Maruti-Suzuki launches Ignis, goes after the millennials

Maruti-Suzuki's latest salvo in the hatchback space, the Ignis, was launched in India earlier today. Aimed at the young and the young-at-heart, the funky and compact Ignis would be the third product after the S-Cross and the Baleno to be sold exclusively through the premium Nexa sales channel.

Armed with a fresh and bold design approach with a host of retro touches that mimic popular Suzukis of the past, the Ignis is designed to attract stares on the road. Having said that, it's a clear love-it or hate-it affair. The single frame grille that encompasses the cool LED projector headlights, for instance, looks great while the retro-styled rear end is not designed to please everyone. Nevertheless, the Ignis is an eyeball-grabber and almost passes off as a mini SUV with its negligible overhangs, slim plastic cladding and tall stance. Adding to its appeal are the tasteful application of chrome, stylish alloys and the dual-tone colour options available.

The interiors are equally funky and unlike anything you have seen in a Maruti-Suzuki. Finished in black and ivory, the dual-tone dashboard gets a refreshingly new steering wheel, a nifty infotainment screen that looks like a bolt-on addition and a cool retro-themed center console with toggle switches for the air-conditioning system. While the base variants are left wanting in terms of features, the top-end Ignis is loaded to the hilt with features like automatic climate control, keyless entry and go, SmartPlay infotainment system with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, electrically-foldable mirrors, puddle lamps, split-folding rear seat, steering-mounted controls and rear parking sensors with camera. 

What's impressive is the standard safety kit that include dual front airbags, seat belts with pre-tensioners, Antilock Braking System with Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD), ISOFIX child seat anchorage system and speed-sensing door locks. 

Adding that special 'classic' touch, both externally and internally, is the Suzuki Progressive Triad, a set of three parallel stripes that you cannot miss!

Powering the Ignis are the same set of engines that power a host of other Maruti-Suzuki models - the 1.2-liter K-series petrol engine that generates 83 horsepower and 113 Nm of torque and the Fiat-sourced 1.3-liter DDiS diesel engine that churns out 75 horsepower and 190 Nm of torque. A 5-speed manual gearbox is paired with both the engines while the option of adding an Automated Manual Transmission (AMT), or 'Auto Gear Shift' in Maruti-Suzuki's terminology, is also available.

Ignis is available in four trim levels - Sigma, Delta, Zeta and Alpha. The petrol variants are priced between INR 4.59 and 6.69 Lakhs while the diesel variants retail at prices between INR 6.39 and 7.80 Lakhs. All prices are introductory and ex-showroom Delhi. 

At these prices, the Ignis doesn't play the value card that most of it's stablemates do. Instead, this car tries to appeal to the millenials who don't mind spending that little extra to stand out in the crowd. 

At these prices, the Ignis has just about enough gap to the bigger Baleno sharing the Nexa showroom space and it will be interesting to see how Maruti-Suzuki positions the new Swift when it makes it here, albeit to Maruti-Suzuki showrooms.


2017 Detroit - Kia stuns with the Stinger GT

Back in 2011, Kia made public its aspirations to build a Gran Turismo, or a grand tourer to you and me, in the form of the GT Concept. It has taken five long years for that aspiration to come to fruition. But the end product appears to be well worth the wait. Say hello to the aptly-named Stinger GT, Kia's very own sexy and sporty grand tourer!

Unveiled at the 2017 North American International Motor Show in Detroit yesterday, the Stinger GT takes Kia into a territory the brand has never been before. The car, therefore, had to make an impact. The Stinger GT does, and how? 

Let's begin with the proportions. Imagine a grand tourer and things that flash in your mind would be a negligible front overhang, long hood, extra long wheelbase and a low and wide stance. Kia has incorporated every one of them in the Stinger GT and slapped a fastback shape onto it as well. While we don't deny that the overall design reminds us of the previous-generation Optima, the end result is undoubtedly impressive. The trademark 'Tiger Nose' grille is flanked on either sides by sleek LED headlights and scooped out air dams beneath them. Hinting at the car's sporty intentions are the twin hood vents, fender vents, an integrated bootlid spoiler and a full-length rear diffuser with quad exhausts. 

Kia's designers have paid excellent attention to detail with the Stinger GT. Look at the slim chrome strip that runs from the A-pillar to the rear windscreen arching over the windows or the classic 'coke bottle' shape in the C-pillars if you are in doubt. It continues inside the cabin too with features like Heads-Up Display, 15-speaker Harmon-Kardon audio system and a stubby gear selector finding their way into the Stinger GT.  

Two engine options are likely, with the base models getting a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine with 255 horsepower and the higher trims employing the 3.3-liter twin turbo V6 that does duty in the Genesis G90. With 365 horsepower on tap, this engine can propel the Stinger GT from 0 to 100 km/h in just 5.1 seconds and on to a top speed of close to 270 km/h. Both engines are paired to a 8-speed automatic transmission that delivers power to either the rear wheels or to all four wheels if you spec your car with the AWD option. Variants with the said option feature brake-based torque vectoring and a mechanical limited slip differential. 

Yes, those specs are from a Kia sedan! Don't you dare tell us Kias are boring and uninspiring to drive again.

The Stinger GT is not just Kia's dreams coming true, rather a coming-of-age moment in the brand's history. Now, when are you landing on Indian shores, Kia?

2017 North American Car, Truck and Utility Vehicle of the Year announced; Chevrolet Bolt, Honda Ridgeline and Chrysler Pacifica are the winners

The North American International Auto Show has just begun in Detroit and, as always, the winners of the 2017 North American Car, Truck and Utility Vehicle of the Year titles have been announced.

These awards are held in high respect by automotive manufacturers due to the way in which they have been designed and structured. Judged by a group of over 60 automotive journalists from the United States of America and Canada covering a host of magazines, newspapers, televison, radio and websites, the North American Car, Truck and Utility Vehicle of the Year titles are awarded based on factors like innovation, design, safety, performance, technology, driver satisfaction and value.

New for 2017 is the Utility Vehicle of the Year award which is now split from the Truck of the Year title, signifying the growing popularity and importance of Sport Utility Vehicles and crossovers.

From dozens of new vehicles that went on sale last year in each category, the jurors has shortlisted three finalists for each of the three titles before zeroing in on the winner. 

In cars, it was the Chevrolet Bolt that came out on top for 2017. With an EPA-certified range of 238 miles on a single charge and prices that start under $30,000 after applying tax credits, the Bolt is trying to take the IC-engined market head-on and take the EV revolution to the next level. It's no wonder then the jurors were mighty impressed with this compact Chevy, handing it the 2017 North American Car of the Year title. That it left it's competent rivals, the Genesis G90 and the Volvo S90, far behind in the final scores speaks for itself. 

2017 NACOTY Results

  1. Chevrolet Bolt - 364
  2. Genesis G90 - 105
  3. Volvo S90 - 101

Previous NACOTY Winners

  • 2016 - Honda Civic
  • 2015 - Volkswagen Golf/GTI
  • 2014 - Chevrolet Corvette Stingray
  • 2013 - Cadillac ATS
  • 2012 - Hyundai Elantra

Moving on to the trucks, it was the Honda Ridgeline that beat rivals like the Ford F-Series Super Duty and the Nissan Titan to be crowned the 2017 North American Truck of the Year. The midsize pickup from Honda impressed the jurors with its smoother ride, thanks to the car-style chassis, and innovative features like a trunk under its cargo bed and a double-hinged tailgate that opens down or from the side. With 364 points in its kitty, the Ridgeline made it a no contest with the Ford and the Nissan that ended up with 193 and 72 points respectively.

2017 NATOTY Results

  1. Honda Ridgeline - 364
  2. Ford F-Series Super Duty - 193
  3. Nissan Titan - 72

Previous NATOTY Winners

  • 2016 - Volvo XC90
  • 2015 - Ford F-150
  • 2014 - Chevrolet Silverado
  • 2013 - Ram 1500
  • 2012 - Land Rover Range Rover Evoque

Winning the inaugural North American Utility Vehicle of the Year title is the Chrysler Pacifica. At a time when minivans are down and out and manufacturers are getting out of the segment as soon as they can, Chrysler had the guts to go all out on a stylish new model and slap a plug-in hybrid powertrain in it. With an electric range of 35 miles on a single charge, the Pacifica can do daily driving duties without the need to fill in fuel. Mazda CX-9 and Jaguar F-Pace were the other finalists that vied for top honours. 

2017 NAUOTY Results

  1. Chrysler Pacifica - 300
  2. Mazda CX-9 - 135
  3. Jaguar F-Pace - 125

Congratulations to the winners.


Top Selling Cars in 2016 - India

Thanks to a variety of socio-economic and political factors, 2016 was not a year to remember for the Indian automotive industry. But, with the odd-even policy, partial ban on new diesel vehicles and the demonetization, it could have been much worse and we are glad it wasn't. 

In a flat year that saw a little over 2.9 million new cars and utility vehicles being sold, here is how the top twenty stacked up.

With a sales figure of 245,094 units that include both the 800 and K10 variants, Maruti-Suzuki Alto was India's best-selling car. Be it the tentative first-time car buyers, the young urban dwellers looking for a compact city car or the rural folks who won't look beyond a Maruti dealership when it's time to buy a new car, the Alto has struck a chord with every one of them. In fact, for most of the people out there, the Alto is the quintessential car. It is no wonder then that this little Suzuki has completed yet another year at the top of the sales chart, a feat it first achieved in 2004. But, with a 10% drop compared to 2015 and the Kwid gaining ground, Maruti-Suzuki can't afford to rest.

Just like 2015, the Swift Dzire came in second, beating several lower-priced Maruti-Suzukis in the process. In the last year of its life cycle, this car was so dominant that it sold more than the combined sales of all of it's competitors. Take that, rivals. With the next-generation model expected to launch later this year, expect more of the same in the coming years. The 'tall boy' Wagon-R has swapped places with its stablemate Swift with the former rounding off the podium position. Despite being an old nameplate, Maruti-Suzuki's constant updates and facelifts, albeit minor, have ensured the Wagon-R is still relevant in the market.

Down to number four, the Swift had a significant 19% drop in sales but again, the all-new Swift is slated for launch this year. Arch-rival Hyundai took advantage of this and grew the Grand i10's share which finished 2016 in fifth position at the expense of it's more expensive sibling, the i20. Crucially though, the Hyundai retained the lead in it's slugfest with Maruti-Suzuki's Baleno which had capacity constraints affecting sales throughout the year. With a little over 92,000 units sold last year, Hyundai Creta is now India's best-selling SUV. Rounding off the top ten is the Celerio, a no-nonsense car from the market leader.

Did we talk about the Kwid? Oh no, how could we miss that? The Kwid has been a phenomenal success and has single-handedly catapulted Renault into the big league. For the first time in several years, a Mahindra or a Honda isn't in the top ten. But this Renault is! More importantly, by going head-on against the Alto and emerging successful, the Kwid has proved that Maruti-Suzuki's entry-level hatchback is vulnerable too. 2016 also saw new variants being added to the Kwid lineup which is a good thing. Overall, it's been a job well done by Renault.

Just outside the top ten is the Vitara Brezza which also suffers from production constraints similar to the Baleno. 2017 should see it getting into the top ten easily though. Four more models from Maruti-Suzuki (Omni, Eeco, Ertiga and Ciaz) and two more from Hyundai (Eon and Xcent) have found their way into the top twenty. Toyota Innova, Mahindra Bolero and Honda City are the only models in the list without a Suzuki or Hyundai badge on the nose. While the Innova Crysta is going stronger and stronger, the Bolero and City are on a free fall. It's time for Mahindra and Honda to act!


Top Selling Cars in 2016 - USA

Auto industry in the United States of America just wrapped up a fantastic 2016 that saw more than 17.5 million new vehicles being sold. In a market where 250 plus models from over 35 brands are on sale, it's tough to really make an impact. But some cars, SUVs and trucks keep doing that year after year. 

Here are 20 of them that went full throttle in 2016, ending the year as America's best-selling vehicles.

With a whopping 820,799 units sold last year, it was another year at the top for the Ford F-Series trucks. Incredibly, 2016 was F-Series' 40th year as America's best-selling truck and an unprecedented 35th year as America's best-selling vehicle. A dream run that started way back in 1977 is well on course to extend into 2017 and beyond. It requires something extraordinary from Ford's rivals to dethrone the F-Series. 

In second and third positions are the Chevrolet Silverado and Ram Pick-Up trucks, unchanged from the previous years. While it's 574,876 sales in 2016 might make you believe that the Silverado trailed the Ford significantly, bring GMC Sierra's sales into the picture and it's clear Ford has to keep a close watch on the Chevy-GMC twins.

Behind the three trucks, the Japanese brands take over with three Toyotas, three Hondas and two Nissans occupying spots 4 to 11. Despite being in its last full year of production, the current generation Camry is still America's best-selling car but the Corolla and Honda Civic are now literally breathing down Camry's neck. At number seven, Honda CR-V is the best-selling SUV in the United States with the Toyota RAV-4 just 5,000 units shy. Honda's Accord has dropped down the order and finished the year in ninth position. At number ten was Nissan Rogue, a new-comer to the top ten list.

Outside the top ten, Ford has three entries in Escape, Fusion and Explorer while Nissan (Altima and Sentra) and Chevrolet (Equinox and Malibu) have two models each. GMC Sierra, Jeep Grand Cherokee and Hyundai Elantra complete the list.