20141218

2015 ICOTY & IMOTY Awards announced

With just a little more than a week to go to bid goodbye to 2014, it is time to look back at the spate of cars and motorcycles launched in the Indian market this year and crown the best of them all. The annual Indian Car of the Year (ICOTY) and Indian Motorcycle of the Year (IMOTY) awards do just that. Modelled on the lines of similar titles awarded in North America, Europe and Japan, the jury for ICOTY and IMOTY consists of experienced automotive journalists from reputed publications like Top Gear, Motoring World, Car India, Overdrive, Auto Bild, AutoX, Evo and Hindu Business Line. 

Getting together and deciding on this year's winners would sure have been a tough act for those involved, given that 2014 witnessed the launch of several key models in India with top brands like Maruti-Suzuki, Hyundai and Honda launching more than one model each. While the Celerio, Ciaz and Alto K10 kept Maruti-Suzuki's flag flying, Hyundai had the Xcent and i20 vying for honours. The all-new City and Mobilio were Honda's hopes for the title. Giving them tough competition were the new Mahindra Scorpio, Tata Zest and Toyota Corolla Altis. 

At the end of their evaluation, it was the i20 that came out on top with Hyundai handsomely taking home yet another Indian Car of the Year award. This is the third time in ten years and the second consecutive year a Hyundai car has won the title. The original i10 won the award in 2008 while its successor Grand i10 romped home with the same last year. We just spent considerable time with the new i20 and couldn't praise enough its impressive style quotient, feature-packed interiors and the powerful yet frugal diesel engine. In short, the i20 is an excellent all-rounder and that's what has sealed the fate of its competitors this year.


2015 ICOTY RESULTS:

   Winner - Hyundai i20

PREVIOUS ICOTY WINNERS:

   * 2014 - Hyundai Grand i10
   * 2013 - Renault Duster
   * 2012 – Maruti-Suzuki Swift
   * 2011 – Ford Figo
   * 2010 – Tata Nano

When it comes to motorcycles, Harley-Davidson's efforts in developing an all-new platform specifically for emerging markets like India didn't go unnoticed with the popular Street 750 cruiser bagging the Indian Motorcycle of the Year title. Despite brand connoisseurs pointing out some rough edges, the Street 750 embodies all things that made Harleys popular and, at around INR 5 Lakhs, increases the reach of this iconic brand tremendously. KTM's RC 200 and 390 twins, Kawasaki's ER-6N and Z250, Triumph's impressive lineup of Thruxton, Daytona 675R, Bonneville and Street Triple, Suzuki Gixxer and Bajaj's Discover 150 were the other contenders for the award.


2015 IMOTY RESULTS:

   Winner – Harley-Davidson Street 750

PREVIOUS IMOTY WINNERS:

   * 2014 - Royal Enfield Continental GT
   * 2013 - KTM Duke 200
   * 2012 – Honda CBR 250R
   * 2011 – Honda CB Twister
   * 2010 – Kawasaki Ninja 250R

Both the award-winners are off to a flying start in India and would, most likely, end up making the respective manufacturers expand to hitherto unseen levels.

20141214

Driven #27: 2014 Hyundai i20 CRDi

When the i20 was first launched in India, there weren't many who thought it would succeed. Back then in 2008, Hyundai had burnt its fingers trying to open up the premium hatchback space with the Getz, no other car in that segment apart from the Swift succeeded and people just weren't used to the concept of hatchbacks being more expensive than sedans. But, the i20 exceeded all expectations and ended up beating Hyundai's own initial sales estimates too by quite some margin.

Six years and a face-lift later, Hyundai has now launched the second-generation i20.

Armed with sleek styling, feature-loaded interiors, impeccable fit and finish and a peppy yet frugal engine lineup, the new i20 builds on the strengths of the old model while at the same time trying to rectify it's flaws. We drive the range-topping i20 Asta CRDi to find out how good it is and if it's really worthy of the 'Elite' prefix that Hyundai's marketing team have bestowed the car with.

TO LOOK AT:


Riding high on the success of its 'Fluidic Sculpture' design language, Hyundai has gone through a beautiful transformation in the last few years. In line with that, our expectations from the Korean automaker have evolved too. The new i20, then, didn't disappoint and more than met our expectations. Though Hyundai's designers have consciously toned down the flashiness of the outgoing model, the new i20 impresses with solid European lines and a minimalist approach. Given that the car was designed in Hyundai's studio in Frankfurt and would be spearheading the brand's challenge in the hotly-contested super-mini segment in Europe, the inspiration is understandable.


When viewed up front, the i20 is instantly recognizable as a Hyundai, thanks to a modified version of the hexagonal air dam that we are now familiar with. Giving it company is a slim grille above proudly holding the italicized 'H' logo and a secondary air dam below that runs the full length of the bumper. The thin chrome strip surrounding the air dam and the unique diamond mesh pattern adopted increases the appeal by a few notches. While the fog lights are neatly positioned, the headlights appear to have been stretched a bit too far on either sides. Unlike many recent Hyundai models, the new i20's profile is devoid of cuts and creases. The strong shoulder line that gains muscle towards the rear look taut. Adding a touch of funkiness are the blackened C-pillars and the diamond-cut alloy wheels. The awesome taillights that look not much different from the LED units used in more expensive cars steal the show at the rear.


What could have changed though is the placement of camera for the rear parking sensors. It looks awful in an otherwise clean rear and seems like an after thought. And, don't let those shiny reflector strips outlining the headlights fool you. They might look like LED DRLs but actually aren't, which is surprising as the outgoing i20 flaunted them in all their glory. We would have also preferred a glossy finish for the C-pillars in place of the existing matte-finish plastic inserts.

TO SIT IN:

A major highlight of the previous-generation i20 was its feature-packed interiors with superior fit and finish. Hyundai hasn't changed the formula much with the new car. In fact, the cabin appears bigger, better and the careful application of beige makes it look bright and airy. As a result, the 'claustrophobia' that plagues some other premium hatchbacks isn't a factor in the new i20.


As we step in, the first thing that comes to our notice is the driver-centric nature of the cabin. The center console itself is angled slightly towards the driver and, as a result, every button, knob and switch falls nicely on to our hands. The quality, fit and finish of each of them is impeccable too and leaves nothing to complain about. In fact, the i20 can put cars a segment or two above to shame when it comes to sheer build quality.

Though the steering wheel's layout is similar to that of the cheaper Grand i10, it is embellished with a thin metallic strip and a host of buttons. Behind the wheel, the white-on-black instrument cluster is simple, classy and easy to decipher on the move. The speedometer and tachometer are housed in two large, circular dials that also has digital readouts for engine temperature and fuel level. Between them is a useful Multi Information Display screen that throws out a host of information including service reminders, twin trip meters and average speed apart from outside temperature and odo reading. It also displays customizable options and even warns the driver when the front wheels aren't in the straight-ahead position at idle. It is Hyundai's attention to detail in nifty things like these that creates a lasting 'feel-good' impression amongst customers. Having said that, it is unacceptable that distance to empty and average and instantaneous fuel efficiency figures aren't being offered yet.


The layered design of the dashboard is unique and appealing, featuring beige and black in almost equal proportions. Metallic silver bits and glossy black touches are applied here and there too. While the buttons and knobs in the center console might appear a bit cluttered and small at first, they are extremely practical and easy-to-use once we get accustomed. What's impressive though is the quality of stuff used. The buttons and knobs are built to last and seem capable to withstand years of abuse. Two power sockets, one each for the driver and the front passenger, USB and Aux inputs are conveniently placed below the climate control system. All the buttons and switches, including those in the door pads, are backlit in blue, making the i20's cabin a nice place to spend time in the dark.


The doors open wide and getting in and out through them is an easy affair. But, do remember to crouch yourself in, especially at the rear. Thanks to it's healthy travel range, settling down in the driver's seat is pretty simple. Though the seat itself is comfortable, we would have been happier if it offered a bit more support for the thighs. And that applies to the rear bench as well. As with most Hyundai cars, the bench is placed a bit low but is wide enough to accommodate three average-sized adults abreast. The middle passenger has to contend with the raised floor though.

A major attribute of the previous-generation i20 was its extra long list of features. The new i20 is no exception. The Asta variant that we drove had ABS, driver and passenger airbags, leather-wrapped steering wheel and gear knob, cluster ionizer, automatic climate control, rear washer and wiper, tilt and telescopic steering, rear air-conditioning vents, 1 GB internal memory in the audio system, split rear seats with adjustable head restraints, automatic headlamps, rear parking sensors with a dynamic display in the rear view mirror and much more. 

But, we still came out disappointed. Guess why? The previous i20 was a trend-setter of sorts offering six airbags and features like rain-sensing wipers which aren't part of the equipment list anymore. Why Hyundai, why? Bring them back and make the i20 stand out, please!

ON THE ROAD:

Despite being a full generation change, the all-new i20 carries over the engine options from the older model. That means the familiar 1.2-liter VTVT Kappa petrol and the 1.4-liter CRDi U2 diesel engines power Hyundai's latest hatchback. Our test car had the latter under its hood.


We are big fans of this CRDi engine from Hyundai and we have always been vocal about it. In the new i20, it has become even better. Press the clutch, push the engine start button and all you hear is a mild clitter-clatter. Inspite of having an oil-burner under the hood, refinement is terrific and the i20 puts some cars two segments higher to shame in this department. Would you believe us then there is no insulation under the hood?


Once we get going, it becomes obvious that Hyundai's engineers have tuned the engine for a more linear power delivery. Thanks to the ample torque on offer, all it takes is a gentle dab on the throttle pedal to gain serious momentum. The turbocharger kicks in at a little less than 2000 rpm, but the surge in power delivered after that isn't as wild or sudden as it was in, say, a Getz CRDi or even the old i20. The wide usable power-band and the tractable nature of the engine makes the i20 feel at home, be it inside the city or out on a highway. If cruising at triple-digit speeds all day long is what you are looking for, the i20 is tailor-made for that. With specifications that read 89 bhp, 220 Nm of torque, a 45-liter fuel tank and an ARAI-certified fuel efficiency of 21.76 km/l, you know what car to choose the next time you are planning for that elusive long drive! It has got to be the new i20 - its powerful, fuel-efficient and has an incredible range. 

For all the strengths that it possessed, the previous-gen i20 was not what we would call a driver's car. The super-light steering and nervous handling meant that the i20 was never a match to the accomplished benchmarks in the segment like Swift, Polo, Figo or Punto. If that's what we are measuring the new i20 against, it has indeed come a long way.  Measured against that, the new i20 has indeed come a long way. With each successive model launch, Hyundai has progressively improved the dynamics of their cars and the new i20 is further proof of that.


Ride quality at slow and medium speeds, like all Hyundai cars, is good and the i20 cushions its occupants from irregularities on the road. Though bigger potholes did filter into the cabin during our test drive, we were impressed with the suspension that went about its job in a silent and fuss-free manner. The loud thuds of the old i20 are a thing of the past now. When it comes to handling, it is a similar story with the new i20 displaying a sense of maturity that was missing in the old model. The light steering at city speeds, a Hyundai trait that the mass market loves, is standard fare but it weighs up significantly as speeds build up. No, the steering isn't as precise as that of the Swift or isn't as beautifully-weighted as that of the Punto, but the new i20 is a huge step in the right direction as far as road manners are concerned. 

We know a few that stayed away from the i20 solely because of its nervous handling. With the much-improved new model, we bet that would no longer be the case.

With 170 mm of ground clearance and a firmer suspension setup, the new i20 shouldn't scrape its bottom anymore when fully loaded. Braking is adequate and the i20 shed speeds remarkably during a panic braking scenario. Yet again, Hyundai's decision to remove the rear disc brakes from the top-end variant and replace it with the cheaper drum setup perplexes us.

SPECIFICATIONS:


| Engine Type: U2 CRDi |
| No of Cylinders: 4 |
| Displacement: 1396 cc |
| Maximum Power: 89 bhp @ 4000 rpm |
| Maximum Torque: 220 Nm @ 1500 - 2750 rpm |
| Transmission Type: 6-speed Manual |
| Tires: 195/55 R16 |
| Brakes: Disc (Front), Drum (Rear) |


WE VOTE FOR:

* Appealing design inside and out
* Spacious and feature-loaded interiors
* Powerful yet frugal diesel engine
* Improved road manners

WE VOTE AGAINST:

* Deletion of trend-setting features
  (Six airbags, rear disc brakes, DRLs, Rain-sensing wipers)
* Still not to enthusiast's tastes

VERDICT:


Since its launch three months back, the new i20 has been a stellar success in India and, as a matter of fact, emerged as the best-selling car in Hyundai's portfolio in November. Yes, it sold more than cheaper cars like the Grand i10 and Eon. After spending half a day with the car, we know why. The i20 is amongst the best all-rounders this side of 10 Lakh rupees and you just won't go wrong if you decide to put your money on one. It is stylish inside and out, boasts impressive build quality, fit and finish, is loaded to the hilt with features and Hyundai's widespread dealer network and good after-sales service makes the deal sweeter. Bring the powerful yet frugal diesel engine and mature road manners into the mix and the equation gets all the more stronger.

In short, be prepared to see a lot of these on road over the next few months. Well done, Hyundai.

| Photography: Bharath Rengaraj |

20141213

2015 Ward's 10 Best Engines announced

Of all the awards handed out in the automotive industry year after year, Ward's annual list of 10 Best Engines rank on top of our list. Not only is this different from the other run-of-the-mill titles, it also honours the efforts taken by car manufacturers to come out with better engines with each passing year. To be eligible for the award, an engine or a propulsion system must be all-new or significantly re-engineered and retail in the U.S market less than $60,000. 

A total of 37 engines made it to the list of nominations this year, with the vehicles powered by them then being evaluated by the editors at WardsAuto. Scoring was based on each of those engine's power, torque, technology, fuel economy, competitiveness and noise, vibration and harshness characteristics, making it a complete, all-round evaluation. 

If there still were doubts that "forced induction" is the way forward in automobiles, the list of ten best engines of 2015 would put them to rest. Seven out of the ten engines chosen for the award either had a turbocharger or supercharger to increase power output without increasing displacement. BMW and Fiat-Chrysler are the big winners this time, with both of them bagging two awards each. GM, Ford, Hyundai, Subaru, Volkswagen and Volvo had one each in the list. The 3.0-liter DOHC V6 engine powering the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel is the only oil-burner in the list, while the BMW i3's 127-kW Electric Motor and Hyundai Tucson FCV's 100-kW Fuel Cell would keep the alternate fuel gang happy.

The award-winning engines and the automobiles that they power are listed below in no particular order:

* 127-kW Electric Motor (BMW i3)
* 6.2L OHV V8 (Chevrolet Corvette Stingray)
* 6.2L Supercharged OHV V8 (Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat)
* 1.0L Turbocharged DOHC 3-cyl. (Ford Fiesta)
* 100-kW Fuel Cell (Hyundai Tucson FCV)
* 1.5L Turbocharged DOHC 3-cyl. (Mini Cooper)
* 3.0L Turbodiesel DOHC V6 (Ram 1500 EcoDiesel)
* 2.0L Turbocharged DOHC H4 (Subaru WRX)
* 1.8L Turbocharged DOHC 4-cyl. (Volkswagen Jetta)
* 2.0L Turbocharged DOHC 4-cyl. (Volvo S60)

"We spend a lot of time reading the powertrain tea leaves throughout the auto industry, and we're proud that this year's list is a microcosm of all the latest innovation coming from automakers," says Drew Winter, WardsAuto World Editor-in-Chief. "It's not just a list for enthusiasts or for environmentalists," he says.

Top executives from winning automakers would be presented with the awards at the upcoming North American International Auto Show in Detorit. Stay on high alert, folks! The award season has just begun and we have lots to report.

20141129

Sales of Maruti-Suzuki Wagon-R crosses 15 Lakh units in India

It was 1998. The conventional mindset of prospective car-buyers in India was shattered by a tall-boy from Korea called Santro which, in the process, started nibbling at big chunks of Maruti's market share. The top honchos at Maruti Udyog Limited, which is how Maruti-Suzuki was called then, had to bring in something to challenge the Korean upstart Hyundai. The prevailing 'kei' car regulations in Japan meant that they had a whole lot of Suzuki models to choose from for the job. That's probably how the Wagon-R found its way to India, with Maruti launching it in the country in 2000.


It wasn't exactly an electrifying launch so to say, with Maruti's 800 and Zen proving to be way more popular than the new Wagon-R in the initial days and weeks. Gradually, visitors to Maruti showrooms started realizing the practicality of Wagon-R's tall-boy styling and the space and comfort it offered in such a small footprint. Popularity rose, sales soared and soon the Wagon-R was a regular fixture at the top of the sales charts. Sales zoomed past 1 Lakh units in financial year 2003-04, followed by 5 Lakh and 10 Lakh milestones in 2007-08 and 2011-12 respectively. Earlier this week, cumulative sales of the car crossed 15 Lakh units, a milestone that puts the Wagon-R amongst the all-time best-selling cars in India.


Almost 15 years after launch, the Wagon-R is still a best-seller and is close on the heels of Maruti-Suzuki's other top-sellers, the Alto, Swift and Dzire. With still a full month to go, Wagon-R's sales has already exceeded 93,000 units in 2014. For it's part, Maruti-Suzuki has ensured that the car stays fresh and relevant, by doling out facelifts, new variants and limited editions at regular intervals. The second-generation model was launched in 2010-11 and the upmarket 'Stingray' variant was launched last year.


The 998 cc K-series engine under the hood of the current Wagon-R generates a maximum power of 68 PS @ 6200 rpm and a peak torque of 90 Nm @ 3500 rpm. CNG and LPG fuel options are also available, making the Wagon-R a versatile option in the fuel-conscious small car segment. With sales showing no signs of slowing down, we are sure this tall-boy from Japan is set for more milestones in India.

20141127

Lotus F1 Team and EMC pull off an epic truck jump

How do you put a season full of miseries behind you and yet look forward to the next with enthusiasm? Lotus F1 Team and its partner EMC might have just answered that question in style. Hot on the heels of a disastrous outing in 2014 that culminated with Pastor Maldonado’s car going up in flames in the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, the classic ‘black and gold’ Lotus wanted something to cheer about. So, it embarked on an epic stunt that involved a Renault F1 transporter (with the full trailer in tow) jumping over the team’s Renault-powered F1 car.


The stunt goes like this. The truck and the F1 car are seen going side by side for some distance before the truck is driven up a ramp for the actual ‘jump’. The F1 car utilizes the truck’s resulting moments in air to switch sides by driving underneath, which is pretty cool! Yeah, it does look like a scene straight out of a Hollywood movie but given that the drivers involved, Mike Ryan and Martin Ivanov, are experienced stunt men that have worked in many Bond, Fast and Furious and Bourne franchisees, it isn't surprising.

Go ahead and watch the awesome video yourself!

video

In this whole episode, Lotus and EMC have ended up creating a Guinness World Record for the longest ever truck jump in history at 83 feet and 7 inches. That’s a rather unusual record for a F1 team but given the season they have had, we don’t see anyone complaining. Now that it is done, let the men and women at Lotus focus on 2015 F1 season please!