Mahindra's upcoming MPV (Toyota Innova rival) spotted testing in Chennai

Mahindra’s upcoming Multi-Purpose Vehicle (MPV), yet another aspiring home-grown rival to the legendary Toyota Innova, is no longer a new sight on Indian roads. Multiple automotive publications including Anything-On-Wheels have caught the vehicle testing on numerous occasions before. Here it is, spotted testing again, in Chennai, home to Mahindra’s R&D Center.

Codenamed U321 internally, the upcoming MPV is shaping up into what could potentially be Innova’s closest challenger till date. Up front, Mahindra’s trademark toothy grille is seen, this time smaller and less intimidating. Wraparound headlights with inbuilt projectors, triangular fog lamps and an unfinished bumper with a big air dam are visible amidst the camouflage. While the rest of the car is fully hidden, a set of aggressively-styled alloy wheels and LED taillight clusters with Scorpio-like vertical reflectors extending into the rear windscreen can still be seen. Clearly, Mahindra's designers have exercised restraint this time around. Let's just hope they stay this way until the product is fully revealed. 

Our earlier spy shots of this upcoming MPV alongside an Innova and an Innova Crysta revealed that Mahindra’s challenger compares favourably with its arch-rival from Japan in terms of size. That augurs well for big families and fleet operators for whom a comfortable third row would be a necessity.

Though Mahindra is still tight-lipped on the specifications, the 2.0-liter ‘mHawk’ diesel engine that currently powers the XUV5OO and the Scorpio is likely to be this MPV’s source of power. The entry-level variants, targeted primarily at the commercial segment, might end up having the 'mHawk 100' engine from the TUV3OO to save on costs and increase fuel efficiency.

While many expected Mahindra to unveil this MPV at the 2018 Auto Expo, the Nashik-based disappointed by not uttering a word on its future models. The wait for a credible Innova rival is all set to continue then!


2018 Auto Expo - Kia announces its arrival with the SP Concept

Tata Motors might have stolen the limelight at the 2018 Auto Expo in New Delhi but one car-maker that has gone there all guns blazing is Kia. With an army of 15 models from its global portfolio and the entire top brass in tow, the South Korean car-maker couldn’t have reaffirmed its commitment to India more.

In the midst of all this, Kia took the wraps off the SP Concept, previewing a Creta-sized crossover that’s expected to be the brand’s first offering for the Indian market. 

On the days leading to the expo, teasers released by Kia Motor’s social media channels met with a good response despite the fact that they didn’t reveal much about the concept. Now that the covers are completely off, the initial positive feedback has turned into an overwhelmingly favourable reception.

And why not? The SP Concept looks impressive and production-ready. Knowing Kia, the production model is not likely to look much different either. 

Up front, Kia's trademark 'Tiger Nose' grille is now bigger, a bit toned down and extends right up to the fancy LED positioning lights. A mix of gloss black elements and silver inserts spruce up the fascia as does the sculpted bumper with vertical Daytime Running Lights. Move over to the sides and the vehicle impresses with a prominent shoulder line, contrasting roof, exaggerated wheels and interesting detailing around the C-pillar and the door cladding. The smart rear houses LED taillights with a silver insert running across the width of the car connecting them. 

Neither the interiors nor the specifications of the SP Concept were released but its safe to assume the 1.6-liter petrol and diesel engines from the Creta would be the power of choice for Kia India's first crossover. 

Based on the Creta, the SP Concept is likely to transform into a production model that, according to Kia, will go on sale in the second half of 2019. When it hits the market, expect the SP-based crossover to lock horns with Hyundai's own Creta apart from similarly-priced rivals like the Maruti-Suzuki S-Cross and Renault's Duster and Captur twins.

From the little Picanto to the smashing Stinger GT, the entire lineup of Kia cars were on display as were the brand's SUVs and crossovers - Stonic, Sportage, Sorento and Mohave.

Globally, Kia has been a force to reckon with in recent years with their models known for eye-catchy styling, feature-loaded interiors, industry-leading 7-year warranty and top reliability ratings. Combine all of that with the aggression and commitment the Koreans are known for, Kia might just be the next big thing in the Indian automotive industry!

2018 Auto Expo - Toyota unveils Yaris sedan for India

On the opening day of the 2018 Auto Expo in New Delhi, Toyota unveiled its next model for India, the Yaris sedan. A popular car in the South Asian markets like Singapore and Thailand where Toyota dominates the sales charts, the Yaris sedan would finally see Toyota battling with arch-rival Honda in the mid-size segment. Let's not forget the City has been ruling the roost in this segment for two decades now with the Ciaz and Verna challenging for the throne in recent years.

Unlike the Etios that was developed exclusively for emerging markets like India and therefore had evident cost cutting, the Yaris is a global Toyota model. And you realize that the moment you look at the car. Yes, the Yaris gets the proper Toyota treatment and looks like a smaller interpretation of the Corolla Altis. 

Up front, large swept-back headlights are placed on either side of a thin split grille that houses the logo. Underneath it is a large trapezoidal grille with black horizontal slats. LED DRLs are placed on the outermost edges of the grille while fog lamps get their own enclosures at the two corners of the bumper. A nice touch is the body-coloured lip underlining the bumper. The well-proportioned profile has a trio of subtle creases that break the monotony while the rear has large wraparound taillights that extend into the tailgate.

The interiors, like most Toyotas, are expected to be more functional than stylish featuring a dual-tone dashboard with a multi-functional steering wheel and a waterfall-like center console. Toyota appears to be gunning for the premium card here with the Yaris coming fully loaded with features like seven airbags, Traction Control System, Hill Start Assist, front parking sensors, powered front seats, roof-mounted rear air-conditioning vents and front and rear disc brakes amongst the other regular ones expected in a car from this segment.

Powering the Yaris would be the 1.5-liter petrol engine borrowed from the Etios, albeit in a higher state of tune. Producing a modest 108 horsepower, the engine is mated with either a 6-speed manual or a 7-speed CVT-based automatic transmission. There will be no diesel option initially though a launch at a later date remains very much a possibility. 

Toyota has announced that the Yaris sedan would hit the dealerships this April with deliveries starting soon afterwards. Knowing Toyota, expect this sedan to be priced at a premium compared to its rivals from Maruti-Suzuki, Hyundai and Honda. That said, Toyota's strong brand pull and the fact that the Yaris is a well-known nameplate means there are high chances of this becoming yet another success story for the Japanese car-maker in India.


2018 Auto Expo - Tata unveils radical H5X and 45X Concepts

Tata Motors was easily the star of the last two editions of the Auto Expo held in New Delhi. So, it was a sense of déjà vu in the Indian capital today as the curtains raised on the 2018 Auto Expo. The Pune-based car-maker was the show-stopper yet again, this time with two radical concepts that preview the future design direction of the brand. 

Over the last few years, Tata Motors have been reinventing themselves through a design-led, product-based transformation. A key pillar that enabled them do that was the so-called 'Impact Design' philosophy. The H5X and 45X Concepts, unveiled today, mark the second incarnation of the design language that's now called the "Impact Design 2.0".

After a series of teasers that built up hype, here are the two concepts in all their glory.

H5X Concept previews Tata's flagship SUV

Tata's much-awaited, Land Rover-based flagship SUV, the H5X Concept, was the first to take to the stage today. And by doing so, it left the onlookers stunned! 

With a bold fascia that houses a more prominent version of Tata's 'Humanity Line', the H5X Concept boasts tremendous presence. Further accentuating it are the unique foglamp enclosures with a tri-arrow pattern and the heavily-flared wheel arches housing massive 22-inch wheels. Add to that the long wheelbase, minimal overhangs, the sloping roofline and the progressively-shrinking glasshouse, the H5X Concept has a stance you just can't ignore. Particularly impressive are the design touches around the C-pillars. With the roof sloping downwards, the rear windows rise up sharply, narrows down to almost nothing before opening up and merging with the rear windscreen.

Of course, there are a bunch of conceptual elements - ultra-thin LED headlights, gorgeous but impractical wheels, jazzy rear-view mirrors and the likes - that won't make it to production. Still, if the Hexa and Nexon are anything to go by, expect the production model to look very similar. 

The minimalist interiors, with a fully-digital cluster, touch-everything center console and clutter-free, devoid-of-buttons cabin, hint at what the future has in store for us. Yes, these are not likely to make it to production as it is but rest assured the H5X-based SUV would easily have the best interiors we've ever seen on a Tata vehicle.

The H5X Concept is built on Tata's new 'Omega Architecture' which has been derived from Land Rover's L550 platform. Powering the SUV would be Fiat's MultiJet 2.0 diesel engine, albeit with Tata's own branding and two different power outputs. That's because both 5-seater and 7-seater variants are expected with the former likely to launch with 140 horsepower and the latter tuned to deliver 170 horsepower.

With the H5X Concept, Tata has got the looks, the specs and the underpinnings right. So, when it goes on sale, all it needs is a good price to take off!

45X Concept is aimed at the Baleno and i20    

With the Tiago, Tigor and Nexon, Tata has all but one bases covered this side of 10 Lakh Rupees. All that's missing is a premium hatchback. The 45X Concept, unveiled today, hints at how an upcoming car from Tata in that segment could look like.

Featuring Tata's new Impact Design 2.0 philosophy, the car looks bold and striking. Thin lights connected to an inset grille by Tata's trademark 'Humanity Line' are similar to the H5X Concept as are the separate bumper inserts with an unique tri-arrow pattern. The profile is eye-catchy with a prominent crease that originates in the front fender and runs parallel to the window line until it joins the taillights. As always, there are a bunch of design elements that won't make it to production like the cameras in place of rear view mirrors, those flush-fitted door handles, the ultra-thin rubber shod on massive wheels and the split dual roof spoiler at the rear. 

No other details or specifications of the car are out with the show car sealed in a glass case and kept out of reach of show-goers. 

Forget the specs though, if the production model looks anywhere close to this concept, Tata would have a beeline of people queuing up in front of their dealerships. Maruti-Suzuki and Hyundai should be scared!

Both these killer-looking concepts are expected to make it to production sometime in 2019. Problem is, we can't wait until then. Come on, Tata, launch them already!

Apart from these two concepts, Tata had the AMT variants of Nexon, JTP-branded performance variants of the Tiago and Tigor and full-electric variants of the Tiago and Tigor on display amongst others. Also making its Indian debut was the TAMO Racemo, this time in an all-electric guise! 

All we got to say is, 'Bring them all and make us proud, Tata'!


Mercedes-Benz unveils the all-new A-Class

Mercedes-Benz took the wraps off the all-new, fourth-generation A-Class at an exclusive event held in Amsterdam, Netherlands last evening.

Despite still being the least expensive model in the portfolio, the new A-Class is a crucial launch for the German luxury car-maker, packing in several ‘firsts’ for the brand. Spearheading an all-new expanded compact car range that’s set to grow to eight models over the next three years, the new A is a sign of things to come at the lower end of the Mercedes-Benz spectrum. Add to that the current A-Class and its derivatives – the CLA, CLA Shooting Brake, GLA and B-Class – accounted for one in four of all Mercedes-Benz models sold last year, it’s not hard to fathom why the top honchos at the car-maker went all out to ensure the new A-Class gets all the attention.

When it first debuted in 1997, the A-Class didn’t look like the rest of the Mercedes-Benz lineup. To put it bluntly, its styling did not convey a sense of class and luxury you would expect from a Merc. Over the years though, the diminutive hatchback grew in stature as well as proportions. The third-generation A-Class that debuted in 2012, for instance, was significantly bigger compared to its predecessors and looked a million bucks.

The new A is no different. Sporting the brand’s new fascia that debuted in the CLS recently, this car is a looker. Sharp triangular headlights sit on either side of an inverted trapezoidal grille adorned with the trademark 'jewel-effect' pins. A muscular hood with prominent V-shaped ridges and a sporty bumper sandwich the grille. The profile has been cleaned up and is now characterized by a prominent shoulder line that runs the length of the car. The bold swoosh-shaped crease of the outgoing A-Class has been done away with. Thick C-pillars, the integrated roof spoiler and the beefy rear bumper complete with air curtains and built-in exhaust tips look swell. The taillights match the profile of the headlights. 

That said, there is no escaping the fact the new A-Class has been toned down a fair bit in what Mercedes-Benz calls "Sensual Purity". 

The official press release from Mercedes-Benz had a statement that said 'There's not much entry-level in the entry-level A-Class anymore'. Nothing reaffirms that statement as much as the interiors of the new A-Class do. Not only does the cabin looks like that of its more expensive siblings, it also debuts the car-maker's newest infotainment system. Dubbed MBUX, in short for Mercedes-Benz User Experience, this contemporary next-generation user interface finally replaces the outdated COMMAND system and is set to find its way to all Mercedes-Benz models. 

With a high-resolution widescreen cockpit that grabs eyeballs with its two 10.25-inch touchscreens, the system can be awoken by just saying 'Hey Mercedes'. With Artificial Intelligence finding its way in, indirect speech - the way we talk to fellow humans for example - can also be used to control the car's various functions. The rotary COMMAND controller has been replaced by a touchpad that functions in tandem with touch-sensitive controls on the steering wheel. The center console itself has been redesigned and feature contemporary rocker switches for the climate control.

The initial lineup of engines include two petrol mills - a 1.4-liter unit producing 163 horsepower and 250 Nm of torque and a 2.0-liter unit that churns out 224 horsepower and 350 Nm of torque - and a 1.5-liter diesel engine that makes 116 horsepower and 260 Nm of torque. Mated to this trio of inline 4-cylinder engines is a 7G-DCT dual-clutch automatic transmission. 

As you would expect from a car of this class, a full suite of active and passive safety features are standard on every A-Class, irrespective of the variant and trim level being chosen. In what comes as a knock-out punch, the new A-Class is also being offered with a semi-autonomous drive feature called 'Intelligent Drive', a staple of the S-Class segment not so long ago.

In what has now become a Mercedes-Benz regular, the new A-Class would be available in an exclusive 'Edition 1' to commemorate its launch. The exterior gets AMG add-ons, a diamond grille with black-coloured pins and green-coloured highlights. The same 'Edition Green' colour has also been used in the seats and the dashboard to set this model apart.

With over 3 million units sold thus far and a youthful brand image, the A-Class has been a significant volume-puller and image-builder for Mercedes-Benz. When it goes on sale later this year, the new A-Class is all set to carry the legacy forward. Given the form Mercedes-Benz India has been in, we wouldn't be surprised if the new A gets to our shores this year.