#MONSOONTRAILS – HYUNDAI VENUE

The compact SUV segment is the hardest, most fiercely competitive segment for SUV’s in India. Every manufacturer has launched products in this segment in the last decade.2.jpgHyundai now enters this segment with the entry of the Venue. The Venue was launched earlier this year and has been an instant success. Hyundai is known for quality, ease of service & maintenance, making products that are top class and priced competitively.

This weekend we drove the Hyundai Venue SX 1.0 turbo petrol manual as part of our ongoing series #MonsoonTrails.

THE OUTSIDE6.jpgThe Venue has an upright stance with a longish bonnet which makes it stand out in a crowd. The design language is quite different from the competition in the segment.

Chrome finish for the grille, low-set bumper mounted headlights with rectangular DRLs are all segment first features. One gets 16-inch alloy wheels, roof rails and projector fog lamps on the topmost SX trim variant. The LED tail lamps gets lenticular lens which look superb when it switched on.8.jpgcollage 1.jpgTHE INSIDE

The cabin of the Venue is made up of nicely finished plastics, soft touch materials and ergonomically designed seats and interiors. The dashboard, tablet style touchscreen display, leather steering wheel all showcase the sleek and classy design language Hyundai is known for.

Slide into the driver’s seat and the first thing one notices is the level of all round visibility on offer. The front seats are comfortable and offer good under thigh and lumbar support. Leg and head room in the back row is good as well. Shoulder room may feel a bit cramped when 3 passengers are seated in the rear.collage 2.jpgHyundai is known for designing cars which are loved by Indian customers. One of the reasons is the practicality their cars offer in terms of storage options. Deep bottle holders on the doors, biggish enough glove box, cup holders between the seats, open area above the glove box, open space under the ac section. The Venue comes with wireless charging, sunroof, 8-inch infotainment system with smartphone mirroring tech and cruise control, cooled glove box.

Safety and driving aids are part of the standard package these days in modern vehicles. Dual airbags, ABS and EBD with rear parking sensors are offered standard across all variants. The top spec versions come with 6 airbags, cornering lamps and stability control.

Being connected is the new catchword in cars being launched this year. The venue is the 1st car in the compact SUV segment to offer this option. Using Hyundai’s Blue Link Connectivity app which comes pre-loaded in the infotainment system, one can access 33 services such as safety, remote control, security related options, vehicle alerts etc.

THE DRIVE12The version I drove during this review was the 1.0 litre 3-cylinder turbocharged petrol 6 -speed manual which puts out 120bhp and 172nm of torque.

The Venue engine comes with a twin stage oil pump and a clever waste-gate management for the turbo. This helps in improving throttle response while reducing loss of energy. This was immediately evident in the briskness with which the Venue took off the moment I put it into 1st gear. One feels the power from as low as 1800 rpm… Post 2500 rpm there’s a slight boost in power…Before you know it, the speedometer is crossing 100 kmph.14.jpgI drove it over 300 kms on this review. Most of the driving was done outside Mumbai. Handling, braking, sliding into corners the Venue scored good marks in all these departments. Ride quality is of paramount importance for car buyers in India. Here again the Venue scored good marks. There’s no noticeable discomfort to the passengers even while going over bad patches of roads.  The manual gearbox works very efficiently. Going through the gears was very smooth and this complements the 172 Nm torque delivery the Venue offers. The clutch on the Venue isn’t heavy, one doesn’t feel tired even in bad traffic conditions.

THE VERDICT

Hyundai has got it spot on with the Venue. One gets a well refined engine, spacious and comfortable cabin, loads of features, connected car capabilities and very good driving dynamics. The Venue is easy to manoeuvre in traffic, braking and handling is sharp, it offers good ride quality and is available at a killer price tag. Making this compact SUV an excellent companion to own and drive.911.jpgThere are a total of 13 variants of the Hyundai Venue to choose from.

The Hyundai Venue E (base version petrol) is available for Rs 6.50 Lakhs ex showroom Mumbai. The Venue E (base version diesel) is available for Rs 7.75 Lakhs ex-showroom Mumbai.

KIA SELTOS – SENSATIONAL START

Goa in the monsoons in one of the most magical places to be in India. The beauty of this state in western India reaches another level in this season.

Kia Motors India chose Goa as the destination to showcase its first offering in India last week. Media personnel from across the country converged in Goa to experience what the Seltos had to offer as part of the Kia Motors Seltos VIP Media Drive.26.jpgBefore we get into the Seltos, let’s talk about….

WHO IS KIA MOTORS?

Kia was founded in December 1944 as Kyungsung Precision Industry, a manufacturer of steel tubing and bicycle parts, eventually producing Korea’s first domestic bicycle, the Samchully, in 1951. In 1952, Kyungsung Precision Industry changed its name to Kia Industries, and later built Honda-licensed small motorcycles (starting in 1957), Mazda-licensed trucks (1962) and cars (1974).Kia Seltos GT.jpgToday Kia Motors headquartered in Seoul, is South Korea’s second-largest automobile manufacturer, following the Hyundai Motor Company, with sales of over 3.3 million vehicles in 2015.

KIA IN INDIA

We in India first laid our eyes of the Seltos when it was known as the SP Concept. The mid-size SUV segment which the Seltos is placed in, is one of the fiercest and most competitive segments in the automobile industry.The name Seltos is derived from “Celtos”, the son of Hercules in Greek mythology. Kia Motors and Hyundai both fall under the umbrella of the Hyundai Motor Company. The Seltos is built on a new platform. This will also be the platform on which the second-generation Hyundai Creta will drive on early next year.

HOW DOES IT LOOK?22.jpgCAR grille.jpgThe Seltos is a good-looking mid-size SUV with a commanding presence about it. Take a walk around and what you notice immediately is the level of detailing that comes across in the Seltos design. Near-vertical front-end upright pillars, impressive looking grille with chrome surround, large headlights and a sleek looking bumper. When viewed from the back one notices the bumper with a scruff plate, signature LED taillights, glasshouse that’s tapers towards the rear. The Seltos sits on 17-inch wheels which give it a strong and confident profile.CAR TYRE.jpgCAR LIGHTS.jpgOne gets full LED headlights, Kia signature heartbeat shape LED DRL and ice cube LED fog lamps. We got to experience the lights immediately on Day 1 of the media drive, as conditions were dark and gloomy.

ENGINE OPTIONS

The Seltos engines are all  BS6 emission norms compliant.  One has lots of options to choose from. One gets a 115hp, 1.5-litre naturally aspirated petrol engine, a 115hp, 1.5-litre diesel, and a 140hp, 1.4-litre turbo-petrol. The 6-speed manual transmission options in the Seltos are all the same standard. In terms of automatic transmissions, the Seltos comes with different options. The 1.5 petrol gets a CVT, the 1.5 diesel is available with a 6-speed torque converter auto, while the 1.4 turbo-petrol comes with a 7-speed dual-clutch gearbox.

TECH LINE AND GT LINECAR EX 1.jpgThe Kia Seltos will be available in Tech line and the GT line which each one having its own trims. The 1.5 litre petrol and diesel version will be available in the Tech line.  The GT line which is the sportier option is exclusive to the 1.4 turbo-petrol version. The GT Line models get crystal-cut alloy wheels, GT line badging and red accents on the bumpers and sides

HOW IS IT INSIDE?CAR INT 1.jpgStepping in and out of the Seltos is very easy and comfortable. Courtesy the height of the cabin. The moment you sit on the plush leather seats one immediately feels a sense of comfort and familiarity. The seats offer superb under-thigh and lumbar support. This is very important as most Kia customers will be driving the car in the congested stop-go traffic conditions in our cities. Sitting in a car that doesn’t tire you at the end of the daily commute is a big plus. The level of quality in the interior rivals that of more expensive European cars. The fit and finish in the Seltos cabin is of the highest standard. Everything from the flat-bottomed leather wrapped steering wheel, the design pattern on the leather seats, the panels on the door and dashboard have a premium feel about that. The Tech Line versions get black-on beige interiors. The sportier GT Line gets an all-black interior with red stitching on the steering wheel, gear lever and the leather seat to complete the look.GT 1.jpgThe infotainment system sits high up in the driver’s line of sight. The Base models comes with a 2-DIN audio system, the mid-range versions get an 8.0-inch touchscreen, while higher-spec versions get a 10.25-inch touchscreen. The UI on the touchscreen is one of the best I have ever used. Like a premium modern-day mobile phone, the touchscreen is fast, well laid out and good to look at. It offers a split screen mode which came very handy while we are reviewing the car in Goa. The voice activated functions that we tested on the review performed admirably. The top spec Seltos gets a multi-info display in the information console while the GT Line GTX versions comes with an 8.0-inch heads-up display that shows speed and navigation details. The steering mounted buttons let you answer calls, adjust the music volume amongst other features.CAR INT 2.jpgLegroom in the rear cabin is very adequate, with enough width and head room to fit 3 people comfortably. Under thigh support is good making travel in the rear seats a comfortable exercise for the passengers. The rear windows are large with manually retractable sun visors with a backrest that can be reclined by 6 degrees. The Seltos offers ample room in the boot with a storage capacity of 433 litres. If that isn’t enough, then you can fold the 60:40 rear seats flat to create more space.CAR BOOT.jpgLots of equipment is on offer in the Kia. More than any other car in this segment. The top end versions i.e. the Tech Line and GT line get auto and LED headlights, electric sunroof, ventilated front seats, powered driver’s seat, ambient lighting, 400W Bose sound system (which is very impressive), wireless phone charging and tyre pressure monitoring system. The level of detailing and research Kia Motors has done about the Indian market is evident, as the Seltos comes with an onboard air purifier with three fragrance options to choose from. Android Auto and Apple Carplay comes bundled with the infotainment system.

The Seltos comes equipped with Kia’s E-Sim based UVO connected car system. This app offers 37 features such as live location, geo-fencing, remote engine start/stop amongst others. Since this is a mobile network dependent system, this may not work in areas where network coverage is poor.

HOW IS IT TO DRIVE?

The first day we got to drive the 1.5 litre Diesel automatic. Right off the block the Seltos was easy to drive, engine was extremely refined, upshift and downshifts went off smoothly without any lag. The NVH levels are very good. What impressed me right away was the handling of the Seltos. It slides very easily in and out of corners. Step on the accelerator and you are cruising at 3 digit speeds in no time. I got to experience stop-go traffic at one point in the drive. Here again the Seltos is extremely relaxed and one doesn’t feel tired in such conditions.29.jpg12.jpgNext morning, I started with the Diesel manual. The performance was identical to the automatic. The manual transmission is very refined with the gear ratios perfectly tuned for our driving conditions and driving styles.

The suspension setup and drive quality in the Seltos are top notch. Bad roads and potholes were handled without any difficulty. The Seltos is not the kind of car one would go off-roading in though. This is a true-blue urban SUV that’s perfect for city and highway driving.25 C.jpgThen I got my hands on the 1.4 turbo petrol GT manual. This engine offers 140Hp and 242Nm of torque. The difference was evident right away. The car took off swiftly, the revs quickly went past 6000 rpm, the handling was sharper. The engine is smooth, quiet  and equally at home in slow traffic conditions as well. Going up and down through the gears is a smooth exercise. This variant is definitely the one, enthusiasts are going to line up to buy.

Next I drove the 1.4 turbo petrol DCT automatic. The automatic transmission is excellent, with upshifts and downshifts synced well to offer the sportier performance the driver wants from this engine. I threw it into corners, simulated stop-go driving conditions, the DCT automatic handled it without a stutter.

The 1.4 litre turbo petrol GT Line offers everything you want in a sports SUV.

THE VERDICT385.jpgThe Seltos is a stylish looking, well built, premium mid-size SUV. Its offers so much in terms of performance, features and driving comfort. Kia has so far got an advance booking of 23000 in 3 weeks since bookings were officially open.

Kia Motors India has got everything right on point with the Seltos so far. I am sure the pricing will be something that will make the Seltos a winner from the get-go.

 

#MONSOONTRAILS – TOYOTA FORTUNER

July has been the wettest month in the last 110 years, for areas in and around Mumbai, Thane and Pune. Which is great news! Because the moment Maharashtra doesn’t receive enough rainfall, all sorts of prayers and rituals are observed by the local population to please the rain gods! That’s how much reverence we give to the rains in India.6The monsoons are also a great time to test and review SUV’s. Vehicles that are designed for all weather driving. As part of my series #MonsoonTrails this week I travelled out of town with the Toyota Fortuner. A SUV that was launched in India in 2009. It was instantly lapped up by the customers and hasn’t looked back since then.

Tall stance, imposing in looks the Fortuner is built on the Hilux Pickup Truck Platform. It is sold in different markets world over under different names.10.jpgToyota has played a big role in redefining the way modern SUV’s are designed and manufactured worldwide. With everything Japanese, the emphasis will always be on manufacturing vehicles that are extremely efficient and easy to maintain.

The latest version of the Fortuner extends upon that. My first experience with this model of the Fortuner was at the media drive in Cochin over 2 years back in the monsoon season. While the drive to a tea estate was a short round about trip of just 200 kms, one immediately got an idea of the capabilities of the car. Driving it over wet hilly terrain, where the roads are narrow with tight sharp bends was a fun experience. Having owned a Qualis in the past for 3 years, I have experienced first-hand how good Toyota cars are.74.jpgThis model of the Fortuner is sleeker looking in comparison to its predecessor. It comes with two engine options 2.7 litre petrol and 2.8 litre diesel.  Manual and automatic transmission are standard to both petrol and diesel variants. The one I drove was the 2.8 litre diesel automatic. You start the engine and immediately the grunt of the powerful 2.8 litre that makes 175 bhp and 45.8 kgm of torque can be felt.COLLAGE-4-2.jpgThe infotainment system comes with Bluetooth, apple car play and android auto connectivity. The upholstery is of good quality and finish. Seats are very comfortable with good lumbar and under thigh support.  There is ample leg room in the second row. The third row is a little tight in terms of leg room, its ideal and comfortable for a person of average height.COLLAGE-5-1.jpgThe Toyota Fortuner comes loaded with a plenty of safety features such as dual front SRS airbags (driver + passenger), anti-lock braking system (ABS) with electronic brake-force distribution (EBD) system, 15-inches front disc brakes, GOA (Global Outstanding Assessment) body, Vehicle stability control (VSC), shift lock system, immobilizer, back sonar, seatbelts (front – 3-point ELR x 2 with adjustable anchor, 2nd row – three-point ELR x 2 + 2-point NR x1 and 3rd row – 3-point ELR x2), multi reflector quad headlamps and high mounted LED tail lamps.2.jpg8.jpgThe Fortuner is one of the easiest SUV’s I have ever driven. This is testimony to how Toyota designs its cars. The engine isn’t high stressed and maneuvering one’s way in bumper to bumper traffic is easy; but the highway is where the Fortuner comes into its own.

The gearbox is a bit slow to respond. The reason is like all Toyota vehicles, the Fortuner has long gear ratios. The Fortuner comes with 2 driving modes. Eco and Power. Power is the mode one would tend to use on empty stretches on the highway where the engine responds in a more urgent fashion. Eco mode is the one most will drive in the city for a more efficient and relaxed driving experience.

I spent a lot of time driving on hilly terrain with lots of sharp bends during this review in extremely wet conditions. The Fortuner negotiated these easily without any noticeable body roll one would expect in cars that are this tall and big.

The road conditions in the monsoon can go from good to worse in a matter of minutes. Potholes of all sizes and shapes appear out of nowhere. I also drove over lots of off-road sections. Did this make any difference to the Fortuner? Not at all!

The SUV handled these conditions with consummate ease with the suspension setup working efficiently to ensure the passengers in the car feel no discomfort.9.jpgThe SUV ticks all the right boxes in terms of drivability, comfort and luxury along with the fact that Toyota cars are built to last. Upgrading to the latest model is not a problem too. The Fortuner commands a great resale value and is easy to sell. So, it’s no surprise that the Fortuner sells the most numbers in its category. The competition is a fair distance away to challenge the Fortuner’s dominance in the Indian market.

Toyota Fortuner prices for the2.8 2WD MT(Diesel) (Base Model) start at Rs.29,84,000/- ex showroom Mumbai and 2.7 2WD MT(Petrol) (Base Model) starts at Rs.27,83,000/- ex-showroom Mumbai.

Prices for Automatic Transmission start at Rs.33,60,000 ex-showroom for the 2.8 4WD AT(Diesel) (Top Model) and Rs.29,42,000 for the2.7 2WD AT(Petrol) (Top Model).

#MONSOONTRAILS – THE JAGUAR XE WAY

THE HISTORY:

Jaguar Cars started its business in 1922 as Swallow Sidecar Company in 1922, originally making motorcycle sidecars before moving on to developing bodies for passenger cars. Once under the ownership of S. S. Cars Limited the business extended to complete cars made in association with Standard Motor Co, where many cars started having Jaguar as a name. In 1945 the company’s name was change from S.S. Cars to Jaguar Cars.  In 1966 this company merged with the British Motor Corporation creating a larger company which was renamed as British Motor Holding.

In 1968 BMH merged with Leyland Motor Corporation to became British Leyland. This organisation was, nationalised in 1975. Jaguar was then spun off from British Leyland and was acquired by Ford in 1990. Jaguar has manufactured cars for the British PM and holds royal warrants from Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles.

In 2008 Ford sold both Jaguar and Land Rover to Tata Motors.

BIRTH OF THE JAGUAR XE:

The Jaguar XE is a rear or four-wheel drive, front-engine, four-door compact executive car designed by the legendary designer Ian Callum. It was first showcased at the Paris Motor Show in October 2014. The production started in 2015 when it was known as the X760.img 1.jpgThe XE is noted for its aluminium suspension componentry, as well as its bonded and riveted aluminium unitary structure — the first in its segment.

I first had the experience of driving the XE 2 years back at The Art of Performance event. TAOPT are customer experience events that Jaguar India organises across India. This gave me ample opportunity to drive the full range of Jaguar models in conditions designed to showcase the acceleration, handling, braking and driving capabilities of these cars.collage3.jpgThe XE is a sporty luxury sedan which takes on the A4, BMW 3-series and Mercedes C-class in its segment. Good looking with smooth flowing lines, the XE is a definite head turner. It comes with black radiator grille with chrome surrounds, Bi-function Xenon headlights with J-blade LED DRLs, chrome side windows.

The XE cabin is plush with a dual tone trim combination. Steering wheel is height and reach adjustable. The seats are comfortable, offer good under thigh and lumbar support. The dashboard is neat, with an 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system and air- conditioning controls below it.collage int 2.jpgThe XE is loaded with features. One gets plush leather upholstery, interior mood lighting, meridian Sound system, cruise control and speed limiter, dark satin brushed aluminium inlays, power folding and auto-dimming heated door mirrors with memory function. The sloping roof-line of the XE means headroom can be a bit of an issue for people 6 feet and above. Leg and head room in the back row is a tad tight. The middle passenger will feel cramped due to the tall transmission tunnel and protruding rear air-conditioning vents. There is 455 litres of boot space available, with the space saver tyre tucked away under the floor.  collage int 1.jpgThe XE diesel is powered by a 2.0-litre, 4-cylinder Ingenium engine The motor produces 180 PS at 4000 RPM and 430 Nm at 1750 – 2500 RPM with a claimed 0-100km/hr in under 9 seconds and a top speed of 228km/hr. The XE performs best in the mid-range, starting at 2000rpm all the way upto 4000rpm. One gets a nice sporty sound from the twin exhausts, which is a welcome change compared to other cars in this segment. The XE comes with for driving modes- Normal, Eco, Winter and Dynamic. Eco and Normal are the modes used for regular city driving. Dynamic comes into play when one is driving on national highways. In this mode the gearbox ensures you get the best out of the turbo-diesel engine by selecting ratios that keep the rev-band near the 2000rpm mark.

The moment you shift modes one can feel a change in the engine, steering and AC setup. Upshifts and downshifts are very swift and smooth. The ride quality on the XE is top notch. Potholes and bad roads are handled with ease without any discomfort being felt in the cabin inside. The car’s handling and braking prowess is excellent, the XE remains glued to the road even at high speeds. Coming to a sudden stop is handled equally well.

The XE comes with lots of safety features. One gets multiple airbags, Surround Camera System (available only in top-end Portfolio trim), Start/Stop System, Torque Vectoring, Dynamic Stability Control with Traction Control, ISOFIX child seat mounts, Hill Launch Assist and Keyless Entry (available only  in top-end Portfolio trim).collage4.jpgI drove it over almost 500 kms on this review on all sorts of road and weather conditions in and around Mumbai. It handled everything with ease, the driving comfort the XE offered in the stop-go traffic in Mumbai is fantastic, it’s very easy to manoeuvre in traffic. Jaguars are known worldwide for being very popular with driving enthusiasts. The way their cars are setup makes driving these Brit machines a fun experience.

The Jaguar XE is one of my favourite luxury sports saloons. It offers so much to the driver in terms of driving capabilities, comfort and pleasure.

The Jaguar XE Diesel Pure (Base Model) starts at Rs 41 Lakhs ex-showroom Mumbai and Rs 40 Lakhs ex-showroom for the XE Petrol Pure(Base Model)

MONSOON TRAILS – AUDI Q5 TFSI

Petrol cars have slowly been making a comeback in the last 2 years.  The difference in the price of petrol and diesel has shrunk dramatically in the last 5 years. Earlier the price of diesel per litre was 50% less compared to petrol. That’s not the case any more.

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Audi introduced the petrol variant of the Q5 last year. You get a 2.0 inline-four-cylinder turbo petrol engine that puts out 252hp.

The OutsideCOLLAGE.jpgThe exteriors of the car are identical to the diesel variant. The one-piece square grille and headlights with the LED DRL’s is what you see when viewing the car from the front. Sharp and sleek looking is the design language ethos of the Q5 , whichever angle you view it from.

The Inside

The cabin inside comes with the electro – magnetic steering wheel, 3 zone air-conditioning and a huge 12.3-inch instrument cluster display. The Q5 comes with the Audi virtual cockpit which is a fully digital instrument cluster. The detailed graphics display shows a wide range of information such as traditional speed, rpm, navigation and, media and drive assistance.COLLAGE int1.jpgThe digital views which can be switched around, are superb to look at and use. The 8.3-inch infotainment display sits atop the dashboard. This is compatible with both Apple Carplay and Android Auto. The resolution is crisp and sharp.

One must use the rotary knob on the centre console to access the menu. An MMI scribble pad with 8 short cuts are available to use, when accessing the on-board navigation. The cabin has very good noise insulation. The air-conditioning has a smart feature, that it can detect which part of the SUV is getting direct sunlight, thus adjusting the temperature accordingly.

Safety is always of the highest standards in Audi cars. The Q5 comes with 8 airbags, park Assist system and a 360-degree camera. Seats are plush looking and extremely comfortable which is fantastic when driving long distances.  But only the driver’s seat gets a memory function. Nowadays luxury SUV’s in India come with huge sunroofs. The Q5 has one of the largest I have seen. Something one can use in the winters while driving on empty highway roads.COLLAGE intLots and lots of legroom is on offer for both front and rear passengers. Recline the rear seat back and you get even more comfort. The boot space is 550 litres. Fold the rear seat-back and one gets an additional 1,000 litres to play with!

Driving Experience

The petrol engine is a 1984cc, four-cylinder turbocharged engine mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. Power is transmitted through Audi’s Ultra Quattro all-wheel-drive system to all the wheels.

The Q5 is nimble from the get-go. The engine responds well, the moment you go past 2,2000 rpm, the turbocharger comes into play offering the driver a surge of power. The seven-speed gearbox is one of the best in the business. Upshifts and downshifting is smooth, handled with the utmost ease. The anticipation, timing of the gearbox is extremely precise.

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Comfort is the driving mode I started with while getting out of the city. As soon as we were on the highway heading out of the city, I shifted to dynamic mode. The suspension set-up immediately felt stiffer; the overall character of the SUV became sportier.

The Q5 handles quick lane changes very easily, is extremely stable at high speeds. The engine is very calm and refined, which is a hallmark with all the Audi models.

The suspension setup is top notch. The adjustable dampers work extremely while dealing with all sort of road conditions. The 60mm sidewalls of the 18-inch alloy wheels play an important role in making the drive a comfortable exercise for the passengers.

Verdict

If you are someone who loves performance, that’s one of the deciding factors when you buy a car, then the Q5 TFSI is the SUV for you. Its quick, has excellent driving dynamics, it’s a model that has tasted success worldwide. The Q5 TFSI is a car that appeals to the enthusiast in every driver.

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The Audi Q5 TFSI is priced at Rs 55.27 lakh for the Premium Plus variant and Rs 59.96 lakh ex-showroom Mumbai for the top-spec Technology trim.

NISSAN KICKS – ALWAYS EXPLORING…

The Nissan Kicks was launched with great fanfare earlier this year. In the 6 months since its launch Nissan India has followed an innovative marketing strategy. Their positioning is very clear. This is a SUV that will appeal to the 25-40 age group. A consumer group that is willing to experiment, look beyond the usual in every aspect of life.

I spent a day driving it during the media drive from Bhuj to the Rann of Kutch. It had impressed me right away. Thus, was looking forward to driving it over a longer duration which I did last week.

What is it based on?

In India, Nissan has launched the Kicks based on the updated version of the MO platform. Worldwide the SUV is based on the Micra platform.

How does it look?

The first thing that catches your eye when you see the Kicks, is the 2 toned orange and silver paint scheme it comes in. The Kicks is a tough and solid looking mid-size SUV with sleek projector headlamps with V-shaped grille up front.1.jpgCOLLAGE 3The SUV comes with 17-inch diamond cut alloys, nice looking tail lamps, and prominent black pillars. It’s sleek and well-proportioned in terms of design and finish. The Nissan Kicks is larger in size, than most cars in its segment.COLLAGE 1 copy.jpgLots of work locally has gone into the design, to make it more edgy and robust.

How is it inside?

The interiors of the Kicks are top notch and of high quality. The brown leather cladding with white stitching, brushed silver accents with quilting on the leather seats are all premium. There’s a brand new impressive.8.0-inch floating touchscreen which performs smoothly. The speedometer is digital with a nicely built steering wheel. There’s an elbow rest which is placed quite awkwardly, and can be a hindrance at times while shifting gears.COLLAGE 4.jpgCOLLAGE 2 copy.jpgThe Nissan Kicks offers terrific visibility courtesy the upright seating position. This tall stance offers an all-round view of the road. The front seats are broad, very comfortable and offer good lumbar and under thigh support. The steering wheel is rake adjustable but not reach. I am sure this is something Nissan will rectify, when the next model of the Kicks is launched.

Getting in and out of the rear cabin is easy courtesy the wide doors.  The leg and knee room on offer is very adequate. Head and shoulder room is good as well. The rear seats easily fit 3 people, thanks to the seat width and flat floor design of the Kicks cabin. There is a dual portable parcel shelf which can be opened from the inside of the SUV to access the 400- litre boot.

The Kicks comes with a 360-degree camera, leather dashboard insert. One gets an Eco driving mode which is handy, while driving in dense traffic conditions. Four airbags, climate control, hill-hold, cornering lights, rain sensing wipers are all part of the features package that comes with the Kicks.9.jpgWhat is Nissan Connect?

The Kicks comes with the latest Nissan Connect. As a part of Nissan Intelligent Mobility, it transforms this SUV into a more responsive partner. It works round-the-clock to provide the best-in-safety, security and convenience by keeping the owner connected to Nissan, the car, to his/her family and loved ones through India’s first factory- fitted Telematics Control Unit (TCU) with a secured server.

With 50+ Features and 3 years of Free Subscription, the Nissan Connect is extremely useful for a Kicks SUV owner.

How is it to drive?move 1.jpgThe Kicks as mentioned earlier, rides on the M0-platform and offers 210mm of ground clearance. It comes in a two-wheel drive option with a manual transmission. The 1.5-litre K9K diesel engine with 110PS/240Nm is responsive, the short gear ratios highlight the mid-range punch of this engine. There is lots of mid-range power available for overtaking between 2000- 2500 rpm. Steering feedback is decent and the light nature of the steering makes driving an easy exercise in the city.

What is the ride like?8.jpgThe Kicks suspension setup ensures a comfortable and hassle-free ride quality over all sorts of road conditions. A very important point and factor for an Indian car buyer. Throw the Kicks into corners, it stays firmly glued to the road which is extremely reassuring. Braking power is sharp, with lots of stopping power available for emergency braking situations.

The Verdict:

The 5-6 days I spent driving the car felt too little. This is a SUV I want to spend time with again over a longer duration. Next time I may just drive it from Delhi to Bangkok!move 2.jpgThe Nissan Kicks is available for Rs 10.85 Lakhs ex-showroom Mumbai for the base diesel XV D model. The base petrol Nissan Kicks XL model retails at Rs 9.55 Lakhs ex-showroom Mumbai.

HARLEY FAT BOB – SLEEK & MEAN

What is a Bobber?

bobber, originally called a ‘bob-job’ from the 1930’s through 1990’s, is a style of custom motorcycle. The typical construction includes stripping excess bodywork from a motorcycle; removing the front fender, and shortening the rear fender, which is “bobbed” (as in bobtail), and all superfluous parts removed to reduce weight.

FullSizeRender.JPGThis style of motorcycle has found a large audience in the last decade or more. It reinforces the aggressive, bad boy attitude that a said “rider” wants to make whilst riding.

Harley- Davidson introduced the new Fat Bob in 2018. The stance was different from the usual design language that Harley is known for. The Fat Bob was aggressive, mean looking with an in your face LED headlightCOLLAGE 3The Fat Bob screams “wild “in every breadth of its design language. The only place one sees chrome is on the cylinder heads and gearbox. The motorcycle comes with the slashed rear fender, is shorter in length compared to the other bikes in the Softail family.COLLAGE 1.jpgPowering the Fat Bob is the widely appreciated Milwaukee- Eight V-twin four valve air-cooled 1745 cc engine which puts out 145NM Torque@3200 rpm. One gets 16-inch alloy wheels which house a 150/80 front tyre and 180/70 rear tyre.COLLAGE 2.jpgThe Fat Bob has a 14-litre fuel tank giving you enough gas for your 150-200 km weekend trips with an ARAI claimed mileage of 15 kmpl. The bronze header pipe heat shield further adds to the “wild” look that the Fat Bob is going with.

The Fat Bob comes with Harley’s keyless start as standard. The key is just used to lock and unlock the bike. Quality, fit and finish is very good as is expected from premium motorcycles nowadays.COLLAGE 2 copy 3.jpgHow’s it to ride?

The moment you switch the Fat Bob on, the engine comes to life with a loud and powerful grunt. Then shift into first gear, let go for the clutch, and the massive 145 NM of torque comes into play. Making you forget momentarily; you are astride a 309 kg motorcycle.

The bike takes off so fast, leaving a trail of melted rubber behind… With you smiling crazily under your helmet. The sheer noise and ferocious power on display makes people turn, motorists scamper to get out of your way. The throttle response on low speeds is very impressive. Getting to 100 kmph is easily achieved on the Fat Bob. The motorcycle is very relaxed cruising at these speeds.1.jpgSuch motorcycles are designed for straight open roads where one can ride endlessly. Riding in the city, the bike tends to heat up, courtesy the stop-go nature of our traffic.

The trick is to let the bike cruise, which it happily does even at low speeds. Switching off the engine at traffic lights is also advisable. The clutch does tend to feel heavy in bad traffic, but then again, such bikes are not designed for such a commute.

All the motorcycles in the Softail family use the same frame, but are tuned specifically as the need. The Fat Bob has the sharpest steering geometry with a 28-degree rake angle as well as the shortest wheelbase amongst the Softail family. It comes with Showa dual bending valve and upside-down forks which immensely help in the braking and steering duties. It’s not surprising that the front-end demands some serious muscle to turn into corners.

The Fat Bob is a low-slung motorcycle. So naturally, I had a bit of trepidation on how the suspension would deal with our roads. The Fat bob boasts a terrific suspension setup. It dealt with bad roads with ease despite the ground clearance being just 120 mm. One must be careful going over the god-awful speed breakers that plague our city roads. The seat is comfortable and offers good lumbar support.FullSizeRender (1)The Verdict:

The Fat Bob is designed for the rider who enjoys an aggressive ride over long distances. Someone who wants to have fun riding cross country. This is not a motorcycle for the lazy rider who just wants to cruise around. Powerful premium riding performance is what the Fat bob offers.

If this is the bike for you then… The Fat Bob retails at Rs 14.69 Lakhs ex-showroom Mumbai.

AUDI A4 – FAST & STYLISH

The Audi A4 celebrated its silver jubilee this year. That’s a massive achievement for any consumer product, more so for a car. In an industry where so many new products are launched each year, to still be popular 25 years later is testimony to the love and acceptance of the A4 worldwide.first.jpgI spent a few days with the A4 last week. Lots of improvement is noticeable in  this model, in comparison to the previous generation A4 that it replaced .

How does it look?

As soon as one spots the A4, you can tell it’s one good looking car. Sleek looking with the standard bells and whistles that we have come to expect of Audi cars. The front grille, headlights, taillights, all add to the allure of the design. To increase the visibility of the A4 during the day, the car comes with a set of Lumen LED daytime running lights. Nowadays every mid-size luxury sedan carries a sportier design language, the A4 is no exception.COLLAGE 1.jpgCOLLAGE back 1.jpgAudi gives owners an option to personalise the car by adding add on parts such as wheels and spoilers in striking carbon. This brings out the sporty character while adding a dynamic touch to the A4.

The 35 TDI A4 I drove came with a four-cylinder 2.0 litre TDI unit with a peak power output of 190hp with 400 nm of torque. The A4 is a front wheel drive with a seven-speed clutch transmission doing duty of transferring power from the engine to the wheels.

How is it to drive?

The A4 is one of the easiest and peppy cars to drive in its segment. Tap on the accelerator lightly, immediately you can experience how nimble the A4 is. Once past 2000 rpm all the way upto to 4700 rpm, the A4 enjoys a strong mid-range power band. Upshifts and downshifts are extremely quick and efficient. There are paddle shifters on offer when one wants to shift into the manual mode. Straight roads, corners and dense traffic conditions are tackled with the utmost ease.extra.jpg

The 4 driving modes in the A4 are Normal, Individual, Dynamic and Auto. Normal is when the car is more relaxed, but still fast. Shift into Dynamic and the A4 becomes a free revving vehicle. This mode is great fun on empty stretches of highway which one encounters on road trips across India. Individual gives you the option of trying different mode settings. Like one can put the steering in Dynamic and engine in Normal which gives you the feeling of more sporty steering feedback with a smooth power delivery.

The suspension setup remains the same irrespective of the mode one is driving in. All kind of road conditions are tackled with utmost ease. The suspension isn’t setup to be very firm. This works very well on our roads, no discomfort is felt by passengers inside the car.

How’s it inside?

The cabin is very contemporary, top quality materials and ambience is on display inside. The A4 I drove came with the “Virtual Cockpit” digital instruments.  The MMI infotainment system, the haptic buttons for the air-conditioner, which you preview each function, as you run your finger over them, give this cabin a very cutting-edge modern feel.  COLLAGE int.jpgSeating comfort is top-notch, under thigh and shoulder room is very good. Rear seat passengers get ample legroom with the seating ideal for 2 passengers. The 5th passenger may feel a tad uncomfortable in the middle. The space is little tight there.

The Verdict

The A4 is a very capable and performance packed midsize luxury sedan. The category Audi A4 is competing in, is a very important segment for luxury car companies in India.

The A4 stacks up very well compared to its rivals. A car one would strongly consider buying, if in the market for a midsize luxury sedan.last.jpgThe Audi A4 start at Rs 43 Lakhs ex-showroom Mumbai for the 35 TDI Premium Plus (Diesel) (Base Model). Prices for the 30 TFSI Premium Plus (Petrol) (Base Model) start at Rs 41 Lakhs ex-showroom Mumbai.

LIVING WITH THE TIGUAN

In the last year, I have spent a considerable amount of time with the Volkswagen Tiguan having driven it on road trips around Maharashtra. Recently I spent 2 weeks with it again. The Tiguan is one of the favourite SUV’s in my family. The space it offers, driving comfort and overall luxury has grown on all of us.

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How was it to drive around daily, in bumper to bumper traffic? Let’s find out…

VW cars all possess a similarity in the design language and driving dynamics of all their models. To start with, they are extremely safe, fuel efficient, and fun to drive. The Tiguan is a car that grows on you, the more time one spends with it.

The first few days with the Tiguan were spent going for meetings across the city. Not once did I feel that one was driving a SUV. The Tiguan is very refined, extremely easy to manoeuvre and hassle free to drive in traffic. Parking too is made easy with the parking assist feature.

2.jpg1The Tiguan comes with a 2.0 litre TDI turbocharged diesel engine with a peak power output of 143 hp and 340 Nm of torque. This is based on Volkswagen’s MQB modular platform, making it lighter than other SUVs in that price range.

The 7 speed DSG transmission in the Tiguan is extremely refined in terms of upshifts and downshifts. Paddle shifters usually come into play, mainly when driving on the highway. In the city I stuck to the automatic transmission which worked perfectly well. The four driving modes available are Snow, Normal, Off road and Individual. The mode one usually uses is normal , which delivers optimum performance with good fuel efficiency.COLLAGE 2 - Copy.jpgSafety is one of the hallmarks of all VW cars. Their cars which I have experienced on the racetrack and in the real world are extremely safe. The Tiguan comes with a feature called the “active hood” which raises itself automatically by 3 inches, in the case of a collision with a pedestrian. This is to ensure the pedestrian doesn’t hit the hard parts of the vehicle in such an accident, minimising the level of injury.

There are 6 airbags, ABS, ESC, Hill Descent and Auto hold available as part of the safety package in the Tiguan.

Lots of SUV’s while large looking and imposing, don’t offer lots of legroom in the rear seat. The Tiguan isn’t one of them. It offers very good legroom which make cross country road trips a comfortable experience for the passengers. Boot space offered is 615 Litres capacity courtesy the reclining 60:40 rear seats split.

While driving the Tiguan I downloaded and installed the VW Connect App on my phone. The VW Connect is an intelligent vehicle assistant that offers a seamless connected car experience for VW drivers. The app works through a “Plug and Play” dongle which is fitted to the on-board diagnostics (OBD) port of the car. After which you connect to it, via Bluetooth to start using the app. The connect app is compatible with both, Android and iOS platforms and is available to download on Google Play and App store respectively.

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This app gave me insights about trip tracking, driving behaviour, location sharing. An SOS call option and fuel cost monitor are also available. Booking service appointments is also made easy using this app.

The 2 weeks with the Tiguan just flew by. Next time I look forward to going on a 1500km-2000 km road trip in this wonderful SUV discovering our beautiful country.

TOYOTA YARIS – DRIVING MADE EASY

Toyota is well known for making solid, efficient cars that last forever. That’s the reason Toyota is amongst the top 3 auto manufacturers worldwide. Their cars have an everlasting brand value about that.

In India so far, the cars that have been bestsellers for them have been the Qualis, Innova and Fortuner. Their range of sedans and hatchbacks haven’t exactly set the sales charts on fire.IMG01.jpgThe Toyota Yaris was first introduced worldwide in 1999 under the name of the Toyota Echo. This was a time when the demand for fuel – efficient cars was on the upswing. In 2005 the name was changed globally to Toyota Yaris. The Yaris quickly became popular establishing itself as one of the top choices in the subcompact car segment.

As soon as you enter the Yaris, the all-round familiarity of a Toyota greets you. The cabin is nice looking, with beige coloured leather seats and black upholstery. The seats are well contoured, comfortable and offer good under thigh support.COLLAGE int 1 copyPress the start button and the car kicks to life quietly. There’s a relaxed tranquility about the way the Yaris sounds like while idling. Shift into Drive mode, press on the gas and the 1st thing you experience is how easy the car feels to drive. Toyota is known for having cars that possess a characteristic of underlying ease in terms of driving. The Yaris is no different.

In the first 10 minutes of driving the car, one thing was obvious… Toyota has designed this car to be the ideal vehicle to drive in the horrendous traffic in the city. The engine is responsive enough, with a smooth CVT transmission. It’s perfectly at home in the stop-go traffic, going about its job in an efficient fashion.

The quality of our roads isn’t the best. That didn’t bother the Yaris one bit. It went over potholes, unpaved, broken stretches of road without any fuss. The ride quality is top notch. The suspension has been perfectly setup for our roads, the relatively tall tyres providing the right amount of cushioning to make the daily drive a hassle-free activity.

So, what makes the Yaris stand out in the crowd?

Toyota understands that driving in the city is a pain. Drivers are looking for a vehicle that goes about it’s task in a smooth fashion. The visibility on offer is very good, the dimensions of the car are compact enough, the design language is sharp. Legroom on offer in the back row is adequate.COLLAGE 2 copy.jpgThe throttle response and braking are sharp and precise, the CVT transmission is very smooth and  probably one of the best in the business.

The Yaris comes equipped with roof mounted air-conditioner vents which are a blessing in the peak of summer, offering consistent cooling in 40-degree temperatures. The infotainment system is decent with Bluetooth connectivity, one USB charging port and a CD player. I haven’t seen a CD player in a very long, so it was a pleasant surprise to find a car that comes with this! There are a few 12V mobile charging points available too.

But no review is complete without the mandatory highway test where one gets to experience the full range of the engine’s capacity and performance. The Yaris is a car that takes a tad bit to respond when you start accelerating. While this aspect is fine in the city, on the highway you want the car to respond in a brisker fashion. Overtaking is a bit of a task courtesy the flat mid-range of the engine.

The Yaris is extremely steady and planted at triple digit speeds. The CVT comes equipped with paddle shifters which were used quite often when trying to extract more power out of the 1.5 litre engine. The fuel efficiency figures in the Yaris are very good. Over the 400 kms I drove on this review, it returned an average of 10.5 kpl in traffic. On the highway the efficiency went up with the Yaris returning figures of 16kpl.

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The Yaris is definitely a car I would like to drive again albeit for a longer period. Its smooth, hassle free character is endearing, the size perfect for our roads.

The technical specifications of the Yaris VX CVT that I drove are stated below.

  • Fuel Type: Petrol, Engine(cc):1496, Max Power: 105.5bhp@6000rpm
  • Max Torque: 140Nm@4200rpm
  • Seating: 5 persons
  • Engine Description: 1.5-litre 105.5bhp 16V Dual VVT-i Petrol Engine
  • Transmission Type: Automatic
  • Cargo Volume: 476 Litres

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The pricing for the Toyota Yaris J manual starts at Rs 9.30 lakhs ex-showroom Mumbai, the J model CVT starts at Rs 10 lakhs ex-showroom Mumbai.