20160911

Hyundai unveils all-new third-generation i30

Prior to its official debut at the upcoming 2016 Paris Motor Show, Hyundai has revealed the looks and specifications of the third-generation i30. A popular car for the South Korean brand in Europe, the i30 has sold over 800,000 units in the continent since its debut in 2008. Not surprisingly then, the new i30 is designed, developed, tested and set to be manufactured in Europe. 

The new i30 is also said to be the DNA car for Hyundai in Europe, previewing the future direction of the brand. For a market like ours where Europe-oriented Hyundais like the i10 and i20 are big-sellers, this is a crucial hint at how the next-generation variants of these cars would evolve.

Visually, the new i30 continues the trend that we first saw with the Sonata and, more recently, Elantra. Hyundai is doing away with the flashy styling elements, opting for subtler designs instead.


Debuting in the new i30 is what Hyundai calls a 'Cascading Grille', a 'blink-and-you-miss' evolution of the hexagonal grille that many automakers have fallen in love with. Hyundai says the new grille will become the identity of the brand going forward, so expect to see a lot more of these in upcoming Hyundais. Wraparound headlights with projectors and vertically-stacked air curtains with inbuilt foglights and LED DRLs define the fascia. The hood is long, the wheelbase is longer and the overhangs shorter, giving the i30 a solid stance. The profile is characterized by a prominent shoulder line that runs the full length of the car. While the split-taillight units look good, the tailgate has two creases too many.


The interiors are well-designed and elegant with the quality, fit and finish expected to be top notch as well. Eye-catchy elements include the beautiful three-spoke steering wheel and the optional 8-inch floating touchscreen in the center console. While some of us actually like this setup, there are a whole lot of folks who hate this show-off stuff stuck on to the dashboard. Hyundai claims class-leading passenger and luggage space in the new i30 and we don't doubt it. Crucially, the rear windows aren't kinked upwards like most Hyundai cars, so those seated at the rear don't have to fight claustrophobia as much as before.


Powering the new i30 are three petrol and one diesel engines. Petrol options include a naturally-aspirated 1.4-liter mill and two turbocharged units - a 1.0-liter, 3-cylinder T-GDI and the new 1.4-liter, 4-cylinder T-GDI delivering 140 PS and 242 Nm of torque. Flying the diesel flag is the familiar 1.6-liter turbo diesel in three states of tune. Mated to these engines are the 6-speed manual and the fairly-new 7-speed Dual-Clutch automatic transmissions. 

The new i30 is said to be tested for dynamic prowess at the famous Nürburgring Nordschleife. Let's wait and see if that has translated into responsive steering and better handling, traits that Hyundai isn't known for.

When it goes on sale, the new i30 will have the most advanced safety package amongst all mainstream Hyundai models with a host of active and passive safety features including Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) with Front Collision Warning System, Driver Attention Alert (DAA), Smart Cruise Control, Bilnd Spot Detector, Rear-Cross Traffic Alert, Lane Keeping Assist System, High Beam Assist and a total of 7 airbags.

While Hyundai has confirmed that the i30 nameplate will expand to include multiple body styles, we don't know what are they yet. Our guess is that a station wagon and a 3-door coupe would join the 5-door hatchback that we see here. That's not all. The new i30 will also get the first high-performance model under Hyundai's new 'N' sub-brand, come 2017. 

How about bringing this here to India as your halo car, Hyundai?

20160904

Skoda unveils Kodiaq, the brand's first large SUV

Czech automaker Skoda recently took the wraps off its all-new Kodiaq, the brand's first large SUV, at an event held in Berlin. Lining up above the Yeti in the lineup, the Kodiaq has the potential to do more than what the Yeti did in literally every aspect. Yes, the new Skoda SUV is not just bigger, it looks better, comes with three rows of seating and opens up new markets and target audience too. This, so, is a crucial model for Skoda.  

One aspect of current-generation Skodas that won the brand thousands of fans worldwide is their crisp styling that's accentuated in no small part by elegant detailing all around. The Kodiaq loses none of that.

Not all large SUVs are beautiful to look at but the Kodiaq sure is. The overhangs are just about the right length, the wheelbase isn't awkwardly long and there is none of that 'bulbousness' that seem to plague many of its peers. Giving it a distinct identity up front are its double-headlights that perfectly complement the trademark 'butterfly' grille with vertical slats. There are eye-catchy design elements all around - the muscular hood with central ridges, the recessed shoulder line, the snazzy alloy wheels and the contoured tailgate with multiple surfaces. Headlights and taillights get the typical 'crystalline' effect like all Skodas and look brilliant.


The interiors are typical European stuff with a functional layout that's devoid of flashy styling. Expect the build quality, fit and finish to be up there with the best as usual. Despite being just a tad longer than the Octavia, the Kodiaq appears to be a proper 7-seater with three rows of comfortable seating. The double horizontal lines, a theme successfully incorporated in the exterior design, is carried forward to the cabin as well. Remember the Skoda-branded umbrellas of the first-gen Superb that had their own storage slots in the rear doors? The Kodiaq has one such unique feature too. It's called 'door-edge protection' and it deploys automatically when opening the doors preventing the door edges from getting damaged.


A host of driver assistance systems like Tow Assist that automatically takes over steering when reversing with a trailer, Manoeurve Assist that automatically brakes when an obstacle is detected while reversing and Area View System that comes with wide-angle surround-view cameras are available for the first time in a Skoda. 

Engine options include the familiar 1.4 TSI, 2.0 TSI and the 2.0 TDI, with the smaller petrol and the diesel mills coming in two states of tune each. Apart from the 6-speed manual and the 6-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic gearboxes, a new 7-speed DSG dual-clutch transmission is making its debut at Skoda mated with the top-of-the-line TSI and TDI mills. An All-Wheel Drive system with electronically-controlled multi plate clutch is on offer too, which means the Kodiaq can take you off-road if needed.


We hear that the new Superb has got off to a flying start in several markets across the world and Skoda can't make enough of them. We know quite a few unhappy customers waiting for their Superbs right here in India too. When it goes on sale, expect the Kodiaq to pose more of the same challenges for Skoda, in India and abroad!

20160830

Jeep makes its debut in India; Lineup includes Wrangler, Grand Cherokee and Grand Cherokee SRT

After months of teasing and dilly-dallying, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ Jeep brand finally made its debut in India today. The Indian lineup consists of three models – Wrangler, Grand Cherokee and Grand Cherokee SRT, all of which are imported as Completely Built Units (CBU).


At ₹71.59 Lakhs ex-showroom New Delhi, the Wrangler is the most affordable Jeep on sale. Available exclusively in the four-door Unlimited variant, the Wrangler is the big daddy of American SUVs and an off-roading legend. With iconic styling that has evolved beautifully from the popular Willys Jeep of an era gone by, the Wrangler’s macho looks and retro appeal remain unmatched. A 2.8-liter turbocharged diesel engine that generates 197 horsepower and a massive 460 Nm of torque powers this SUV that comes with a 5-speed automatic transmission and Command-Trac 4WD system as standard. 

Wrangler’s feature list includes a 6.5-inch UConnect touchscreen entertainment system with Voice Command, 40GB hard drive and inbuilt GPS navigation, automatic climate control, All-Weather slush mats, tyre pressure monitoring system, dual front airbags, Electronic Roll Mitigation, Electronic Stability Control, Hill Start Assist, Traction Control and, oddly for Indian conditions, heated seats. With heavy-duty solid axles, 17-inch On/Off-Road tyres, 238.2 mm ground clearance, 35-degree approach angle, 28-degree departure angle and a 18-degree breakover angle, the Wrangler is likely to be the SUV of choice for Jeep loyalists and off-roading aficionados with deep pockets.


Launched alongside the Wrangler today was the Grand Cherokee. Available in two trim levels – Limited and Summit, the Grand Cherokee is priced at ₹93.64 Lakhs and ₹1.03 Crores respectively. Unlike the Wrangler that takes the retro route, the Grand Cherokee comes across as a modern and stylish SUV that retains the hardcore characteristics that the Jeep brand has become synonymous with. That front end, especially, looks menacingly lovely. Under the hood is a 3.0-liter V6 turbo-diesel that generates 240 horsepower and 570 Nm of peak torque. Mated to it is a 8-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifts and a Quadra-Trac 4WD system.

Noteworthy features in the Summit variant include 8-way power-adjustable front seats with lumbar adjust, heated seats, leather upholstery, dual panel sunroof, 8.4-inch touchscreen entertainment system with 9 speakers, Voice Command and GPS navigation,  20-inch aluminium wheels with All Season tyres, Tire Pressure Monitoring System, Bi-Xenon HID headlamps with LED Daytime Running Lights, LED taillights, Cruise Control, 7 airbags including knee airbag for the driver, Electronic Stability Control, Traction Control, Hill Descent Control, Hill Start Assist and ParkSense parking assist system.


The flagship of the Jeep lineup in India though is the SRT Grand Cherokee. Powered by a monstrous 6.4-liter HEMI V8 petrol engine that generates 470 horsepower and a whopping 630 Nm of torque, the SRT Grand Cherokee is the ‘go to’ SUV if racing Ferraris and Porsches are on top of your ‘to do’ list. 

Mind-blowing acceleration and performance apart, the SRT Grand Cherokee gets exclusive features like Brembo high-performance brakes, performance-tuned steering, Sport Mode with Launch Control, Active Damping Suspension, Active Noise Control System, brushed aluminum pedals, high-performance audio with 19 Harman Kardon speakers, 20-inch polished wheels with 295 section Run Flat tyres and Selec-Track System that adjusts the suspension, torque distribution, engine mapping and stability control based on driving conditions.

While we are glad that Jeep has made its way into the Indian market, we aren’t sure if value-conscious Indian car-buyers will look over the steep pricing and appreciate the strengths of these models. We’ll know soon, stay tuned!

20160823

Hyundai launches the all-new Elantra in India

Hyundai did many things right over the last few years but if there’s one aspect of car-making that the South Korean manufacturer nailed to perfection, it has got to be its ‘Fluidic Sculpture’ design language. It was the fifth-generation Elantra that debuted the popular design theme, going on to become one of the world’s best-selling cars. The Elantra had a decent run in India too and was, in fact, the best-seller in its segment until the Toyota Corolla Altis came along and stole its thunder.

The sixth-generation Elantra, launched in New Delhi today, is Hyundai's attempt to regain the top spot in the entry-luxury segment. Based on an all-new platform and wearing an evolved version of the fluidic design, the new Elantra is more attractive and potent than its predecessor.


The new Elantra lineup consists of three trim levels - S, SX and SX(O) that further diversify into 9 variants based on engine and transmission options. The petrol variants are priced between 12.99 and 17.99 Lakhs while the diesel variants have price tags ranging from 14.79 to 19.19 Lakhs. All prices are introductory and ex-showroom, Delhi.


The swoops and curves of the current Elantra are gone, replaced by sharp lines and crisp detailing. Up front, the trademark hexagonal grille with a thick chrome surround, HID projector headlights and the boomerang-shaped recesses in the bumper housing the fog lamps lend the car with a distinct identity. Though not to the extent of the outgoing version, the profile shows off the Elantra’s coupe-like styling complete with a sloping roof and rising window line. The prominent waist line cuts across the door handles and fuses with the taillight only to re-emerge in the form of an integrated boot-lid spoiler. Split taillights with LED elements, plastic bumper insert and a shark-fin antenna complete the sporty rear.

While the exteriors are clearly an evolution over the current Elantra, the interiors have undergone a complete transformation.


The curvy layout of the present car has been ditched in favour of squarish elements with minimalist design. Build quality, fit and finish appear to be top notch as usual with the top-end variants boasting a bucket list of standard features. Key equipment include dual zone climate control, auto cruise control, drive mode select, keyless entry with push button start, 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, electric sunroof, electrically adjustable driver’s seat, ventilated front seats, music system with BlueTooth, USB and Aux compatibility and a ‘Smart Trunk’ that automatically opens the boot if it detects a person with the key standing behind the car for more than 3 seconds.

Safety is well taken care of with the SX(O) variant equipped with Antilock Braking System (ABS), Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD), 6 airbags, Electronic Stability Control (ESC), Vehicle Stability Management (VSM), Hill Assist Control (HAC) and reverse parking camera with sensors.


Powering the new Elantra is an all-new 2.0-liter petrol engine from the ‘Nu’ family that produces 150 bhp and 192 Nm of torque. The diesel variants come with the tried-and-tested 1.6-liter CRDi engine with 126 bhp and 260 Nm of torque. Both the petrol and diesel variants have an option of a 6-speed manual or a 6-speed automatic transmission.  

Hyundai has also introduced a Premium Assurance Program to differentiate the Elantra from its mass-market siblings. Basically, this program entitles the new Elantra for a 3-year unlimited warranty, free roadside assistance, free maintenance (upto 30,000 km) and includes a 3-time customer ‘Home Visit’.

With a firm grip on the mass market segments, Hyundai appears to be leaving no stone unturned in making the new Elantra a success in the premium segment. But with dwindling sales of D-segment sedans and the Corolla continuing to be as strong as ever, the Elantra has its task cut out.

20160821

Transit Elevated Bus (TEB) completes successful trial run in China

Back in May this year, there was this video that came along in the social media showing a straddling bus that could drive over vehicles stuck in traffic jams. Coming from China, a country notorious for congestion and traffic jams, we dismissed it as a 'too good to be true' imagination that's not going to make it out of virtual reality. 

Needless to say we were shocked when we learnt earlier this month that a working prototype of the Transit Elevated Bus (TEB-1), as the straddling bus is called, made its official test run in the city of Qinhuangdao, China's Hebei Province. Running on guided rails laid on either sides of a two-lane highway, the test run lasted just 300 meters.


As you can see from the pictures, at 22 m long and 7.8 m wide, the bus is massive and can be intimidating at first glance. The bus has a maximum speed of 60 km/h and runs 2 m above the road, letting other vehicles drive underneath. Each of these behemoths can carry up to 300 passengers. Multiple units could be coupled using concertina connections like the ones we have in articulated buses. A key fact highlighted during its test run was that a TEB network costs only a fraction of what it takes to build an underground metro while serving the same purpose. 


While all that is cool, what's not is its approximately 50 m turning radius and the need to control wheels on either sides to run at different speeds to take turns. Cities adopting this mode of transport better have wide and straight roads with minimal turns! 

The designers of the concept apparently referenced German trams for standards and control systems while the developers say the height and length of the bus are customizable and can be designed to accommodate the needs and infrastructure of different cities. 

Expectedly, the news of the Transit Elevated Bus on test created quite a stir globally but it appears not all are convinced this could be a potential solution for our traffic woes. While its feasibility and safety will continue to be discussed and debated, let's see if the trial run paves way for a full-fledged working model. If the time taken to transform this from concept to reality is any indication, we can expect that to happen pretty soon!