2017 Tokyo - Honda's Sports EV Concept is the tiny sport coupe we have been craving for

Small, cheerful cars are what Honda was known for at one point in time and, somewhere along the way, they started treading a different path with their models getting bigger and busier. At the Frankfurt Motor Show earlier this year, Honda showed signs of returning to its original ways with the Urban EV Concept. Small, retro-cute and a full-electric powertrain - it had all the right ingredients for success and, needless to say, the concept was appreciated and received a lot of love. 

At the Tokyo Motor Show, Honda followed it up with a smaller and sportier sibling, the Sports EV Concept. 

The cute little coupe is similar in design and conception to the hatch but a whole lot cooler, thanks to its chic lines and sportier stance. Up front, a black panel takes the place of a traditional grille with a blue-backlit Honda logo taking pride of place at the center. The same theme is followed at the rear as well while the lights themselves are similar in shape and size to the ones used in the Urban EV Concept. The windshield and windows wrap around the car while the sloping roof and rear windshield appear a single unit.

Like the Urban EV Concept, the Sports EV Concept gets the 'Honda Automated Network Assistant' - a personal concierge that can offer recommendations to the driver and the 'Honda Power Manager' - a system that store and release power from its own battery back to the home and grid. The car-maker has not divulged more details on the electric powertrain, so the power and range discussions shall be had later. 

The fact the Urban EV Concept would span a production model as early as 2019 had us all grinning with glee. Unfortunately, Honda has been tight-lipped on the prospects of the same happening to the Sports EV Concept so far. 

That said, an affordable sport coupe is conspicuous by its absence in Honda's global lineup and this tiny electric coupe, at the right price, would be a perfect fit as it is. Are you listening, Honda?


2017 Tokyo - Subaru Viziv Performance Concept kindles the next-gen WRX dream

The ongoing Tokyo Motor Show played host to the latest in the series of Viziv (Vision for Innovation) concepts from Subaru. Unlike the crossovers showcased on previous occasions, the Viziv Performance Concept takes the shape of a hardcore performance sedan this time. Are we then looking at the next-generation WRX? Yes, possibly.

Subaru's concepts have never failed to attract attention and the Viziv Performance Concept is no different. With extra large air dams in the front bumper, a muscular hood scoop, massively-flared wheel arches housing ultra-low profile tires and quad tailpipes with two each on either side of the rear diffuser, the Viziv Concept screams performance from all angles. For their part, the slender 'Hawk-Eye' LED headlights and C-shaped taillights with a horizontal strip connecting them add to the visual drama. Carbon-fiber have been used extensively in the bumpers, fenders and the roof. 

While Subaru has not revealed the numbers yet, what we know is that the Viziv Performance Concept gets the brand's claim-to-fame 'Symmetrical AWD' system powered by a horizontally-opposed 'boxer' engine perfected over five decades of usage in multiple high-stress applications, notably the Impreza.

Advanced Driver Assist functions incorporating the next-generation EyeSight system with other devices, enhanced radar and highly accurate GPS have been installed to promote Enjoyment and Peace of Mind, in Subaru's terms.

Known for its rich racing heritage and supreme dynamic abilities, the WRX has earned a cult following across the world. Subaru should keep those fans and loyalists in mind when they work on the production version. So, no, a modest-looking production model succeeding a gorgeous concept like the last WRX won't do! 

With the Mitsubishi Evo, WRX's arch-rival, gone for good, Subaru has the market all to itself, if that's going to be helpful.


2017 Tokyo - Mitsubishi e-Evolution Concept previews the brand's future

To say that we were shocked when Mitsubishi announced the Lancer Evolution series would be discontinued is an understatement. That happened quite some time back and since then, we have reconciled to the fact the Japanese car-maker's budgets just aren't big enough to develop an all-new generation of the loved-and-revered sports sedan and that they are playing to their strengths in making Electric Vehicles (EV) and Sports Utility Vehicles (SUV).

Out went the Lancer Evolution, or 'Evo' as it is fondly called, with a 'Final Edition' marking its demise. Mitsubishi, back then, promised the nameplate would be back in a different form. That said, nobody would have guessed the car you see above would evolve into something you see right below.

After a series of teasers to jack up the interest quotient, Mitsubishi finally took the wraps off the e-Evolution Concept at the ongoing 2017 Tokyo Motor Show.  

The all-electric SUV concept indicates the potential direction Mitsubishi, as a brand, is headed. Combining the Japanese car-maker's know-how in making robust, go anywhere SUVs and futuristic EVs, the e-Evolution Concept arrives at just the right time. Demand for SUVs and crossovers are sky-rocketing globally and EVs are threatening to kill the IC Engine in a decade or two from now. 

Mitsubishi's SUVs are getting bolder of late and the e-Evolution Concept is yet another step in that direction. Up front, Mitsubishi's 'Dynamic Shield' takes a new form with a black mesh grille located underneath a layer of glass. The busy fascia houses twin pairs of LED lights with large air intakes below to cool the electric brake calipers. The steeply-raked windshields, short overhangs and high ground clearance give it 'go anywhere' proportions while the floating roof and aerodynamic profile, complete with a set of jet tail-fins at the C-pillars, look wild and modern. At the rear, things get busier with 3-winged boomerang-shaped taillights and a Pajero spare cover-inspired hexagonal panel being the highlights.

The design folks at Mitsubishi appears to have been given a free hand when it comes to interior layout and appointments. The flat-bottomed half-steering wheel, the floating instrument panel, the 3-part flat screen that runs the width of the dashboard and the wide center stack housing a plethora of dials and controls hint at things that could potentially trickle through to future production models. 

Powering the e-Evolution Concept are three electric motors with one driving the front wheels and two driving each of the rear wheels. The high-capacity battery pack is placed between the axles in the floor, thereby lowering the center of gravity and aiding vehicle dynamics. Off-roading credentials are aplenty courtesy full 4WD hardware comprising of an electronically-controlled torque-vectoring 'Active Yaw Control (AYC)' system integrated with Mitsubishi's unique Super All-Wheel Control system.

There's more, Mitsubishi has even equipped the e-Evolution Concept with Artificial Intelligence (AI) that can not just read changes in road and traffic conditions but also read driver's intent.

That Mitsubishi is trying to leverage its strong pedigree in making robust SUVs and intelligent Electric Vehicles (EV) is clear and well understood. That they are using the acclaimed 'Evolution' nameplate, easily one of the most recognizable models globally, is what is tough to digest.

Hello Subaru, the Impreza WRX STi's order books just got a fillip from loyalists who hoped against hope  for a new 'Evo' sedan. Don't even dare think of stopping them!

2017 Tokyo - Mazda aims upscale with the Vision Coupe Concept

The 2017 Tokyo Motor Show is underway and visitors are seemingly flocking to the Mazda stall. Yes, the Kai Concept was one reason for all the attention Mazda has got but credits go to the show-stopping 'Vision Coupe' Concept that vowed the critics and the show-goers alike. 

The stunning, full-size 4-door coupe is like nothing in Mazda's lineup today and is a clear hint the Japanese car-maker is looking to head upscale if the right opportunity presents itself. With crossovers making sedans of all shapes and sizes eat humble pie, we would need more of these to wrestle the momentum back to a body-style that everybody we know seemingly like the most.

The Vision Coupe Concept strikes at first glance, thanks to the classic 'long hood, swept-back cabin and short deck' proportions usually reserved for front-engined rear-wheel-drive Grand Tourers. Up front, the aggressive U-shaped grille cuts right into the slender headlights that houses circular HID projectors. The interplay of surfaces brought together by the long and flowing hood that extends over the edge of the nose and the aggressively-sculpted front bumper is a visual delight. The profile is minimalism redefined with Mazda's designers banking on the reflection of light out of the polished surfaces to speak for themselves. The shoulder line that originates in the front fender gains prominence as we move towards the rear where it merges beautifully with the flowing roof-line. A pair of circular LED taillights are houses in a recessed piece of metal at the rear with dual circular tailpipes on either side hinting at the power in store. 

Its sensuous design apart, what impresses most is the stunning levels of attention to detail this car is blessed with. Just look at the close-up shots we have merged in the collage below to know what we mean. Despite that, remarkably, the sheet metal is devoid of unwanted cuts and creases that plague the current Japanese designs (We are not looking at you, Toyota and Honda!). 

Even if Mazda decides to set aside the millions of Japanese Yen required for transforming a concept like this to production, expect typical conceptual elements like the slender rear view mirrors, hidden door handles and massive wheels to make way for toned-down parts we see in the market.

The interiors break conventions as well with Mazda getting rid of the usual buttons-clad steering wheel, digital cluster and tablet-affixed center console. Instead, a sophisticated digital-analog instrument panel sits behind a well-designed, metal-garnished steering wheel. The dash is designed to incorporate a three-dimensional effect to convey that sense of speed. Aiding the overall aesthetics are the inset, ultra-wide GPS screen and the wooden inserts on the doors and floor console.   

While Mazda has not revealed the specifications of the Vision Coupe Concept, there are atleast a couple of high-tech options within the brand to go under the hood of a car in this size and class. There is this rotary 'Wankel' engine Mazda pioneered decades back that powered the famous RX series of sports cars. There is also this SkyActiv-X tech, a recent proprietary development by Mazda that combines compression ignition's advantages of higher fuel efficiency, torque and initial acceleration with a spark-controlled gasoline engine. Add an electric motor or two and voila, a high-tech power source would be ready for deployment! 

If this is what the future of Mazda would look like, we are super excited. That said, we really wish the Vision Coupe Concept is not relegated to its moments of glory in the show floors. Let's hope this makes it to production in some form in the not-so-distant future, however bleak the prospects are!

2017 Tokyo - Kai Concept is a sign of glorious things in store from Mazda

The 2017 Tokyo Motor Show is underway and its perfectly normal to expect the usual biggies from Japan - Toyota, Honda and Nissan to rock. Instead, it is Mazda, the relatively-small independent Japanese car-maker, that's rocking the show big time with a couple of beautifully-designed concepts. 

First up is the Kai Concept that's inspired by the current Mazda 3 and previews the next-generation model. This compact 5-door hatchback also heralds the evolution of the Japanese brand's popular 'KODO - Soul of Motion' design language. Sleek, suave and sexy all at once, the Kai Concept is proof regular hatchbacks don't have to look mundane and boring. 

The aggression with which the familiar U-shaped grille cuts into the slender headlights, the assertive way in which the long muscular hood extends over the edge of the nose, the reflection projected onto the sides by the minimalist surfacing, the chunky C-pillars that complements the forward-raked windows and that gorgeous rear end with the split taillights together creates an impression that's tough to overlook. Yes, when it comes out in the form of next-generation Mazda 3, the styling would obviously be toned down but, knowing Mazda, there are chances many of Kai Concept's design elements would trickle through. 

Unlike many concepts that are just external design studies, the Kai Concept's interiors have got enough time and attention as well. The three-dimensional dashboard design that does away with the usual 'center console with a large touchscreen' concept and the door panels that syncs with the deep draw surfacing of the doors outside are visual treats that sadly won't probably make it to production.

Underpinned by Mazda's next-generation SkyActiv Vehicle Architecture - a light-weight, human-centered architecture aimed at enchancing driving dynamics and powered by Mazda's patented SkyActiv-X technology - a gasoline engine with spark-controlled compression ignition incorporated for that typical diesel-like fuel efficiency, torque and initial acceleration, the Kai Concept literally hints at what's in store for the future. And the future looks promising!  

All said and done, if the next-generation Mazda 3 looks as good as the Kai Concept and the SkyActiv-X engine is as good as it is claimed to be, expect Mazda's sales to skyrocket. Its a pity India is not on Mazda's agenda now or in the near future!


Suzuki's all-new Swift Sport looks yummy. Will we get to taste it in India?

India might be the biggest market in terms of volumes for the Suzuki Swift but there is one hot variant of the car we unfortunately can’t lay our hands on here. Yeah, Swift Sport is what we are talking about. 

Whilst we have all along been denied a chance to experience one here in our country, the Swift Sport has been enthralling enthusiasts in Europe and Japan without burning deep holes in their pockets. With the third-generation Swift going on sale recently in major global markets, it was time for the Sport variant to get its third iteration too. Suzuki did just that by unveiling the car at the recently-concluded 2017 Frankfurt Motor Show.

Powering this ‘warm’ hatch is Suzuki’s 1.4-liter 'BOOSTERJET' engine that churns out 138 horsepower at 5,500 rpm and a good 230 Nm of torque from 2,500 to 3,500 rpm. The turbocharger is equipped with waste-gate valve control which remains closed under normal circumstances for a seamless throttle response. It opens when cruising to minimize fuel consumption. The direct injection system features seven hole injector nozzles enabling increased fuel pressure and highly atomized fuel injection. Paired with the engine is a 6-speed manual transmission, enhanced to deliver short strokes, better feedback and an improved shift feel.

Based on Suzuki's new-generation and light-weight 'HEARTECT' platform, the Swift Sport tips the scales at just 970 kg. That gives the car a torque-to-weight ratio of 4.2 kg/Nm, making it one of the most competitive hot hatches around. Swift Sport rose to fame through its sweet handling. Be it the usage of high-performance Monroe shocks at the front and rear, thicker stabilizer joint bars, increased camber and toe rigidity for better cornering capabilities or an exclusive trailing arm designed to minimize deformation, Suzuki's engineers have made sure the Swift Sport loses none of that in its latest iteration.  

Swift’s Mini-inspired styling was such a smash hit worldwide that Suzuki decided to settle with just evolutionary changes for the third-generation model. The Swift Sport, therefore, follows the same principle. That said, there are enough visual clues to differentiate it from the regular Swifts. 

First up is the exclusive ‘Champion Yellow’ paint job. Inspired by the colour scheme followed by Suzuki in the Junior World Rally Championship, the bright shade of yellow is an instant attention-grabber. The hexagonal grille at the front runs deeper down the front bumper, imparting an aggressive look. There are other usual add-ons we normally see on cars with sporty aspirations like under-spoilers at the front and rear, side skirts, rear roof spoiler and a muscular rear bumper complete with a diffuser and dual exhaust tips. Sexy 17-inch alloy wheels accentuate the sporty look. Being 40 mm wider and 15 mm lower than its predecessor, the new Swift Sport has an improved stance.

Equipped with a flat-bottom steering wheel, driver-oriented instrument panel with boost and oil temperature gauges, red accents, alloy pedals and semi-bucket seats, the interiors provide an adequately-sporty look and feel. Advanced safety features including Forward Detection System, Dual Sensor Brake Support and Lane Departure Warning, all of which uses a monocular camera and laser sensor to detect potential dangers and protect the occupants.

The more we know about it, the more we want to drive it! Question is, are we even getting the Swift Sport here in India? If the Baleno RS is any indication, Swift Sport should at least be in consideration for an Indian launch. Come on, Maruti-Suzuki, don't disappoint us. After all, no other country buys as many Swifts (and Dzires and Ertigas) as much as we do!


Genesis G70 expands the lineup, aims straight for the BMW 3-Series

Genesis, Hyundai's upstart luxury brand, has fired its third salvo in the form of G70. 

Following in the footsteps of Hyundai-derived G80 and G90, the smaller and sportier G70 completes Genesis' sedan lineup. In more ways than one, this is a crucial launch for the South Korean brand that has the German luxury triumvirate of Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz in sight. Lest we forget, there is also Jaguar, Volvo, Lexus, Infiniti, Acura, Cadillac, Alfa-Romeo and Lincoln to contend with.

With such high hopes around it, will the G70 deliver the goods for Genesis? Let's see what stacks up for and against the G70 in its attempt for glory.

The Good

Hyundai is aiming big with the Genesis. Big here means mega. How else would you explain the executive rostrum at Genesis carefully poached from European rivals? Brand chief Manfred Fitzgerald previously served as the director of Lamborghini. Former Bentley and Lamborghini designer Luc Donckerwolke now heads the design team at Genesis. As if that's not enough, Albert Biermann, former head of BMW's M division, was also brought in to give the Genesis cars that near-perfect handling set-up. 

The idea, basically, is to outdo the Germans in their own game and, with the G70, the idea has started to take shape. As Genesis expands and evolves with the aforementioned executives at the helm of affairs, its time for us to get all excited.

So, the next time you see a Genesis, stop short of making statements like "The car looks like an Audi", "Isn't that an Aston-Martin front mated to a Mercedes CLA rear?". You now know why.

The Not So Good

The entry luxury segment is a crowded space. After all, competition here is so intense that Jaguar and Alfa-Romeo, with their storied legacies, have struggled to make inroads recently. Between the three of them, the 3-Series, C-Class and A4 guard their turf so fiercely, fending off threats with ruthlessness and regularity rarely seen in the automotive industry. Genesis is trying to upset this apple cart and the G70 had to 'look' different to give itself a fair shot of success. 

This is where the stunning Sports Sedan Concept that Genesis brought along for the 2016 New York Auto Show would have made the difference. It looked like nothing else in the market and featured distinct design elements that could have easily transformed into identities for the brand!

Did Genesis miss a chance to make an impact by not taking risks with the G70's styling then? It's too early to say that. What's clear, though, is they have chosen to tread the safer path.

The Good

Have no doubts, the designers at Genesis did exercise restrain when they penned the final lines for the G70. But that's not to say the car isn't good-looking. 

In fact, the G70 is quite a looker with a squat stance and measured proportions. The long hood, the swept-back upper half, the coupe-like roof-line and the short boot are classic 'Rear Wheel Drive' cues and the G70 carries them with aplomb. The hexagonal grille with large diamond meshes is a bit in-your-face but the split LED DRLs, a precursor to the quad headlights setup future Genesis models would sport, look great and so does the chiseled bumper. Sporting aggressive lines and multiple contours, the G70 looks taut and muscular when viewed from the sides and the rear.

Unlike the G80 and G90 that were just luxo barges with bland styling, the G70 is refined, modern and stylish. If this is an attempt to set the design direction for the brand, expect things to only get better.

The Good

As much as we say otherwise, fact is, car owners spend most of their time with the car seated inside. In that sense, getting the interior appointments, fit and finish right is more of a priority rather than getting the external styling spot-on. 

Genesis, it appears, has pretty much nailed this aspect. Be it the rich-looking quilted leather seats, the vast expanse of soft-touch materials, the classy brushed metallic inserts and the popular floating touchscreen that pops out of the dash, this cabin  wouldn't look out of place even with a three-pointed star or propeller badge adorning the steering wheel. With a feature list that could put mid-size luxury sedans to shame and top-notch safety equipment, the G70 is in no way a compromise to the established offerings in the segment. 

The Not So Good

What it scores in interior aesthetics and appointments, the G70 loses in rear seat space. Agreed, Genesis' target market here is the sporty entry-luxury segment and space at the rear isn't something potential buyers look out for often. 

But then, there are chances the G70 could be chauffeur-driven in some markets. That's when the sloping roof line and the resultant lack of kneeroom and headroom could come to haunt the G70's prospects. Yes, this is nit-picking, but when it comes to laying things bare, this is a key miss.

The Good

Say what you want but you just can't say the G70 is all show and no go. Staying true to its maker's intentions of pitching it as a sporty luxury sedan, the smallest Genesis on sale has a trio of potent and powerful force-fed engines under the hood. The top of the line is the 3.3-liter V6 petrol unit that develops 365 horsepower and a whopping 519 Nm of torque. With a claimed 0 to 100 km/h acceleration time of just 4.7 seconds and a top speed of 270 km/h, the G70 V6 is faster and more powerful than the 6-cylinder BMW 340i. Could you believe that?

The other two engines - a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder petrol with 252 horsepower and a 2.2-liter 4-cylinder common rail diesel with 202 horsepower - aren't half as interesting but the performance kit on offer surely is. Launch Control, Multi-link rear suspension, Dynamic Torque Vectoring System, Mechanical Limited Slip Differential (M-LSD) - you name it and Genesis has bestowed the G70 with it. With all these in place combined with ex-BMW M chief's inputs on handling, the G70 could well be the perfect driver's car this side of the BMW 3-Series. 

In short, the G70 is everything Genesis wanted it to be. Will the baby Genesis dethrone the 3-Series, C-Class and A4 from the entry luxury podium? Not a chance. Will it snatch sales off the XE, Giulia, IS and the likes? Hell yeah. And that's possibly what Genesis wants!


Skoda Kodiaq launched in India at ₹34.49 Lakhs

Hot on the heels of launching the powerful and sporty Octavia vRS, Czech car-maker Skoda is back with yet another all-new model for India, the Kodiaq. Unveiled late last year, the Kodiaq is the brand’s latest flagship, aiming to take advantage of the craze for high-riding SUVs and crossovers globally.

In India, Skoda has launched the Kodiaq in just one trim level - Style, priced at INR 34.49 Lakhs across the country. That puts it well above the Hyundai Tucson and Volkswagen Tiguan, two similar-sized monocoque 5-seater SUVs and the Toyota Fortuner and Ford Endeavour, two big-selling body-on-frame 7-seater SUVs. 

Powering the Kodiaq is the popular 2.0-liter TDI diesel engine that also does duty in a host of other cars in the Volkswagen Group. In this application, the engine churns out 148 horsepower and a substantial 340 Nm of torque delivered from as low as 1,750 rpm. Paired to the mill is a 7-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic transmission. With five driving modes to choose from and standard All Wheel Drive system, the Kodiaq can take those occasional off-road jaunts in its stride.

Clean, crisp styling has now become a Skoda trait and the Kodiaq is no exception. A bigger and bolder butterfly grille up front is flanked by twin lights on either sides, a design trait Skoda has used in the Octavia as well. The tall hood with prominent central ridges give the Kodiaq an imposing stance which is carried on to the profile through the recessed shoulder line and flared, squared-off wheel arches adequately filled with 18-inch wheels. The rear is pleasing to the eye with the contoured tailgate and Skoda’s signature crystalline taillight clusters particularly impressive.

In typical Skoda fashion, the Kodiaq’s cabin eschews flashy styling for a simple yet functional layout with top-notch fit and finish. The dual-tone beige and grey cabin feature fake wood-like inserts, which adds a bit of flair and proves to be a nice contrast. Three rows of seats mean the Kodiaq is a 7-seater, albeit with restricted legroom and headroom for the two occupants in the third row.

Skoda has equipped the Kodiaq with a full suite of safety features that include Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) with Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD), Electronic Stability Control (ESC), Traction Control, ‘IBUZZ’ Fatigue Detection System, ‘PARKTRONIC’ hands-free parking assist, all-round parking sensors with rear view camera and a total of nine airbags. Kudos Skoda, that's as comprehensive as it could get!

Befitting its status as the brand’s flagship, the Kodiaq gets features like three-zone climate control, panoramic sunroof, electrically-controlled hands-free tailgate, 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, 10-speaker Canton sound system, Ambient Lighting offering 10 colour options, powered front seats with memory function, roller blinds for the rear windows and ‘Power Nap Package’ for the rear passengers. 

That's not all, there's more. 

What’s a Skoda without those nifty ‘Simply Clever’ features? The Kodiaq has a few up its sleeve like the umbrella holders in front doors with in-built drain function, the door edge protectors that pop out to protect the doors from damage when opening in congested parking lots and the magnetized LED torchlight that can come in handy while changing tyres in the dark and recharge automatically while the engine is running.

With such an extensive equipment list, space for seven and proven ride and handling Skodas are known for, the Kodiaq could be that one car that serves all the needs of a typical, well-heeled Indian family. But, has Skoda positioned the Kodiaq optimistically, thus hurting its chances? They have, we're afraid! Let's see if the market decides otherwise.