2013 ICOTY & IMOTY Awards announced

As the year comes to a close, it is time again to honor the best in the automotive industry. When it comes to India, nothing comes close to the Indian Car of the Year (ICOTY) and Indian Motorcycle of the Year (IMOTY) awards. Modeled on the lines of popular international titles such as North American Car of the Year and European Car of the year, the ICOTY and IMOTY awards are deliberated and decided by a group of automotive journalists from leading publications in the country. After analyzing every car and bike that was launched in India this year, the expert jury have zeroed in on the winners of 2013 ICOTY and IMOTY titles. The awards were presented recently at a glittering ceremony organized by the title sponsor JK Tyres.

To be eligible for the award, the car or motorcycle should have been launched in India in the first 11 months of the previous year. Facelifts or new variants of an existing model aren't eligible to participate as are cars and bikes that aren't made in India. In short, the Indian Car of the Year and Indian Motorcycle of the Year should represent the tag line "Made in India and Made for India".

Despite having over 20 cars that qualified for the 2013 ICOTY award, the jurors shortlisted the number to just 11 finalists. When all the analysis and scoring were done with, the Renault Duster, that has turned around the fortunes of Renault in India and is rewriting sales records, came out on top. Being the first compact crossover to be launched in India would have helped matters here, as would have it's all-round capabilities of rugged design, superb ride quality, decent handling, two fuel-efficient diesel engine options and an abuse-worthy build quality. That the Duster's storming success sent many other manufacturers running to get their compact crossovers ready meant that there wasn't much competition for this year's award.

Maruti-Suzuki Ertiga and Hyundai Elantra, both of which are game-changers and sales leaders in their respective segments, finished second and third in the contest. To think of the fact that the Elantra won the 2012 North American Car of the Year award amidst much-tougher competition and arguably much-higher standards and still finished behind the Duster and Ertiga shows the increasing significance of Utility Vehicles in the Indian market. It's high time brands like Hyundai, Honda, Volkswagen and Ford start working on getting their Utility Vehicles here at the earliest.


   Winner - Renault Duster


   * 2012 – Maruti-Suzuki Swift
   * 2011 – Ford Figo
   * 2010 – Tata Nano
   * 2009 – Honda City
   * 2008 – Hyundai i10

Moving over to two wheels, it was the KTM Duke 200 that was chosen the winner. A joint development by KTM and Bajaj, the Duke 200 is making waves not just in India but across the globe in all countries where KTM has a strong presence. Unlike the 2013 Indian Car of the Year, choosing the Indian Motorcycle of the Year was apparently tougher with the Bajaj Pulsar 200 NS giving tough competition to the Duke 200 before losing out on the title by a slender margin. A stunningly aggressive design, sporty razor-sharp handling and a thumping power-to-weight ratio makes the Duke 200 an enthusiast's delight. That it excels in the race track and still costs less than the Yamaha YZF R15 and Honda CBR 250R seals its position as a game-changer.

The Pulsar 200NS, which is nothing but a Duke 200 in Bajaj's attire, came in a close second. The suave 'Naked Sports' styling and a host of advanced technologies underneath make the newest Pulsar the best ever. If this is the sign of things to come, Pulsar is all set to reach dizzying heights in future. Honda's much-awaited entry into the commuter segment where Splendors and Discovers rule the roost currently came in the form of Dream Yuga. As with all Hondas, the Dream Yuga comes across as a competent all-round performer, finishing the contest in third.


   Winner – KTM Duke 200


   * 2012 – Honda CBR 250R
   * 2011 – Honda CB Twister
   * 2010 – Kawasaki Ninja 250R
   * 2009 – Yamaha YZF R15
   * 2008 – Bajaj Pulsar 220 DTS-Fi


Bajaj RE 445M Diesel Auto-rickshaw spotted testing in Pune

With the advent of four-wheeled people carriers like the Tata Magic Iris, Mahindra Gio cab and the soon-to-be-launched Bajaj RE 60, any sane mind would be thinking that the three-wheeled autorickshaws are on their way out. Being no bigger than the regular auto-rickshaws that we know, models like the Gio and Magic Iris are comparatively more stable, safer and weather proof. On the contrary, manufacturers are sending out a loud and clear message that the three-wheeled auto-rickshaws are here to stay. First, it was Mahindra testing its Alfa auto-rickshaw on an arterial road in Chennai. Now, it's the turn of Bajaj, India's largest three-wheeler manufacturer and arguably one of the world's largest too.

Not content with its total dominance of the three-wheeler market with the older RE range, Bajaj Auto recently launched two new variants - the RE 145D in petrol, CNG and LPG variants and the RE 445M diesel auto-rickshaw. Yes, you read that right. With the diesel fetish that's currently prevailing in India, the RE 445M could be the perfect transport solution for suburban India. While Bajaj announced that it was planning to launch the RE 445M in a phased manner across the country, the testing apparently hasn't stopped. These two pictures shot in one of the suburbs of Pune late last week proves that Bajaj is still hard at work to ensure that the RE 445M hits the sweet spot once it is finally available nationwide.

For those who aren't aware already, the RE 445M boasts of twin halogen headlights, a twin fork suspension, a single piece front windshield and a 7-plate hand clutch apart from a stronger and bigger body with better passenger and luggage space compared to the regular auto-rickshaws. With a claimed mileage of 36 km/l and top speed of 55 km/h, the RE 445M is designed to deliver maximum mileage and better earnings, claims Bajaj. With an ex-showroom Pune price of INR 1.21 Lakh, it isn't much expensive than the regular auto-rickshaws too, thus having all the makings of a winner.


Driven #18: Honda City VTEC & Honda Civic S

A lazy Sunday afternoon is a great time for letting your thoughts run wild. Believe us, it works. It was on one such day, looking at two cars parked on the street, three of us car nuts, decided to go on an impromptu drive. It could have been a hasty decision but the cars are not just any other cars. It was on the merits of these two models that the reputation of a brand was built in India. Is building up a brand that important, you might ask? Ask Fiat, if in doubt.

Without getting into a suspense mode, the cars being referred to are the City VTEC and Civic, two glorious cars that define the brand 'Honda' to many in India.

The timing of this post couldn't be more precise too. Honda India is just recovering from a slump. Be it supply constraints due to natural calamities in Japan, shortage of knocked down kits due to floods in Thailand that crippled production, negative market sentiments and reduced sales due to the absence of diesel options in its line-up, massive price cuts in Jazz to clear stocks, you name a problem and they faced it.

All that is about to change with the all-new Amaze that's slated for launch early next year. But, let's not forget what made Honda famous, shall we?


As soon as we lined up both these cars together, we realized that they had more things in common than what we had initially thought. They both look classy and elegant, with bits of sportiness and aggression thrown in for good measure. The lines are so clean that we haven't grown tired of looking at them so many years after launch. In short, they impress without trying too hard.

The City VTEC came to India at a time when Mitsubishi Lancer was at its marauding best. The Lancer was the default choice of youngsters then and a main reason was its 'too-good-to-believe' stock looks and extremely mod-friendly nature. With the City VTEC, Honda nailed those two criteria and immediately captured the hearts of the enthusiasts. Though the basic design was similar to other variants of the City, the VTEC had a few exclusive touches like dual chrome-tipped exhaust pipes, a beautifully-crafted boot spoiler and those classic alloy wheels, that made the car stand out. The best part is that a well-maintained or nicely-modified example will attract stares even today.

The car that we drove, with its modified grille, projector headlights and smoked taillights, evoked positive reactions from passers-by. Not bad at all, for a car that was launched more than a decade back, we think. So, where does this leave the Civic that's accompanying the City VTEC?

That the Civic floored the media and the public alike when it was launched in 2006 isn't something that we don't know. The car was stunning and redefined the term 'modern'. It seemed that adjectives like sleek, aerodynamic and sporty existed just to define this car. The wrap-around headlights with its characteristic kink, the beautifully-sculpted fenders, pillars and wheel arches and the double-barrel taillights that extend into the boot looked like nothing else on the road.

Subtle chrome bits in grille, door handles, side strips and exhaust pipes lent a touch of class. On the whole, the Civic, with its different parts merging with each other seamlessly, was an astonishingly-beautiful sedan that was going to be hard to replace.

Not surprisingly then, six years after its launch, a year and half since the subsequent ninth generation model went on sale and with competition heating up, the Civic still manages to look hip and trendy, which speaks volumes on the incredibly modern design that this eighth generation Civic was bestowed with.


Again, both these cars have quite a few things in common inside as well. First of all, you sit very low and it takes time to adjust, especially if you are used to sitting higher in other cars. Hondas are always known for their high quality interiors and impeccable fit and finish and both these cars stay true to that tradition. Unfortunately, both of them are victims of Honda's stinginess in features as well, a virtue that the company is slowly coming out of, now.

But that's where the similarity ends. While the City VTEC is all flat and rectangular, the Civic is all swoopy and angular. Step into the cars in close succession and you will witness the change that one generation, or about 5 years in a car's life cycle, can bring about.

Everything in the City VTEC screams old school, but that is only when compared to the Civic. Forget that the latter is around and you will realize that the City's interiors are in fact a lot better than many cars that were on sale at that time. The steering wheel, though a tad too large for the sporty nature of the car, provides a perfect line of vision to the instrument cluster that is dominated by large semi-circular speedometer and tachometer dials on either sides. The metallic silver inserts in the centre console, door pads and around the air-conditioning vents breaks the monotony of all-black interiors that was the norm. The car even came with electrically adjustable rear view mirrors, which was a luxury then.

Step out and get into the Civic and there is a world of difference, literally. The view from the driver's seat, that was exhilarating in 2006 when the car was first launched, still manages to excite. The large analog tachometer is flanked by tell-tale lights on both sides while the digital displays for speed, fuel level and engine temperature sit directly in our view of the road ahead. The center console is slightly angled towards the driver and is equipped with large buttons for controlling the climate control and audio system. The steering wheel is very small and sporty that is further accentuated by the metallic inserts. The handbrake lever is pure artistry and looks and feels great to touch and use.

Both cars came equipped with features that were par for the segment, though nowhere near what the best in segment offered. Just like the front seats, the rear seats are also set comparatively lower than other cars, but they score strongly in the 'comfort' factor. Civic's rear seat in particular is supremely comfortable and needs special mention. But with what is lying under the hood of these cars, the rear seats and their comfort isn't going to be a top priority.


It's no exaggeration that the acronym 'VTEC' commands a crazy fan following, not just in India but across the world. Standing for Variable Valve Timing and Lift Electronic Control systems, Honda's VTEC engines offers a rare combination of power and economy by allowing the ECU to select from two cam profiles that are designed to maximize fuel-efficiency at lower RPMs and maximize power output at higher RPMs. Though it was the Honda Accord that introduced this technology to us Indians, it was the City that made it really popular with its much more affordable price tag. Civic uses a slightly modified version of the same technology, dubbed 'i-VTEC' or the "intelligent" VTEC that uses continuously varying cam profiles.

When it was launched in India, the City VTEC was nothing short of a revelation. Statistics like 100 bhp of power, acceleration from 0 to 100 km/h in 10 seconds and a top speed of 180 km/h were unheard of. Don't forget, those were the days when Maruti-Suzuki Esteem with all of 65 bhp was considered a powerful car.

Step in, get comfortable in the low-set driver's seat, floor the pedal and the jewel called VTEC under the hood takes care of the rest. The way in which the engine cleanly revs till its 7100 rpm redline is something that can't be described. Rather, it has to be experienced. There is no jerk, no drama, just brutal scoops of power transferred to the two front wheels. While the half-throttle responses at lower revs makes driving in the city a breeze, the strong surge at higher revs is a pleasure on the highways. The highly tractable nature of this engine is a quality that we love in the City VTEC. Forget about fuel-efficiency, this engine is addictive, one that isn't harmful for a change.

Adding to the driving experience is the sharp steering that weighs up nicely. The ride is firm courtesy the low profile tires that the car comes shod with. Handling is great and the car sticks to the road as long as you maintain a sedate pace. Stability at three digit speeds isn't confidence inspiring and the car tends to float and wallow at high speeds.

Civic, on the other hand, is a total contrast to the City VTEC. It struggles in bumper-to-bumper city traffic with a poor throttle response at low revs. The gears and clutch needs to be worked upon constantly and the car shudders when forced to move from standstill in second gear. Keep the engine on the boil at above 1800 rpm though and the Civic is a different animal altogether. A surge is experienced once the tacho needle blasts past 2000 rpm and it continues all the way to its 6800 rpm redline. Power delivery is more linear and the Civic doesn't feel as quick or as dramatic as it's younger sibling. Its calm, its composed and its way more mature than the City VTEC.

Whatever the Civic loses to City VTEC in terms of urban driveability, it gains with its cruising ability on the highways. The ride is still firm and the rear suspension is way too soft for our liking. But the handling is brilliant and high-speed stability is simply superb. The Civic would be happy munching miles as long as the roads are decent enough, with its soft rear suspension and low ground clearance requiring constant attention over broken patches.

Both the cars are extremely fuel-efficient if you keep the engine running at lower revolutions. We know it's tough, but do that and you will be amazed by the figures that they return. Don't believe us? Get this. When driven consistently at 2000 rpm at an average speed of 80 km/h over a distance of 300 km, the Civic returned an astonishing 17.5 km/l, which is nothing but sheer magic for a free-revving 1.8-liter engine that runs on petrol.



* Engine Type: In-line, SOHC, VTEC
* No of Cylinders: 4
* Displacement: 1493 cc
* Maximum Power: 106 bhp @ 6800 rpm
* Maximum Torque: 13.5 kgm @ 4700 rpm
* Transmission Type: 5-speed MT
* Tires: 175/65 R14
* Brakes: Ventilated Disc (Front), Drum (Rear)

CIVIC (1.8 S):

* Engine Type: In-line, DOHC, i-VTEC
* No of Cylinders: 4
* Displacement: 1799 cc
* Maximum Power: 130 bhp @ 6300 rpm
* Maximum Torque: 17.5 kgm @ 4300 rpm
* Transmission Type: 5-speed MT
* Tires: 195/65 R15
* Brakes: Disc (Front & Rear)


Having driven both these cars extensively, its not hard to understand the reason for automotive enthusiasts showering their love on Honda. Times may have changed and competition might have surged past. But, in the not-so-distant past, there was no other manufacturer who could make powerful, free-revving yet fuel-efficient petrol engines as good as Honda. Combine with that good looks, class-leading interior quality, spacious interiors, comfortable ride quality, sporty handling and rock-solid reliability and you get the perfect recipe for success. The City VTEC might have been discontinued long back but there is a reason why it is so hard to find in the pre-owned market. Those who own one just don't want to part with the car. The Civic though is still on sale. Go get one and relish the VTEC experience for all your money's worth.

Having reveled in the i-VTEC experience once again, we now brace ourselves for 'i-DTEC'. Don't scratch your heads. It's the new family of small diesel engines being developed by Honda under "Earth Dreams" branding. The Amaze sedan, that's based on the Brio hatchback and slated for launch in 2013, will be the first car to get this engine.


Chrysler all set to enter India with Jeep brand in 2013

At last, after decades of missing the action in the booming Indian market, Chrysler is all set to be officially launched in India in 2013. Chrysler, often referred to as the last of the three American automotive biggies after General Motors and Ford, filed for bankruptcy in 2009 before being taken over by Fiat SpA of Italy. So when Fiat started charting out plans for its own recovery in India, it decided to launch Chrysler here as well.

The brand spearheading Chrysler's entry would be 'Jeep' and the models leading the charge would be the iconic Wrangler and Grand Cherokee. Thanks to Mahindra's association with them many decades back, Jeep is hugely popular in India and needs no introduction at all.

The first model to be launched would be the Wrangler. With a legacy rooting back to the famous Willys CJ (Civilian Jeep), also popularly known as the World War II Jeep, the Wrangler is one of the most capable off-roaders in the world. Be it sand or slush, rocks or stones, the Wrangler, with its timeless looks and live front and rear axles, will make a mockery of the surroundings and return unscathed. Though its the 3-door variant that is very popular, Jeep also has a longer, 5-door version of the Wrangler called 'Unlimited'. We aren't sure which of these two is going to be launched in India.

The next model slated for launch is the sleek Grand Cherokee. One of Jeep's most successful models ever, the Grand Cherokee is a luxury Sports Utility Vehicle that is expected to be pitched against the BMW X3 and Audi Q5 in terms of pricing. Despite not possessing Wrangler-like capabilities in the wild, the Grand Cherokee is an able off-roader that also combines the plushness and ride of a luxury sedan. The Grand Cherokee is extremely successful in USA and Jeep would be hoping to replicate the success here in India.

Going forward, two more models smaller than the Wrangler would be developed, not only for the Indian market but to be sold across the globe. Despite being owned by Fiat, Jeeps would be sold through a separate network of dealerships across major Indian cities. Fiat would be desperate to taste success with Jeep in India and will do all that is possible to ensure that it happens. Bring it on, we say! We just can't wait to tame these beasts!

Force Trax Gurkha to make a comeback, spotted testing in Pune

It's raining Sports Utility Vehicles in India at the moment. At one end, we have the Premier Rio trying hard to get noticed and the Renault Duster that has kick-started a dust storm in the market. At a diametrically opposite end, the all-new Range Rover is wooing Indians with it's sheer opulence. With the Utility Vehicle segment being the biggest money-spinner in the Indian market today, manufacturers cannot afford to ignore it anymore. It looks like Force Motors is thinking on the same lines.

A few years back, Bajaj Tempo, as Force Motors was called then, was selling an affordable off-roader called Trax Gurkha in the market. Though it wasn't very popular amongst the general public, the off-roading aficionados, though far and few in between, rated it very highly. Inspite of being crude and utilitarian, the Trax Gurkha had its own niche market, thanks to its go-anywhere capability. Apart from its rugged looks and supreme off-roading skills, the Trax Gurkha had nothing else to boast of though.

All that is about to change, if the two test vehicles spotted in Pune yesterday by our reader Guru are any indication.

The design hasn't changed much and the Trax Gurkha retains its boxy shape and dimensions. The circular headlights along with the black plastic grille and bumper gives it an utilitarian look up front, which is carried over to the profile and rear. The exposed door hinges and the horizontal bumper-mounted taillights are decades-old stuff that should have been changed for the better. As if to compensate, there are a few purposeful design elements like the snorkel air-intake that juts out of the hood ahead of the A-Pillar, roof rails, snazzy alloys and tail-gate mounted spare wheel. The high stance of the vehicle combined with its short wheelbase not only gives the Trax Gurkha a butch look but will also aid in it's off-roading trails. The 3-door layout means that the rear-seat occupants have to get in through the front passenger door. There are a host of stickers and badges - Force, Trax, 4WD, Power Steering, et all, with the 'Gurkha' moniker conspicuous by its absence.

The biggest change in the new Trax Gurkha is most likely to be under the hood. The 2.2-liter Mercedes-Benz-sourced engine with 142 PS of maximum power and 320 Nm of peak torque is expected to be carried over from the Force One SUV. That will give the Trax Gurkha a crucial advantage over similar-priced off-roaders like the Maruti-Suzuki Gypsy and Mahindra Thar. The interiors are also likely to be spruced up, but we aren't expecting much improvement here. We expect Force Motors to launch the Trax Gurkha sometime next year.


Fiat announces future expansion plans for India

After what seems to be eternity, the Italian car-maker Fiat that is struggling with falling sales, a limited model range and an under-fire after-sales network, finally announced its expansion plans for the Indian market. Though it has come a little too late, fans and owners of Fiat cars would be heaving a big sigh of relief now, as it was getting amply clear that the present volumes are unsustainable to operate a manufacturing plant in India. We at Anything On Wheels have been open in our love towards Fiat and, in fact, wrote as early as 2010 that Fiat needs to do something, really quick. It then is a sin on Fiat's part that their expansion plans are coming two years down the line. Better late than never, anyway.

It's all going to start with a face-lift of the Grande Punto and Linea in 2013. Though the Linea facelift made its global debut very recently, the Punto Evo, as it is called internationally, has been on sale since 2010. With significantly redesigned exteriors and interiors, the face-lifted Punto and Linea should be able to stage a comeback in the sales charts. Moreover, Fiat has also confirmed the launch of the next generation Punto and Linea in 2014, the latter of which will have the much-awaited 1.6-liter Multijet diesel engine under its hood. The existing Linea isn't going to be discontinued and will continue to be sold alongside the new model as the Linea Classic. Rejoice Punto and Linea owners, your cars are here to stay!

That's not all. An all-new B-segment Compact Utility Vehicle is also planned for launch in 2014. This model, that will share its underpinnings with one of Chrysler's models as well, is expected to be sold worldwide, including North America and Europe. Most of our media friends have already speculated this to be the 500XL, an extended seven-seat version of the 500L shown above. We will reserve our thoughts until Fiat makes it official though.

And we have saved the best for last. As if to answer our post on the non-availability of hot hatchbacks in our market, Fiat has decided to introduce its popular performance brand “Abarth” in India. Come mid-2013, we will be able to see stunning cars like the Punto Evo Abarth and 500 Abarth scorching our roads. Abarth is already popular in India and it is not uncommon to see Fiat cars prepped up with Abarth vinyls to get that 'hot' look. The news of its official entry is only going to make fans happier. Being a CBU import, duties and taxes will ensure that only hardcore enthusiasts with deep pockets would be able to own one. More than the volumes though, Abarth is sure to improve Fiat’s shattered brand image in India.

If all these plans come to fruition, not all of Fiat's problems are solved. They still need people to sell and service their cars. Fiat's earlier decision to partner with Tata Motors for sales and service backfired and it did Fiat more harm than good. Realizing the blunder, Fiat snapped ties with Tata and announced that it will be opening new stand-alone dealerships across the country. To start with, 'Fiat Caffe', a hi-fi brand store that aims to show customers the Italian way of life, have been launched in Delhi and Pune this year. With plans to open many such stores and stand-alone dealerships across India, Fiat hopes to improve its brand image and consequently, increase sales. Here is wishing them well in their endeavor!

2013 Ward's 10 Best Engines Announced

The festive season is fast approaching in the West and, in automotive terms, that means the beginning of yet another season of 'awards'. And what better way to kick-off than listing down the 10 best engines? Ward's Auto has did just that and announced the 10 best engines of the year 2013. What's special about these awards is that, when most other publications are busy giving away titles like Car of the Year, Truck of the Year, Manufacturer of the Year and even Automotive Technology of the Year, Ward's Auto ensures that the best power-train in the automotive business are recognized year after year.

A surprising element in the 2013 list is that, for the first time in seven years, every engine in the list is powered by gasoline with none of the diesel, hybrid and all-electric power-train making the cut this time. It looks like gasoline powered Internal Combustion engines, with their ever-improving efficiency and refinement, aren't going to be threatened by alternate fuels anytime soon.

Speaking about this result that seem to go against the industry's trend of popularizing alternate fuels and propulsion systems, Drew Winter, editor-in-chief of WardsAuto World magazine said, "We're always excited to see the advancements being made in hybrids and all-electric vehicles. But there are still significant barriers for the average consumer to look past when considering these vehicles. The cost for most of them remains high, and the driving ranges of the battery electric vehicles will have to be extended to meet the needs of most people."

So, who are the winners? Ford has two entries in the list, with a whooping 3.8-liters being the difference in displacement between its two award-winning engines. BMW and Honda also take home two awards each, the latter's expertise in gasoline technology coming to the fore here. General Motors, Chrysler, Volkswagen Group (Audi) and Subaru garnered a place each in the list as well. Six of the ten engines in the list have managed to retain their spot from 2012, with the most note-worthy being Audi's 3.0-liter supercharged TFSI V6 engine that has managed to find a spot in the list for a fourth consecutive year.

The award-winning engines and the cars in which they were tested are listed below in no particular order:

* 3.0L TFSI Supercharged DOHC V-6 (Audi S5)
* 2.0L N20 Turbocharged DOHC I-4 (BMW 328i)
* 3.0L N55 Turbocharged DOHC I-6 (BMW 135is Coupe)
* 3.6L Pentastar DOHC V-6 (Ram 1500)
* 2.0L EcoBoost DOHC I-4 (Ford Focus ST/Taurus)
* 5.8L Supercharged DOHC V-8 (Ford Shelby GT500)
* 2.0L Turbocharged DOHC I-4 (Cadillac ATS)
* 2.4L DOHC I-4 (Honda Accord Sport)
* 3.5L SOHC V-6 (Honda Accord)
* 2.0L FA DOHC H-4 Boxer (Subaru BRZ)

As always, to be eligible for this award, each engine must be available in a regular production model in the USA, in a vehicle with a base price below $ 55000. Currently in its 19th year, the awards will follow the tradition of crowning the winners at a gala event in the 2012 North American International Auto Show in Detroit.