20210710

Citroen's upcoming compact crossover spotted testing

Citroen might have just started it's Indian innings with the C5 Aircross but the French brand is already gearing up to mix it with the big boys in the coming years.

Leading the charge would be the car you see here. Spotted testing on two separate occasions several weeks apart - once inside Chennai city and the next time on the busy Chennai-Bengaluru highway - these test mules are likely to evolve into Citroen's entry-level offering for the Indian market. Codenamed CC21, Citroen has based this compact crossover on Stellantis' Common Modular Platform (CMP) that's shared with Peugeot and an army of other brands the group has in it's umbrella.

Likely to be badged the C3, Citroen's smallest and most-affordable crossover will feature the same quirky styling elements like the C5 Aircross that the French brand is synonymous with in Europe. Despite the camouflage, the split light clusters at the front, the stubby rear end and the distinct C-pillar can clearly be seen. Also visible are old-school flap-type door handles, signaling Citroen's intent to get the pricing right in the cut-throat sub-4m crossover segment the C3 would be in. One of the spy shots capture the C3 next to the Hyundai Creta which gives a fair indication of the Citroen's size.

Though not much of the interiors can be seen, the floating touchscreen in the center console is making its presence felt in a couple of shots. Expect good quality and intelligent features to be thrown in to go with Citroen's premium aspirations. 

PSA is said to be working on a 1.2-liter turbocharged petrol engine to power the C3 while a 1.5-liter diesel engine might also join in due course. A 5-speed manual transmission is likely to be the mainstay with an automatic option also being planned. While the powertrain would be manufactured at PSA's joint-venture plant with Avtec near Hosur, the car will be assembled at a facility in Thiruvallur near Chennai that PSA bought from Hindustan Motors.

With Citroen India's plans to launch a new crossover every year from 2021 until 2023 out in the open, the C3 is likely to play an integral role in establishing the brand amongst the masses. When launched, the C3 will be pitted against a bunch of successful and competent crossovers like the Maruti-Suzuki Vitara Brezza, Hyundai Venue, Kia Sonet, Tata Nexon, Ford EcoSport, Renault Kiger, Nissan Magnite and Mahindra XUV3OO. 

Will typical 'French' quirkiness prevail and make an impact? Let's wait and watch.

20210407

All-new Royal Enfield 350cc motorcycle caught testing

Royal Enfield has been doing everything right over the last few years. Be it the launch of their 650 cc twins in 2018 without teething problems, the subsequent carefully-planned expansion to many global markets and the perfectly-executed Meteor 350 debut last year, the Chennai-based brand nailed every one of them.

With Jawa, Benelli and Honda joining the fray, Royal Enfield's unrivalled supremacy in the 350-500 cc retro cruiser space is now a thing of the past. To protect it's turf, Royal Enfield is busy augmenting it's line-up.

One of the many models under development is an all-new 350 cc motorcycle that would complement the Meteor and the upcoming new Classic range. Based on trademarks filed by Royal Enfield way back in 2019, this could be called the Hunter.

Caught testing in the busy NH45 off Chennai, these spy shots give a fair indication of what to expect from this upcoming Honda CB350 and Jawa Forty Two rival.

Although the styling looks familiar at first glance, look closely and you'll be able to make out the subtle differences. For starters, the seating position is set lower than the Classic but not as relaxed as the Meteor. The single-piece seat is flatter and the taillights and rear indicators are placed higher. The exhaust pipe is stubby and more upswept too. These changes make this more of a retro scrambler.

The rest of the underpinnings - including the new J-platform with dual cradle frame, the refined 350 cc mill and front and rear disc brakes with dual-channel ABS - are expected to be shared with the Meteor and Classic. The new instrument cluster with Tripper navigation is likely to be offered too as will a plethora of accessories and customization options.

Once this hits the market, Royal Enfield will have three different 350 cc motorcycles catering to different tastes in a similar price band. These are exciting times, not just for Royal Enfield fans but also for potential customers out there with around INR 2 Lakhs to spare. Watch this space!

Picture Credits: N. Swami

20210406

Mahindra Thar caught testing; Is a more powerful variant getting ready for export markets?

After years of testing across the vast Indian landscape, Mahindra launched the all-new second-generation Thar last October. Since then, the order book has been overflowing with Mahindra struggling to produce enough to meet demand.

Despite being a lifestyle vehicle, the Thar hit the right chords for thousands of Indians out there who are raring to go out and explore the impossible.

With the choice of a powerful petrol or a torquey diesel engine mated to manual or automatic transmissions and specced in either adventure (AX) or lifestyle (LX) series, there is a Thar for just about everyone. The iconic Jeep-inspired looks and the go-anywhere 4x4 credentials add to its appeal.

Just a few months after launch, it appears Mahindra is back to it's testing routine with the all-new Thar. Caught in the outskirts of Chennai on the highway that houses the Mahindra Research Valley, it begs to be asked what's new in here.

In terms of looks, there's hardly anything new apart from a couple of barely-noticeable changes. The tailgate now houses a rather large 4x4 badge which is currently seen on the right rear fender. Though it can't be seen in these pictures, the radiator grille has changed too from the tacky one the Thar on sale now has.

If reports circulating in the web are to be believed, Mahindra is said to be working on a more powerful tune for the 2.0-liter 'mStallion' petrol engine that powers the Thar. The car spotted testing here is the petrol automatic variant, which adds further ammunition to those reports. It is not hard to believe as the 150 horsepower the 4-cylinder mill generates right now isn't much for markets like Australia, South Africa and the Middle East where Mahindra intends to export the Thar. An addition of 20 to 30 horses would do the Thar a world of good and make it a strong contender against established rivals like the Suzuki Jimny and the more expensive Jeep Wrangler.

While nothing can be confirmed at the moment, just about anything related to the Thar is good news, given the car's popularity. So, let's keep guessing until Mahindra spills the beans!

20210403

Genesis unveils the striking X Concept

As a standalone brand, Genesis might only be a few years old but it has to be said they're doing a lot of things right already. One of them - and I'm sure a lot of you would agree with this - is the design and styling of their cars. This is especially true with the concept cars that the young Korean brand treats us with every now and then.

Remember the stunning Essentia Concept from the 2018 New York Auto Show? Joining it as yet another eye candy from Genesis is the X Concept.

Unveiled earlier this week at a private roof top in Los Angeles, the X Concept is Genesis' vision of a high-performance, electric GT (Gran Turismo) Coupe. As has been the case with the brand's earlier concepts, the X is gorgeous and wears a compelling design that just goes to show the fine form the Korean brand's designers are in.

The fascia has a forward-leaning Crest Grille with an unique mesh pattern inside. Flanking it on either side are the brand's signature quad headlamps that cut across the wheel wells and extend into the fenders. The sculpted hood is integrated with the fenders as a single Clamshell panel. Prominent Parabolic Lines originate from the tip of the hood and arches all the way to the rear, giving the X Concept a muscular and powerful stance. The taillights mimic the "Two Lines" theme just like the headlights, creating an unique lighting signature.

Despite its EV credentials, Genesis has stuck to the classic GT formula of a long hood, expansive wheelbase and a short boot. 

The couple of interior shots Genesis released show a cabin that cocoons the person behind the wheel with a cockpit-like place housing all the controls and displays. This being a design study, Genesis has played around quite a bit with different coloured seats for the driver and passenger and exposed metal seat frames. The Crystal Sphere electronic shift lever with integrated drive mode selector looks classy and would be a nice addition to Genesis' existing lineup.

Genesis hasn't released any details on the concept's power-train. That's a shame but it's safe to assume Genesis would stuff the X with more than enough go to match its show.

Whatever, if this is the kind of stuff Hyundai's luxury arm is cooking, I just can't wait to see what's being served. Bring it on, I say!

20210126

Renault Kiger spotted testing days before unveiling

After tasting success with their 'made-for-India' models like the Kwid and Triber, the folks at Renault are at it again. This time, they have set their eyes on the booming compact crossover segment. After taking the wraps off the Kiger Concept virtually last November, Renault announced earlier this month that the production model would be unveiled on 28th January, 2021.

With just a couple of days to go for the official unveiling, the Kiger was caught testing on the busy Chennai-Bengaluru highway.

Despite it's evidently compact dimensions, the Kiger enjoys a good stance thanks to the wide shoulders and the wheels being pushed off to the corners. With Renault confirming that the production model would resemble the concept closely, expect Kwid-like split lighting clusters up front and C-shaped LED taillights at the back with a sharp cut in between. The latter, together with the sculpted tailgate seen in the concept, would give the Kiger a sharp-looking derriere. Those crazy wheels and bright green accents are not likely to make it to production.

Built on the CMF-A platform that already underpins Renault's own Kwid and Triber, Datsun's redi-Go and Nissan's latest hit Magnite, the Kiger is likely to carryover the 1.0-liter, 3-cylinder petrol engine that powers all of them. While it generates a modest 72 horsepower in naturally aspirated form, turbocharging bumps the power up to 100 horsepower. Transmission options would include a 5-speed manual and a CVT automatic.

If Magnite's pricing is any indication, expect the Renault Kiger to be priced aggressively, giving the established brands a lot to think about. Let's see how things pan out for the Kiger-Magnite duo!