Nissan Micra Active Diesel spotted testing in Chennai

When Nissan launched the facelifted Micra hatchback last year, it decided to not discontinue the older model. Instead, the car was stripped inside and out, subjected to a subtle redesign and repositioned in a segment below as the Micra Active. Now that rebranding and repositioning of older models to make way for new has become the norm of the industry, that wasn't surprising. But, what was indeed surprising was the fact that Nissan chose to launch the Micra Active with only a petrol engine. It was quite an irony, given that diesel variants of the old Micra were popular and carrying them forward to the Active would have made perfect sense in our market that prefers diesel.

While speculations about the impending launch of the Micra Active diesel were rife in the media, there was no concrete proof to support the claim. That changes today, as we managed to nab the Micra Active diesel while on test. Spotted on the busy GST Road in Chennai, Nissan's familiar 'Pure Drive dCi' badge ensured that we didn't ignore this car as another regular Micra. While the one you see in these pictures with a 'test' registration plate is the XL variant, there was another XV variant following this car. Nissan didn't bother to hide the badges as neither the car nor the engine is new for the Indian market.

Since the Micra Active essentially shares the platform, sheet metal, mechanicals and most of the interiors with the original Micra, we expect the same 1.5-liter K9K diesel engine under the hood of the Micra Active. Power output may be reduced to differentiate the Micra Active from the facelifted Micra, but we aren't sure about this. With decent looks and loads of interior space being it's major trump-cards, the launch of diesel variants will make the Micra Active a more attractive proposition in the highly-competitive small car segment in India.

Currently, the petrol variants of the Micra Active are priced between INR 3.50 Lakhs and INR 4.79 Lakhs, ex-showroom Delhi. In a segment above, the facelifted Micra is pegged between INR 4.99 Lakhs and INR 6.65 Lakhs for the petrol variants and INR 5.65 Lakhs to INR 7.29 Lakhs for the diesel variants. Again, all figures are ex-showroom Delhi. That gives Nissan a comfortable cushion in between to position the Micra Active diesel and we expect the car to be priced between INR 4.5 Lakhs and INR 5.5 Lakhs. At that price point, the Micra Active diesel will still be a value-for-money buy as the car is literally one size bigger than the existing competition.

Nissan has already lost potential customers and market share by not launching the diesel variants of the Micra Active last year. Will the company make up for it by launching the Micra Active diesel soon with an attractive price tag? Let's keep our fingers crossed.


Fiat Punto Adventure caught testing in Pune

Gorgeous styling, the popular 'Multijet' diesel engine and all the initial hype and hoopla not withstanding, the Fiat Punto could hardly make an impact in the Indian market. In a country obsessed with hatchbacks, Punto's sales figures continue to disappoint month after month. But, Fiat isn't ready to let the Punto go anytime soon. As part of its strategic plans for the Indian market, the Italian company was said to be working on a Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV) that measured less than 4 meters in length. Then came reports that this model would be a pseudo-SUV based on the Punto.

Thanks to our reader Punit Sharma, we now have proof that Fiat is indeed working on a pseudo-SUV for India based on the Punto. Caught testing in the outskirts of Pune where Fiat's factory is located, this Punto was partially camouflaged at the rear. The front and the sides are left uncamouflaged, making us believe that this new variant will have no or minimal changes in those areas. Changes seem to be aplenty in the rear though, with the most significant being the presence of spare tire in the tailgate. An all-new bumper with a swing-arm to accommodate the tire is also expected to be a part of the list of changes. As evident from the taillights that are similar to the current Punto, the eagerly-awaited 'Evo' facelift seems to have evaded India yet again.

Responding to an emerging fad in the Indian market for pseudo-SUVs that saw the launch of models like Skoda Fabia Scout and Volkswagen Polo Cross, this macho-looking hatchback is likely to be christened "Punto Adventure". Unlike the Adventure Station Wagon of the past that came with a host of rugged goodies to differentiate itself from the regular Siena Weekend, the Punto Adventure seems to be having nary a change elsewhere. The interiors, feature list and the engine and transmission options are expected to be carried over from the top-of-the-line variant of the existing Punto itself while the dimensions might change a bit depending on the positioning and orientation of the spare tire and the plastic cladding, if any.

Though the craze for Sport Utility Vehicles in India is at an all-time high, the Indian customers are intelligent enough to identify what's actually an SUV and what's not. In that pretext, is the addition of a spare tire mounted on a swing-arm in the rear bumper alone a compelling enough reason for Punto's fortunes to change? We do not think so but would be glad to accept if the market says so. By the way, can somebody from Fiat tell us where's the Punto Evo?

2014 Detroit - All-new Ford F150 makes a grand debut

America's favourite truck just reinvented itself. We just couldn't think of any other adjective to describe the F150, a big-seller in the F-Series range of trucks that has been the largest selling truck in USA for a whopping 37 years in a row and the country's largest selling vehicle for 32 years in a row. Not an easy feat that, we swear!

While the existing model is still in peak form, Ford debuted the all-new F150 at the 2014 North American International Auto Show in Detroit earlier this week. Based on the Atlas Concept that made waves on the show-floor last year, the new F150 is attractive and macho. A huge radiator grille with three horizontal slats sets the tone up front. Flanking the grille on either sides are the unique C-shaped LED headlights that are matched in shape and size by the LED taillights. The flared wheel arches and the small, upward kink in the front doors keep things interesting in profile while the metallic strip that runs between the taillights at the rear looks flashy.

On top of a fully-boxed ladder frame made of high-strength steel, Ford has used high-strength, military-grade aluminium alloys throughout the body of the new F150. Though the lightweight metal is already used extensively by luxury brands in their high-end cars, this is probably the first application of aluminium in trucks that are expected to be rugged and abuse-friendly. The result of this is that the new F150 is 700 pounds lighter which helps it tow more, haul more, accelerate quicker, stop shorter and sip lesser fuel while doing all these. A 3.5-liter V6 engine and 5.0-liter V8 engine are part of the power options for the new F150 as are two EcoBoost engines with displacements of 2.7 liters and 3.5 liters.

In keeping with the nature of the truck, the interiors are big, bold, practical and loaded with features. A host of segment-first features like a 360-degree camera view, integrated loading ramps, Trailer Hitch Assist system, LED lights, remote tailgate and a smart trailer tow module makes the new Ford F150 a segment benchmark. These features join the famous SYNC infotainment system with MyFord Touch and other safety and driver assistance systems that even include inflatable seat-belts with tubular airbags in the second row.

Despite being the last full year of production, 2013 was one of the best years in recent history for the Ford F-Series trucks. Let's not forget that next generation models of both Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra made their debut last year but the combined sales of both those models still fell short of the F-Series. The introduction of the new F150 in such a situation means that the competition should prepare themselves for a massacre.

2014 Detroit - Kia stuns with the GT4 Stinger Concept

Affordable, rear wheel drive sports cars are becoming a rare breed these days, thanks to the widespread fetish on economy and efficiency. Kia wants to change that and, if the GT4 Stinger Concept that debuted at the recently-concluded 2014 North American International Auto Show in Detroit is any indication, we are mighty impressed.

If we are asked to pick one automotive brand that completely reinvented itself over the last few years, our unanimous choice would be Kia. There might be a few eyebrows raised out there, but Kia just stole the show and bowled us over of late with it's stunning new design language.

The GT4 Stinger Concept is no exception. The car sits low and wide, with the latest iteration of Kia's signature grille hogging the limelight up front. Flanking it on either sides are vertical LED headlamps and air vents for cooling the brakes. In profile, the muscular fenders that protrude on top of chunky wheel arches, the transparent A-pillars with slots cut out in the sheet metal and the floating roof creates a lasting impression. The twin, circular exhaust pipes and the LED taillights that glow from inside a glossy black panel stand out at the rear. The interiors are minimalist and functional, but there is very little chance that this cabin will be carried over, even if the GT4 Stinger makes it to production.

A tuned version of Kia's 2.0-liter turbocharged gasoline direct injected four-cylinder engine (T-GDI) resides under the hood, putting out 315 horsepower. A 6-speed manual transmission transmits all this power to the ground through the rear wheels. Further highlighting the performance credentials are the Pirelli P-Zero tires, 20-inch aluminium wheels with carbon fiber inserts and Brembo brakes.

Though Kia says that this concept isn't headed to production, our experience with cars like the Soul before make us secretly wish that the GT4 Stinger does make it production with a design that's not far off from this stunning concept. Kia has surprised us a lot of late and we hope that trend continues with this affordable, rear wheel drive sports car.


Indian Motorcycle range is now available in India

The premium motorcycle segment in India is in the midst of an incredible growth phase and global brands are rushing to be a part of this growth. The latest to join the bandwagon is Indian Motorcycles, the more-than-a-century-old American manufacturer that is in no way related to India apart from its name. Now owned by Polaris Industries that is popular for its range of All Terrain Vehicles (ATV), the entry of Indian into the Indian market proves that the industry is bullish on the prospects of premium motorcycles here.

Indian’s model range in India consists of three motorcycles. Priced at INR 26.5 Lakhs ex-showroom Delhi, the Chief Classic is the most affordable of the lot, if we can say so. The Chief Vintage comes in next at INR 29.5 Lakhs, followed by the range-topping Chieftain at INR 33 Lakhs. Well, that’s a lot of money for sure, a part of which is due to the fact that these motorcycles are imported as Completely Built Units (CBU), attracting full duties and taxes.

But wait, all that money will get you what is probably the grandest thing with two wheels on earth. Oodles of chrome fittings, the flowing contours, those valenced fenders and the unique saddle bags are sure to create a lasting impression that would refuse to fade long after seeing these motorcycles. Built on the legendary history of 'Chief' motorcycles of the years gone by, the all-new Chief lineup unites true Indian style with today's most advanced bike-building technology. Powering all three models is the new Thunder Stroke 111 engine where the number denotes 111 cubic inches of displacement. Well, that's 1811 cc. Each of these motorcycles are equipped with keyless ignition, Antilock Braking System, cruise control and a classic, tank-mounted speedometer. While the Chief Vintage also has a removable windshield and leather saddle bags, the Chieftain adds a fairing, hard saddle bags and even speakers that can stream music from smart phones.

Positioned as the most premium offering in the emerging super-bike segment, Indian motorcycles are for those fortunate few who wouldn't mind spending millions for exclusivity. For the rest of us, let's keep our eyes wide open for an opportunity to relish the sight of this Indian from close quarters!


Suzuki Motorcycles launches the Inazuma 250 in India

Suzuki is one brand that has been experiencing contrasting fortunes in the Indian market. While Maruti-Suzuki, the four-wheeler subsidiary, is dominating the passenger car segment despite the advent of fresh competition, the same can't be said about Suzuki Motorcycles India Limited. In fact, except for the Access 125 scooter, no other Suzuki two-wheeler has made quite an impact in the Indian market. Of course, the Shaolins and Shoguns that were once part of TVS-Suzuki joint-venture weren't considered when we made that statement.

After what seems like ages, a new Suzuki motorcycle was launched today as the company took the wraps off the Inazuma 250, a premium naked motorcycle. Powered by a 249cc, parallel twin, liquid-cooled, four-stroke engine that delivers 24 bhp of maximum power and 24.4 Nm of peak torque coupled to a 6-speed gearbox, the Inazuma 250 is positioned as a premium offering in the quarter-liter super-bike segment that's generating a lot of fanfare of late. Armed with a 110 mm tire at the front and 140 mm tire at the rear, the Inazuma 250 looks butch and muscular, with the dual-chromed exhaust pipes and the sculpted mudguard and fuel tank contributing significantly to the wow factor. The headlight, though, look distinctive and a bit weird too. The Inazuma 250 is assembled at Suzuki's plant in Manesar and is available in black and red colours.

Priced at INR 3.10 Lakhs ex-showroom Delhi, the Suzuki Inazuma 250 is targeted at other quarter-liter super-bikes such as the Honda CBR 250R and the Kawasaki Ninja 300. The problem is, while the Honda offers similar performance and better looks at a cheaper price tag, the Ninja brings in more power, better image and unmatched legacy at a similar price. Where does that leave the Inazuma 250 remains to be seen.


2013 Top Selling Cars - USA

Lucrative growth rates and a large pool of untapped customers in China, India, Brazil and Russia might have channeled the focus of the automotive industry to these countries of late, but the sheer volumes and associated margins in United States of America, still the second largest market for automobiles next only to China, is too good to ignore. There just isn't any country in the world that consumes big trucks the way America does and considering the profits that trucks apparently rake in, you get our point. For the last few years, the overall industry volumes in USA has been showing significant growth and 2013, with a 8% growth rate over 2012, is no different.

Ford remained the most popular brand in USA, taking the crown of the largest selling brand once again in 2013. Chevrolet finished the year as runner up followed by the three Japanese brands Toyota, Honda and Nissan.

'Change is the only thing that's constant on earth,' they say. We would like to rephrase it slightly. Ford F-Series ending up as the best-selling automobile in USA is the only thing that's constant month after month, year after year and heck, even decade after decade. We aren't exaggerating at all, 2013 marked 32 years at the top for Ford's full-size pickup truck. With sales of 763,402 units last year, the F-Series decimated the competition yet again. With an all-new model going on sale, Chevrolet Silverado continued to remain popular as ever, ending 2013 as the second best-selling automobile in USA. After almost toppling Silverado in 2012, Toyota Camry settled on the final step of the podium and remains the most popular car in America.

Honda carried over its good performance from the year before into 2013, with three of its models making it to the Top 10 list. Accord, Civic and CR-V finished fourth, sixth and eighth, sandwiching Ram Pickup and Nissan Altima between them. With a relatively young lineup that's proving to be very popular, Honda's grip of the American market will stay firm, for the next couple of years at least. Toyota Corolla, a global best-seller and Ford Escape, the compact crossover that's making waves in many countries, rounded off the list.

2013 Top 10 in USA:

1. Ford F-Series - 763,402
2. Chevrolet Silverado - 480,414
3. Toyota Camry - 408,484
4. Honda Accord - 366,678
5. Ram Pickup - 355,673
6. Honda Civic - 336,180
7. Nissan Altima - 320,723
8. Honda CR-V - 303,904
9. Toyota Corolla/Matrix - 302,180
10. Ford Escape - 295,993

Source for Figures: Best Selling Cars Blog

| Star of 2013 - Ford F-Series |
| Promise of 2014 - Ford F-Series |

Despite being on the verge of replacement by an all-new model, the current F-Series' total dominance of the American market in its final full year of production makes it the star of 2013. With a revolutionary redesign, significant weight saving and a far-downsized engine lineup, the all-new F-Series that's creating ripples in the industry since its debut at the 2014 Detroit Auto Show is a gamble, a real big one at that. But somehow, we believe that the new F-Series will become a smash hit in USA and, much like Ford Motor Company themselves, consider the new truck as a promise of 2014.

Ford Fusion missed out on the tenth position by just a few hundred units, while Chevrolet Cruze, Hyundai Elantra, Chevrolet Equinox and Ford Focus stay close by, threatening to break into the top ten at any given opportunity.

Interestingly, Mercedes-Benz is the top-selling luxury brand in USA, helped in no small part by the stunning new CLA compact four door coupe. With the new C-Class and GLA expected to join a lineup that's already bolstered by the presence of the refreshed E-Class and the all-new S-Class, the brand with the three pointed star is all set for the future as well. The rest of the luxury brands were led by BMW and Lexus


2013 Top Selling Cars - India

As the competition gets stiffer with each passing year, India's largest car manufacturer Maruti-Suzuki seems to be only getting stronger than ever. Toyota, GM, Volkswagen, Hyundai and Ford might be forces to reckon with globally, but Maruti-Suzuki demolishes them when it comes to the unique Indian market, teaching these global giants a lesson or two in the process. Apart from topping the sales charts and contributing significantly to the parent company's bottom-line, Suzuki's Indian subsidiary regularly tops all the customer satisfaction and sales satisfaction indices. Now, that's what we would call incredible!

A compilation of the annual sales statistics of 2013 shows that Maruti-Suzuki produces five of the top ten selling passenger cars and utility vehicles in India. As it has been since 2004, Alto is the country's largest selling car, with a total of 265,777 customers reposing their faith in this little car. The Alto might not look impressive, but it comes across as a no-nonsense city car with adequate space for five, a fuel-efficient engine and excellent reliability. Add to it the company's widespread service network, low maintenance costs and cheaper spares and you know that customers just can't go wrong with the Alto.

Just as we predicted, the Swift and Swift Dzire showed their mettle yet again, finishing on the podium and falling just short of 200,000 units each. Making it four in a row is the consistent Wagon-R that sold close to 160,000 units. With sales of 62,219 units, the Ertiga is the third model from the Swift platform that finds a place in the Top 10 chart, albeit the last spot. With appealing looks, peppy and frugal engines, excellent dynamics and a big-car feel to it, the Swift has captured the hearts and minds of Indians, the positive effect of which is rubbing off on the Dzire and Ertiga.

Finishing behind the four Suzukis with yet another stellar performance in the sales chart is the Mahindra Bolero. That makes the top five selling cars in 2013 the same as the previous year. Despite the Bolero's age-old underpinnings, Mahindra's constant efforts in refreshing the model range and its workhorse nature rubs off positively with the Indian customers. And that makes the Bolero India's best-selling utility vehicle by a huge margin.

A trio of Hyundais come up next, with the Eon besting the i10 and i20. With the Grand i10 making a strong debut in the second half of the year, the older i10 has understandably lost its sheen and will effectively bow out of the Top 10 list this year. But, we expect the Grand i10 to put up a strong showing in 2014. The ninth position goes to Toyota Innova, that continues to find favour with customers despite its ever-inflating prices.

2013 Top 10 in India:

1. Maruti-Suzuki Alto - 265,777
2. Maruti-Suzuki Swift - 199,257
3. Maruti-Suzuki Swift Dzire - 198,317
4. Maruti-Suzuki Wagon-R - 159,233
5. Mahindra Bolero - 110,470
6. Hyundai Eon - 89,964
7. Hyundai i10 - 77,913
8. Hyundai i20 - 71,788
9. Toyota Innova - 63,184
10. Maruti-Suzuki Ertiga - 62,219

Source for Figures: www.team-bhp.com (Monthly Sales Charts)

| Star of 2013 - Maruti-Suzuki Swift |
| Promise of 2014 - Hyundai Grand i10 |

For reasons that have been stated several times before, Maruti-Suzuki Swift takes our crown as the shining star of the Indian automotive industry in 2013. The revolution that started in 2006 is showing no signs of slowing down and might well continue unabated for the next few years. Much improved over its predecessor which was a top-seller itself, the Hyundai Grand i10 promises to take the fight to India's largest car manufacturer, something that no other brand or model has dared to before. That makes the Grand i10 the promise of 2014.

Outside the top ten, Honda Amaze, Ford Ecosport, Renault Duster and Hyundai Verna post impressive sales figures that might carry over in 2014 as well.

The battle for luxury supremacy sees yet another change, with Audi leapfrogging its fellow Germans to end 2013 as the most popular luxury brand in India. That's a great achievement for the Volkswagen group brand, given the fact that it is the newest entrant in India. With a slew of new launches and customer-centric initiatives, Mercedes-Benz came up second, relegating BMW to the third spot. Well, how quickly things change! Jaguar and Volvo are nowhere near to threaten the Germans, while Lexus, Acura and Infiniti are yet to announce their plans for the Indian market.


General Motors sweeps 2014 North American Car & Truck/Utility of the Year awards

As always, the first day of the 2014 North American International Auto Show in Detroit began with the announcement of the winners of two of the most prestigious awards in the automotive industry, the 2014 North American Car and Truck/Utility of the Year. Chosen by a panel of 49 automotive journalists from the United States of America and Canada, these awards, now in their 21st year, are designed to recognize the most outstanding new vehicles of the year. Unlike most other awards that are handed out by a single media outlet, the jury for these awards consists of journalists representing magazines, television, radio, newspaper and websites.

To be eligible for this award, a car or truck should be either all-new or substantially changed from the previous model year, priced less than $ 100,000 and must have an annual foreseeable North American sales of 5000 units for cars and 2000 units for trucks. From a group of 28 cars and 18 trucks, three finalists were shortlisted for each category. While the Cadillac CTS, Chevrolet Corvette Stingray and Mazda 3 were the three finalists in cars, it was the Acura MDX, Chevrolet Silverado and Jeep Cherokee that made the cut in trucks.

Finally, it was Chevrolet that made it big this time, making it a clean sweep for General Motors. The Corvette Stingray was crowned the 2014 North American Car of the Year (NACOTY) and the Silverado won the 2014 North American Truck of the Year (NATOTY) title. Though the Corvette and Silverado have won this award before in 1998 and 2007 respectively, this is the first time Chevrolet have bagged both the titles in a single year.

Ever since its debut early last year, the all-new Corvette Stingray has been the cynosure of all eyes, building on the nameplate's chequered history and unmatched legacy. Undoubtedly, with its shattering performance, eye-popping design and thousands of loyal enthusiasts who swear by it, the all-new Corvette promises to push the envelope for the bow-tie brand. Finishing runner-up to the Corvette is the brilliant Mazda 3 followed by the stunning new Cadillac CTS, another GM representation in the award.


1. Chevrolet Corvette Stingray - 211
2. Mazda 3 - 185
3. Cadillac CTS - 94


* 2013 - Cadillac ATS
* 2012 - Hyundai Elantra
* 2011 - Chevrolet Volt
* 2010 - Ford Fusion Hybrid
* 2009 - Hyundai Genesis

Moving on to trucks, Chevrolet Silverado proved its mettle yet again, by impressing the jurors with its much-improved and redesigned 2014 model. Armed with a slew of improvements in the form of reduced weight and a lineup of fuel-efficient engines that includes a V6 option, the new Silverado is all set to extend the popularity of its predecessors for the next few years. The much-promising and eagerly-awaited Jeep Cherokee finishes runner-up, with the Acura MDX taking the final spot.


1. Chevrolet Silverado - 261
2. Jeep Cherokee - 142
3. Acura MDX - 87


* 2013 - Ram 1500
* 2012 - Land Rover Range Rover Evoque
* 2011 - Ford Explorer
* 2010 - Ford Transit Connect
* 2009 - Ford F-150

Let's not forget that the Cadillac ATS and the Ram 1500 were the recipients of these titles last year, with the two Chevrolets taking over the mantle in 2014.


Mercedes-Benz S-Class, the world's best car, arrives in India in style

Mercedes-Benz India has kick started 2014 with a splash with the launch of its flagship luxury sedan, the S-Class. Priced at INR 1.57 Crore ex-showroom Delhi, the top-of-the-line S 500 is the only variant being offered for now. Imported from Germany as a Completely Built Unit (CBU), the S 500 is expected to be joined by other variants later this year. As is the norm with Mercedes-Benz, the 'Launch Edition' of the S-Class is the first variant that was launched. And amazingly, all 125 units of the Launch Edition S-Class were apparently sold out before launch.

In a price sensitive market like ours, a car with such high sticker price selling out its initial allocation before launch might come as a shock to some, but we aren't surprised. Rather, this was more on expected lines, given the kind of image and legacy the S-Class nameplate carries. After all, not for nothing is the S-Class being considered as the best car in the world by the critics and the media. For five generations, the S-Class has been the pinnacle of automobiles, boasting technology and features that were nothing short of revolutionary.

The all-new S-Class, codenamed W222 and currently in its sixth generation, is not only tasked with competing with its traditional rivals, the BMW 7-Series and the Audi A8, but also expected to rival the uber-luxury marques Bentley and Rolls-Royce. That’s obvious, given the fact that Maybach has bit the dust, transferring Daimler's uber-luxury aspirations onto the broad shoulders of the mighty S-Class.

Powering the S 500 is a 4.7-liter Twin-Turbo V8 engine that boasts power output of 453 bhp and torque of 700 Nm. Mated to a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, acceleration from 0 to 100 km/h takes just 4.8 seconds while the top speed is electronically limited to 250 km/h. The design and styling of the S-Class is a perfect mix of retro and modern styling cues, with the large radiator grille, arched roof line, dropping character lines and an all-LED lighting system attracting desired levels of attention.

Befitting its price and positioning, the interiors of S-Class oozes luxury, comfort and elegance. Standing out is the unique two-spoke steering wheel that has 'Mercedes-Benz' etched in a never-before-seen font. Dominated by two huge LCD screens that double up as the instrument cluster and the center console, the dashboard of the S-Class is a rich mix of leather, wood and brushed metal. From the air-conditioner vents to the switches in the door pads, every single part that's visible in the images released by Mercedes-Benz screams luxury. The rear seats, apart from offering king-size legroom, promises to pamper the occupants in the best possible way.

Boasting features like an energizing hot stone massage function in the seats, a Burmester 3D surround sound system with 24 speakers and 9 tweeters, individual folding tables and entertainment systems, 12V power sockets, USB and Aux-in points, wireless hot spot, an Android  “Touch app” that controls massage function, seat heating and multimedia and a 7-colour ambient lighting with 5 dimming levels, the S-Class is fit for a king. While the AIRMATIC suspension would ensure a magic carpet ride for the passengers, safety remains a top priority as always. An army of active and passive safety features that include a 360-degree surround view camera with Night View Assist, Active Park Assist, Electronic Stability Program (ESP) with 8 airbags and PRE-Safe, Brake Assist and Adaptive Brakes with HOLD function, ASR and Hill Start Assist would ensure that the S-Class remains one of the safest things on road.

Unfortunately, the famous 'Magic Body Control' that's making waves globally isn't offered in India as the system uses radar that operates at a frequency restricted for civilian usage in our country. For those who are curious, that system reads the road ahead and tunes the suspension accordingly to make the ride as smooth as possible for the occupants.

Well, now that Mercedes-Benz has upped the ante with the S-Class, its time for the competition to play catch up as always.


Honda launches the all-new City in India

When Honda unveiled the all-new fourth-generation City last November, it was evident that the Japanese manufacturer has adopted a conservative approach this time around. That's a clear departure from the revolutionary shocks that Honda had in store for the three previous generations of the City. With Hyundai going all guns blazing with the Verna and Volkswagen close on its heels with the Vento-Rapid siblings, it is clear that Honda is playing it safe to regain its lost crown in the midsize segment. After all, this is a segment that the Honda City ruled for more than a decade until Verna displaced it from the top in 2011.

Well, Honda is back with vigor, and how! The all-new City is available in five variants - E, S, SV, V and VX. Each of these variants come with the option of either a 1.5-liter petrol engine or a 1.5-liter diesel engine. Additionally, automatic transmission is being offered in the petrol SV and VX variants. That makes it a whopping 12 variants on offer.

Learning from its disastrous 'premium' positioning of the Jazz earlier, it has to be said that Honda has priced the City competitively, especially the petrol variants. The petrol variants with manual transmission are priced between INR 7.42 Lakhs and INR 9.93 Lakhs, while the two automatic transmission variants retail for INR 9.49 Lakhs and INR 10.98 Lakhs respectively. While the base diesel variant is priced at INR 8.62 Lakhs, the top-end VX diesel retails at INR 11.10 Lakhs. All prices are ex-showroom Delhi. That puts the City bang on target to challenge the likes of Verna, Vento, Rapid and Fiesta.

The petrol engine is the popular 1.5-liter, SOHC, i-VTEC mill that churns out 119 PS of power at 6600 rpm and 145 Nm of torque at 4600 rpm. Known for its refinement and smoothness, the City petrol is officially rated at 18 km/l for the automatic variant and 17.8 km/l for the manual variant. The 1.5-liter, DOHC, i-DTEC 'Earth Dreams' diesel engine that made its debut under the hood of the Amaze is the other new weapon in City's arsenal. Generating 100 PS of power at 3600 rpm and 200 Nm of torque at 1750 rpm, the City diesel boasts an ARAI-certified fuel efficiency of 26 km/l, making it the most fuel-efficient car in India.

Honda has always been a miser when it comes to loading its cars with features, but the new City might make us change that opinion. A driver airbag, Antilock Braking System (ABS) with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD), power steering with tilt adjustment, power windows and electric mirrors are available as standard across the City range. The top-end VX variant comes loaded with goodies that include a passenger airbag, sunroof, leather upholstery, automatic air-conditioning system with a touch-screen control panel, rear air-conditioning vents, cruise control, audio system with a five inch screen, bluetooth telephony and a rear camera with three view options. The City customers sure aren't going to be disappointed this time around.

At such reasonable price levels, loaded with features that it has and armed with a powerful petrol and a frugal diesel engine, the new City has all the makings of a winner. India is the first market in the world where the new City went on sale and Indians have responded well with the model managing to garner 9000 pre-launch bookings. Yes, it doesn't look all-new, shows a lot of resemblance to the previous generation model that debuted in 2008 and the chrome grille in the top variants look tacky, but that's not going to stop the car from selling well. Verna is in for some trouble and it is time for Hyundai to put on its thinking caps.