Drive your vehicles at Economy speeds and SAVE FUEL for Future generations.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

2011 Chevrolet VOLT

Chevrolet has unveiled the production version of the Volt hybrid car ahead of General Motors' second century in the automotive industry.

Evolving from the original concept that was first unveiled at the 2007 NAIAS, the Volt "delivers up to 40 miles of gasoline- and emissions-free electric driving" courtesy of its aerodynamically efficient design and electric drive unit delivering the equivalent of 110 kW (150 hp) of power and 370 Nm (273 lb-ft.) of torque.

Known as the Extended-Range Electric Vehicle, or E-REV, electricity is used to power the Volt at all times and speeds - for trips up to 64 kilometres (40 miles), the Volt is powered only by electricity stored in its 16-kWh, lithium-ion battery. When the battery's energy is depleted, a gasoline/E85-powered engine generator provides electricity to power the Volt's electric drive unit while simultaneously sustaining the charge of the battery. This mode of operation extends the range of the Volt for several hundred additional miles, until the vehicle's battery can be charged. Unlike a conventional battery-electric vehicle, the Volt eliminates "range anxiety," giving the confidence and peace of mind that the driver will not be stranded by a depleted battery.

When charging the Chevrolet Volt, all that is required is plugging the car's battery either into a standard household 120v outlet or use 240v with charge times of three hours and eight hours on a 240v outlet or 120v outlet respectively.

The Volt's aerodynamically efficient design features a closed front grille, a rounded and flush front fascia, tapered corners and grille for air to move easily around the car while the rear is designed so that air flows off and away quickly.

Bugatti Veyron 16.4

The new Bugatti Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport has made its international debut at the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance over the weekend and claims the mantle of the world's fastest and most exclusive drop-top.

In order to make open-top driving a reality in the ultra-fast Veyron, Bugatti engineers had to incorporate a host of new and innovative safety and equipment features and optimum rigidity and lightweight engineering to ensure near identical performance to the 'standard' Veyron. This includes extensive use of carbon fibre - to keep weight gain to an absolute minimum - to 'cross-stiffen' the B-pillars, doors, and many other components to maintain vehicular rigidity with a unique removable roof in place. A higher windscreen has been fitted to stop excessive wind noise from entering the cabin.

As a result, the 736 kW quad turbocharged W16 engine powered Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport can reach 407 km/h and 360 km/h with the roof on and off respectively. Should the heavens open up unexpectedly, an innovative folding roof stored in the luggage compartment can be opened up like an umbrella at any time to keep the plush interior and the occupants - their toupes too - shielded from the rain. When this folding roof or umbrella is in place, the car can travel at up to 130 km/h - well above the legal limit for Australia roads anyway.

The hand-assembled Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport goes on sale from March 2009 with a price tag of 1.4 million euros (excluding tax) or AUD$2.4 million. Just 150 examples of this exclusive targa will be made.

The main challenge in developing the new Bugatti Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport with removable roof resulted from the unique structure of the fixed-roof Bugatti Veyron. An optimum combination of rigidity and lightweight engineering ensures the monocoque passenger cell of the original model is extremely strong while weighing an absolute minimum – it is a central element of the vehicle's structure. As the roof is an integral part of this, removing it meant the load paths had to be completely redesigned to maintain the vehicle's rigidity and crash safety, and to offer additional protection from side impacts and rolling.

As a result, the monocoque structure has been reinforced around the side skirts and the transmission tunnel. The B-pillars have been cross-stiffened using a carbon fibre support, and a central carbon plate has been positioned beneath the transmission tunnel to ensure the vehicle suffers from less torsional flexing than any other roadster.

The doors of the new Bugatti Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport are made of carbon fibre, and house an integrated longitudinal beam.

In the event of an accident, this transfers the load from the A to the B-pillar, thereby dissipating impact energy. Furthermore, the two redesigned air intakes for the 16-cylinder mid-engine now feature 10-centimetre wide carbon-fibre elements to offer protection should the car roll.

Along with moisture-resistant, backstitched leather, a range of new equipment features has been added to the interior, including a reversing camera with 2.7-inch monitor in the rear-view-mirror, and the "Puccini" sound system with digital signal processor. When the roof is closed, the Bugatti Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport can reach 407 km/h, while speeds of up to 360 km/h are possible with roof off. Should it rain, an innovative folding roof stored in the luggage compartment can be opened up like an umbrella at any time. When this
folding roof is in place, the car can travel at up to 130 km/h. Assembled by hand at the company's headquarters in Molsheim, Alsace, the Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport will be available from March 2009 at the price of 1.4 million euros (excluding tax). Just 150 examples will be made, with the first 50 of these going exclusively to registered Bugatti customers. The first vehicle is certain to be highly sought after, and Bugatti has taken the decision to donate this specific car to charity. It will be sold to the highest bidder at the Pebble Beach Auction presented by Gooding & Company.

Pininfarina Rolls-Royce Hyperion

The rather stunning Pininfarina Hyperion is a one-off custom-built car derived from the Rolls-Royce Drophead Coupe and made its world debut at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance over the weekend.

Named after Hyperion, one of the Titans of Greek mythology, to underline its architectural and figurative power, it was commissioned by Roland Hall, a collector and the owner of a Rolls-Royce Drophead Coupe, who wanted a custom-built car that would evoke the appeal of the sumptuous cars of the 1930s. The famous Italian design house, Pininfarina, was chosen to deliver a car with even more presence than the standard Rolls-Royce Drophead Coupé and the result speaks for itself.

Sporting a short tail end and majestic bonnet that “surges” forward, the donor RR had to have its roof extended and rear shortened to evoke the appeal of a classic 1930s automobile. The designers also gave the Hyperion soft, fluidly flowing surfaces and a slightly more modern and inclined version of the classic Rolls-Royce grille and a front end featuring recessed Bi-xenon headlights and the latest in LED technology.

The spectacular "surging" bonnet is underlined by the muscular, taut wings, while the line that embraces the front wheels is drawn back until it disappears into the hood cover, giving a sense of movement even when the car is stationary. This feature is counterbalanced by a small tooth under the door that runs towards the rear wheel. The shape of the rear end recalls Pininfarina’s legendary sports “berlinettas” of the Fifties and Sixties, with their cut-off tails, strongly inclined downwards, with a flat closure borrowed from boat-building.

The interior remains unchanged from the standard Drophead coupe (it's hard to get anymore luxurious than a standard Rolls-Royce) but features a special watch designed specifically for the Hyperion by renowned watchmaker, Girard-Perregaux, which can be removed from the dash and attached to a bracelet to be worn on the wrist.

The Pininfarina Hyperion is powered by a 6.75-litre V12 engine developing 333 kW (453 hp) and 696 Nm (513 lb-ft) of torque.

Pininfarina Hyperion Girard-Perregaux

Friday, November 21, 2008

2009 Peugeot 308 CC

French car maker Peugeot has acknowledged the importance of the Australian car market bringing the all-new 308 CC (Coupe / Convertible) to Sydney for its southern hemisphere debut at the Australian International Motor Show, just a week after its international debut at the prestigious Paris Motor Show.

The 308 CC, powered by either a 140bhp 2.0HDi or a 150bhp 1.6 litre turbocharged engine, boasts seating for four adults, capitalising on all the inbuilt strengths of the 308 range whilst still embodying the "307 CC spirit" and Peugeot's coupe / cabriolet expertise since the 206 CC emerged over seven years ago to bring a hard-topped convertible to the masses.

Lexus IS 250C

The majority of convertibles, especially the hard-top variants, are show-stoppers in one or more ways and you'll often see people stopped dead in their tracks admiring the engineering behind these vehicles.

Despite sporting a rather awkwardly styled rear quarter, the three-piece aluminum roof on the new Lexus IS 250C is still expected to attract plenty of attention when in action, especially when the luxury car maker has laid claim to the mantle of the world's fastest folding hard-top roof. In just a mere 20 seconds, the coupe is transformed into a convertible to deliver exhilarating open-air driving with the safety and comfort of a hard-top roof when required.

Australian sales have yet to be confirmed but when it is, don't expect to see the IS 250C before the third-quarter of 2009. Fortunately, you won't have to wait that long to see the folding mechanism of the IS 250C in action with the release of this new promotional video clip.

The latest Lexus model will take on BMW's 3 Series convertible range which also happens to feature a folding hard top of its very own. Now the question that begs to be asked is will Mercedes-Benz introduce a new hard-top roof for the new generation CLK-class?

Ferrari Scuderia Spider

Italian supercar maker, Ferrari, has celebrated winning the F1 Constructor's World Championship for 2008 (16th title in total) in style by unveiling a convertible version - 'Spider', in Ferrari-speak - of the race-bred F430 Scuderia.

Known officially as the Scuderia Spider 16M, the V8-powered convertible is the fastest open-top road car Ferrari has ever built. Power comes from the fantabulous 4.3-litre NA V8 engine developing 375.4 kW at a stratospheric 8,500 rpm and 470 Nm of torque. Performance is sensational, of course, with 0-100 km/h acceleration in just 3.7 seconds and a top speed of 315 km/h courtesy of the Scuderia Spider 16M's low kerb weight of just 1,340 kg and ultra-low power-to-weight ration of just 2.6 kg/hp.

Strictly limited to just 499 units, the Scuderia Spider 16M is available in a choice of two new signature colour schemes: standard black with grey trim or a special tricolour livery as part of the Carrozzeria Scaglietti Personalisation Programme.


Naturally aspirated mid-rear 90° V8, 4308 cc
Maximum power output 375.4 kW (510 hp) at 8500 rpm
Maximum torque 470 Nm (47.7 Kgm) at 5250 rpm
Max engine speed 8640 rpm (at limiter)
Compression ratio 11.9:1
Bore and Stroke 92 mm X 81 mm
Specific power output 118.4 hp/litre

Six-speed plus Reverse F1 gearbox
Dry dual clutch
Electronic differential E-diff F1-Trac
Oil gearbox lubrication with oil/water heat exchanger

Performance, fuel consumption, emissions
Acceleration 0-100 km/h 3.7 s
Maximum speed 315 kph
Drive weight/power 2.6 kg/hp
Fuel consumption 15.7 l/100 km (combined ECE)
CO2 emissions 360 g/km (combined ECE)

Chassis and bodywork
Car dimensions:
- Length 4512 mm
- Width 1923 mm
- Height 1216 mm
- Wheelbase 2600 mm
- Front track 1669 mm
- Rear track 1616 mm
Dry weight * 1340 kg (-80 kg vs F430 Spider)
Kerb weight * 1440 kg
Weight distribution 43% front, 57% rear
Fuel tank capacity 95 litres
Independent front and rear forged aluminium double wishbone suspensions, titanium helical springs, hollow anti-roll bars and lighter electronic shocks
398mm X 36mm carbon-ceramic material front brake discs with aluminium 6-pot callipers
350mm X 34mm carbon-ceramic material rear disc brakes with aluminium 6-pot callipers
19" five-spoke split rims front and rear
Tyres: 235/35 front and 285/35 rear; Fabbrica Pirelli PZero Corsa only

Electronic control systems
CST Stability and Traction Control System. Steering wheel-mounted manettino with five settings to integrate the F1 gearbox, CST and F1-Trac (Stability and Traction Control System), suspension control.

2010 Ford MUSTANG

Ford's famous pony car, the iconic Mustang, has finally been unveiled in MY2010 guise after weeks and weeks of endless teasing with obscure images and subliminal messages from Ford.

In a bid to modernise the cult muscle car, the 2010 Ford Mustang boasts both new exterior and interior designs featuring high quality materials and updated technology including a V8 engine that has been tweaked for even more horsepower and an even throatier signature Mustang exhaust note.

At launch, the Mustang is available with a choice of V6 or V8 engines and three bodystyles: coupe, convertible or an innovative glass roof, plus several new options and features delivering the opportunity for customers to personalise their beloved Mustangs.

One glance at the exterior of the new Mustang and fans of the pony car will tell you about the new front-end featuring new headlights, lower fascias, fenders and grille capped off by a 'power-dome' bonnet that adds to the muscular appearance while functionally allowing for enhanced air cooling of the engine.

The muscular curves are accentuated by the taut, sculptured wheel flares, like a tight skin stretched over the wheels that flows all the way to the redesigned rear-end featuring aggressively angled rear corners, new taillights with LED technology, a sculptured decklid and prominent rear badge.

Maruti DZire: Set to rule

Maruti Suzuki has drawn the curtains on one of its most successful models, the mid-size Esteem. More contemporary models from its competitors offering greater safety features and technological advancements meant that Maruti had to introduce a more modern and sophisticated model with ample power and comfort. Discontinuing the production of its long-standing Esteem series during December last year, the company has launched the Swift based DZire.
It is a little known fact that when the Swift was about to hit the Indian market, work on a sedan version of this hatchback was already underway.

The carmaker is aiming to replicate the success of its premium hatch with the launch of the Swift DZire. The philosophy behind the product is that the wishes of the average consumer must be fulfilled. The DZire is likely to fulfill Maruti’s wishes too, as it looks set to grab a substantial portion of the lucrative sedan segment and for very good reasons. The whole idea behind the DZire works around the ‘what you desire’ theme. If what you desire is luxury in cars without breaking the bank, then look no further. Positioned between the Swift and the SX4, the DZire aims at the large chunk of Indian consumers who want to own an entry level sedan which looks up-market but is priced about marginally higher than premium hatches.

The first drive of the DZire was planned on the Delhi – Agra stretch. The moment I saw the car, the earlier pictures I had in my mind of the car, lay completely shattered. The challenge to integrate a boot into the overall personality of the Swift while imparting the elegance of a sedan has been achieved quite well and I personally liked the way she looks.

Front on, the car remains pretty much the same, except for a new front grill. At the rear, the high-deck design gives it a sporty touch (reminds me a bit of the 7 Series!). The boot also gets a chrome lip, with the DZire logo positioned above it on the right side. Good use has been made of the tail-lights to impart the same family design feel. Other changes on the exterior include a new design for the 14 inch six-spoke alloy wheels which are shod with 185mm rubber.

Once inside, the first thing that caught my eye was the superbly integrated music system. It gels perfectly into the fascia and lends a classy feel to the cabin. The audio controls on the steering (like the SX4) make life easier. The steering wheel is height adjustable and that is a very big plus point. At the rear, a new seat insures 60mm extra shoulder space along with a central arm-rest and a remote for the music system that pampers the rear occupants superbly. The DZire also gets new door fabric as well as chrome rings for the speedometer console. The chassis remains the same and so does the wheelbase – even the breadth and the height of the car remain the same. The length of the car has increased by 465mm to 4160mm. The boot space now stands at an impressive 445L, which is almost double that of the hatch!

The DZire comes with an option of petrol as well a diesel engine – both similar to the ones used in the Swift. The maximum power and torque figures as well as gear ratios have been left untouched while the ECU has been tweaked a little. Fret not, the DZire weighs just 30kilos more than the hatch and that is a big achievement for Maruti. This means that there will not be too much difference in the overall performance of both the engine variants.

The drive from Kosi to Agra involved a four lane highway as well as passing through various small towns. The road has its own share of empty stretches and the petrol as well as the diesel powered DZire felt more than adequate for highway use. Yes, the petrol engine still feels a little sluggish below 2000rpm but beyond that, it loves being pushed. Remember, the Swift hatch hits the ton mark in about twelve seconds and we won’t be surprised if the DZire petrol delivers similar performance – that will make it faster than both the Logan and Indigo petrol versions, which are very much in the same category. The diesel DZire seemed to be better insulated than the diesel Swift and maintaining 130-135km/h with four adults on board wasn’t a bother for the car. The diesel powered DZire too, as we see it, will be the fastest car in its class. The top-of-the-line variants of both, the petrol and the diesel model come with ABS (with EBD) and airbags as well as Maruti’s I-Cats safety device.

The car looks quite good, is loaded with features and on the performance front, will be faster than its main competitors, the Indigo and the Logan (both petrol and diesel variants) including the good old Ford Ikon 1.3. Combine Maruti’s after sales support and reliability, and the DZire already looks like a big hit.

More photos:

Hero Honda HUNK

The Hunk is an absolute doodle to ride in the chaotic Pune traffic, being extremely maneuverable and at the same time having more than enough grunt for quick sprints around town. The gas filled shocks take care of most of the ruts and bumps offering a pliant and comfortable ride while not compromising on the handling one bit. Infact I was so in love with the handling that I decided to do a Pune-Mumbai ride to exploit the bikes amazing characteristics. And what a blast it was. The refined engine felt absolutely smooth even when ridden towards it redline on the open highways. Even the twisties were dispatched with absolute ease with the Hunk proving its worthy credentials. The braking too was spot on with more than adequate bite from the disc upfront providing oodles of confidence during high speed blasts.

All has not been 'Hunky-Dory' though with a few flaws surfacing with time. The headlight beam is barely adequate around town and becomes worse on highways. A more powerful bulb should fix that problem though. The gearbox at times feels clunky and quick shifts require quite a bit of effort. The chain too requires constant attention since it becomes loose pretty quickly. Mileage borders around 40 kmpl which is on the lower side for a 150 cc bike. Other than these minor niggles the Hunk's going about its duty mighty fine. The bike has logged 3290 km since its arrival in the Zigwheels garage and I am looking forward to put many more kilometers on its odo.

Overall fuel efficiency: 42 kmpl
Repairs: None
Cheers: Looks, handling, refinement
Sneers: Gearbox, poor head light beam, chain requires constant attention.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Mitsubishi Pajero versus Ford Endeavour

We decided to test drive to found out the better of the two - Mitsubishi Pajero and Ford Endeavour. Pajero? Wasn’t it the dull looking, expensive off-roader that lost ground to newer crusaders long back? The brand surely has pedigree and can still be readily recognised by hardcore off-roading buffs, but most people won’t opt for a rally winning car that looks dreary in its road-going guise.

Mitsubishi has probably realised this fact as they’ve given their Pajero brand a fresh lease of life by sprucing up the exterior and interior of the car. The ploy seems to have worked, as confirmed by one of the company’s showroom staffers in Pune who admitted that the demand for the SUV has risen after the recent facelift.

It wasn’t difficult for us to figure why. The two-tone purple and white colour scheme of our test drive vehicle had most fellow highway motorists craning their necks out of their cars’ windows for a glimpse. The famous off-roader now looks fresh and spunky thanks to its sportier front fender, chromed handlebars and most of all, the new, radical paint scheme with ‘PAJERO’ inscribed across the length of the doors. In its newest avatar, the car oozes attitude. And that’s something the burly boys with bulging biceps are always willing to put their money on. No one ever doubted the off-roading credentials of the Pajero, now it’s got the looks too. Its appearance is the most important change here, for under the skin, the new Pajero is exactly the same as its older avatar.

While the Mitsubishi Pajero always had its eyes profoundly transfixed on the goal of hardcore off-roading, the Endeavour is a machine doesn’t hesitate in offering itself to the family man. Long, muscular and full of attitude – the Endeavour never fails to gather attention wherever it goes. The American SUV features a 2.5-litre TDCi turbo diesel engine that produces 153PS of peak power and 330Nm of impressive torque. Moreover, more than 80 percent of that enormous turning force is available from as low as 1500rpm, making the Endeavour one hell of a cruiser on motorways.

In comparison, the Pajero’s 120PS of power and 292Nm of torque seem a bit unexciting, and we genuinely feel that the Pajero can do with a bit more power. However, the gear ratios in the Pajero are closely spaced, highlighting the off-road focus of the car. With it’s relatively better spaced ratios, the Endeavour takes the highway with élan. When slotted in the fifth gear, the car always has sufficient grunt to accelerate with assurance and overtake the slouches without a bother. With the Pajero, you have to play around with the stick a bit more, but then, there is more to the story than just cruising convenience.

The Endeavour is a long car, you see, and a heavy one at that. And unlike the Pajero’s three-link rear suspension, this Ford SUV rests its rump on leaf springs. This means that every time it passes over an undulation at anything more than crawling speeds, the back benchers end up banging their heads with the roof. Fasten your seatbelts and hold on tight, or wear a helmet if you’re one of the backseat occupants and love your head. Also, you can see and feel the long bonnet of the car pitching mildly every time you accelerate or decelerate, and violently when you brake. The Pajero is better behaved in comparison. Even around corners the Japanese machine feels more sure-footed and in-control than its counterpart from corny Bushland.

The Endeavour, however, with its more powerful and torquey engine, hauls its weight with more assurance than the Pajero. The Ford accelerates to 100km/h from standstill in 14.69secs, about 2.5secs quicker than the Pajero. Owing to its low end grunt, and relaxed nature of the engine, the Endeavour manages to return a better fuel efficiency figures than the Pajero –12.12kmpl as opposed to the latter’s 8.9kmpl.

On the road, the Endeavour may have a slight advantage in terms of outright acceleration, tractability and fuel economy, but the Pajero comes into its own off the road. You sit up high in the car, and that’s good for visibility – something that’s extremely crucial while driving on challenging terrain. The car, though not small by any means, doesn’t make you feel its heft while placing it. The longer Endeavour, on the other hand, even with its high seating position doesn;t let you gauge its ovrtures as precisely as the Pajero.

With a ground clearance of 210mm, the Endeavour has a 5mm edge over the 205mm of the Pajero, but the multi link-rear suspension of the Pajero more than makes up for it.

Over big trenches, the Pajero’s wheels tilt and turn to ensure maximum contact and help tremendously in preventing the car’s underbody scrubbing with mother earth. In the Endeavour’s case, you don’t have that flexibility. Also, with a wading depth of 600mm the Pajero can ford through streams and other shallow water bodies with élan. No that the Endeavour is a bad off-roader, in fact, in the 4x4 version, it’s greatly accomplished with a lockable differential and genuine hardcore off-roading genes engineered into it. Its low-end grunt further aids its ability to get out of tough spots. But then, when it comes down to treading on uncharted territories, the Ford tries hard but couldn’t really match the immaculate credentials and capabilities of the Pajero.

Both the vehicles have their own virtues and vices. But the one thing that really goes against the Ford Endeavour is its archaic leaf suspension that holds its rear. That suspension is too old to do duties on such an expensive vehicle, especially in today’s day and age. Even with its fantastic engine, great cruising and off-roading capabilities, as well as its enormous presence, the Endeavour doesn’t quite match the Pajero’s heritage, appeal and engineering. But wait, the Pajero is a full Rs 3.50 lakh costlier than the Endeavour. The Mitsubishi is a better SUV, but the advantage comes at a price. And the advantage primarily lies in that rear suspension, for the Endeavour isn’t a bad off-roader at all and even Ford won’t find it too difficult to splash its SUV in vivid colours if it helps the sales. Bring in a multi-link suspension at the rear, Ford. It won’t really cost you all of those 3.50 lakh rupees – and when you’ve done that, the Pajero will have a more competent, yet cheaper rival that won’t let it win so easily!

More photos:

Comparison of Swift, Indica and Palio

It’s funny that I’m trying to follow the Swift 1.3 DDiS ahead of me on these uphill serpentine roads in an Indica. Just a month ago, I would been laughed upon for trying to do something like this. Not anymore. The wonderful four-pot common rail diesel mill sourced from Fiat, along with an all-new body, transmission and suspension has propelled the Indica back into the present. With a little extra effort, it’s just about managing to not let the Maruti lose me. The size of the Palio 1.3 Multijet following me doesn’t seem to be getting any smaller in the RVM either.

In an ideal world, that should hardly be surprising. With exactly (almost) the same power and torque on tap, exactly (almost) the same weight and a similar FWD configuration, these three cars shouldn’t be very different from each other. But wonderful as the world of automobiles always has been, they actually are! You’ll probably say ‘chuck gas’ nearly the same number of times before these cars hit 100km/h on the clock and go almost the same distance before running out of fuel. Nonetheless, in character and feel, the three machines are anything but similar. The experience behind the wheel of the three cars around these curvy roads leaves me with no doubt.

The Swift is the reigning king of the big hatch market. All you have to do is rest your bum on the supportive driver’s seat, buckle up and grasp the three-spoke steering wheel to begin getting impressed. The driving position is so naturally spot-on that the next step in the sequence cannot be anything but a twist of the ignition key. There’s no looking back from there on. You would hardly be concerned about the quality of materials inside or the neatness of the panels’ assembly. You won’t bother to know if the knee room for the backbenchers comes at a premium or if the suspension isn’t too stiff for comfort. Devil, if there’s one, may care for the comfort of the backseat passengers. You’d be so busy marvelling at the urgent power delivery, the addictive surge of those 190 Newton meters, the perfect positioning, action and throw of the gear stick and the immaculately spaced out ratios that you won’t have time for anything but to simply enjoy driving.

True, the Swift doesn’t qualify as a hot hatch by definition. It doesn’t have that kind of power or the running gear. Yet the slight lack of outright power somehow works for this car. It makes you shift when you should and keeps you engaged in an entertaining manner. For the segment it belongs to, the Swift is beautifully balanced and amazingly easy to play around with. The steering is almost like a video conference between you and the road and any input will get you exactly where you want to be. A drive around the bends with the Swift will make it your best buddy – inviting, affable and game for fun every time the two of you get together.

On the other hand, the Indica is colder, more clinical and true to its purpose in its approach. If the Swift is your pal you share all your emotions with; the Indica is the tight lipped butler who’ll do everything in his capacity to keep you happy and comfortable, though you’d never be able to connect emotionally with him. The Indica truly pampers its occupants, especially the ones on the second row of seats. The cabin space, for one, is so liberal you are likely to feel claustrophobic once you get back into the Swift. The all-around visibility is amazing. The car doesn’t have to stress upon its superiority through those glossy paper adverts. It’s a playground in there; just a peek into the cabin will make the difference evident. After the Swift, the vision of the dashboard from the backseat of the Indica almost calls for a pair of binoculars. The backseat comfort and generous space in this car is unparalleled by not just its peers but cars that cost a lot more.

And then there is the suspension. Soft and supple, it feasts on undulations. At slow speeds it simply glides over vicious defects on the tar surface. However, as the speedo needle climbs up the arc, the bearings of the comfort oriented suspension on dynamics become evident.

The tautness of the Swift is missing. While Tata engineers still say the tilt degrees per ‘g’ for the Indica is similar to the Suzuki, we find the body behaviour of the two cars around corners vastly different. There is pronounced understeer while cornering hard and you won’t want to enter a bend too fast and correct later. The car’s body feels bulky and responds coldly to steering corrections. My advice here would be to not try too many antics with the Indica. Treat her as an attendant and she’ll delight with her service. Don’t expect her to play soccer though.

The Palio, even after being around for so many years, manages to look handsome and stands out among the trinity. The car, even after all the sore memories associated with Fiat in India manages to make the youngsters drool over its shape. Once bitten, twice shy! The customers, even with all their love for the hatch, are just too scared to touch it. That shouldn’t, however, take anything away from this beautiful looking car that introduced the genre of big, fast and sexy hatches to us Indians. Muscular and athletic from the outside, the Palio refuses to age even after witnessing the onslaught of a flurry of new designs in the market. Very honestly, the car could still do without a facelift for some time to come. The story begins to take a turn once you step in though. An archaic looking dashboard, visibly painted metal panels on the insides of the door (most, no, all such cars will have fabric there), analogue odo and trip meters (when even the Alto offers a digital one) plus the rather staid looking steering wheel will immediately put you off. The image is further smudged by the disappointing long throw, rubbery and imprecise gearshifts and a clutch that has a play longer than your toe! Well, almost.

It’s strange why Fiat India can’t see the obvious. The car’s basics are fantastic. Just jazz up the interiors, fit in a short throw stick that shifts slickly, make the driving position better and see how many more of these Italian steeds they sell. The quality of materials aside, cabin space and comfort of the Palio is phenomenal. There is liberal seating space, the inside ambience is airy and the suspension simply rocks. While the Swift is a tad too stiff for comfort and the Indica too soft for tautness, the Palio has the best suspension of the three. It just irons its way out and offers an excellent ride quality both at high and low speeds. The noteworthy point here is that the Palio suspension isn’t overly soft as the Indica to facilitate occupantcomfort. It’s stiff enough to keep the car pliant when hurled around bends, while still dampened well enough to endure any atrocities it may be subjected to. The steering isn’t as precise as the Swift nor is the body as well behaved, but the Palio still is a reasonably good driver’s car. It cannot quite boogie as adroitly as the Swift, however, ask it to shake a leg and it will manage to not look out of place unlike the Indica which looks somewhat clumsy when asked to perform.

The Indica’s engine, its gear ratios and suspension have been tuned to make it an able cruiser. And it excels at the job it is assigned. The 1.3-litre turbo diesel mill under Quadrajet badging produces some more torque at lower engine speeds, allowing tractability in higher gears at low speeds, facilitating lesser shifts and enhancing efficiency. The top speed suffers a bit, but no one in his right mind would ever want to race an Indica. As I said earlier, the newest hatch from Tata is clear in its focus. It has its vision riveted on the guy who wants to lug his family with luggage in comfort with the least owning and running costs. Those who want the kicks may look elsewhere. With about Rs 40K advantage over the Swift, more cabin space, plusher rider and instant delivery (the Swift makes you wait for three friggin’ months), the family man is surely going to consider the Indica Vista very seriously. that gets eliminated first.

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