Saturday, 17 November 2012

Mahindra's Mini SUV: The Quanto

This year, Mahindra's ventured into quite a few different segments - with the XUV, the Rexton as well as with the Quanto. The Quanto is Mahindra's first venture into the "Mini SUV" segment under 8 lakhs. In this segment, the competition the Quanto has is the Premier Rio and the Renault Duster. But, the Quanto also faces competition from the Maruti Suzuki Ertiga. When first looked at, the Quanto seems like a mini Xylo, actually more like someone took a Xylo, chopped it into half, and then stuck on a rear tailgate. But, after a while, the design begins to grow on you, and you actually start appreciating the Quanto. Essentially, the Quanto is a sub 4 meter Xylo and hence, it enjoys sub 4 meter taxation rates.

Here's the pricing list from Mahindra for the Quanto. Note: all prices are EX SHOWROOM MUMBAI.

The variants are well spaced out, with prices starting from just 5.82 lakhs ! That's similar to the pricing of Hatchbacks like the i20, the Brio and the Swift !

The "+" ve's:

- Starts from 5.82 lakhs !
- Still is quite an SUV. Has 180 mm of Ground Clearance.
- A seven seater.
- Doesn't break a sweat on India roads.
- Boot becomes expansive with third row folded to the sides.

The "-" ve's:

- Weird styling. Proportions seem weird.
- 3rd row of seats is cramped.
- Build quality not like that of a similarly priced i20 or Brio.

The interiors:

                                   The interiors evidently scream "XYLO" ! The dashboard is the same one as that of the Xylo. The steering wheel is directly lifted from the Scorpio. The dashboard lacks the quality offered on similarly priced cars like the i20 or the Ertiga. I, personally wasn't too happy about those triangular aircon vents on the dashboard. 

The steering wheel is big, bulky and has evidently been picked up from the Scorpio's dashboard. The lack of on steering music controls is a sore thumb. But, the large horn pad will be appreciated by many.

One feature of the interiors which differentiates the Quanto from many other cars is the inclusion of an A/C minute counter below the digital tripmeter. This is a digital instrument which tells you how many minutes the air conditioner of your vehicle has been used.

The front seats have two armrests. This is appreciated because, it's a nice addition, especially for long drives. However, what I didn't like is the Yellow "squiggle" design seat upholstery. It doesn't seem color coordinated at all.

There's part sharing going on here - both the Verito as well as the Quanto utilize the same in dash music system from Nippon. It's quality is ok. It could be miles better.

Make two people sit here, and you've got yourself two enemies for life. These seats are only aimed at children and short people. Otherwise, fold them up and get an expansive 690 liters of boot space - more than you can get in any hatchback in this segment. The Quanto can actually be pretty nifty and useful for your weekend getaways if you're a family of around four.

The boot becomes quite expansive when the last row of jump seats is folded up. It'll gobble up your luggage for those airport runs, or for your weekend escapades...

Notice that the 3rd row of seats comes with butterfly windows. This is an excellent thought on Mahindra's part and this makes it comfortable to sit in the last row, even with the air conditioning switched off. This is something which isn't available in SUV's double it's price like the XUV, and quadruple it's price like the Fortuner.

The rear door is plain. No frills here. Except, the chrome ring around the round door handle breaks the monotonous grayish trim.

The Exteriors:

When you see the Quanto, it's evidently a Xylo at the front. But, it looks like a Xylo which has been improved upon. The Xylo's body colored bulky and ugly looking grille has been dumped and Mahindra has incorporated a tweaked Grille which is not as large as the one in the previous Xylo, as well as, it is black.

Mahindra seems to have made no design changes to the front bumper of the Quanto. It's exactly the same part as the Xylo's. The foglamp design too is the same. Everything at the front is just so similar that it'd be normal to mistake this car to be a Xylo.

The alloy design on the car is pretty good too. But, the tyres seem a little too tiny and knobby on this car.

The side profile of the Quanto looks awkward. It does look like a stunted Xylo. It seems like the designers at Mahindra picked up the Xylo, chopped off the last row, and replaced it with a really short rear. Quite a few elements look out of place on the Quanto. The door handles are unusually low. The windows aren't proportioned well - they look a tad too laarge on the Quanto. (That's not a typo - they do look verrry large).

The spare wheel is a full size alloy. It's mounted on the tail gate and has quite a stylish looking cover too - the black and silvery aluminum finish looks nice ! 

The tail lamps are squarish and compact - but, they look good on the compact Quanto's rear. The black accented design above the tail lamps are similar to those on the XUV 500.

Under the Hood:

Under the Quanto's hood is an "mCR100" 3 cylinder 1.5 liter diesel engine. You may read "3 cylinder" and feel that the engine would be pretty pathetic. But, with this engine, Mahindra has set an excellent benchmark for 3 cylinder diesel power plants. The engine produces 100 Bhp @ 3750 RPM and 24 kgm of torque from 1600 to 2800 RPM. That is amazing for a vehicle of it's price. There's no other 5 lakh rupee diesel car which  produces so much power as well as torque ! The car has an ARAI rating of around 17 kpl.

Final Verdict:

                   The Quanto has it's positive's and negative's. But, it's an excellent car under 6.5 lakh rupees. If you're looking for a car which can seat seven under 6.5 lakhs, and is compact, look no further than the Quanto. But, if you're looking for better build quality as well as a better looking car, look elsewhere.

- Naayl Humza,
  14 year old car enthusiast.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

The Diesel Cruiser: Chevy's Cruze 2012

                                             There was Skoda in the 10 to 20 lakh Diesel Sedan segment. Then, it was followed by an array of car makers with their own models to compete in this range. The diesel Lauras and Octavias suddenly had company from cars like the Diesel Corolla from Toyota, the Hyundai Elantra, the Volkswagen Jetta, and the earlier popular but now forgotten Optra Magnum. The Optra Magnum could no longer hold up against the competition - that was for sure. They had much more than what the Magnum could offer a buyer and beat it in every aspect. But suddenly, Chevrolet came along with the Cruze a year or two ago - and changed the segment considerably. Trust me, by considerably, I REALLY mean considerably. Earlier, no 15 lakh sedans, diesels in particular had 150 Bhp producing engines. But  then, the Cruze launched with it and sent the competitors back to their drawing boards ! And now, I'll be reviewing the 2012 Cruze which is a further improvement over the previous model.

The "+"ve's:

- A 2 liter diesel engine - which produces a WHOPPING 166 Bhp and 38 Kgm of torque. That's good.    
- Available with a 6 speed manual transmission as well as a 6 speed automatic unit.
- Funky styling. Much better styled and more eye catching than the Optra Magnum.

The "-"ve's:

- The outdated music system still has buttons whereas a few competitors come with touch screen music systems.
- You'd be better off being chauffeur driven in a Laura, or a Jetta.
- Interior quality could be a tad better.

The Interiors:

Face it. Though Chevy's done a good job with the dashboard, it's just not up to mark when compared withe the feel and build quality of something like a Jetta or a Laura. There seem to be loads of aluminium inserts coupled with too much of black in the interior. If Chevrolet had opted for a lighter color like Beige, then the interiors would look much more spacious. Lets hope to see a change in the interior color scheme in the next gen.

The steering looks sporty and differs from any other steering design recently seen in India - it has a black color tone along with aluminium inserts in order to enhance the "sporty" look.

Somehow, there's still not a nice enough dashboard design. Probably it's that the darker color shade makes the cabin look smaller. But still, I'd appreciate a lighter interior tone - like the Cocoa and Light neutral leather trim offered in the American Cruze.

The Cruze has quite a dated music system. The 6 - CD Changer's no longer present. But, the newer music system comes with bluetooth support. Further, the unit could have been a Touchscreen one just like the 7-inch touchscreen available in the American version of the Cruze.

That's the American Cruze dashboard. Notice navigation running on the 7 inch in dash unit. That's ideally what Chevy should be offering us in India too.

The seats are comfortable. They're well padded an offer good under thigh support. If you're considering to be chauffeured around in this, forget it. You'd be better off in a Laura or a Jetta. This is a pure driver's car. The Cruze is absolutely a "Diesel Rocket" !

The door trim is nice, keeping in sync with the black interiors. The door handles have a dash of chrome on them which helps in breaking the monotony of the dark colored trim on the doors.

The boot of the Chevrolet Cruze is nice and large. But, the rear seats lack 60:40 folding. This feature seems to have been removed from the 2012 Cruze.

Yup, the Cruze does come with an electric sunroof with Pinch Guard and a Protective Mesh. But that's available only on the LTZ variant. But still, it's a nice addition to an amazing product.

The Exteriors:

The Cruze comes with the Chevy Bowtie adorning a double Honeycomb design grille. This double grille design seems to be becoming into standard Chevy design language - we saw it on the Beat, on the Tavera, on the Cruze, and now on the refreshed Captiva too ! It's a really nice design element and adds to the mean, striking design of the Cruze.

The Cruze looks mean and quite amazing on the roads. There's no denying that. It's obvious that though it's in the same price segment as the Laura and the Jetta, it aims at a sporty look, something which looks young and agile. That's what Chevy's achieved with the Cruze. The addition of chrome inserts here and there also adds to the stunning looks of the Cruze.

 A look at the front of the Cruze.

The Tail lamps look "WOW". The dual rings in each tail lamp look amazing and add to the jaw dropping looks of the Cruze.

Under the Hood:

Under the Cruze's hood is what is an impressive beast. It's a 2.0 liter 4 cylinder engine and it produces a mind boggling 166 Bhp of power ! That's more than that produced by any of the competition ! Plus, the engine produces 38 kgm of torque ! That's amazing for a 2 liter engine in this segment ! Chevy's done an excellent job at tuning the Cruze's engine. Plus, Chevy claims that the engine gives 17.3 km/pl. In the real world, the figures will surely fall abit, maybe to 11 to 13, depending on your usage. But, for such a fine driving experience, it's worth it !

Final Verdict:

                           If you're looking for a luxury sedan for around 15 lakhs, you're better off looking at the Laura or the Jetta. But, if you're looking out for a really fun to drive,  sporty car, then you should either look at the Cruze, or the Laura vRS. Both offer nearly similar packages at similar price points, but the question is whether you prefer petrol or diesel. If you prefer petrol, go for the Laura vRS. But, if you prefer diesel, the Cruze is the perfect sporty sedan for you ! 

-Naayl Humza,
14 Year old Car Enthusiast.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Maruti Suzuki's People Carrier: The Ertiga

This is it. The Ertiga. Maruti Suzuki's 3rd try at a people carrier - after the Omni, as well as the Versa. Maruti seems to be having high hopes with the Ertiga - and they should. It's amazing that they've been able to offer a Surprisingly Good Looking 7 seater car (compared to their previous attempts - the Omni and The Versa). Further on, the price point too is something which sounds really nice - the base Lxi variant costs 6.3 lakhs EX SHOWROOM MUMBAI. That's close to the pricing of hatchbacks like the i20 and the Polo. At the price point, Maruti seems to be offering a much larger and more spacious car than the competition ! 

The Ertiga is a compact people carrier which has the capability to give cars like the Innova and Tavera a run for their money ! The Ertiga comes with petrol as well as diesel variants which is a smart move on Maruti Suzuki's side.

The "+" ve's:

- A compact people carrier which seats 7.
- Handles like a car, owing to it's Maruti Suzuki Swift underpinnings.
- An excellent package for a starting ex showroom Mumbai price of 6.3 lakhs.
- Best styling ever seen on a Maruti people's carrier in India.
- ABS standard on all variants (except base petrol Lxi).

The "-" ve's:

- A tad too tiny (compared to the competition like the Innova and the Tavera)
- Equipment list on the base petrol could be better.
- With all three rows up, there's nearly no luggage space.

The Interiors:

Step inside the Ertiga, and there's a sudden feeling of Deja Vu... I've seen this before ! But Where ? If you feel so, you're feeling is justified - the dashboard is the same dashboard as the one available in the Swift Dzire, but the Dzire's black steering has been replaced with a Beige one in the Ertiga. Along with this, the wood inserts on the Dzire's dashboard have been replaced with sleek aluminium inserts. But, the fact that there's part sharing going on between the Dzire and the Ertiga isn't bad. Instead, this actually seems nice. That's because this particular Dashboard design is well sorted - it looks good as well as feels good. Maruti's done a good job with the Dashboard.

The steering looks impressive in beige, especially with the exposed aluminium. It somehow adds a premium look to the dashboard. But, I'm really not sure how the beige interiors will last over time - because they're light colored and may get stained very easily.

 A look at the Ertiga's dashboard. Maruti Suzuki's done a fantastic job with the interiors this time. The black and beige interiors with the aluminium inserts look elegant.

The audio controls are located on the left of the steering. They don't seem amazingly coordinated with the steering wheel finish. But, they fit in.

The dials too are well placed, with clear, readable text.

The centre console has a slight water fall like design to it. There's the Air con vents followed by the music system below it, followed by the air conditioner controls. Unfortunately  none of the Ertiga variants come with climate control. This is something which Maruti Suzuki could've easily added to the Ertiga because, even the Swift which has a similar dashboard and is the platform on which the Ertiga is based has climate control.

This seems to be Suzuki's stock music player unit for cars in this segment - In India, this system is used in the Swift, the Swift Dzire as well as the Ertiga now. Further, this system is used by Suzuki in Australia in the Swift and the Swift Sport too ! This music system sounds good in the Swift and the Swift Dzire which are smaller cars, but on the Ertiga, it doesn't sound really amazing. But still, this system is worth praise.

Here's a list of the audio system configurations on the various Ertiga variants:

The gear knob feels nice to grip and is decently sized causing it to easily nestle in one's palm. The beige color scheme continues here too and adds to the elegance of the Ertiga's cabin.

  This is a clever addition on Maruti Suzuki's side. The cup holder close to the aircon vents keeps your coke can cool during long drives. It just adds to "the feel nice" experience of the cabin.

The 2nd row comes with it's own air conditioner vents. That's real value for money in a vehicle costing around 7 lakhs.

On the right, the driver's seat is pushed all the way back, whereas, on the left, the passenger's seat is pushed all the way ahead. 

The 2nd row can be slid  to the front or rear by 240 mm. When pushed all the way back, they free up alot of space for the passengers of the 2nd row and leg room too increases.

The last row of seats is just for children, or really short people, or people who you hate. Trust me, they're cramped and tough to sit in, especially if the 2nd row has been pushed all the way behind. They're good when you occasionally need to carry 7 passengers. But otherwise, they're better folded down - they free up alot of luggage space in this way. Without them folded down, the boot space is a paltry 135 liters. With the second and third rows of seats folded down, you get an expansive 735 liters of boot space ! That's not upto mark with the Innova or Tavera's boot space, but then, getting this kind of boot space in a car slightly longer than a hatchback is just excellent. 

Neither is the Ertiga too low slung, nor is it too high. It's just perfect. Ingress and Egress are easy for elders too.

The Exteriors:

                  When looked at just from the front, the Ertiga can easily be mistaken for a hatchback. But, it's front looks well styled. The long, wrap around headlamps add a nice look to the car. Then come the foglamps which are cocooned in those "Saber tooth fang" like plastic claddings. The front grilles, both upper as well as lower play an essential role in making the car look compact.

 It's only as you move to the side of the car that you can make out that this isn't a hatchback, it's something longer- it's what Maruti likes to call "LUV", standing for Life Utility Vehicle. But despite all this stuff said about how compact the Ertiga is, you actually need to see the Ertiga inorder to actually make out how compact yet amazing a car Maruti's made.

The side profile of the Ertiga. It's kind of an elongated Swift. But, it's around 40 centimeters longer than the Swift. This exactly how it can act like a "Swift with 2 seats in the boot". The windows on the car are large and the inclusion of a fixed windows behind the C pillars makes it airy for the passengers sitting in the third row.
In all variants, except the base petrol and diesel, the Ertiga comes with body colored, electrically controlled OVRM's which come with inbuilt turn indicators.

The Ertiga's rear design is a no frills design. It's a simple design which will not seem amazing to many, nor will it be hated. It fits just right on the Ertiga. This too seems like the back of a hatchback. But, it's not. One negative in the rear design is that the rear wiper as well as the rear defogger are only available in the top of the end Ertiga Zxi and Zdi.

The rear hatch door opens pretty high. That's appreciated and is a boon when you're in the open. But, when you're in a basement, depending on the height of your basement ceiling, it may just hit the ceiling. I've not occurred any such problems yet. This is just a "maybe" situation depending on your parking area's ceiling height.

Under the hood:

This is the Ertiga's 1.4 L petrol engine. It's a 4 cylinder K series unit and cranks out 95 Bhp @ 6000 RPM and 13 kgm of torque at 4000 RPM. It's smooth, refined and drives much better than the competition - the Innova and the Tavera.

 And, this is the Ertiga's 1.3 L Diesel 4 cylinder engine. It produces 90 Bhp @ 4000 RPM and 20 kgm of torque at 1750 RPM. With the forever rising price of petrol in India, I feel that if a prospective Ertiga buyer travels around 20 to 30 kilometers per day, the 1.5 to 2 lakh premium of the Diesel Ertiga over the petrol Ertiga is justified. But, if the Ertiga's going to be used for city drives, then the petrol is a better option.

All Ertigas come with 45 liter fuel tanks.

Final Verdict:

                 The Ertiga is an excellent, well priced car and is the car for you if you're looking for a 5 seater with more luggage space than a hatchback like an i20 or a Swift and need 7 seats occasionally. BUT, if you've got a family of 7 and are always going to be needing the 7 seats, the Ertiga isn't a practical option. I'd recommend looking at the Tavera or the Innova in that case. I'd recommend the Ertiga over buying a sedan like the SX4 too. 

- Naayl Humza,
   14 year old car enthusiast.

Friday, 9 November 2012

Mitsubishi's New 4x4: The Pajero Sport

                                            Face it. Think of an off roader and the Pajero is one of the first cars which come to your mind. The Pajero Mistubishi has been selling in India till date is the dated 2nd generation 1990's model which has really grown old now and could no longer face the competition from the Toyota Fortuner and the Ford Endeavour. So, Mitsubishi's brought a new Pajero to India under the name "Pajero Sport". But, unlike the other Pajero's selling in India (the Pajero SFX and the Montero) this SUV is NOT based on a Pajero at all. Infact, it's based on the Mitsubishi Triton pickup truck. This is somewhat similar to the Fortuner (based on the Hilux) and the Endeavour (based on the Ranger) which are both based on pickup trucks.
                   But, does the fact that it's based on a pickup truck hamper with it's off road capabilites ? The answer is ABSOLUTELY NOT. It's as much as an off roader as the Pajero SFX and is far ahead of the Pajero SFX in many departments.

The + ve's:

- An SUV which doesn't deterred by the sight of muck and rocks.
- Much better build quality.
- Powerful 177 Bhp engine. (the Previous SFX model produced 108 Bhp in comparison)
- Faster. Much faster.

The - ve's:

- Lack of an automatic option.
- Prices high as of now because it's a CBU from Thailand.
- Fuel Efficiency could be improved.
- Fuel tank size is reduced to 70 liters. (the SFX had a 92 liter fuel tank).

The Interiors:

The new Pajero's dashboard looks impressive. The quality is an amazing improvement over the previous Pajero SFX. The plastics look and feel good. The steering is chunky and feels nice to hold. The steering comes with one steering music controls. 

Photo courtesy : Mitsubishi India
The wood and beige trim on the doors looks elegant. The door build quality feels nice. 

Photo courtesy : Mitsubishi India
The multi mode center information display. Gone are the old school analogue dials of the SFX.

Photo courtesy : Mitsubishi India

The 2nd row of seats is comfortable. The large windows lend an airy feeling to the cabin. There's an armrest too. The seats fold down to create an expansive boot. The 2nd row comes with air con vents too. On an overall, the seats are quite comfortable in the 2nd row.

Photo courtesy : Mitsubishi India

The 3rd row of seats is just enough for children or for short adults. I found it tough to sit here comfortably.

Even though the interiors may have their share of short comings, they're a great improvement over the previous Pajero, the SFX as well as they seem much better than those of the Endeavour. They seem to go head on against the interiors of the Fortuner.

The Exteriors:

Looking at the front of the Pajero Sport, there's one thing clearly visible - the front has been directly lifted from the Triton pickup truck with minor bumper changes. But, this isn't bad at all. Infact, this is a really good thing ! There's the dual segment grille which complements the headlamp design. The headlamps look aggressive and seem very similar to those of the Mitsubishi Paris Dakar Pajero. The swooping bonnet looks wicked. The skid plate design integrated well into the lower lip of the front bumper.

The Dual Segment front grille with the chrome Mitsubishi logo adorning the triangular cavity between the 2 grille slots.

From the side, the Pajero Sport looks like a very big and burly car. It stands tall and seems to have really good ground clearance too. The chrome door handles look good on the Pajero Sport's side profile. However, the wheels on the Pajero Sport look a bit knobby and tiny.

The wing mirrors are chrome plated and are really big. They also come with electrical controls and can be opened / closed from inside the cabin.

The rear of the car isn't as amazing looking as the front. There are those curvy tail lamps which aren't as nice as the tail lamps on the Fortuner, or the Endeavour. I feel that they should've been a little more chunkier.

The spare wheel's located below the boot. 

The Powerplant:

This is the Pajero Sport's engine. It's a 2.5 liter diesel 4 cylinder engine and it pumps out a competition beating 178 Bhp at 4000 RPM and 40 kgm from 2000 - 2500 RPM ! Despite being 500 cc smaller than the Toyota Fortuner's engine, it produces more power as well as torque than the Fortuner's engine. 

The engine is mated to a 5 speed manual transmission and the car is equipped with Mitsubishi's Super Select 4WD system using which you can change between 4WD and 2WD upto a speed of 100 km/ph.

The engine propels the car from 0 to 100 km/ph in about 13 seconds and that is really good for a two ton off roader based on a pickup truck !

Final Verdict:

               The Pajero Sport is an amazing product at its price point. It costs around 24 lakhs EX SHOWROOM and that's because it currently comes to India as a CBU from Thailand. The prices could drop to around 20 lakhs EX SHOWROOM, if Mitsubishi imports the Pajero Sport as a CKD. This car is an excellent choice for an off roader. But, the only thing which i'm uncertain about is Mitsubishi's after sales service. Otherwise, if you've got 25 lakhs to splurge on an SUV, it's this or a Fortuner, no questions asked.

- Naayl Humza,
  14 year old car enthusiast.