Monday, November 28, 2011

Top 10 Cars of 2011

2011 was an eventful and competitive year for the automobile industry, with the launch of some pathbreakers like Hyundai Eon and Mahindra XUV5oo. Yet, hatchbacks continue to rule the growing car market in India and the segment has been abuzz with foreign players reinforcing the competition. There were more than enough reasons for the middle-class car buyers to rejoice, however, we boil down our choices to 10 and here is what we cooked up.

Perhaps the most anticipated car ever? A car that had been the subject of speculation for over a year and clocked nearly 50K pre-launch bookings. When launched, Suzuki had done a commendable job of not tampering with the Swift persona while giving it a head-to-toe facelift. Every body-panel of the new Swift is spanking new. The car has an energetic and vibrant front fascia thanks to the swept-back, rather large headlamps, completely reworked grille and a smiling central air intake. If you said the Swift is identical to its predecessor, eat your words. Step inside the cabin. Apart from the gear knob and power window switches, everything has been given a chic makeover. The dashboard sports the Kizashi family look with the waterfall central console that houses a six-speaker music system with USB support and climate control on the top variants. The new Swift is powered by the same 1.2 litre K-series petrol engine, further tweaked with the VVT (Variable Valve Timing) technology. The result: Increased power delivery of 87ps @ 6000rpm and torque of 114Nm @ 4000 rpm. The 1.3 litre DDiS diesel motor is already a champ, and so remains unchanged. However, the overall weight of the car has been reduced by 15 kg and 30 kg respectively on the Petrol and Diesel variants, boosting overall performance and fuel efficiency. The new Swift doesnt launch a new era for the hatchback segment. It s just going to continue the momentum its forerunner has built and, of course, in a terrific way.

When you think Hyundai, the word style pops unbidden to mind. Whether it s an i10, Verna, Sonata or Santa Fe, the company never compromises on style and seamless finish. Underscoring this fact is Eon, the latest offering from the Hyundai stable that hit the Indian market at a jaw-dropping price of 2.69 lakh. The Eon is an amalgamation of style, comfort, utility and economy. Eon s fluidic design has exceeded the expectations of the entry-level segment customer. Currently, Eon is available with 0.8 L iRDE engine delivering 56PS@5500rpm of maximum power and 7.65Kgm@4000rpm of peak torque. mated to a 5-speed manual transmission, the 814cc petrol engine gives a mileage of 21.1kmpl (ARAI certified) making it the most fuel-efficient car in the segment. Despite being a small car, Eon has ample cabin and boot spacein an attempt to offer high-end safety features even for low compact segment customers, Hyundai has equipped the Eon with driver s airbag, front fog lamps and an immobilizer that prevents the car from starting without the correct key. In short, Hyundai Eon is true value for money.

Read it -- Tata Vista. The Indica badge at the car s rear has shrunk. So has its Indica-ness. The car s first major makeover in three years is Tata s clear attempt to get deep into the premium hatchback segment and make it a popular choice among those who hesitate to proudly say, I drive a Tata Indica . The new Vista shares its front fascia with its elder sibling Manza. The chrome grille and larger triple barreled head lamps make its face more belligerent – and upmarket. The interior is where the new Vista makes the real difference. Available in four trims, the car offers integrated six-speaker music system with steering-mounted audio controls, USB support and Bluetooth connectivity on all but the base variant. Steering-mounted controls on the lower variants – isn t that a revolution in this segment? The basic underpinnings of the newcomer are carried over from the previous-generation car. Petrol buyers can choose from 90PS Safire90 and 65PS Safire65, while the diesel line-up consists of a 71PS TDi and a 75PS Quadrajet. Yahoo! India Autos favourite is the 1.3 litre CRDI Quadrajet, which really loves to rev and delivers 75PS of max power at 4000 RPM. The new Tata Vista is claimed to deliver a mileage of 22.3 kmpl for diesel and 16.7 kmpl for petrol. While the car lives up to Tata s promise of more car per car, the company needs to relook at the service quality and durability concerns so that the new Vista gets an edge in the overcrowded B-segment.

Energetic and cheerful, as the name suggests, the Honda Brio is a perfect package for a new era, embodying the best of Honda s technologies to deliver fun and agile driving, fuel-efficiency, spaciousness and safety. Brio s energetic exterior concept features a Double Triangle design, conveying vibrant energy from nose to tail, and a sleek look that emphasizes its width and advanced styling. Brio has an impressive interior design that leverages its innovative packaging to offer occupants an open and spacious interior. The Brio s design takes Honda s man maximum, machine minimum concept to a new level. The Brio s is powered by a four cylinder 1.2-litre i-VTEC engine that delivers maximum output of 88 PS @ 6000 rpm and Torque of 109 Nm (11.2 kg-m) @ 4600 rpm, while giving an excellent fuel economy of 18.4 km/l, as per test data. Brio is available in 5-speed manual transmission with optimized gear ratios, which offers good low rpm acceleration and smooth high rpm making it fun to drive. The Brio features Honda s active and passive safety technologies including dual SRS front airbags, Anti-Lock Brake System (ABS), Electronic Brake Distribution (EBD), front pretensioner seat belts that pre-emptively tighten the belt to prevent the occupant from jerking forward in a crash and impact-mitigating headrests.

The Chevrolet Beat belongs to 22nd century. With its futuristic styling, Beat can be considered as the most unique model in the current crop of hatchbacks in India. The little monster got smarter with an all new 1.0 XSDE SMARTECH Common Rail Diesel engine that Chevrolet made exclusively for India. With an amazing power output of 58.5 PS and a whopping torque of 150 Nm, this engine promises a certified mileage of 24 kmpl. The car feels most comfortable at speeds under 80-90 kmph, but post that it doesn t seem to have the p to go comfortably past 100-110 kph. Fixed Geometry Turbocharger with vacuum operated wastegate ensures smooth, efficient operation and superior torque delivery from very low engine RPMs for a peppy drive. The Diesel Beat, like its petrol sibling, represents the new face of Chevrolet. Even though the car is cramped inside, the amount of storage spaces it offers is incredible. Under the skin, the Beat is pretty conventional, but step inside, the imposing interior quality makes the Beat quite a special place to be in. Beat is a very competent vehicle that rides well and comes with decent comfort and practicality. The vehicle is destined to make a statement with an innovative design that would go far beyond a typical mini-vehicle and set new standards for the segment. In short, the Beat is an easy-to-drive city commuter for those who would otherwise buy a petrol i10, but would want a diesel given the skyrocketing petrol prices.

2011 was a remarkable year for Toyota in India. After the success of the Etios and the Etios Liva, Toyota further expanded the product range by launching the diesel variants of Etios and Etios Liva. The twins are powered by the 1.4 litre diesel engine that also powers the Corolla Altis diesel. These cars are exceptionally practical vehicles in terms of their design, space and pricing. Like the petrol variants, the engine is tuned for efficiency rather than performance. A distinctive front grille with a smile line, sculpted surface and dynamic character-line in the front and rear enhance the presence of the Etios and Etios Liva. The roof has a unique design for better aerodynamics and clean appearance. While the cars offer good rear seat space, large boot and airy interiors, cheap plastic quality and mediocre fit and finish are quite unbecoming Toyota. However, the flat type rear floor design is unique and offers comfortable seating for three and ease of movement for rear seat passengers. The cars have various active and passive safety features like energy absorbing body shell, driver and passenger air bags and ABS with EBD. Its centrally located combimeter reduces eye movement and apparently the driver can concentrate on the road. The Etios and Etios Liva diesel might not be the most exciting diesels around, but they are practical and versatile diesel machines.

Sunny, Nissan s premium sedan for India, catches the eye with well-sculpted exterior, with every line carved to perfection. Attractive and sleek, featuring Nissan s signature grille and jewel-like headlamps, the Sunny displays a pronounced high running beltline that slopes from the headlamps, with the roof inclined elegantly to the rear, giving it the appeal of a coupé. The Sunny s USP is space, especially in the backseat. You can cross your legs comfortably even when the front seats are pushed back completely. You have to agree with Nissan s claim that the interior space matches that of the BMW 5-series or Mercedes-Benz E-class. However, Sunny has a lot of Micra in it. Apart from the instrument panel, music system and A/C vents on the centre console, everything else has pretty much been inherited from the Micra. Behind the wheel, the Sunny impresses with its smooth, quiet ride and is adept on demanding country roads. Only the merest flutter of wind noise is noticeable even at 120 kmph, and although some road noise intrudes on rough surfaces, it s never a bother. The 1.5 litre petrol engine develops 98 bhp at 6,000 rpm and 134 Nm of torque at 4000rpm, which makes it more powerful than many others in the segment. The meaty part of the torque is at the low end of the rev range, making it responsive and easy to maneuver. Overall, it s hard to think of a box that the Nissan Sunny doesn t tick.

The Fluidic Verna boasts of futuristic looks, luxurious interiors, cutting-edge technology and premium appeal. It pioneers a host of premium and futuristic design elements based on the Fluidic Sculpture Design Philosophy. The car s futuristic design sports a coupe like side profile, which is further refined by elegant lines. The interiors have luxurious elements and textures including two-tone beige and black high gloss interiors with wood finish. One of the unique features of the Fluidic Verna is the cluster ionizer that improves the quality of air inside the cabin by producing ion-plasma that traps bacteria and other impurities and comes into operation automatically as the AC is switched on. The rear end of the car is fitted with dual chrome tipped exhaust which adds on to the sporty feel. The Verna will be available with four engine options - 1.4 litre VTVT, 1.6 litre VTVT, 1.4 litre CRDi and the diesel 1.6 litre VGT CRDi. The Fluidic Verna is an amalgamation of practicality and quality that is more upmarket and stylish, making it a serious threat to the City and Vento.

You probably think a mid-life makeover of the Tata Aria isn t worth your time. You might be making a hasty judgment there. The Tata Aria 4x2 is not just another makeover. It extends the range to new segments and redefines several benchmarks by slashing prices by a whopping Rs. 1.3 lakh. If that isn t incentive enough, take it on a drive to find out whether Aria 4X2 will be a game changer for Tata. The angular, wrap-around dual-barrel headlamp with projector beam and the signature Tata grille that we saw on Vista and Manza give Aria an aggressive look. Step in, oh sorry, walk-in (Passengers can simply walk into the Aria, rather than having to climb up or get down, thanks to the low-floor design) and you ll be quite impressed, rather surprised. The incredibly spacious cabin has three-row seats that are strategically arranged to provide passengers with acres of head, leg and shoulder rooms. Tata had taken safety to new heights with the Aria 4X4. Aria 4X2 also benefits from the same features, both active and passive, that only vehicles over Rs 30 lakh can boast of. While active features like ABS, EBD and all disc brakes aid steerability and control in emergency braking, driver and passenger airbags ensure protection from front impacts. At the heart of the Tata Aria is the same 2.2 litre Direct Injection Common Rail (DICOR) engine that powers the 4X4 Aria. You feel really confident behind Aria s wheel, thanks to precise steering response, tremendous braking and laudable cornering

The Mahindra XUV 500 came as a surprise to Indian car enthusiasts. Conceptualized with the aim of creating an altogether new category between the Scorpio and high end SUVs, the XUV500 is the next generation SUV targeted at Generation X. At Rs 10.80 lakh, this gargantuan of a vehicle is worth every penny you shell out. The XUV 500 is a vigorous style statement. Two versions of the vehicle will be available, the W6 and W8 in both two-wheel and four-wheel drive. Base models will be front wheel drive while another version will have an all wheel drive layout with a torque on demand mechanism. The XUV500 is powered by a 2.2-litre M-Hawk engine that develops 140bhp and a whopping 330Nm of torque. The XUV 500s interior gets sporty instrument panel, elegant leather wrapped dashboard, cool box, voice-command activated centre console, lounge lighting for different mood etc. It has an ARAI certified fuel efficiency of 15.1 kpl, which makes it the second most fuel-efficient vehicle in Mahindra s passenger SUV portfolio after the Bolero. Unique features of the Xuv 500 include full touch integrated audio system, hill-descent control, airbags, ABS, ESP and blower controls for the third row.

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