Mazda unveils the all-new MX-5 Miata roadster

When Mazda introduced the MX-5 Miata roadster at the 1989 Chicago Auto Show, little did it know that the diminutive two-seat open-top sports car would go on to become an icon in the automotive industry. Twenty five years and three generations later, the MX-5 Miata now holds the Guinness World Record as the "Best Selling Two-Seater Sports Car", is the world’s most popular roadster and still makes automotive enthusiasts go weak in their knees for the fun it offers without burning a deep hole in their pockets. Amidst celebrations that began early this year to mark 'twenty five years of exhilaration' as Mazda would call it, the fourth-generation MX-5 Miata was unveiled a few days back.

In an era that saw cars getting progressively bigger and bulkier with each successive generation, the MX-5 Miata impressively held onto its tag of a lightweight sports car. That Mazda still managed to shave off over 100 kilos in the fourth-generation model is the talking point in industry circles. Featuring the Japanese brand's popular 'KODO - Soul of Motion' design language, the new MX-5 Miata stands out, with sharp, angular elements mixing things nicely with the smooth and curvy shape that we all have fallen in love with over the years. The small, angular headlamps can easily be lost amidst the large grille and air-dams that occupy bulk of the space up front. The muscular bulges in the hood convey a sense of athletism which is also brought out nicely by the curvy yet clean profile. The rear is taut and characterized by the unique taillights that seem to have taken inspiration from a British rival and point inwards. The Miatas of old might have stopped with being a good-looking but anonymous roadster, but the all-new model goes one step further with its radical redesign.

The new MX-5 Miata, also called Roadster in some markets, would go on sale in 2015 to add to its legacy, built over 940,000 customers and 200 awards globally. Details and specifications aren’t officially out yet but we know that the new MX-5 Miata adopts the famous ‘SKYACTIV’ technology that covers the car’s engines, transmissions, chassis and the body itself to make everyday driving more enjoyable along with improved safety and better efficiency.

With no signs of Mazda heading to India, we don’t stand a chance of seeing or driving the new MX-5 Miata on our roads. And, that’s a shame as the MX-5 Miata has always been at the forefront of affordable fun-to-drive motoring in many countries the world over.


Mercedes-AMG GT breaks cover, goes on sale in 2015

After months of speculation that sent the expectation levels skyrocketing, Mercedes-Benz finally unveiled the Mercedes-AMG GT, heralding the brand’s entry into the lucrative sports car segment. As the name signifies, the GT is the second model to be developed jointly by Mercedes-Benz and AMG, the first one being the big, brutal and striking SLS AMG. 

Of late, Mercedes-Benz has been coming out with strikingly stylish models across all segments and the GT is no exception. What’s most impressive about this new sports car from Mercedes-Benz is the seamless integration of several classic styling cues in a modern avatar. That’s something that the Porsche 911 has always been famous for. While Porsche had several generations of 911s to borrow from, Mercedes-Benz seems to have chosen the legendary 300 SL as an inspiration for the GT. The wide, single-bar chrome grille with the big three pointed star in the middle, the long hood, the fins in the fenders, the dome-shaped roof and the short and stubby rear are strongly reminiscent of the iconic coupe from the past that shot to fame with its ‘gull wing’ doors. The uniquely-shaped LED headlights, the massive air intakes right below, the power domes in the hood, the exquisitely-detailed but narrow taillights, the tapered rear end and the rear diffuser with integrated twin tailpipes are the other standout design elements of the Mercedes-AMG GT. An ode to the past it may be, but the GT is one automobile that is every bit as futuristic as it is retro.

As we have seen in Mercedes-Benz sports cars of the recent past, the ‘aviation design’ theme lends a cockpit-like look and feel to the interiors of the GT. Four central spotlight-style air-conditioning vents and the AMG DRIVE UNIT, which is nothing but a multitude of knobs arranged like eight cylinders in a V layout to signify the V8 engine under the hood, constitute the center console.

A new 4.0-liter, twin turbocharged V8 engine sits under the hood. Placed behind the front axle in a front mid-engine layout, the power is transferred to the rear wheels through a 7-speed dual clutch transmission. The standard AMG GT boasts 456 horsepower at 6000 rpm, a peak torque of 600 Nm at 1600 - 5000 rpm, an electronically-limited top speed of 304 km/h and 3.9 seconds to accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h. The sportier S variant has the same engine in a higher state of tune. With 503 horsepower to boot, the Mercedes-AMG GT S can accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h in just 3.7 seconds and can reach speeds of up to 310 km/h.

The Mercedes-AMG GT is said to have several performance-enhancing features on board such as the AMG RIDE CONTROL sports suspension with electronically controlled damping, three AMG DYNAMIC SELECT drive modes – Comfort, Sport and Sport Plus and an AMG DYNAMIC PLUS package that adjusts the engine and transmission mounts depending on driver’s inputs. As always, we expect Mercedes-Benz to stuff the GT with active and passive safety features of highest caliber.     

Unlike the SLS AMG that competed in the upper echelons of automotive supremacy, the GT is targeted at the Porsche 911, a thoroughbred sports car nurtured and perfected over decades. For you and me, that’s good news, as it means that the Mercedes-AMG GT would be priced a lot lower than the SLS AMG and we could get to see more of these on road.


Driven #26: 2014 Datsun Go

When Nissan announced the resurrection of its low-cost ‘Datsun’ brand in pursuit of increased sales and market share in emerging markets like India, Russia and South Africa, the automotive fraternity welcomed it with much fanfare. In an era that saw the demise of quite a few brands, this was indeed a welcome move. ‘Go’, an entry-level small car and the first Datsun in 27 years, had a global premiere in India last July followed by a commercial launch earlier this year. With lot of expectations to boot, Datsun Go’s sales in the first few months has been underwhelming to say the least.

Is the Go competent enough to lead Datsun's revival? Should it be enjoying more popularity and sales than it currently does? We find out by taking the top-end variant of the Go out for a quick drive.


Cars competing in the budget end of the small car segment are not known to have ‘good looks’ in their list of priorities. Take the Alto 800, for instance. It might be the largest selling car in India but it hardly attracts a second glance. In stark contrast, Hyundai Eon tries too hard to look good. That’s probably why the Datsun Go comes across as a whiff of fresh air. It is neither drab nor flashy. There is a surprising level of maturity in its design, the stance and proportions are just right and it isn’t awkward from any angle.

Spearheading the revival of Datsun, the Go debuts a few exclusive styling elements that would be prominent fixtures on all future models of the brand. The signature ‘hexagonal’ grille, that looks quite pleasing with its honeycomb mesh pattern and a thick chrome surround, is one such element. Though the grille looks quite close to that of a South Korean competitor, it lends a touch of finesse and a lot of character to the Go. The Go might compete in the budget end of the small car segment but that hasn't stopped Datsun from putting in lot of efforts to make it look sporty. The prominent creases in the hood, the kinks at the edges of the front bumper and the boomerang-shaped line that signs off an otherwise-staid looking profile hints just that. The interplay of surfaces created by the strong shoulder line, the thick C-Pillar and the arching character line that runs from the rear door to the hatch outlining the taillights on either sides look interesting. The large, rather squarish taillights and the rounded windshield are the highlights of the rear.

On the flip side, the wheel wells that already look empty with those puny tires are made to look further off the mark by the raised body. The tipped-forward stance won’t go well with some onlookers either. All said and done, the Go would end up pleasing most and offending none, which is extremely critical considering the fact that it is gunning first-time car buyers.

Though it isn’t evident at first glance, there are some places where Datsun has cut costs to ensure the pricing is right. The single windshield wiper up front and the lack of insulation under the hood and inside the wheel wells are some of those. Even if you are willing to pay, body-colored rear view mirrors, fog lamps, rear wiper and demister aren’t part of the standard kit even on the top-end variant.


The Datsun Go makes no fuss about the fact that it is a basic car. In fact, the moment you pull the flap-type door handles and open the ultra-thin doors to step in, the first thing that strikes is the barebones interior. The basic steering wheel is quite large but has useful thumb recesses at the right places. The instrument cluster is simple and legible with a full Multi Information Display that houses an odometer, a trip meter and displays for fuel efficiency and distance to empty. This is a welcome move as Datsun has ensured that the driver doesn't have to compromise on the information he needs on the go. Interestingly, the gear-shift indicators are printed in the speedometer itself.

Moving on, we have to admit that the rest of the interiors left us with mixed feelings. The air-conditioning vents, door pads and layout of the center console are borrowed from the bigger Micra and hence, look and feel good. The overall build quality, fit and finish are impressive too and are capable of standing the test of time. The air-conditioner is a chiller and kept us comfortable on a sunny day in Chennai. Three big, plasticky knobs control the air-flow and temperature while a flimsy slider lets you toggle between fresh air and recirculation modes. Ergonomics are a mixed bag. The dashboard-mounted gear lever frees up space between the seats and Datsun has smartly used it to provide nifty seat extensions that has turned out to be a big marketing point. Its usefulness is still a question though. The handbrake lever is oddly placed and its pull-type mechanism takes time to get used to. 

There are a few places where the cabin lets us down. Those two open recesses in the dashboard, one each before the driver and the front passenger, not not only looks spartan but are also sure to invite trouble from prying eyes when parked in a public place. This is one thing that Datsun shouldn't have overlooked. How much are a couple of plastic lids going to add to the overall cost? Another irritant is the absence of a proper music system. The only way to play music is to connect your smart phone through the Aux port. The USB port next to it can only charge your phone! A mobile phone holder is standard though.

The best thing about this car is the space on offer. Based on the Nissan Micra which is from a segment higher, the Go easily trumps the competition and comes out on top, both in terms of passenger space and comfort. The 'connected' front seats and the rear bench are soft, wide and well-blostered, offering adequate support. Crucially, the Go can accommodate five full-sized adults, which is a boon in a country like ours where cars are still a luxury for many. The boot is reasonably spacious at 265 liters but the loading lip is a tad tall.

Standard across the range is the drive computer, follow me home headlamps and a wiper with drop wipe function. The top end variant comes equipped with a power steering, front power windows, central locking, front speakers, wheel covers, body-colored door handles and the mobile docking station. Some features like retractable rear seat belts and internally-adjustable rear view mirrors are conspicuous by their absence.


The engine norm of this segment is 0.8 liters, with both the Alto 800 and all but one variant of the Eon powered by engines of that size. The Datsun Go, in contrast, has the same 1.2-liter petrol engine from the Micra under it's hood, albeit in a lower state of tune. This 3-cylinder engine has a power rating of 67 bhp at 5000 rpm and a torque output of 104 Nm at 4000 rpm. That gives the Go with a segment-best power to weight ratio. Typical of a 3-cylinder engine, the Go shakes and vibrates a lot at idle. The vibrations do soften out once we get going. The engine is reasonably peppy and the Go accelerates quickly to the ton, compared to the segment standards. The gear shift is a bit notchy but the throws and the gear ratios are well defined. The Go doesn't feel under-powered and could easily keep pace with faster moving traffic, which is impressive. Don't rev the engine much though, it sounds and feels strained as the rpms climb up.

Ride quality is decent at all speeds and the Go doesn't feel unsettled on imperfect roads. Large bumps and potholes do filter into the cabin and so do tire and wind noise. The lack of sound deadening material clearly makes its presence felt. Handling is neutral and the Go goes about with its job in a predictable fashion. In the short open road that we encountered, the Go could easily reach and sustain triple digit speeds and didn't feel nervous when doing so. The steering, which is light at low speeds, weighs up well as speeds build up and that inspires a lot of confidence. This is where we feel Go's association with the Nissan Micra has strongly helped its cause. It doesn't drive, ride and handle like an A-segment car. The Go feels a whole lot matured.

Though Datsun claims a fuel efficiency figure of around 20 km/l, we managed a respectable 15.5 km/l during our drive. That should keep a majority of Indians happy. The 155 mm Strada tires isn't the best out there when it comes to offering good grip levels. They also contribute a lot of decibels on the move. Ventilated discs up front means that the Go offers adequate stopping power. But, watch out under hard braking. The thin tire section and the absence of ABS makes the car a bit nervous.


| Engine Type: DOHC |
| No of Cylinders: 3 |
| Displacement: 1198 cc |
| Maximum Power: 67 bhp @ 5000 rpm |
| Maximum Torque: 104 Nm @ 4000 rpm |
| Transmission Type: 5-speed Manual |
| Tires: 155/70 R13 |
| Brakes: Ventilated Disc (Front), Drum (Rear) |


* Neutral styling
* Spacious interiors
* Mature road manners


* Evident cost-cutting
* Lack of safety features
* Nissan's sparse dealer network


After spending a few hours with the car, it is evident that the Datsun Go has a lot of strengths up its sleeve. It is spacious, can easily accommodate five, rides and handles pretty well for an entry-level hatchback, boasts more than adequate power and torque figures and it's neutral styling would please all and offend none. Yes, cost cutting is glaringly obvious at many places, quite a few features are surprisingly not offered even as an option and Nissan's after-sales service has a long way to go before they think of competing with Maruti-Suzuki and Hyundai, the two stalwarts they are fighting against in this segment. But, are these big enough to dent the sales prospects of the Go? In our opinion, they aren't and the Go deserves to sell well in our market. We only hope the market is listening and is ready to give Datsun a chance.

| Photography: Bharath Rengaraj |


KTM launches the RC200 and RC390 in India

KTM stormed into the Indian motorcycle space a couple of years back with the Duke, a naked sports bike that went on to become a huge success. After a long and agonizing wait since they were unveiled at the 2014 Auto Expo in New Delhi earlier this year, KTM finally launched the RC200 and RC390 in India today. Essentially, the RC twins are fully-faired variants of their Duke counterparts and share the basic underpinnings, including the engines, with them. At INR 1.60 Lakhs and 2.05 Lakhs for the 200 and 390 respectively, the RC motorcycles are priced at a slight premium vis-à-vis the Dukes, but are still incredible value for money.

Following a strategy similar to that of the Duke twins, the RC motorcycles look strikingly similar to each other with the body decals being the only differentiator. Sporting a full fairing, menacing twin circular headlamps on a recessed housing and LED daytime running lights, the RC bikes look sharp and futuristic. The exposed Trellis frame painted in the trademark KTM orange shade, the minimalist rear and the split seats are the other standout deisgn elements. On road, the RC is sure to attract envious stares from onlookers.

While the RC200 gets a 200 cc single cylinder engine that generates 25.48 bhp and 19.2 Nm of torque, the RC390 is powered by a 372.3 cc single-cylinder fuel-injected mill that’s good for a whooping 42.9 bhp and 35 Nm of torque. Both the motorcycles get high-specification suspension system from WP, shorter wheelbase (compared to the Duke) and reduced rake angles to complement their track-handling characteristics. To handle the additional power available at the flick of its throttle, the RC390 features a standard Antilock Braking System (ABS) supplied by Bosch. The RC200 sadly makes do without it. Similarly, RC390 sports premium Metzeler tires while the RC200 wears MRF radials.

If the success of Duke 200 and 390 are any indication, we expect the two RC motorcycles to fly off the showrooms as quickly as they enter. After all, with striking design, flickable chassis with more than adequate power on tap, widespread after-sales support from Bajaj and a superb price tag, we would be surprised if they don’t succeed. Now that the Naked and Super Sports segments are tapped, what’s next KTM?


Maruti-Suzuki unveils Ciaz, aims to topple City and Verna

Despite controlling a lion's share of the Indian passenger car market, we have seen that Maruti-Suzuki is as vulnerable as any other manufacturer when it comes to anything that's not a hatchback. While the Grand Vitara and Kizashi sank without a trace, Baleno and SX4 managed to ruffle some feathers. In what could well be termed as it's most ambitious attempt to crack the mid-size segment, Maruti-Suzuki unveiled the Ciaz sedan earlier this week.

Like the Ertiga and A-Star before, Indians were first treated to the concept version of Ciaz at the 2014 Auto Expo in New Delhi earlier this year. But, unlike those two models whose production versions were severely toned down vis-a-vis the concepts, the Ciaz strays not far off the concept. Yeah, those stunning taillights and cheeky chrome inserts in the front and rear bumpers haven't made it to production, but the overall theme is thankfully carried over.

Drawing inspiration from the 'Concept Authentics' that Suzuki dislayed at the Shanghai Motor Show last year, the Ciaz pleases with a sleek design and near-perfect proportions. These days, when chopped-off boot sections are the norm elsewhere, this comes across as a whiff of fresh air. The bold chrome-lined grille flanked on either sides by projector headlamps, the clean profile with a strong shoulder line and the sharp rear with taillights that bear more than a passing resemblance to a fellow-Japanese competitor from the same segment gel well together. Interiors are neither flashy nor conservative and is dominated by a touchscreen multimedia system in the center console. As usual, the cabin is a mix of beige and black with splashes of dark-brown wood inserts in between. Boasting the largest wheelbase in its segment, passenger space is going to be Ciaz's trump-card. Though the list of features on board isn't officially released yet, we don't expect the Ciaz to be as rich as the Verna or City in content.

The 1.4-liter K-Series petrol and the Fiat-sourced 1.3-liter diesel engines that powers the Ertiga would power the Ciaz too, which is a huge disappointment. For its size and segment, the Ciaz deserves more powerful engines under its hood. Sure, the class-leading ARAI-certified fuel efficiency figures would have majority of Indians drooling, but what stops Maruti-Suzuki from launching a bigger engine atleast in the higher variants? Owing to economies of scale, we are sure Maruti-Suzuki isn't looking at that option right now. Until then, Honda's free-revving 1.5-liter petrol and Hyundai's screaming 1.6-liter diesel engines shall rule.

With prices not announced yet, the Ciaz is still treading dangerous waters but the initial feedback is extremely encouraging. Will the momentum be sustained post-launch and the Ciaz end up being the most-successful Maruti-Suzuki ever in the premium segment? We think it would. With dealers accepting bookings pan-India, let's wait and watch the result.