LeEco unveils its vision of a smart electric car of the future, and it's called the LeSEE!

Thanks to Flipkart and those multiple full page adverts in leading newspapers, most of us Indians need no introduction of LeTV, one of the many new smartphone makers from China to have landed on Indian soil. But not many are aware this Chinese tech company, that recently re-branded itself as 'LeEco', has an interest in automobiles too.

If you're wondering how, LeEco made headlines earlier this year with its investments in Faraday Future, an electric car start-up that made a splash of its own at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, and partnership with Aston Martin to jointly develop the RapidE electric luxury sedan. 

That doesn't make LeEco an aspiring automaker, does it? Ah well, put an end to such thoughts right away! Just look at the brand's own electric car concept 'LeSEE' below and you will know why we said that.

Sleek, futuristic and minimalist aren't words that we generally use when discussing the design and styling of Chinese cars. LeSEE makes us use all that and more. Used to seeing cars with thick chrome grilles and air dams, the LeSEE's fascia might appear bland to most trained eyes out there. But then, Tesla has made us immune to bland-faced cars. Coming back to the LeSEE, it's the car's gorgeous profile and the sexy rear that impressed us a lot. We know this is just a concept and there is absolutely nothing to read into it. Still, the LeSEE is one impressive automobile.

With suicide doors at the rear, touchscreens at the front and the rear, a steering wheel that can be folded down when not in use, rear seats that can apparently adapt to the shape of passenger's bodies and the capability of providing isolated environments for each passenger, LeSEE's interiors scream 'concept car crazy'. LeEco even has ideas to incorporate automated driving, self-learning, face recognition and a whole lot of stuff in the LeSEE along with grand plans to have a fleet of autonomous taxis based on this car. Now you know why the car is called LeSEE, the last three alphabets standing for Super Electric Ecosystem.

At the moment, this is just a tech company formally announcing its intentions to make it big in the automotive industry. Neither the car's specifications nor a firm launch timeline has been announced. But, if the short demo that LeEco showed a packed audience at an event in Beijing last month is any indication, the LeSEE looks good as it is and there is no reason why this can't be developed into a full-fledged mass-production electric car with a whole ecosystem to support its existence.

Tesla, Google and a handful of established automakers including Toyota, General Motors, Ford, Daimler, Jaguar and Land Rover are already moving ahead in the path of electric cars, autonomous capabilities, car-to-car connectivity and smart mobility solutions. Has LeEco got what it takes to fight with the biggies and convert the impressive LeSEE from concept to production? We hope it does, just to see the beautiful LeSEE roam on public roads!


Honda launches BR-V in India between INR 8.75 - 12.90 Lakhs

Honda's much-awaited entry into the compact SUV segment finally became a reality with the launch of the BR-V today. Priced between INR 8.75 and 12.90 Lakhs ex-showroom Delhi, the BR-V has a slew of competitors to tackle - the Maruti-Suzuki Vitara Brezza and Ford Ecosport at the lower end and the Hyundai Creta, Maruti-Suzuki S-Cross, Renault Duster and Nissan Terrano at the upper end of its price band.

Like most recent Hondas that have made it to India, the BR-V is based off the same platform as the Brio hatchback, the Amaze compact sedan and the Mobilio MPV. Crucially, the BR-V gets an unique front end that doesn't resemble the Brio family. The bold and upright fascia gets the trademark thick chrome grille flanked by sharp wraparound headlights with projectors and LED light guides. The bumper gets a rather large air dam and chrome-ringed fog lamps. At the rear, the split taillights connected by a reflector strip and the layered tailgate look interesting while the plastic cladding all around and skid plates at the front and rear gives the BR-V its 'SUV' armour. The long profile that's straight off the Mobilio doesn't gel well with the overall design and looks more like a MPV rather than a SUV, the BR-V's 210 mm of ground clearance notwithstanding. 

The all-black interiors, again, are similar to the recently launched Amaze facelift which is a definite improvement over the Brio-based interiors that the Mobilio has. The top-end variant gets features like a heat-absorbing windshield, leather upholstery, keyless entry with push button start, automatic climate control, power folding mirrors, 2-DIN audio system with Bluetooth functionality and driver's seat height adjustment. A touchscreen infotainment system is conspicuous by its absence, given that most of the BR-V's competitors have one. Driver and passenger airbags are standard across the range while Antilock Braking System (ABS) with Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD) is standard on all but the base petrol variant. The BR-V's USP is likely to be its generous interior space and the presence of proper third row bench, making it a genuine 7-seater.

Powering the BR-V are the familiar set of engines that power the City and the Mobilio. The 1.5-liter i-VTEC petrol engine produces 119 horsepower and 145 Nm of torque while the 1.5-liter i-DTEC diesel engine is good for 100 horsepower and 200 Nm of torque. Both the engines are mated to a 6-speed manual transmission making the BR-V more suited for long-distance cruising. The petrol engine also has the option of a Continously Variable Transmission (CVT). Interestingly, this variant gets steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters, a first in the segment. The ARAI-certified fuel efficiency figures are 15.4 km/l for the manual petrol, 16 km/l for the automatic petrol and 21.9 km/l for the diesel variant.

The BR-V is available in four variants - E, S, V and VX in a palette of six colours - Carnelian Red Pearl, Orchid White Pearl, Urban Titanium Metallic, Taffeta White, Golden Brown Metallic and Alabaster Silver Metallic.

With Honda's strong brand image and the never-ending craze for SUVs and crossovers in India, the BR-V makes a strong case for itself. Despite losing out on some features compared to its key rival, the Creta, the BR-V makes up by undercutting its Korean rival in terms of pricing. This H vs H battle is going to be an interesting one!


Toyota launches Innova Crysta in India between INR 13.83 - 20.77 Lakhs

Few vehicles have dominated their segments as much as the Toyota Innova did in India. Ever since its launch more than a decade back, the Innova overcame all odds including multiple upward price revisions, a slew of competitors aimed squarely at it, modest power output and sparse equipment list to become India’s most-loved Multi Purpose Vehicle (MPV). If Toyota hadn’t stopped production, the Innova might have continued its joy run for a few more years, we bet! 

After ruling the MPV segment for a 11 whole years, the second generation Innova, now with the ‘Crysta’ suffix, has replaced the ageing first generation model. After showcasing the vehicle to the public at the Auto Expo in New Delhi earlier this year, Toyota announced the prices of the Innova Crysta yesterday with bookings and test drives at dealerships starting immediately afterwards.

Based on an all-new International Multi-purpose Vehicle (IMV) platform, the Innova Crysta has underwent a complete transformation inside and out compared to its predecessor. One quick look is all it takes to realize the Crysta is far more sharper, modern and imposing than the vehicle it replaces. Much of that is due to that striking front end that feature a new dual-slat chrome grille, large swept-back projector headlights and the massive air dam in the bumper. The profile is characterized by a strong shoulder line that clearly splits the sheet metal and the windows. Talking of the windows, the sharp upward kink at the rear gives the Innova Crsta an unique identity. The long rear overhang gives it a proper ‘van’ look while the interestingly-styled taillights are sure to split opinions either sides. 

The interiors, as we said before, are a massive step forward from the ageing cabin of the old Innova. Following the same ‘retro’ theme that debuted in the new Corolla, the Innova Crysta finally gets a cabin befitting its price tag. The flowing dashboard design and the dual-tone colour theme are impressive and so is the feature list. A host of ‘first in class’ features including automatic LED projector headlamps, interior ambient lights, cooled glove box, one touch tumble second row seat, easy slide front passenger seat and rear automatic air-conditioning with digital display make their way into the Innova Crysta. Some of the other features in the flagship ‘ZX’ variant are a 4.2-inch TFT Multi Information Display, 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system, 8-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, keyless entry and go and reverse parking sensors and camera.

Standard safety feature on all trim levels include driver and passenger airbags, driver knee airbag, Antilock Braking System (ABS) with Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist (BA), three point seat belts for all occupants and ISOFIX child restraint system. The top-end ‘ZX’ variant has seven airbags, Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) and Hill-start Assist Control in addition.

Replacing the crude and modest 2.5-liter diesel engine from the old Innova are a pair of new-generation 4-cylinder diesel engines from the ‘GD’ family. The smaller 2.4-liter unit is mated to a 5-speed manual transmission and produces 148 horsepower and 343 Nm of torque while the bigger 2.8-liter mill generates 172 horsepower and 360 Nm of torque. Mated with a 6-speed automatic transmission, the latter is available only in GX and ZX variants while the former is available across the range.

Available in six variants with two powertrain options and two seating configurations, the Innova Crysta’s prices have seen a significant upward revision as well. While the base ‘G’ variant starts at INR 13.83 Lakhs, the top-end ‘ZX’ retails at INR 20.77 Lakhs ex-showroom Mumbai. That’s a whopping 6 Lakh Rupees between the base and top variants and a solid 2-3 Lakhs higher than the outgoing Innova. But then, with Toyota’s brand reputation and Innova’s legendary reputation for reliability, we have no doubt that the Innova Crysta is going to enjoy the success its predecessor had. 

Having said that, Toyota has left the INR 8 – 13 Lakh price bracket wide open for its competitors to enjoy. Does that mean the Avanza is on its way here to occupy the space the Innova originally did in 2005? We have our fingers crossed.