Hyundai launches the all-new Santa Fe in India

Hyundai utilized the 2014 Auto Expo in New Delhi to launch the Santa Fe, its most-awaited Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV), in India. Currently in its third generation, the new Santa Fe has received rave reviews across the globe and has been one of the Korean brand's consistent top-sellers worldwide. Assembled at Hyundai's sprawling manufacturing facility in Chennai, three variants of the new Santa Fe are on sale, with the base 2WD manual variant priced at INR 26.30 Lakhs. The 2WD automatic variant retails at INR 27.15 Lakhs while the top-end 4WD automatic is priced at INR 29.25 Lakhs. All prices are ex-showroom Delhi.

Hyundai's performance in the premium SUV segment in India can be termed lackluster at best, with the Terracan and Tucson failing miserably before the previous-generation Santa Fe came and sold in relatively decent numbers. With the all-new Santa Fe, Hyundai would be hoping to build on that success and gain market share in a segment ruled by the Toyota Fortuner.

Premium Sports Utility Vehicles are all about looks and presence and on that count, the Santa Fe impresses. Following the Korean brand's "Storm Edge" design philosophy that has evolved from the highly-successful Fluidic Sculpture theme, the new Santa Fe has oodles of presence. The sleek, elongated headlamps and the huge hexagonal chrome grille gives this Hyundai massive street presence. The steeply-raked windows, the flared wheel arches and the sharp belt line stand out and so does the stylish taillights. The headlight clusters house square-shaped projectors while the taillight clusters have a streak of Light Emitting Diodes.

With Hyundai models at a fraction of the price coming with all bells and whistles, will the Santa Fe lose out on interior features and creature comforts? Of course, not. The flagship 4WD variant comes fully loaded with xenon headlamps, fog lamps with cornering function, touchscreen interface, push-button start, 12-way power-adjustable driver's seat, air-conditioning vents for all three rows, dual zone climate control, cruise control, rear view camera, auto-folding mirrors and steering mounted controls apart from the other regular stuff that we are used to. Hyundais are traditionally not known for their handling and steering feedback and the Santa Fe's new 'Flex Steer' feature aims to overcome that by offering three steering modes - Comfort, Normal and Sport to choose from.

Safety is taken care of by a whole gamut of active and passive features that include 6 airbags, Antilock Braking System (ABS), Electronic Stability Control (ESC), Vehicle Stability Management (VSM), Brake Assist (BA), Advance Traction Cornering Control (ATCC), Hill Start Assist and Down-hill Brake Control. Shockingly, for the price at which it retails, the 2WD variants are devoid of most of these safety features and customers will have no choice but to opt for the 4WD variant if they want 5-star levels of safety.

Powering the new Santa Fe is a 2.2-liter CRDi engine with an electronic Variable Geometry Turbocharger (e-VGT). Delivering 197 PS of maximum power at 3800 rpm, this R Series engine is mated to a 6-speed manual and automatic transmission. While the manual variant generates a peak torque of 42.9 kgm between 1800 to 2500 rpm with an ARAI-certified fuel efficiency of 14.74 km/l, the automatic variant generates 44.5 kgm and returns 13.01 km/l.

While the looks, features and specifications of the all-new Santa Fe are undoubtedly impressive, the fact that it commands a price higher than some models from BMW and Audi is tough to ignore. Even if Hyundai is able to convince potential customers that its Santa Fe is worth more than the models flaunting luxury badges, the likes of Toyota Fortuner, Honda CR-V, Ford Endeavour, Nissan X-Trail, Chevrolet Captiva and Renault Koleos will make life tougher for the Korean SUV. Let's wait and see how the Santa Fe fares in the Indian market.

2014 New Delhi - Fiat springs a surprise in the form of Avventura

On the days leading up to and during an auto show, we automotive journalists are often used to surprises thrown by the manufacturers. But, quite honestly, we didn't see this coming one bit. Of all the brands active in the Indian market right now, Fiat sprang the biggest surprise at the 2014 Auto Expo in New Delhi as it unveiled the Avventura Concept, that shone in a bright orange shade under the glitz and grandeur of the biennial event in the Indian capital.

Anything On Wheels brought out the first spy-shots in the country of Fiat testing the Punto with partial camouflage at the rear last month. While the protrusion in the camouflage did reveal the presence of spare tire on the tailgate, the rest of the car was left untouched which made us think that Fiat was working on a jacked-up Punto on the lines of Volkswagen Polo Cross and Skoda Fabia Scout with minimal visual changes. But, the Avventura is a lot more than that. Dubbed a Contemporary Urban Vehicle (CUV), the Avventura is Fiat's take on the compact utility vehicle space that's seeing a lot of action these days.

Though its origins from the Punto are clearly obvious, the Avventura is a thoroughly rugged version of the hatchback that quite lives up to its crossover segmentation. The front end is significantly revised, with the stretched and masked headlights with inbuilt projectors, the redesigned radiator grille and the muscular bumper with interesting detailing giving the Avventura a tough look. Flared wheel arches that accommodate bigger wheels, black plastic cladding across the full length and thick rub-strips in the doors beef up the profile while the rear sees the addition of a spare wheel mounted on the rear bumper through a swing arm. LED taillights, a redesigned rear bumper and roof rails are the other additions on this Punto-based crossover, apart from interiors that see a host of interesting add-ons aimed at increasing the sporty look and feel.

Though Fiat hasn't revealed the engine options for the Avventura, we can safely assume the standard 1.3-liter Multijet diesel engine to power the car when it goes on sale. Who knows, Fiat might surprise us again by plonking in the 1.6-liter Multijet diesel too, which remains elusive to us Indians till date. Well, the concept has vowed us all, no doubt. But, will Fiat go all guns blazing and launch the Avventura as it is? Or, will it go the conservative way and just add a spare tire and cladding to call it a CUV? Let's hope they do the former and do that real quick while at it.

2014 New Delhi - Tata Motors previews Bolt and Zest, unveils Nexon Concept

Tata Motors was undoubtedly one of the stars of the 2014 Auto Expo in New Delhi. Battling with falling sales and a series of flopped models, Tata led the Indian assault, putting up a feisty display of upcoming models, design concepts and special projects developed exclusively for the show.

Despite being built on a new platform with tough build quality, segment-leading passenger space, comfortable ride and a frugal diesel engine, the Vista hatchback and Manza sedan were not able to create an impression amongst the car-buying public in India. Familiarity with the previous-generation Indica and Indigo was cited as one of the major reasons for that. With the Bolt and Zest, the engineers at Tata Motors have responded to that criticism, trying their best to mask the humble origins through three key principles - DesigNext, DriveNext and ConnectNext.

The DesigNext initiative previews the new design language of Tata Motors. In what can be termed a beautiful evolution of the smiling grille that the earlier Tata models were famous for, the new signature grille has something called a Humanity Line that extends into the headlight clusters on either sides. The inbuilt projectors and the sharp fog-lamp enclosures look contemporary while the sharp cuts in the hood and profile adds muscularity to the overall design. The similarity between the Bolt and the Zest ends with the rear doors. While the Bolt carries the contemporary redesign forward with an all-new rear end that features redesigned taillights, tailgate and bumper, the Zest sees a bulbous boot stuck on to it's rear. As with most other compact sedans, the Indian small car regulations that provide excise concession to cars less than four meters in length wreak havoc with the Zest's proportions. It is to Tata's credit then that the Zest still looks better than many of its competitors.

If the exteriors have moved forward a few notches, the interiors have leapt several notches higher. An all-new steering wheel with metallic insert and integrated buttons and a new center console freshen up the cabin while a next-generation infotainment and climate control system with touch-screen controls and an inbuilt navigation system find their place as part of the ConnectNext initiative. The Bolt and the Zest will also have a brand-new, turbocharged 1.2-liter petrol engine under the hood that was indigenously developed and dubbed the 'Revotron'. Part of the DriveNext initiative, this engine and the new 'F-Tronic' Automated Manual Transmission (AMT) exclusive to the Zest proves that changes to these models are more than skin deep.

Despite being a strong player in the Utility Vehicles segment not so long ago, Tata is conspicuous by its absence in the booming compact Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV) segment dominated by the Ford Ecosport, Renault Duster and Nissan Terrano. With the Nexon Concept that debuted at the show, Tata gave us a glimpse of what's in store as and when its compact SUV comes up. Built on the same X1 platform that underpins the Bolt and the Zest, the Nexon Concept sports a butch and modern stance. It remains to be seen how many of these styling elements make it to the production model though.

The Nano Twist with the added comfort of a power steering might only be a few weeks old in the market but that didn't stop Tata from bringing in yet another improved version of its Nano mini car. Redesigned front and rear bumpers with bigger air intakes and a new tailgate that can actually be opened are the visible changes to the car. We strongly feel that Tata Motors should waste no time in bringing this improved version to the market as the absence of power steering and an openable hatch were the two biggest deal-breakers in the Nano. Now that they are rectified, the Nano's appeal is likely to go up.

Well, it has been a fabulous job by Tata Motors till now. All it has to do now is bring these models to the market real quick!

Ford unveils the made-for-India 'Figo Concept' and the global 'Ka 4-Door Concept'

The automotive market in India is unique in many aspects, one of which is the popularity of compact sedans. Though the idea of slicing the boot of a regular sedan to meet a market-specific regulation would be scoffed at globally, the ever increasing volumes that this still-nascent segment offers is too good to ignore for the global brands. Ford is the latest manufacturer to join the bandwagon, as it unveiled the 'Figo Concept' in New Delhi a couple of days ahead of the 2014 Auto Expo.

We wouldn't be surprised if you find the Figo Concept to be too familiar as it is essentially the compact sedan variant of the Ka Concept that was unveiled in Brazil a few months back. Designed to meet the Indian small car regulations that offers an excise duty reduction for cars less than four meters in length, the Figo Concept underlines the importance of Indian market to Ford. Despite being a staunch follower of 'One Ford' policy of selling the same model with least changes across the globe, Ford has changed its principle to suit an India-specific requirement.

Sporting Ford's latest design elements found on globally-popular models like the new Fiesta and Fusion, the Figo Concept is stylish and muscular. We strongly feel that this concept, if cleared for production with minimal changes, could make the Figo the best-looking compact sedan in a segment dominated by cars with not-so-beautiful boots. The Figo Concept shares its body panels with the Ka Concept until the C-Pillar after which a short and stubby boot takes over. The designers at Ford deserve a pat on their back for the well-integrated boot that doesn't look odd and disproportionate to the rest of the body. As with most new Ford models, the trapezoidal radiator grille and the stretched-out headlights steal the show up front while strong character lines stand out in the profile and rear. The sharp LED taillight clusters designed to go in tandem with those creases in the body and the smart Daytime Running Lamps in the front bumper adds to the appeal.

As and when it is launched in our market, the Figo compact sedan would compete with models such as Maruti-Suzuki Swift Dzire, Honda Amaze, Hyundai Xcent and Tata Zest. It will also replace the Classic sedan that's on sale in India right now.

While India gets the shorter sub-4m version, Ford also unveiled the Ka 4-Door Concept in Brazil for the international markets. The only visual difference was the length of the boot that's not restricted by regulations. Though the Figo Concept is arguably the best-looking compact sedan we have seen so far, we got to say that those few centimeters added to the length makes the Ka 4-door Concept much better proportioned than the Figo Concept. All the three concepts - the Ka hatchback, the Figo compact sedan and the Ka 4-door shares the same global B-car platform developed by Ford for emerging markets like Brazil, China, India, Russia and South Africa. It is still unclear if the full-size Ka sedan would be launched in India though.