Hyundai ix25-based crossover spotted testing near Chennai

​Hyundai hit the bulls eye with the new i20, it’s most-recent model in India that has gone on to become a blockbuster. But, there is one more launch in pipeline that promises to elevate the South Korean manufacturer to the next league. It’s launch would also mark Hyundai’s much-awaited entry into the mass-market crossovers and utility vehicles. At present, the expensive Santa Fe is the only Hyundai SUV on sale with the rest of the portfolio being hatchbacks and sedans. 

Based on the ix25 crossover that went on sale in China last year, the upcoming Hyundai crossover will lock horns with the Renault Duster, Nissan Terrano and, to an extent, Ford Ecosport as well. Crucially, the ix25 measures more than 4 meters in length and wouldn't qualify for excise duty concessions that the Ecosport enjoys. Through the blurred corners of these shots, it is evident that the ix25 compares favorably with the Maruti-Suzuki Ertiga next to it. If reports in other automotive websites are to be believed, the ix25 will get a few India-specific styling elements and a new name when it debuts here later this year.

Spotted testing right outside Hyundai’s facility at Irrungattukottai near Chennai, the test car was covered with thick camouflage. What's interesting is the luggage-carrier fitted onto the roof with a couple of travel bags in tow as well. Is that some kind of load testing going on up there? We aren't sure. Sporting the second iteration of Hyundai’s popular ‘Fluidic Sculpture’ design philosophy, the ix25 looks stylish and sharp. Neither is it as polarizing as the Ecosport nor is it as mundane as the Duster. Typical Hyundai design elements such as a large hexagonal grille with chrome slats, swept-back headlights and an upward-sloping window line would all be present, making this one stylish crossover. 

Amongst others, expect the ix25 to boast class-leading interior quality, fit and finish with tons of features and gizmos. While Hyundai hasn't confirmed anything yet, the ix25 might share its engines and transmissions with the Verna sedan. While the lower 1.4-liter variants might or might not come, the 1.6-liter petrol and diesel engines from the Verna would definitely find their way under the hood of the ix25. Like the Verna, both the petrol and diesel engines might come with the option of a manual or automatic transmission. An All Wheel Drive option, at least in the top-end variant, would make the ix25 a great package.

From what we see in the Chinese version, the ix25 looks like a mini Santa Fe, more so when viewed head on. The Indian version wouldn't look much different, so don't have your fingers crossed. So, are we looking at yet another success story for Hyundai in India? Oh yeah, we think so!


Mahindra's new compact SUV (S101) continues testing in Chennai

Mahindra, the manufacturer of popular Utility Vehicles like the Bolero, Scorpio and XUV 500, appears to be lining up a spate of all-new models in India. In the last few months, we have caught their upcoming new SUV (codenamed U301 and touted to be the Bolero replacement) and their all-new compact SUV (S101) testing in and around Chennai. The testing phase isn't over yet and these fresh shots of S101, that was seen testing in an arterial road in Chennai earlier today, stands testimony to that.

When launched, this all-new model that should be less than 4 meters in length would be Mahindra's first proper shot at success in the compact SUV segment. Currently enjoying a near monopoly in that segment, the Ford Ecosport would have its mirrors full of this new Mahindra SUV soon. 

Though the thick layer of camouflage hardly reveals details, the new Mahindra looks tall and sharp. Picking up clues from the new Scorpio and the upcoming XUV 500 facelift, we expect the new model to feature the new-age Mahindra grille with floating vertical slats adorned with chrome. That apart, the flared wheel arches, the horizontal ridges in the mirrors and the sloping roof and window-line make their presence felt. Let's just hope Mahindra doesn't spoil things with fussy detailing though.

To avail excise duty concessions, Mahindra is set to be working on new petrol and diesel engines with displacements of less than 1.2 and 1.5 liters respectively. As usual, the mechanicals and underpinnings should be robust and last the distance, two typical Mahindra traits.

With the Bolero, Scorpio and XUV 500 pulling in tens of thousands of customers into Mahindra showrooms every month, the upcoming compact SUV is only going to strengthen the Indian manufacturer's position in the market.


Zest isn't selling well, but is Tata Motors to blame?

So, it's official now. More than six months after launch, the Zest isn't doing great business out there. At least, it isn't selling as well as we thought it would. Who is to blame here? Tata Motors of course, you might say. Really? Read on.

Circa 2008, on a cold morning in New Delhi, the hugely-anticipated '1 Lakh Car', the Nano, made its debut. Instead of focusing on its finer aspects and how the Nano was actually better than what everybody envisaged it would be, the media went gaga over its price, labeling it the "world's cheapest car." Poor little thing, that very same tag and vested political interests put paid to it's prospects even before the car rolled out of the factory gates. "They killed the Nano with the cheapest car tag and a botched marketing strategy," declared the media, placing the blame squarely on Tata Motors. Of course, a few instances of Nanos catching fire didn't help either.

Came 2010 and the Aria, Tata Motor's most ambitious and most expensive model then, debuted. Pitted against the mighty Innova, the Aria had the road presence, a gamut of creature comforts and safety features, a well-sorted chassis and, most importantly, was priced lesser than the bare-bones Toyota. But, the public weren't ready to see the value proposition there. Instead, they chose to look at the 'more than a million rupee' price tag and shunned the Aria. It struggled to even sustain double digit sales figures every month and Tata's attempt to boost sales by price cuts weren't successful too. Tata Motors was blamed again, this time for the Aria's perceived premium positioning.

The Safari Storme came and hardly made an impact at a time when the Boleros, Scorpios, XUVs and Dusters were ruling the market. The Bolt, the newest Tata in the market launched just two months back, is already struggling. And with each flop show that Tata Motors adds to it's kitty, the criticism and blame game continues too!

And that brings us to the Zest. Here is a car that's not just a match for the competition but, in many aspects, better than the rest too. Be it in styling, interiors, features and ride quality, the Zest has the Dzire, Amaze and Xcent covered. It even offers a turbocharged petrol engine with three driving modes to choose from and has a frugal diesel engine mated to an Automated Manual Transmission, both of which are segment-firsts. Heck, even the build quality of Zest can stand up to the best in segment and that's not something we would normally say about a Tata. To top it all, it is incredibly well-priced too. With all these in its favor, the Zest should sell exceedingly well, right? Alas, that's not the case. The Zest languishes at the bottom while Maruti-Suzuki, Honda and Hyundai laugh all the way to the bank.

We can't help but feel for Tata. When they were blamed for the Nano, Aria, Storme and Bolt debacles, we kept mum. That's because Tata could have done certain things better in each of those cases. But the Zest is a genuinely impressive attempt, one that deserves to be rewarded with success. If the Zest can't make the market realize the strides Tata has made, what else would? For once, we are sure to state that Tata is not to blame. It's the market perception at fault here.

As for Tata, they should keep doing what they did with the Zest in all the new products that are in the pipeline and hope the market perception changes. Honestly, that's all they can do. The rest is with us. Let's give them a chance, shall we? They have, after all, come a long way since the Indica in 1998.


Renault launches Lodgy MPV in India, priced between INR 8.19 - 11.79 Lakhs

Renault’s Indian portfolio might comprise five models ranging from the Pulse hatch to the Koleos SUV but it is only the Duster that sets the cash registers ringing for the French manufacturer. Ignore Duster’s sales and Renault would just be a fringe player in the Indian market with less than 1000 units sold each month. The Lodgy MPV (Multi-purpose Vehicle), launched today with prices ranging from INR 8.19 to 11.79 Lakhs ex-showroom Delhi, might change that scenario altogether.

At first glance, the Lodgy appears to have what it takes to replicate the success of Duster in India. Like the Duster, the Lodgy is a Dacia model rebadged for our market. To make it look upmarket, the Lodgy gets some subtle design changes and chrome bits, again similar to the Duster. It is built on the same platform, shares the same robust underpinnings and is powered by the same 1.5-liter K9K diesel engine. Both states of tune, the 85 PS mated to a 5-speed manual and the 110 PS paired to a 6-speed manual transmission, are offered too. What is different from the Duster is the MPV body-style and the all-important additional row of seats. 

Compared to the Dacia-badged model on sale in Europe, the front end of the Lodgy is significantly redesigned for India and looks classy. The hexagonal grille with a healthy dose of chrome is all-new and, we have to admit, appeals instantly. Stretched-back headlights, circular fog lights with chrome surrounds and a large trapezoidal air dam at the bottom are the other highlights up front. Except for the mildly-flared wheel arches and the chrome inserts in rubguards, the profile is devoid of design-enhancing elements and looks bland. The uniquely-shaped taillights with that ‘bulge’ in the middle keep things a bit interesting at the rear as does the upward-sloping kinks in both the bottom edges of the rear windshield. The license plate garnish is a thick bar of chrome in which the ‘Lodgy’ name is inscribed.

The Lodgy, undoubtedly, looks big from the outside and all that visual bulk translates to excellent interior space. When we spied the Lodgy inside out last November, we were impressed with the space on offer and the official pictures of Lodgy’s cabin confirms that impression. The cabin shares most of it’s components with the Duster, with the steering wheel, air-conditioner vents and center console all reminding us of Lodgy’s association with its sibling. Both 7-seater and 8-seater options are available in the top RXZ trim with the former coming with captain seats for the middle row. People-movers like the Lodgy are all about practicality and that’s where this Renault packs a punch in the form of dedicated air-conditioner vents, cup holders  and 12V charging sockets for all three rows. The middle row, in fact, gets foldable plastic trays too. 

Features like Air-conditioning, power steering, Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) and Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD) are standard on all variants while the top-spec RXZ trim has driver and passenger airbags, leather-wrapped steering wheel, rear view camera and sensors and a touchscreen-enabled music system with satellite navigation.

MPVs are one of Renault’s biggest fortes back in Europe and the Chennai-based manufacturer would be hoping to build on that legacy in India with the Lodgy. Currently dominated by the high-priced yet top-selling Toyota Innova, the Lodgy has a tough task ahead trying to usurp the leader. Given that Maruti-Suzuki and Honda couldn’t make a dent and Tata failed spectacularly trying to do so, Renault would be having their fingers crossed. We have ours too. Should the Innova be worried or will the Lodgy make its own space like the Ertiga and Mobilio did? We’ll see soon.


2015 New York - Lincoln Continental Concept brings back the full-size American luxury car

At last, after years of rolling out dolled-up, plusher versions of mainstream Ford models, Lincoln finally made a big splash of its own at the recently-concluded New York Auto Show. It was the suave and stylish Continental Concept that did the trick. We just can't fathom a better way for Lincoln to announce that they are back in business than bringing back an iconic nameplate in a modern avatar.

What's so impressive about this upcoming full-size luxury sedan aiming to whet the appetites of the Americans and the Chinese? Pretty much everything, if you ask us.

With a wide and low stance, the Continental Concept looks plush, elegant and stylish. Gone are the split grilles of the present-day Lincolns replaced by a huge trapezoidal unit with dollops of chrome. Sleek LED matrix headlights on either side sport exquisite detailing to the extent of lighting up in the shape of tiny Lincoln logos. The silhouette, characterized by the long hood, extra-long wheelbase and the short rear, commands instant respect. Adding a bit of muscle is the prominent belt-line that also discreetly incorporates the E-Latch door handles. The sculpted rear is chiseled to perfection and feature full-size taillights with advanced light-through-chrome technology. Quad tailpipes stacked in pairs on either sides look incredibly good too. Topping it all is the Lincoln Continental's signature 'Rhapsody Blue' metallic paint.

Lincoln claims that the Continental Concept's interiors are made of the most sensual materials ever used in a Lincoln. With Venetian leather seat and door panels, Alcantara seat inserts and armrests, satin headliner, shearling wool carpet and Rose Gold trim around the instrument cluster, we don't argue with that claim. Patented 30-way adjustable seats that conforms to different sizes and shapes, ambient lighting, a fully-reclinable passenger-side rear seat, SPD SmartGlass tinting sunroof, the Revel Ultima audio system with three surround-sound modes - Stereo, Audience and On-Stage, a tablet-supporting lap tray that deploys from the through-center console, a champagne storage compartment and detachable, hand-crafted Venetian leather travel cases mounted to the backside of the front seats ensure that the occupants remain pampered during their time spent inside the car.

Though the specifications aren't released yet, we know that the Continental Concept will be powered by a Lincoln-exclusive 3.0-liter V6 EcoBoost engine. It also features 'Lincoln Drive Control' ride-enhancing technologies, Adaptive Steering and a host of driver-assist technologies like Pre-Collision Assist with Pedestrian Detection, Enhanced Park Assist and a 360-degree camera that displays on the MyLincoln Touch screen.

With the American economy showing signs of a full recovery and the luxury car demand in China remaining as high as ever, the Continental has the potential to help Lincoln scale new heights. All Lincoln needs to do is change nothing and bring the Continental as it is to production real quick.

2015 New York - Honda lights up New York with the Civic Concept

It’s official. Honda has had enough of it. Stung with criticism that flew in from all directions for its conservative and evolutionary approach in the current Civic, Honda has decided to create a ruckus with the upcoming tenth-generation model. How else can we describe this bold and sexy coupe in 'neon green' that took New York by surprise? There is nothing, and we mean nothing, remotely conservative here. 

If all Honda wanted is us to sit up and take notice, well, they have succeeded in their attempt big-time.

Following the brand’s 'forward H' design philosophy, the new Civic sports a longer wheelbase and a lower and wider stance. Featuring bold surfaces, prominent character lines and deeply-sculpted bumpers and air intakes, the Civic Concept oozes sportiness from every angle. A huge rear spoiler, sleek LED headlights, boomerang-shaped DRLs, flared wheel arches, a single-piece taillight cluster that runs the full width of the car and the raked window-line that ends with a subtle yet sharp kink are eye-catchy and would have, no doubt, attracted stares from show-goers. If Honda's statements are to be believed, this radical new concept provides more than a glimpse of the production model that's slated for debut later this year. 

To match its styling prowess, the new Civic would feature Honda's new 1.5-liter turbocharged, direct injection, VTEC engine. Transmission options are said to include a short-shifting 6-speed manual and a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT). A strong-seller in the mature North American market, the new Civic will feature the 'Honda Sensing' safety suite that include Lane Departure Warning, Forward Collision Warning, Multi-Angle Rearview Camera, Adaptive Cruise Control and Honda LaneWatch, along with the firm's next-generation Advanced Compatibility Engineering (ACE) body structure.  

When it goes on sale, the new Civic line-up would include the regular Sedan, Coupe and 5-door Hatchback variants, as well as the sporty Si and Type-R variants in different markets. We Indians missed out completely on the ninth-generation Civic when Honda didn't bother to replace the stylish eighth-generation model here. They better don't do let us miss out on this upcoming one though.


Mercedes-Benz C-Class is 2015 World Car of the Year

Its that time of the year when the city of New York gets busy with its annual automotive event and, as always, the city played host to the current year's edition of one of the most-coveted automotive awards. Like six of the last seven years, it is a German car that walked away with the top honours and a German brand that made it big. Unlike the previous years though, it isn't Volkswagen Group that came out on top. Instead, Mercedes-Benz is the big winner in 2015, with the luxury brand taking home three titles this time around.

From an initial list of 24 new vehicles launched around the world, three finalists - Ford Mustang, Mercedes-Benz C-Class and Volkswagen Passat, were shortlisted. When the final scores were tallied, the C-Class - the original 'baby' Merc, emerged victorious. Crowning it the 2015 World Car of the Year, the jurors observed, "Taking its design and technological cues from the S-Class, the C-Class employs an all-new aluminium/steel hybrid platform and updated rear-drive powertrains that delivers levels of refinement, luxury, safety, ride and handling that challenge best-in-class."

2015 World Car of the Year - Mercedes-Benz C-Class

Previous WCOTY Winners:

2014 – Audi A3
2013 – Volkswagen Golf
2012 – Volkswagen Up!
2011 – Nissan Leaf
2010 – Volkswagen Polo

To acknowledge higher-priced luxury cars selling in limited numbers worldwide, a new category - World Luxury Car of the Year - was created and the Mercedes-Benz S-Class won the inaugural award last year. It's a double for Mercedes-Benz as the stunningly sleek and sexy S-Class Coupe fended off competition from the BMW i8 and the Range Rover Autobiography Black LWB to be crowned the 2015 World Luxury Car of the Year. "Mercedes-Benz design and technology are forming a marriage that is more happy than ever. There is no better car to prove it than this stunningly beautiful derivative of the S-class, available with powerful, turbocharged V-8 and V-12 engines," the jurors said on the S Coupe.

2015 World Luxury Car of the Year - Mercedes-Benz S Coupe

Previous Winners:

2014 – Mercedes-Benz S-Class

That's not all. The Mercedes-AMG GT made it a grand triple for the German luxury carmaker by winning the 2015 World Performance Car of the Year title. By doing so, Mercedes-Benz ended Porsche's winning streak that stretches back to 2012. The other two finalists in the fray for this award were the BMW M4 Coupe/M3 Sedan and the Jaguar F-Type R Coupe. As rightly summarized, "Its on-road presence alone is almost enough to qualify it as a ‘Top 3’ finalist. But in addition to its ruggedly handsome looks it has an impressive spec sheet comprising biturbo 4.0-litre V8 engine, seven speed dual-clutch transmission,  456bhp (minimum) and much, much more."

2015 World Performance Car of the Year - Mercedes-AMG GT

Previous Winners:

2014 – Porsche 911 GT3
2013 – Porsche Boxster / Cayman
2012 – Porsche 911
2011 – Ferrari 458 Italia
2010 – Audi R8 V10

For the second year in a row, BMW walked away with the World Green Car of the Year award, this time for the i8. The hybrid-electric sports car from BMW's purpose-built 'i' sub-brand takes over from its stablemate i3, which won the award in 2014. Undoubtedly impressed with the i8's green credentials, the jurors and specially-appointed green experts opined, "The BMW i8 gasoline hybrid looks so cool, it should be the icon for all “Green” cars. So it inspires Green Passion, which on paper looks like 155 mph on the i8's three cylinder turbo gasoline engine, four-wheel-drive and four seats. The i8 adds so much enjoyment to a sensible lifestyle that it needs to be recognized as a great Green Car." The two other finalists were the Mercedes-Benz S 500 Plug-In Hybrid and the Volkswagen Golf GTE.

2015 World Green Car of the Year - BMW i8

Previous Winners:

2014 – BMW i3
2013 – Tesla Model S
2012 – Mercedes-Benz S250 CDI BlueEFFICIENCY
2011 – Chevrolet Volt
2010 – Volkswagen BlueMotion Cars

Rounding off the list of award winners is the Citroen C4 Cactus that was adjudged the 2015 World Car Design of the Year. Known for its appealing and futuristic designs, Citroen has already won this award in 2006 for the C4 and has been nominated as one of the three finalists six times in the last ten years. The Cactus is a one-of-a-kind car, to put it simply, a fact that would have helped it overcome stiff competition from the other two finalists - the Mercedes-Benz C-Class and Volvo's XC90. 

2015 World Car Design of the Year – Citroen C4 Cactus

Previous Winners:

2014  BMW i3
2013 – Jaguar F-Type
2012  – Land Rover Range Rover Evoque
2011 – Aston Martin Rapide
2010 – Chevrolet Camaro

Currently in its eleventh year, the World Car Awards (WCA) is not just another award program. Judged by a panel of 75 prominent automotive journalists from around the world, the World Car Awards is designed to recognize the best in the industry on a global scale. Along with the announcement, trophies were handed over to the 2015 award winners at a gala event in New York.


Ford joins the 'Compact Sedan' bandwagon with the Figo Aspire

When Tata pioneered the ‘compact sedan’ with the Indigo CS, little did we realize that it could become one of the most-successful and hotly-contested segments ever in India. But, that’s what it is right now, with Maruti-Suzuki, Hyundai, Honda and Tata involved in a slug-fest. Bang in the midst of this slug-fest lands Figo Aspire, Ford’s next launch for India and the one that the company is betting big on.

Expected to launch in the next few months, the Figo Aspire will be manufactured at Ford’s spanking new production facility in Sanand, Gujarat. Spread over 460 acres, Ford has invested over US$ 1 billion in this integrated facility that include stamping, body, paint and assembly operations for vehicle manufacturing as well as machining and assembly operations for engine manufacturing. Capable of churning out 240,000 vehicles and 270,000 engines annually, the Sanand facility would make production constraints a thing of the past for the American brand. Let’s not forget that the Ecosport, in its initial days, commanded a waiting period running into months owing to production constraints in Ford’s Chennai facility. 

The Figo Aspire, that sounds uncannily similar to the Swift Dzire, will be the first product to roll out of the Sanand plant. Speaking on the inauguration, Mark Fields, President and CEO of Ford Motor Company, commented, “With today’s opening of our plant in Sanand, we have taken our growth commitment to a new high in India. We are doubling our manufacturing capacity in India, creating good jobs and serving our customers around the world with great products.” The Figo hatchback, that would replace the current model which is in production since 2010, is expected to be the next to roll out of Sanand.

Like all other compact sedans, the Figo Aspire measures less than 4 meters in length to avail the excise duty concessions on offer from the Indian government. Sporting the brand’s latest ‘Kinetic’ design philosophy, the Figo Aspire has an upright front end characterized by the beautiful Aston Martin-lookalike grille and sweptback headlamps. Ford’s designers have done a superb job of integrating the boot and, to our eyes, the Figo Aspire is the best-looking compact sedan out there. Large trapezoidal taillight clusters dominate the rear as does a thick strip of chrome that connects them. The interiors of Figo Aspire would borrow heavily from the new Fiesta and Ecosport. Ford’s micro-site also claims that the compact sedan would come with features like voice-activated SYNC with Ford Applink and the segment-first side and curtain airbags. Going by the Ecosport experience, we expect the Figo Aspire to give its competitors a run for their money in terms of features offered. Engine choices include the familiar 1.5-liter TDCi diesel engine that powers the Ecosport and new Fiesta and a new 1.2-liter TiVCT petrol engine.

So, if you are in the market for a compact sedan or a premium hatch, hold on for a couple of months. Ford appears to have a great offering and you might not want to miss that!