this has to do with the minimalist fastback design concept adopted for the Roadster, which will appeal to both youngsters and veteran riders alike.
While the rider seat is quite comfortable for long and short hauls, the pillion seat is best suited for short spins, being a narrow unit without much support. The instrument console gets a part-digital speedometer that has readings for speed, odometer, trip meters and a clock, with the tachometer being an analogue unit. The 12.5 litre peanut-shaped fuel tank is slim and provides enough room for the rider to tuck his knees in comfortably. Switchgear layout is kept simple, with the exception of the horn switch, which is not positioned very well and is hard to reach and operate.
ENGINE, TRANSMISSION & HANDLING
The Roadster’s 1202 cc air-cooled, Evolution V-twin engine, which features lightweight aluminium heads and cylinders for improved air-cooling efficiency, produces a maximum torque of 96 Nm at 4250 rpm, using a 5-speed gearbox to transmit power to the rear wheel. The Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection (ESPFI) system ensures a smooth ride at the lower ends of the rev range. However, as revs increase, vibrations begin to filter through to the handlebars and the footpegs, which discourages the rider to open up the throttle.
This is a pity, since the Roadster’s engine has been tuned for riding at higher speeds and the eager nature of the V-twin is evident across engine speeds. If you can live with the vibrations, cruising at speeds of 80-100 km/h brings the best out of this mill. A seat height of 785 mm should work for most people, and moving this 259 kg motorcycle around does not pose a problem even during heavy traffic conditions. The bike feels planted at all speeds and with a decent ground clearance of 150 mm, chances of bottoming out across undulated tarmac are minimised.
One thing that we’ll point out here, which hinders the otherwise effortless mile munching capabilities of the Roadster, is the hard-to-operate clutch, which gets tiring after a while. A smoother unit would have made riding this bike much more fun.
SUSPENSION & BRAKING
The Roadster uses a new 43mm upside-down fork up front with triple-rated springs. The fork has a rake of 28.9 degrees, which makes for reasonably quick steering and ensuring that taking slow-speed U-turns is not a chore. The rear suspension comprises of twin shocks, adjustable for preload. The bike also has the most suspension travel of any of the Sportster range, boasting 4.5 inches up front and 3.2 inches at the rear.
The twin 300 mm discs at the front are gripped by 2-piston callipers and the bike features dual-channel ABS. Braking capabilities are good and the bike can be hauled down from high speeds with excessive wallowing of the suspension, which helps rider confidence. The Roadster uses Harley-Davidson-specific radial black-wall Dunlop tyres, which provide adequate grip in most conditions.
Priced at Rs 9.7 lakh, ex-showroom Mumbai, the H-D Roadster is a comfortable cruiser that provides adequately sporty performance. The engine feels quite capable and the presence of ABS as standard is a step in the right direction. Harley has ensured that quality issues prevalent with a few of its entry-level offerings have been addressed and are not present on the Roadster – what you get here is a potent motorcycle, which provides a mature riding and ownership experience.
TEXT AND PHOTO: Anwesh Koley
25 January 2017 Written by Sameer Kumar
Maruti Suzuki India (MSIL) decided to start 2017 with a bang, by adding an all-new hatchback to its already strong portfolio of small cars for India. This new car, the Ignis, is an urban crossover that’s specifically aimed at millennials – affluent, young, urban buyers who want a car that’s at least as smart as their phone. The Ignis isn’t a run-of-the-mill small Maruti hatchback. Instead, it’s aggressively styled, is very well put together, features tablet-like instrumentation and is available with many options for customisation.
DESIGN & STYLING
At the very outset, the Ignis was designed to present a unique driving proposition to millennials, and in addition to the actual driving experience itself, styling was supposed to be the Ignis’ key differentiator. And given the way it looks, we’d say that Maruti Suzuki has pulled it off – the Ignis does look quite cool and is effortlessly stylish.
In terms of unique styling elements, notable bits on the Ignis are its LED projector headlamps, LED daytime running lights, subtle chrome inserts in the front grille, exaggerated wheel arches that are properly filled out with 15-inch five-spoke black-painted alloy wheels, blacked-out A- and B-pillars, and understated black finish on the wheel arches and the rear bumper. Even with a wheelbase of 2,435 mm (as compared to, say, the Wagon R, which has a wheelbase of 2,400 mm, or the Swift, which stands at 2,430 mm), the Ignis is still definitely a small, compact car, but due to the design cues used by Suzuki designers, it manages to boast an SUV-crossover design vibe, which its target audience will probably love.
If that wasn’t enough already, Maruti Suzuki is also offering extensive customisation options on the Ignis, including various types of roof wraps, black and other colour options for the outside rear-view mirrors, spoilers, fog lamp trim, skid plates and more. For those who love to tinker and personalise, the Ignis seems to have great potential.
POWERTRAIN & TRANSMISSION
While the Ignis is, according to Maruti, a premium car and will be sold exclusively via MSIL’s ‘Nexa’ dealerships, it still shares its engines with the rest of Maruti’s small car line-up. MSIL’s tried and tested four-cylinder 1.2 l petrol and 1.3 l diesel engines are available on the Ignis, and both are available with an option of 5-speed manual or 5-speed automated-manual (AMT) transmissions. The engines have been especially calibrated for the Ignis, with the petrol VVT unit producing 82 hp at 6,000 rpm and 113 Nm of torque at 4,200 rpm, while the diesel DDiS engine makes 74 hp at 4,000 rpm and an impressive 190 Nm of torque at 2,000 rpm.
The first Ignis variant that we drove was fitted with the DDiS diesel engine, with AMT. (Maruti calls its AMT system ‘AGS,’ or ‘auto gear shift’ and this system also allows clutchless manual shifting, which can sometimes be useful while driving on tricky mountain roads or during particularly spirited driving.) With its AMT slotted in ‘D,’ the diesel-powered Ignis got off the line cleanly, quickly accelerating to a cruising speed of 70-80 km/h without any fuss whatsoever. With its kerb weight of about 960 kg (the Wagon R has a kerb weight of 870 kg, while the Swift weighs 1,060 kg), inherent limitations of the AMT set-up, and the slow-revving nature of Maruti’s 1.3 l diesel engine, this Ignis doesn’t feel particularly eager to get up to speed, but feels competent and is quite capable of keeping up with traffic.
While the AMT has been recalibrated especially for the Ignis and does show a marked improvement over similar units used on some other Maruti cars (and also performs better than AMT units found on similarly equipped cars from the competition), it’s still definitely not as smooth and seamless as a conventional torque-converter automatic or a CVT. Overtaking can sometimes require some advance planning, since response from the AMT can be a bit unpredictable.
That said, the Ignis’ AMT works in a reasonably unobtrusive manner, especially if you learn to modulate the throttle in a way that minimises jerks and hiccups. It’s a cost-effective solution that works, bringing the convenience of an automatic at a lower price point, and without hurting fuel economy. Speaking of fuel economy, Maruti claims a figure of 26.80 km/l for the diesel Ignis, which should compensate for the fact that the 1.3 l DDiS, with its 74 hp output, won’t win any ‘hot hatch’ competitions. It works equally well in city traffic and out on the open highway, with strong torque delivery and NVH levels that are quite acceptable, but delivering excitement is not its forte.
While the 1.3 l diesel will definitely be the sensible option for many, the more fun-to-drive Ignis is definitely the petrol-engined version, which we drove next, and which was also fitted with a 5-speed manual transmission. While 82 hp may not sound very impressive on paper, Maruti Suzuki’s four-cylinder 1.2 l petrol engine, with variable valve timing, is a free-revving unit that loves to be pushed. Freed from the mechanical limitations of an AMT and operated via a slick 5-speed manual transmission, the petrol engine delivers the ‘zing’ that you would expect from a car that looks as funky as the Ignis.
Low- to mid-rpm power delivery is energetic and if you use its slick, smooth 5-speed gearbox aggressively, the Ignis scoots and hustles through traffic with remarkable alacrity. Out on the highway, the power delivery does taper off a bit at higher revs, but we have to remember that this is, after all, a city slicker that’s best for tackling the urban gridlock. It’s definitely more fun to drive than the 1.3 l diesel, but we’ll note here that claimed fuel efficiency for the petrol engine is 20.89 km/l, which is about 22 % less than the figure claimed for the diesel engine.
We also had an opportunity to sample an AMT-equipped petrol-engined Ignis, which felt a bit smoother than the similarly equipped diesel Ignis. Maybe it was the gear ratios or maybe the calibration software, but the AMT unit felt more in sync with the petrol engine’s power and torque delivery, resulting in a smoother driving experience. So there you have it – opt for the petrol manual if you want full, complete control and the ‘fun to drive’ element, and go for the diesel AMT if you prefer the diesel’s fuel economy, combined with the sheer convenience of an automatic.
RIDE, HANDLING & SAFETY
The Ignis rides on 15-inch alloy wheels, shod with 175/65 R 15 rubber. Suspension set-up is McPherson strut at the front and torsion beam at the back, and both ends seem to have been very well optimised for Indian roads and driving conditions. Spring and damper rates aren’t overly firm and ride quality remains fairly supple at most times. We won’t call it ‘plush,’ but the Ignis does handle rough terrain with fair aplomb and, for the most part, remains comfortable over most roads.
The electric power steering is light and keeps the car manoeuvrable in all driving conditions. There isn’t really a great deal of feel/ feedback from the steering, but at least it doesn’t feel over-assisted. In fact, the Ignis remains quite calm and composed during lane change manoeuvres at moderate to high-ish speeds, and actually seems to enjoy cornering at a rapid pace. While it’s definitely not a ‘hot hatch,’ the Ignis almost has go-kart-like enthusiasm for spirited driving, and enjoys being pushed hard – something that driving enthusiasts will appreciate.
In terms of safety, the Ignis is equipped with dual airbags at the front and has anti-lock brakes (ABS) with electronic brake force distribution (EBD). Based on Maruti’s new ‘A’ platform, the Ignis’ monocoque structure has been designed to absorb and disperse crash energy in the event of an impact. The car also cares for pedestrians and features collapsible wipers, energy-absorbing headlamps and a hood panel designed to minimise injury to pedestrians, in the event of a low-speed collision. Front seatbelts with pre-tensioners and force limiters, and ISOFIX child seat anchorage means that the Ignis is kitted out with some world-class safety features, which is commendable.
INTERIORS & CONNECTIVITY
Its interiors are one area, where the Ignis truly shines – everything feels very well put together and build quality is very good indeed. Suzuki’s designers have made excellent use of body-coloured elements (which look like metal but are actually high-quality plastic) in the car’s interiors, which is complemented by the use of carbon fibre-like detailing on the dashboard. The toggle switches, elevated and centrally positioned tablet-like infotainment system (with steering wheel-mounted controls), and features like push-button start, reverse parking sensor with camera, and full Android Auto and Apple Car Play compatibility, with seamless smartphone pairing for full internet connectivity, means that MSIL has left no stone unturned when it comes to infotainment.
The cabin itself is reasonably roomy and well appointed, with soft-touch plastics having been used in most places, along with seat upholstery material that feels acceptably nice. The car features a 265 l boot, which can be further extended by folding down the car’s 60:40 split rear seats. Overall, it’s quite comfortable for four medium-sized passengers, and you shouldn’t really be trying to squeeze in more people in a compact hatchback like this!
The Ignis is available in Sigma, Delta, Zeta and Alpha versions, with the petrol manual Sigma (base model) priced at Rs 4.59 lakh and the petrol Zeta, with AMT, priced at Rs 6.30 lakh, ex-showroom Delhi. Prices for the diesel manual start at Rs 6.39 lakh, going up to Rs 7.46 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi) for the top-end diesel automatic. If you can live without the bigger infotainment tablet and fancy toggle-type switches that the top-end variants get, we’d say that the mid-level variants of the Ignis represent best value for money. The best part is that the safety features (ABS, airbags etc.) are standard fitment on all versions, including the base models, which also get full smartphone connectivity.
Either way, the Ignis really does seem to represent the beginning of fresh, innovative thinking at Maruti Suzuki and their next-generation of smart, safe and connected compact cars will likely be nothing like we’ve ever seen before.
TEXT: Sameer Kumar
PHOTO: Bharat Bhushan Upadhyay