Honda unveils the all-new City in India

Honda City needs no introduction in India. Ever since its launch, the City has been very popular and a consistent best-seller in our market that’s widely considered ‘tough-to-crack’. It’s sharp styling, the smooth, powerful and efficient engine with the now-iconic “i-VTEC” technology and the solid reliability, not to discount the premium image that the ‘H’ logo carries, have earned the City legions of fans in India. Fifteen years, six facelifts and three generation changes later, it’s now time for an all-new City to take over.

As if to signify the importance of our market, Honda chose India for the global unveiling of the fourth-generation City. Unlike the three earlier generations which were all revolutionary compared to their predecessors, the new City is more of an evolution of the previous model. Blame it on the design of the existing City that, despite its age, still looks sufficiently chic and modern.

Adopting Honda’s new striking ‘H’ design philosophy, the new City looks much sharper and sleeker. A thick chrome grille and a bold new bumper dominate the proceedings up front, while the profile remains similar to the current City, save for a couple of character lines. The designers at Honda seem to have channeled their efforts towards the rear, which now looks far more exciting and sporty than the outgoing model. The split taillight clusters that extend into the boot and the muscular boot lid adds character. Despite these changes, the similarity with the existing City is quite apparent. And for that reason, the new City won’t be sending its loyalists into an excitement frenzy.

It’s a different story with the interiors though. All the flak that Honda received for the sub-par feature list of the previous City have ensured that the problem is addressed, and how. The cabin, sporting a fresh and modern theme, looks to be loaded to the gills now with the top-end variant of the new City even sporting features such as touch-screen air-conditioning controls, rear vents, sun roof and cruise control. Hyundai Verna’s rise to the top seems to have had an effect at Honda’s head-quarters in Japan.

Based on the same platform as the all-new Jazz that’s also due for an Indian launch sometime next year, the City will carry over the 1.5-liter i-VTEC petrol engine from the existing City, albeit with slight tweaks to the power and torque figures. More importantly, the 1.5-liter i-DTEC diesel engine that’s making waves under the hood of the Amaze will make its way into the City for the first time. If the existing City could do all that it did with just a petrol engine, the future looks super-bright for the new model with the diesel joining the lineup.

Bookings for the new City has started and the car is slated to go on sale in January, 2014. The specifications and prices are expected to be available only then.

After ruling the segment for more than a decade, the Honda City lost its ‘numero uno’ position to Hyundai Verna in 2011. Will the new City, with its much-improved interiors and the all-important diesel option, displace the Verna from the top? That’s gonna be one really interesting tussle to witness.


Production of Lamborghini Gallardo comes to an end

It was the end of the road for an Italian icon earlier this week as production of Lamborghini Gallardo, one of the most stylish and iconic super-cars of our times, ended in the company’s Sant’Agata Bolognese facility.

The Gallardo rose to fame at the 2003 Geneva Motor Show, an year that marked the 40th anniversary of Lamborghini. While the design and styling stunned audiences at the motor show, the exceptional handling, amazing all-wheel-drive system and the insane power from its 10-cylinder engine impressed critics and experts on the road. Apart from the regular Gallardo and Spyder variants, Lamborghini kept tingling at the hearts of automotive enthusiasts around the world with a range of performance variants and special editions in regular intervals. In case you hadn’t noticed, there was one for India too. Of all such variants, the Gallardo Polizia Stradale that still serves the Italian State Police became a global desktop sensation with its iconic blue and white livery.

It is no wonder then that the Gallardo is, by far, ‘the most successful’ Lamborghini ever. In its 10 year run from 2003 to 2013, production of Gallardo has totaled 14022 units, a truly remarkable feat for a super-car. To put that into the right perspective, the total number of Gallardos is almost half of the 30000 cars that the famous Italian marque has produced since it was first founded in 1963.

The last Gallardo to roll off the line was a LP 570-4 Spyder Performante in Rosso Mars (that’s called red in our parlance). Headed to an undisclosed private collector, the spec-sheet of the final Gallardo read 5.2-liter displacement, V10 configuration, 570 horsepower, 324 km/h top speed, 0 to 100 km/h in 3.9 seconds and a permanent 4-wheel drive system.

As the Gallardo fades into sunset in the year of Lamborghini's 50th anniversary after sharing the factory space with two of the brand's 12-cylinder super-cars in Murcielago and Aventador, teasers of its successor are already out in the world wide web. However good its replacement is though, the Gallardo will be terribly missed.


LHD variant of Tata Ace spotted testing in Pune

Compared to the rest of the world, India is still a developing country when it comes to automobiles. While most manufacturers are growing with the market with rising sales and market share, Tata Motors sadly isn't one of them. From the diminutive Nano to the ambitious Aria, not a single Tata model is actually setting the sales charts on fire. While all this is happening, one model was silently raking in the volumes and money for Tata Motors. When we say volumes, its not a few hundreds or thousands but a million units and counting. The Ace, Tata's mini truck that pioneered the Small Commercial Vehicle (SCV) segment in India, has really been a shining star in troubled times for the company.

With such an astronomical success in the domestic market, its only natural that Tata wants to take the Ace international. The Ace is already on sale in some countries in the Indian subcontinent and a handful of right hand drive (RHD) markets like South Africa. This test vehicle caught with artificial loads to simulate the real world conditions in the outskirts of Pune hints that Tata is readying the Ace for left hand drive (LHD) markets that could even include countries like Italy amongst other African countries. From these spy shots sent in by one of our regular readers, it isn't clear if this is the sub 1-ton Ace or the 1-ton Super Ace. Whatever it is, the message is clear. The Ace family is all set for travel across the shores.

Our guess is that this is the smaller Ace LHD being tested here. Apart from its size, the exhaust snorkel that's positioned in the left side and the absence of crash bar at the rear helped us arrive at that decision. If you hadn't noticed, the Super Ace available on sale in India has the snorkel on the right side and a rear crash bar. The LHD variant of the Super Ace caught testing by our media friends earlier also had them. So, this should be the regular Ace being tested for export markets. Having said that, there are chances of this also being the Super Ace with the said modifications done. Tata Motors had displayed a LHD Super Ace at the 2012 Auto Expo with features like power steering, air-conditioning, power windows, ABS and airbags and powered by a 1.4-liter DiCOR engine.

Given that there aren't many powerful players in the last mile connectivity segment in many markets, Tata Motors has rightly sensed an opportunity there. With the solid reputation that the Ace range has earned in the harsh Indian conditions for its workaholic nature, frugality and reliability, we are sure it can withstand the challenges that the advanced international markets throw at it. If Tata manages to work on the quality, fit and finish of this tiny truck to live up to the higher expectation levels overseas, the Ace and it's derivatives have the potential to make it really big. Wanna bet against? Do it at your own peril!


Ashok Leyland Jan Bus spotted testing in Chennai again

It seems Ashok Leyland, the Chennai-based commercial vehicle manufacturer, is having its hands full at the moment. While the Dost mini-truck and the Stile MPV are helping the company gain foothold in the Light Commercial Vehicle (LCV) segment at one end, the continuing sales slump in the Heavy Commercial Vehicle (HCV) space is a major cause of concern in the other end. The collective onslaught of international brands that include Volvo, Mercedes-Benz, MAN, Navistar and Scania has resulted in significant loss of market-share for the domestic brands, with Ashok-Leyland being the most-affected.

The Jan Bus, that we spotted testing in Chennai earlier this year, is one of the many products that Ashok Leyland has lined up to bring it back in the reckoning. While we were expecting it to go on sale any moment, it seems Ashok Leyland is on to something else as one of our regular readers spotted the Jan Bus being tested again. These pictures were taken late last week in one of the arterial roads in Chennai.

Unveiled to the public at the 2012 Auto Expo, the Jan Bus is a single-step entry, low-floor, front-engined bus that is targeted at the city transport fleets. If the brochure released by the company is to be believed, a turbocharged, fuel-injected, 6-cylinder ‘H-Series’ engine that generates 235 HP of power at 2400 rpm and 720 Nm of torque between 1600 to 1800 rpm would be powering the rear wheels of the bus. Features such as air-conditioning, Ashok Leyland’s proprietary ‘Leymatic’ Automated Manual Transmission, air suspension and a clutter-free gangway with cantilever-mounted seats and seat-mounted stanchions are expected to be available as and when the Jan Bus goes on sale on Indian metros.

Despite offering features similar to the city buses from Volvo and Mercedes-Benz, Ashok Leyland’s frugal engineering would mean that the Jan Bus would end up with a significantly lower sticker price, making it an excellent value-for-money proposition.

While all the above information is either known or being speculated, what’s a big unknown is the launch date of this sleek bus. We hope its not too far off. More importantly, we wish Ashok Leyland actually markets and sells the Jan Bus well as it shows huge potential to make a mark in our cities.


2013 Tokyo - Honda Vezel compact crossover makes its world debut

Crossovers and Utility Vehicles in all shapes and sizes are taking over the world big time. More specifically, the smaller, lighter and nimble compact crossovers are experiencing hitherto unseen levels of growth. With the all-new Vezel that made its global debut at the ongoing 2013 Tokyo Motor Show, Honda is the latest manufacturer to join this brigade.

Despite its looks suggesting otherwise, the Vezel, based on a platform that also underpins the new Jazz and City, is more a crossover than SUV. Sporting the brand’s new family design, the Vezel is sleek and modern, borrowing cues from other Honda models like Jazz, City and CR-V. In what could be termed as borderline fussy, the front end looks a bit cluttered with the three-part grille, the angular headlights and the bumper ridges vying for attention. With the arching windows and hidden rear door handles, the Vezel is designed to look like a coupe when viewed in profile. The strong character lines extend to the rear and, together with the sharp taillight clusters, make for an attractive rear three-quarter look.

The interiors are clean, modern and attractive with the center console’s clutter-free fittings looking classy and promising to impress in flesh. Hondas are always known for their good fit and finish and the Vezel wouldn’t be an exception. The power-train options are again shared with the Jazz and City, with a 1.5-liter i-VTEC petrol and a 1.5-liter i-DTEC diesel engine doing duty under the hood. While Japan will also have automatic transmission and Hybrid variants on offer, Honda’s intentions for the other markets aren’t clear at the moment.

With demand for compact SUVs booming in India, the Vezel should be a ‘de facto’ addition to Honda’s Indian lineup. But you never know, as the second-generation Jazz flopped spectacularly and its fortunes couldn’t be revived despite a massive price drop, leaving a bad taste with the top bosses at Honda. As and when Honda decides to bring this compact crossover here, we wish they also have the insight to change its name to something better and sweeter than Vezel.


Driven #23: 2013 Hyundai Grand i10 Petrol

The i10 has been a stellar performer for Hyundai Motor India Limited. It not only received critical acclaim by winning every single “Car of the Year” title on debut but also went on to become one of the largest selling cars in our country. If our calculations are right, it is also, by far, the largest single nameplate exported from India, thus establishing the company's Indian facility as a trusty export base for small cars. Launched in 2007, the i10 immediately established itself as the segment benchmark for refinement and build quality. The only chink in its armor was the absence of a diesel engine option.

Now in its second generation, the i10 gets a ‘Grand’ prefix, has grown up a bit, is positioned a sub-segment higher and, most importantly, comes with the option of a diesel engine under the hood. With this repositioning, the Grand i10 is also now a direct competitor to the Swift that's ruling the sales charts month on month. Has the Grand i10 got what it takes to usurp the leader? We took the petrol-powered Sportz variant out for a quick spin to find out.


It seems the designers at Hyundai’s Russelsheim center in Germany set out on imparting the ‘fluidic sculpture’ a crash course on simplicity. The curves are straightened and the flamboyance reduced. As a result, the Grand i10 looks way less dramatic compared to the blitzkrieg created by models like the Verna, Sonata and Elantra when launched.

But that doesn’t mean the car isn’t a looker. With those stretched headlights and the single slat grille with a hexagonal air intake below, the front end of the Grand i10 is a replica of other Hyundai models, albeit with subtle changes. The foglamp enclosures, for instance, are shaped rather nicely while the bumper is aggressive with spoiler-like creases at both edges. Despite the chrome door handles, roof rails and thick rub-strips above the rocker panel trying their best to spice things up, the profile isn’t that catchy. Blame it on the ‘unique-for-India’ modifications that Hyundai did to suit our ‘desi’ requirements. The international i10 looks much sleeker with steeply-raked windows and a wraparound rear windscreen. But, its the Grand i10’s rear that left us thoroughly impressed. The chic taillamps, the neat roof spoiler and the sculpted bumper with integrated reflectors give the car an attractive European flair that’s hard to miss. The large Hyundai logo in the center conceals the tailgate opener, like in the i20.

Attention to detail is remarkable, be it in the thin metallic inserts in the taillight clusters, the sleek repeater lamps in the rear view mirrors or the neat little badges in the boot-lid. Unlike some competitors, usage of chrome is limited which helps in increasing the overall appeal.

If you have been looking for those stunning diamond-cut alloy wheels that created a flutter in the press advertisements, do note that they are available as an option only in the Asta variant. Despite being the top but one trim level, the Sportz variant misses out on those wheels as well as on certain essential features such as rear defogger, washer and wiper.

With the Swift showing no signs of slowing down and competition from the Polo, Brio and Etios Liva heating up of late, the success of Grand i10 is extremely important for Hyundai to maintain its market share in the high-volume small car segment. And the Grand i10, with its ‘please all, offend none’ philosophy looks potent to rule the segment.


The first thing that strikes as soon as we step into the Grand i10 is the quality of interiors and the overall fit and finish. While the interiors of the old i10 was already amongst the best in segment, the Grand i10 takes it a few notches higher. In fact, this hatchback is so good that it could put some cars from two segments above to shame.

The two-tone dashboard has a mix of black and beige panels. Smartly, the portions that frequently come into contact with the occupants like the top of the dashboard, the area around the buttons in the center console and the door pads are finished in black. The rest of the interiors are logically laid out in a retro theme with none of the flashiness that we saw in other recent Hyundai models. Again, attention to detail is fantastic, as evident from the knurled finish in the buttons and the brushed silver finish that has been splashed tastefully across the cabin. We didn't quite like the circular shape of the air-conditioning vents that, despite giving a retro feel, lacks flair.

While the India-specific changes did reduce the style quotient of the Grand i10, they come across as the car's biggest asset inside. The rear seat is as spacious, if not more, than some sedans and the rear air-conditioning vents cool the cabin in a jiffy. Yeah, the quality of those vents and the pillar in which they are mounted isn't great, but who cares as long as it works perfectly? The rear bench is comfortable enough for three average-sized adults but the under-thigh support is just about adequate. The front seats do a much better job in terms of bolstering the passengers.

Like all Hyundai models, the Grand i10 boasts a long list of standard features that include rear parking sensors, keyless entry with button start, music system with 1 GB of inbuilt memory and even a cooled glove-box. What's not standard though are ABS and Airbags. Worse still, they aren't even available as an option in any variant except the top-end Asta. As much as Hyundai, we Indians are also to blame for showing manufacturers time and again that we prefer fancy features over safety. We wish the time comes when safety becomes a priority and not an option.


The big excitement surrounding the Grand i10 is the availability of a diesel engine for the first time. Despite testing the petrol Sportz variant, we did manage to eke out a real-quick drive in the Grand i10 CRDi. Powered by the 1.1-liter, 3-cylinder U2 engine, the car pumps out a modest 71 ps of power and 16.3 kgm of torque between 1500 to 2750 rpm. While we walked away impressed with its refinement and torquey low and mid-range, we weren't able to stretch its legs and verify the response at higher revs.

Coming back to our petrol-powered test car, it is the same 1.2-liter, 4-cylinder Kappa-2 engine that we have driven and experienced extensively in the i10 and i20 before. With 83 ps of maximum power and 11.6 kgm of peak torque, the Kappa-2 motor is a refined and powerful mill that lets the Grand i10 post impressive acceleration figures for a small car. The power delivery is linear and the car never keeps you wanting. Keep the engine revving between 1500 to 3500 rpm and the Grand i10 goes about its job fuss-free. Together with the butter-smooth gearshift that slots neatly and authoritatively into place, driving the Grand i10 is a pleasure. For sure, this Hyundai has got to be one of the best city cars available in the Indian market today.

To make your city drives even more easier and stress-free, Hyundai has launched the Grand i10 with a 4-speed automatic transmission last week. Looking at the number of i10 automatics running on our metros, We are sure that the Grand i10 Automatic is going to be extremely popular.

This being a short drive, we weren't able to stretch the Grand i10 out on a highway. But on the few pedal-to-the-floor stretches that we did encounter, the car showed adequate eagerness to gain momentum. It is only after 4000 rpm that the engine starts showing signs of strain.

Ride quality is better than many cars in the segment and the Grand i10 absorbs bumps and potholes without letting then into the cabin. Stability at triple digit speeds is good too and the Grand i10 handles much better than the i10 and i20. Steering feedback, Hyundai's bugbear for quite some time now, is good and is second only to the Elantra in the company's lineup. Having said that, it still has a long way to go to match segment stalwarts like the Fiat Grande Punto and Ford Figo. The brakes are responsive though and the Grand i10 sheds speed without much drama.


| Engine Type: Kappa-2, VTVT, DOHC |
| No of Cylinders: 4 |
| Displacement: 1199 cc |
| Maximum Power: 83 ps @ 6000 rpm |
| Maximum Torque: 11.6 kgm @ 4000 rpm |
| Transmission Type: 5-speed Manual |
| Tires: 165/65 R14 |
| Brakes: Disc (Front & Rear) |


* Clean styling
* Interior quality, fit and finish
* Long list of standard features


* Average handling
* Restricted safety features


The Grand i10 is one of those cars that we could hardly find fault with. It looks good inside and out, is feature-loaded, boasts excellent fit and finish, provides the buyers with the option of a peppy petrol and a frugal diesel engine with the former also available with an automatic transmission, rides well and comes with Hyundai's reputed after-sales service backup. In front of these positive traits, the car's shortcomings in steering feedback and lack of safety features in mid variants are completely overshadowed.

With no major deal-breakers, the Grand i10 has 'blockbuster' written all over it. Book one now before the crowd realizes this and storms Hyundai dealerships.


Ford unveils Ka Concept, previews next generation global small car

Ford Motor Company recently unveiled what could eventually turn out to be its most important model in the emerging markets. The new Ka Concept, conceived and developed in Brazil, previews the next generation global small car from Ford. With the compact segment expected to grow significantly over the next few years, this new model will help Ford boost volumes not only in established markets like Europe but also in emerging markets like Brazil, India and South Africa to name a few. Staying true to the ‘One Ford’ policy that has yielded success in all the new Ford models over the last half decade or so, the new Ka would be a global offering that will end up competing with models from Volkswagen, Hyundai, Kia and Suzuki depending on the market in which it retails.

Despite being dubbed a concept, there is nothing conceptual in the new Ka. Yeah, those detailing in the headlights might not make it to production, but the rest of the car is pretty much production-ready. Sporting the latest iteration of Ford’s ‘Kinetic Design’ philosophy, the Ka Concept comes across as sharp, crisp and muscular. The large trapezoidal radiator grille up front, that looks not too dissimilar to the one found on Aston Martins, is a stand-out design touch. Sweeping character lines abound the bumpers, the hood, the doors and the boot. The large taillight clusters are a bit of a downer though as it makes the car look a bit bland.

Expected to go on sale late next year, the new Ka will also replace Figo in markets like India and South Africa where the Figo has been a big success story for Ford. Expect the ‘Figo’ moniker to stay in these markets, as the car has earned quite a reputation for its superb handling and value-for-money pricing that Ford would want to capitalize.

Speaking on the unveiling, Joe Hinrichs, President of The Americas for Ford Motor Company, said, “The Ford Ka Concept is aimed at customers in growth markets who want and expect more. It will delight consumers with its sleek design, clever technology, attention-to-detail quality and superb craftsmanship. It also shows the continued importance of our South American design and engineering capabilities to serve markets around the world. It’s truly another global design and engineering milestone for Ford.”

Like the Ecosport did on the eve of the 2012 Auto Expo in New Delhi, we expect the Ka Concept to steal the limelight and woo us Indians in the upcoming 2014 edition.


Harley Davidson unveils the all-new 'Street' series

Harley-Davidson, the much-revered American manufacturer known for its big, mean and flashy motorcycles, unveiled the all-new ‘Street’ series today at the ongoing EICMA motorcycle show in Milan, Italy. After ruling the roost with its high-end cruisers, this is the company's attempt to capture the urban motorcycle market that's showing high growth prospects in both the developed and emerging economies. Slated to go on sale in 2014 in 500 and 750 guises, the Street is designed to inspire and attract young riders around the world, thus opening the doors for an entirely new set of customers to experience the brand.

Built on the first all-new platform developed by Harley-Davidson in 13 years, the Street series is said to be built for urban environments with younger styling, new liquid-cooled ‘Revolution X’ V-Twin engines and nimble handling while not compromising on the virtues that have made Harleys popular the world over.

“Both the Street 750 and Street 500 were designed with thousands of hours of input from young adults in cities around the world. This input guided both the attitude and capabilities of these motorcycles. They are proof that being customer-led continues to be a core driver of our product development process,” said Matt Levatich, President and Chief Operating Officer, Harley-Davidson Motor Company.

As a result, the Street looks much sleeker than the traditional Harleys which is sure to lure the younger demographic. While the teardrop fuel tank, the long '2 into 1' exhaust and the small bullet-shaped indicators are likely to grab eyeballs, we aren't sure about the retro circular headlight and bikini fairing. They look way too simple to be found on a motorcycle in this segment. Harley-Davidson’s trademark ‘Dark Custom’ theme has been employed which means there is more of matte black and less of chrome.

Both the Street 500 and 750 will be powered by V-Twin engines with 4 valves per head and the cylinders angled at 60°. Mated to a 6-speed transmission, these motorcycles are belt-driven. A very low seat height, tuned suspension, a chassis that aids maneuverability and improved agility are expected to make the Street the most urban-centric motorcycle of the full Harley-Davidson lineup.

Expect the Street series to set the streets on fire as soon as they go on sale next year. And yeah, India would be getting these motorcycles too. Start saving folks, here is a genuine chance for you to own a brand-new Harley that you have been craving for!