Karan

hi, my name is karan. My interests are cars, basketball, planes & flying, food and computer games. I love driving. even in traffic driving is something I just have fun doing even flying planes is a passion of mine. I also like listening to music and photography.

Fiat Avventura – Test Drive Review

Fiat Avventura Review

For over a year now the crossover or compact SUV Segment has been dominated by the Ford Ecosport. Before the release of this car however this segment was relatively untouched or unmarked territory for car makers in India. However with the large success of the Ecosport more car manufactures are bringing in crossover versions of their cars to the market. In 2014 Volkswagen came out with the Polo Cross and Toyota with the Etios Cross. Both these cars were largely based on the hatchbacks sold by the companies the Polo and the Etios Liva respectively. The next company to follow the trend is now Fiat. I understand that is a little late and my apologies for that. The car has been on the market for a little over a month now and like the polo cross and etios cross it doesn’t seem to have disturbed the throne held by the Ecosport much but its early days yet. However I can tell you that the Fiat Avventura has all the tools to dethrone the Ecosport. Only time will tell if that happens. The Avventura like the Volkswagen and Toyota offering in this segment is largely based on the Punto Evo on the outside as well as in. Its priced a little higher than the Punto Evo starting at Rs 5,99,064 (Ex-showroom Delhi) compared to Rs 4,55,724 (ex-Showroom Delhi). However you do get more for extra money you pay.

Coming to the whole concept of a crossover or a compact SUV, is too maximize space within the limits. All the cars in this segment feel a lot bigger than the cars they are based on. This is due to various changes made to the car. These cars can also be used for more adventurous activates. Although they may not be thoroughbred SUV’s they can tackle a bit off-road and still offer all the luxuries a hatchback offers. Now with the Avventura, Fiat says that with this car ‘Boring is Dead’. So lets see if it really does liven up things.

Fiat Avventura test drive review

Exterior

On the outside the Fiat Avventura looks a lot like the Punto Evo barring a few things which help distinguish it. The Skid Plate on the front bumper being one such feature. Its gives quite a macho look to the car and adds protection for when you start to feel a little adventurous. Next as you look towards the side of the car you will find the side body cladding which adds protection and yet again contributes to the macho look of the car but the plastic used does feel a bit hard and looks dull with some of the bright colors available with this car. Also you can’t help but notice the roof rails on the car.

One more feature which will most defiantly please the adventurous side of you is the roof rails. These roof rails can be used to carry your bike if you ever feel the need for a bike ride outside of town. Now coming to the most stand out difference. The spare wheel. Yes. The spare wheel in the Avventura is mounted on the tail gate in quite an ingenious way. In most crossovers or compact SUV’s the spare tire is mounted on the boot lid and since the wheel is quite heavy & to avoid inconvenience the boot is hinged on the side and opens like a door.

Fiat Avventura - Side profile

In the Avventura however the wheel is mounted on an Arm which is connected and hinged on the Rear Bumper not the boot lid. So when you try opening the boot the wheel is unlocked first. So all you got to do is pull the leaver on the handle of the spare wheel cover and move the wheel to the side and then open the boot as you would on a regular car. Sounds a bit complicated but you will realize that it also aids you in removing the spare wheel when needed. The Avventura also has a sporty exhaust tip which adds to the look of the car.

Fiat Avventura - Spare Wheel

The Overall shape of the car is borrowed from the Punto which is not such a bad thing. It has the perfect amount of curves which lend to a very smooth shape and is quite appealing to look at.

Fiat Avventura - Boot Lid

Interior

The Interior of the Avventura is the same in terms of layout to the ones found in the Punto Evo as well as the Linea. There are differences however. The most noticeable being the High Terrain Gauges. The gauges are found at the top of the centre console and consist of a compass, tilt meter and inclinometer. This feature is unique to the Avventura and is not available is any other car in its class. The compass is a fixed card one that gives directions every 45 degrees so if you want to know your exact heading then its best not to rely on this compass.

The tilt meter and inclinometer however work a lot more precisely. The next difference is the color scheme used for the dash. It doesn’t follow the black and beige color scheme followed in the other cars but where there was beige fabric on the dash you will now find a kind of camouflage colored fabric. However on the door panels a dark brown shade of fabric is used. This contrasting color scheme is something I found to be quite funky but wasn’t to my taste.

Fiat Avventura - Interior

The seats are quite soft but support for the legs if you are tall can be an issue. There is a bit more space on offer in both the front and rear in terms of legroom than in the Punto and also in terms of headroom. The feature list is the same as in the Punto with the exception of the High Terrain gauges which is available only with the Avventura. You get steering mounted controls, Trip meter, Aux & USB inputs for the Music system, Bluetooth ( Blue & Me from Microsoft ) with Voice recognition, Climate Control, Central Locking, etc… the list goes on quite a bit but yes this is quite a stocked car.

FIAT Avventura - High Terrain Gauges

There is a bit more boot space on offering thanks to the spare wheel being shifted and also you get ambient lighting which adds a touch of class to the whole car at night and gives a real calming atmosphere. The overall build quality of the cabin and interiors is a good but can be improved to the standards set by Volkswagen with the Polo Cross but no doubting the interior is definitely something that stays true to the theme of the whole car.

 Fiat Avventura - Rear Legroom

Engine & Driving Dynamics

Here is where you will find a bit more difference between the Punto Evo and the Avventura. The Avventura shares the same engines as the Punto Evo. The 92 BHP diesel and the 89 BHP petrol but changes have been made to the suspension and ride height of the car to make it more suitable to use off-road.

The Diesel engine being the more powerful and also having more torque than the petrol feels quicker although it does have a bit of turbo lag. But once you cross 2300 RPM it picks up speed quite well. The diesel engine is FIAT’s 1.3L Multijet engine. The engine has 92bhp to play with and this comes in @ 4000RPM and 207NM of [email protected] The Petrol is FIAT’s 1.4L Fire Unit and has a power rating of 89 BHP @6000 RPM and torque is rated at 115NM @4500RPM. The petrol engine does feel quite underpowered for this car. The Avventura is heavier than the Punto Evo for which the petrol engine felt adequate but the added weight really tells as the engine does seem to struggle to build speed when you put your foot down. The diesel is better in that regard thanks to the extra torque. The petrol Engine however is quite refined and makes a nice noise past 3000RPM. The diesel engine is not the best in terms of refinement when compared to its competitors but tops them for power and sportiness.

The Fiat Avventura has re-tuned suspension and raised ride height to serve its purpose as a compact SUV or CUV (Contemporary Urban Vehicle) as FIAT likes to call it. The new ride height is 205mm which is quite high. In fact it’s almost SUV territory. Now with this increased ride height the most obvious thing which will come to mind is that the handling of the car will have been compromised. It has but not to the extent you would imagine. The Fiat engineers have done a wonderful job in stiffening the suspension to minimize body roll but still maintain amazing ride quality. The Avventra soaks up the potholes and the bumps quite well and thanks to the SUV like ride height you won’t have to worry about the car bottoming out on any large speed breakers. This car can take the corners quite well too. There is a bit of body roll but the Avventura maintains it composure in the corners. The 16inch alloy wheels with 205/55 tires are to thank as well for that composure.

The steering is the same hydraulic unit as found in the Punto Evo. It allows the driver to place the car exactly where he wants it and is weighted beautifully. The feedback from the steering is the best in its class as well.

Areas For Improvement:

–          Interior Build Quality for Fiat cars has improved but needs to improve much more to keep pace with some of its competitors and some plastics are a bit hard.

–          The car needs more powerful engines. Its about time Fiat brought new Engines to India especially a petrol one.

Bottom Line:

The Fiat Avventura is a refreshing addition to the Crossover Segment. It’s a car built with a purpose and serves that purpose pretty well. It’s a very capable car to use for small off-road purposes and is defiantly well engineered. It should offer stiff competition to the Segment king the Ford Ecosport but like I said at the beginning. Only Time Will Tell.

Fiat Punto Evo – Test Drive Review

Fiat Punto Evo – Detailed Test Drive Review

Over the years in India many companies and cars have come and gone. Some came and found their place in the market and stayed while others who couldn’t find their feet left. One company who did manage to stay through the years is FIAT. Fiat has always been accompany which brought some of the best driving cars in India and over the years they have been in India they never did any less. However in recent years the company’s image faded as did their popularity in the Indian Market. Some of the main reasons for this decline were due to their poor after sales and service quality and availability of spares due to the company being coupled with TATA.

Fiat needed to branch out by itself in order to grow and it did exactly that. Last year the company ended its relationship with TATA to venture out by itself. From that time to now the company has done nothing but grow. From establishing a large network of showrooms and service centre’s across India (there are more to come as well), to improving its customer relationships and experience. FIAT is on the fast track to improving its company image and popularity in India. The final piece in that puzzle however was revamping its lineup. They set about doing that at the start of this year with the launch of the face lifted FIAT LINEA which was much improved in the places that needed improving and refreshed in many others. The launch of the Linea saw its place among its competitors rise and make it one of cars too look at.

Now Fiat has decided to change things once again. This time however in a different segment. Fiat other car in their current lineup is the FIAT GRANDE PUNTO. It too was quite old now and suffered from more or less the same issues as the old Linea did. So without anymore delay let me introduce Fiats solution. The FIAT PUNTO EVO. The Punto Evo couldn’t have come any sooner. With its competitors as well launching new cars (Hyundai with the i20 and Volkswagen with the Polo, there are rumor the Skoda is going to release a new Fabia as well) the Punto Evo now puts Fiat as a firm contender in the Indian Market (few more launches of new cars and fiat will most defiantly be a top contender). With this new car Fiat looked to improve the car wherever its predecessor faltered. So now let’s see if they actually succeeded.

Exterior:

The old Punto was one of the most beautiful cars in its segment. Yes I did say beautiful if you were wondering. It wasn’t aggressively or didn’t have any bold/sharp lines. All it had was smooth lines and a very curvy shape. Classic Italian Design. This is what made the car so damn attractive to look at. It had a very subtle presence and would defiantly catch your eye and somehow even if you didn’t find it that appealing. In my opinion the exterior was something that didn’t need to altered that much but FIAT felt the need too so they did. At first glance the new Punto Evo comes across as extensively modified on the outside especially at the front. But on closer inspection you will find the besides the front end of the car most of the car is relatively the same. I say relatively because although the car retains is lovely shape and curves along the side and at the back most of the components like the rear tail lights and bumper have been updated.

The New Punto Evo
The New Punto Evo

So let’s start from the front. This is the part of the car which has gone through most changes. There are new swept headlights, a new grille, new bonnet design, and also new bumper design. The whole design approach at the front now gives off a more Modern Italian Design feel rather than the Classic Italian Design the old Punto radiated with but none the less it still quite attractive to look at. Due to this change in philosophy the front now looks more aggressive and slightly more muscular. The subtly of the old car is lost a bit with the new front end but its not lost all together and Fiat has to be given credit for that. Sometimes when car goes through a revamp on the exterior there is chance that some of the things that made the old car very attractive are lost but in this case FIAT decided not to meddle too much. The bulges on the hood of the car give it that muscular feel.

Rear View of the Punto Evo
Rear View of the Punto Evo

As you move along the car you will find that the side and rear of the car is relatively untouched in terms of shape of the car. It still retains the smooth curves and lines along the car and also the curvy roof line. The high ground clearance of the car is very much seen from the side. Fiat boasts of the highest ground clearance of 195mm (only on Active Variant, others get 185mm). The 15” diamond cut alloy wheels look good and suit the car well although the 16” Sporty Alloys which come with the 90HP Sport Punto suit the car better. As you move along to the rear there are a few more updates you will notice. There are new tail lights which retain the same shape as the old but are updated in terms of their looks. When the lights are switched on there is a strip which looks like a fiber optic strip you find on much higher end cars but on closer inspection you will find it to be an LED one. None the less it looks very good and makes the car looks modern. There are chrome stripes which surround the rear fog lights and reverse lights. Speaking of Chrome this car actually has a lot of it. Both on the front and back of the car you will find chrome strip after chrome strip. With certain colours like black it goes really well but some people may find it a bit much.

Boot Of the Punto Evo
Boot Of the Punto Evo

The overall build quality of the exterior is one of the best in its class. Although you will find a few panel gaps here and there the panels feel very solidly put together and feel like they can take some impact as well. Although it is a known fact that FIAT cars are prone to a bit of rust as time goes on it is left to see how well this car fairs in that respect but as of now this car feels like one which will last a while. Overall is a really good looking car with a lot if not more of the Italian flair the old car had and in areas surpasses the old one in terms of build quality.


Interior:

Take a look inside and you will be in for a bit of a treat. The interior is of the Punto Evo is all new compared to the old car. It shares the same design as the new Linea and frankly I don’t see it as a bad thing. The interior is a step above from the old one and that you can tell just by looking at it. The plastic quality of the dash is much improved over the old car and the general fit and finish of the interior is improved. The washable fabric section of the dashboard also adds a nice feel to the interior as a whole and is also very nice too touch but it is susceptible to pen marks so try to keep your pens and other ink products as far away as possible else you might be facing a tough time getting the ink out. Most of the models follow a black and beige interior scheme but the Punto Evo Sport gets an all black interior which looks very attractive.

There’s an all new music system in place which goes with the all new interior. It’s been given a shiny piano black finish which looks quite up market. The system itself is easy to use in some ways but not that much in others. It’s easy to switch between modes but the intricate sound settings take a bit getting used to adjust. The buttons on the system however are nice soft touch ones which feel very nice when you press them. I prefer this over all the touch sensitive screens coming nowadays in the new cars like in the Honda City and such. These buttons allow the user/driver to know what their pressing without them having to take their eyes of the road and hence I feel is much more user friendly. The music system now comes with AUX capabilities as well and also allows you to play songs via Bluetooth making life quite easy. The Air conditioning controls are located below the music system. The climate control system is easy to use and the screen is clear and precise. The air conditioning itself is quite powerful and matches up well with its competitors.

Interiors Of the Punto Evo
Interiors Of the Punto Evo

The instrument Cluster of the New Punto Evo isn’t exactly the same as the one on the Linea. There are a few differences in trip display and font sharpness as well as well as in the analogue dial fonts. None the less the instrument cluster looks very nice and is quite easy to read. The steering can be adjusted only in rake and not reach which is a bit of a letdown considering some of its competitors like the new i20 allow the driver to adjust it in reach as well. That said Fiat have still placed the steering very well but then again it depends on each individual. The steering also contains the controls for the audio system as well as the Blue&Me Bluetooth system which is more advanced and easy to use than the Bluetooth systems in the competitors. The buttons themselves are well integrated into the steering wheel and feel nice to use. The front seats are very supportive and hug the occupant very well. The side bolsters of the seat are quite large and can give a sensation of sinking into the seat. Although for broad shouldered people it can be a bit uncomfortable. The driver seat is height adjustable as well. The head room is ample both at the front and the rear even with the sloping and curved roof line however legroom at the rear isn’t as good as some of its rivals. The seats at the rear are quite comfortable and supportive which lend to fewer stops to stretch and adjust on long drives.

There are sadly a few areas which are to be noted. The plastic on the door panels are still quite hard and as well as on the sides of the centre console. Also it would have been nice to have an central arm rest for the driver its makes life much more comfortable and this is another feature which is slowly appearing in this cars competitors.

Overall the interior of the Punto Evo are much improved in almost every way and is quite a lovely place to be in. It may not be the most modern or well equipped but its put together much better than before, feels much higher quality and boasts enough features to keep most people happy.

Engine & Driving Dynamics:

As everyone knows everything said till now about this car is something which can be done with the car just standing still. So lets get to the main reason for taking this car out for a spin and seeing what its like on the road.  We drove the top of the line petrol as well as the regular and sport diesel variants.

So lets begin with engine specs what do these cars have under the hood. Both variants of the diesel Punto Evo come with FIAT’s world renowned MULTIJET engine, more specifically a 1.3litre Multijet engine. The engine is turbo charged and is a 4 cylinder motor. The main reason for the 2 different power outputs is because the 92hp engine makes use of VGT (Variable Geometry Turbocharger). This allows more efficient operation of the turbo and hence the greater power output. The lesser powerful engine puts out [email protected] RPM and 197NM of torque @ 1750 RPM. The more powerful engine has had a bit of a tune up from the old one but it’s a very minimal one. There is now 92bhp to play with and this comes in @ 4000RPM and 207NM of [email protected]. The differences don’t stop with just the power ratings. They behave quite differently on the road. The 75bhp engine delivers both torque and power more linearly and there is slightly less turbo lag than the 92bhp.But the engine lacks some serious punch. There’s nothing about the 75bhp variant which will get you excited and make you want to push the throttle down just that little more. In that respect the 92bhp engine which is only available with the Punto Evo Sport variant is much more exciting. There is more turbo lag which is a bit disappointing because you are left waiting a while for the revs to build past 2000RPM and in truth all though the specs say Max Torque come at 2000RPM from the driver seat you can feel that surge of torque around about 2300-2500RPM. But no mistaking once the torque comes in the car does get a move on quite nicely. Personally I would prefer a bit more power say around 100bhp but for our Indian cities 92bhp does quite well. However on the highways it does feel a tad underpowered. One thing this engine excels in is the throttle response. I’ve so far haven’t driven a diesel car with the sharp a throttle response. It responds to even the slightest of movements.

The petrol engine is Fiat’s FIRE engine. Its a 1.4 litre naturally aspirated 4 cylinder motor which puts out [email protected] 6000RPM and 115Nm of torque @ 4500 RPM. This engine is lots of fun and refined at the same time. Its like to rev and has a good punchy mid range which helps when overtaking on the highways. The idle is quite silent and you don’t feel much vibrations in the car however once you pass 2500RPM the engine does become very vocal but the noise is nice and exciting. You will find yourself having to down shift 2 gears instead of 1 on the highways but in the city the engine is nice to use. If  I had to pick an engine I would first look at my daily use. If my daily use covered anything up to 35KM a day I would pick the petrol anymore the diesel would be my pick. However if it took me on the highways as well I would still pick the petrol as it is the more predictable of the engines.

The gearbox is a 5-speed manual. The throw of the gear leaver is a bit long but each gear change is very smooth and it is a joy to use. There is a bit of engine noise which comes through to the cabin but it’s not up to a level where you would call it loud or noisy its actually quite silent for a diesel from the inside. As for the overall refinement of the car its quite well insulated. There’s isn’t much road noise which comes into the car and the sound of the car going over bumps was minimal.

Engine Bay Of the Punto Evo
Engine Bay Of the Punto Evo

When it comes to ride and handling of their cars FIAT has in eyes been tops in this category for quite some time. The Punto is by far the best handling premium hatchback available right now. Even with its high ground clearance body roll is minimal and the just hugs whatever corner comes your way but don’t expect it to corner flat like a supercar! This superb handling is also one of the reasons I feel this car would be better with more power. It has the capability to handle it with aplomb. The suspension has been tuned near perfect for Indian roads. It rides the bumps well and soaks it all up. There was a rare occasion or two where the suspension felt a bit stiff but those moments are forgivable. One more reason for the great levels of grip are the perfectly sized tires. The Standard Emotion variant gets 195/60 section tires on 15” Alloys and the Sport Variant gets 195/55 section tires on 16” Alloys. They offer great stability at high speeds and allow the Punto Evo to be top of its class when it comes to handling. The brakes are another area where the Punto Evo is really good. The brake pedal feel is really superb and the brakes themselves are quite powerful.

Another area where the Punto Evo is better than any of its competitors is the steering. The Punto Evo makes use of a Hydraulic Power Steering which in my eyes makes a world of difference. Yes the electric power steering systems in some more expensive cars are really nice as well but the sheer driving pleasure the hydraulic system gives is really another level. The steering is defiantly not one of the lightest but that may not be such a bad thing. The weighting in the steering allows the driver to judge how much input he is giving and on the highways this is something which really helps. The main area where the steering excels over the others is the feedback. The sheer amount of feedback from the tires through the steering wheel is tremendous and you get to know exactly what the front wheels are doing. The steering is also very precise and allows you to place the car exactly where you want it. This car is a real driver’s car. This car really inspires confidence in the driver and that what a car should do. With all this grip and handling capabilities it does make you feel that this car can handle a lot more power and leaves you wondering what would that be like?

 

Areas of Improvement:

–         There still are a few areas in the interior which can be improved. There still are hard plastics used in the door panels and along the side of the center console.

–         There is no issue with the engines themselves but at times they do leave you craving for a bit more power.

–         It isn’t the most feature full package available on the market right now but it does have a few standouts in that department which make you appreciate the car all the more.

Bottom Line:

Firstly, We here at Turbozens would like extended a special thanks to the staff at RDC Fiat Chennai for allowing us to test drive the car and being very communicative, supportive and welcoming.

Overall the New Fiat Punto Evo is a very desirable car. Its oozes that Italian flair that most fiat cars are known for and it’s got the capabilities, features and much improved interiors to make it one of the top contenders in its class. There is no doubting Fiat is on the up and up and this car proves just that. The Punto Evo is a must look at in my eyes if you are searching for an amazing drivers car for that price.

Mercedes Benz C220- Ownership Review

Mercedes Benz C220 CDI – Ownership review.

Mercedes Benz. The name itself pretty much says it all. They have been one of the leaders in luxury car making for many years and look to do the same in years to come.  When Mercedes Benz came to India back in 2002 they brought a car which at the time where so rare to see in India (keep in mind they were one of the first German manufacturers between BMW, Audi and themselves to start selling cars in India in the 21St century). The cars introduced then where years ahead in many if not every aspect to the cars available in India at the time. Nearly 12 years down the line I think it’s safe to say their cars are still some of the best. Their cars nowadays are brimming with the latest technological developments, high levels of luxury, and some head pinned to the head rest performance.

The C Class is Mercedes Benz’s Entry level luxury sedan. The competition in India mainly comes from BMW with the 3 series and Audi with the A4 (Volvo does have a pretty good car in this segment but sales aren’t like these 3). These are 3 very good cars in their own right. Each has their own strengths and weaknesses so it’s hard to pick between them. This particular C Class is going to be replaced soon with the latest version which is supposedly coming out sometime next year. The rumors are that the new one looks like a baby S-Class (which is a bit disappointing if I do say so). I always admired Mercedes Benz Cars because each car had its own character per say. Each Car from the A – Class to the S – class had its own persona, its own gorgeous looks but maybe that time is at an end. For now though we still do have this version of the C- Class on sale for with the resources to buy it. This particular C- Class is the C220 CDI. It’s the diesel variant of the car and starts at Rs 39.35lakh (Ex Showroom Delhi)

The C Class is something of a muscle man between the 3. With its muscular looks and powerful engine this car oozes with the go fast feeling but its one of the best cars to cruise on the highway with too! This particular car is now about 1 yr and a half old and has 22000 kms under its belt and it holds true to the saying that the German cars are built to last (there is also a saying that their built like tanks which shouldn’t be taken literally!). So now how is it like to own one?

Exterior Design, Quality & looks:

The Mercedes Benz CClass, is a car which tries infusing the best of both modern and classic. It has the sharp, aggressive line and looks but on closer inspection there is the blend of smooth lines throughout the car. The front end is something which can scare you at night if you find the car hurtling at you in your rear view. The angular and bold looks of the front can leave you admiring it for sometime without realizing.

As you move along the car the bold angular lines give way to more smooth curved shapes and lines. From almost just past the bonnet you can see the shape of the car changes to a more fluid shape all the way to the rear. The wheel design too blends in very well with the cars dimensions. The rear of the car isn’t as menacing as the front although with its dual fibre optic light strip in each tail light at night the car does look a bit futuristic. The overall shape and design of the rear though is different to that of the front. Its much smoother and curved and does catch your eye.

Exterior of the Mercedes Benz C220
Exterior of the C220

The overall build quality of the exterior is one of the best available in the Indian market today. It feels and looks well put together and like it will last for years to come and will be able to take a few hits as well. All in all this is car is very attractive to look at and has the quality to match its price.

Interior Design & Quality:

It’s now time to look at the part which makes a luxury car a luxury car. The Interior. This is the part of a car which almost every person will look at to decide whether the car is worth its asking price as well as its name. The interior of a car plays a vital role in making its occupants feel special and I can safely say that with this C- Class, Mercedes Benz haven’t held back. The moment you get into the car you can just feel the quality of the materials used is of a very high standard to make the occupants feel a class above. The seats are leather and electronically adjustable in every manner.

From the head rest to the thigh support – can be adjusted to make the occupants in the front as comfortable as possible. The front seats also come with a memory function which allows the occupant to save their preferred seating position in three slots and with just a press of a button the seat will automatically revert to the position saved in the slot. The rear seats aren’t so bad themselves. Although they aren’t adjustable like the front they are very supportive and comfortable to sit in and one can easily manage in these seats on long drives without any discomfort. One thing to note is that the rear legroom isn’t as good as other cars in this segment. The doors are wrapped in leather and high quality plastics and also do contain some brushed aluminium trim for the door handle.

Interiors of the Mercedes Benz C220
Interiors of the C220

The dash of the car combines the use of high quality plastics as well as brushed aluminium very well. The buttons on the dash feel very solid and clearly marked for their specific function. The Instrument cluster looks bit retro with its design but looks really good none the less. I l personally like the way they have supplied analogue dials for the engine temperature as well (previous cars didn’t have this). The instrument cluster screen contains the trip computer as well as settings to the car and also information of any malfunction on the car. Pages on the screen can be controlled using the steering controls. The dash also contains the screen for Mercedes Benz’s COMMAND system. The screen is very clear and has two different themes for day and night to allow for more comfortable reading at the specific time.

The system itself could have been a little more user friendly but over time you do get used to it. The system is controlled by a circular knob on the center arm rest just blow the gear lever. The positioning of the controller is near perfect as it falls just under the palm of the driver as he/she rests their arm on the arm rest. The center console of the Dash contains the audio controls, telephone/Bluetooth controls, climate control, as well as some of the luxury feature controls such as the back screen. This in my opinion makes the center console look a bit crowded, it’s not as simple and elegant as in its rivals and is one aspect where Mercedes Benz could improve on.

There is however one feature where the C- Class has a hand above the rest of the competition. The PANORAMIC sunroof.  This is basically an almost all glass roof (there is a support which runs from left to right in between the front and back seats on the roof). This support contains the mechanisms which draw the sunroof curtains as well as the front sunroof back. This feature in my mind is the closest thing you can get to a convertible without having to shell out as much for the actual. With the curtains drawn the sunroof allows even the rear passengers to gaze out at the sky however when the front section is drawn out it covers the rear glass obstructing the view.  But still this is one thing which really allows all the occupants to enjoy their drive and considering it’s the only car in its class to have this makes you feel pretty special.

Engine & Driving Dynamics:

Now one thing Mercedes Benz is most known for is their powerful engines. The C- Class is no different.  When compared to its rivals this car has the most powerful engine of the lot. Even the least powerful diesel engine is more powerful than the other cars in its segment. The C220 CDI is powered by a 2.0 liter Turbocharged 4 cylinder diesel motor. It kicks out 170bhp between 3000 – 4200 RPM (Yes, you read that right it develops Max power over a band of RPM and not just at a specific RPM) and when it comes to torque is gives out a near sport car territory 400NM between 1400 – 2800 RPM. All this power and torque is fed through Mercedes Benz’s 7-G Tronic Gearbox and put down on the road through the rear wheels.

The engine in this car is one of the reasons we decide to go for it over it other competitors. It even made us pick the C220 over the C250 CDI which has a more powerful engine due to its shear efficiency in delivering both max power and max torque through nearly the whole Rev band! There isn’t much turbo lag to deal with. Almost as soon as u put your foot down you get the feeling of being pushed into your seats. In fact you don’t need to put your foot all the way down. There’s so much torque to play with you would almost never get tired of it. Be it in the city or on the highway overtaking is a breeze in this car.

The Powerful Diesel Engine - Mercedes Benz C220
The Powerful Diesel Engine under the hood!

One more thing which makes this one of the most unique diesel engines I’ve come across is the sound. On start up and between idle and about 2500 RPM this engine does sound like a diesel engine but move past 2700 RPM and all that changes. The engine sort of almost starts to roar like a petrol engine would. The first time I experienced this, it captivated me and over time grown to love it. The one place where the car could be a little better is the gearbox. It is one of the best for the city.

The changes are smooth and the gearbox almost sort of knows what gear you need & when. But take the car to the highway and gearbox starts to show signs of weakness. Its slow to down shift a gear (if you need) when you overtake which at times if you’re not careful can put you in a bit of a tight spot. However Mercedes Benz has provided a solution if your brave enough to use it. At the bottom of the lettering of gear lever you will be able to find a button with E and S written with arrows pointing either way. This is the mode selector. It allows you to navigate between Economy Mode and Sport Mode for the car. Put it in Sport and the car transforms. The throttle and brake response both sharpen and the car holds Revs longer enabling the car to be in its peak at all times. But for the most time you wouldn’t want to use this mode as fuel efficiency then drops massively.

The steering is one of the best there is. It’s a parametric steering system which is fitted to most Mercedes cars nowadays. The system adjusts the weighting of the steering according to the speed of the car. In the city at low speeds the steering is light to make turning easy and on the highway it’s beautifully weighted to allow the driver to know exactly where the wheels are pointing. Add to this the precision of the steering and you have something you can’t but appreciate to have. The suspension of the car uses Mercedes Benz’s Agility Control system but the overall state of tune is a bit too stiff. This can make things a bit uncomfortable if you’re driving on a pothole ridden road. The feel of the brake pedal and the stopping power of the brakes themselves are also very good.

After Sales & Service:

After Sales communication from the Mercedes representatives is good. So is their service quality. But one place which is one of the biggest problems in owning a car like this is the spare costs. This is one thing which can burn a very deep hole in your pocket. So be very mindful that you not only have the money to buy it but to maintain it as well.

Points For Improvement In The C220:

–          The central console is to cluttered with buttons. Hopefully Mercedes Benz goes for a more simple approach in the next car.

–          The gearbox is sublime in the city but could be better on the highway.

–          Spare Costs are very high and scare people away from buying the car.

–          Suspension is a bit too stiff for Indian Roads although on the highway this lends to brilliant road holding.

Bottom Line:

At the end of the day if I had the choice of this car and its rivals I would still pick this one. More than anything else this car connects with the driver. From the moment you get in everything thing about the experience is there to make your life as a driver so much easier but at the same time so much more enjoyable. I’ve never after driving this car come out with anything less than a smile on my face and in my opinion that’s what cars should do.

MARUTI SUZUKI SWIFT DZIRE– Ownership Review

MARUTI  SUZUKI SWIFT DZIRE LXI (2009) – Ownership Review

When Maruti Suzuki first introduced the Maruti Swift in May 2005 it brought along a new refreshing look to the Indian hatchback market. As the Swift saw more and more success, Maruti Suzuki decided to take things one step further. This brought about the introduction of the Swift Dzire. The Swift Dzire is a sedan version of the popular Swift hatchback and was brought about to replace the ageing Maruti Esteem, a car which had an amazing track record to its name. The question lingering at the time of launch was, how far better would the new car be? Whatever questions that where present about the car where eventually answered with the cars launch on the March of 2008. The introduction of the car brought something new to the Indian market.

A car which had decent levels of comfort along with good fuel efficient engines was a recipe bound to succeed and yes it did. So now let’s take a look at how the car serves the owner . With 47000 km travelled and about 5 years of ownership, the car is still a very capable machine and still very much has a lot of life in it (most cars would be in the same shape provided routine maintenance and service is carried out on it).

Exterior Design and looks:

The cars design is very much based on its smaller sibling the Swift hatchback. It has the same shaped headlights and tail-lights which flow with the body’s lines and seem like they seamlessly fit into the body curves. The added boot at the back does seem flow with the rest of the body but with the added boot the car’s stance does seem to have changed a bit when compared to the swift. From the back this car isn’t the best to look at ( although from the front the looks are much better ). The wheels are tiny 14-inch rims with 165/80 section tires. Both the rim and tire size where aptly selected to go well with the exterior of the car as well provide good comfort inside.

Swift Dezire LXI ownership review

Now when it comes to quality of the exterior of the MARUTI SWIFT Dzire, this is where it has a few shortcomings. Overall the bodywork doesn’t feel all that solidly put together. The metalwork feels like it can be dented very easily which it has done a couple of times (a small nudge from an auto caused the door outer panel to get dented inwards). Replacing the door panel wasn’t all that hard or expensive (hats off to Maruti Suzuki for providing such good service quality) but I think that goes to show what quality materials are used in the car. Otherwise the exterior of the car has held up very well over the years and the paint hasn’t faded much over time and still shines very well in the sunlight (For your Info the car is washed and cleaned at least twice a week & this helps in keeping the paint in good condition).

 

Interior Design and Quality:

The interior of the MARUTI SWIFT Dzire LXI is very basic. All you get in terms of features is air conditioning and power steering along with a very basic instrument cluster as well. There is NO Tachometer/RPM gauge, so information provided by the car to the driver is very limited. There is also no power windows and music system so be prepared to use your arm for the windows and have some very quite drives if you are alone (you can obviously get these installed separately on request by Maruti Suzuki or elsewhere!).

The interior itself is a simple grey plastic interior which is a little dull to look at. In all fairness this is a very cheap car to buy (around Rs 5 lakh on road), so not a lot can be expected from it to begin with. The plastic itself is very is not very nice to touch on the dash and on the doors. However the plastic used on the dash feels much more solid than the one used on the doors (give a little push and the door panel will bend inwards which gives a very unnerving feeling again about the quality of materials used). Even the plastic used for the air conditioning vents feels very flimsy. The stalks for the wind-shield wiper and headlights feel a little flimsy but are simple to use and don’t give any trouble.

Interior  of Swift Dezire LXI

The seats of the MARUTI SWIFT Dzire are made with fabric. Both the front and rear seats provide good levels of comfort. The overall driving position is a bit high, giving a good outside view for the driver ( for tall people it is a bit too high ). The MARUTI SWIFT desire can accommodate 5 people although the person sitting in the middle at the back row may feel a bit cramped. Legroom is decent at the back but that also depends on how tall the people sitting at the front are. A relatively tall person sitting in front would defiantly reduce the space behind.

Technical Specs & Driving Dynamics:

Maruti Suzuki Dzire LXi comes with a 1.2 liter, 4 cylinder naturally aspirated petrol engine. This engine is a part of Maruti Suzuki K series engines. The engine puts out 85 ps (about 83 bhp) of power at 6000RPM and 113Nm of torque at 4500RPM. The engine is mated to a five speed manual gearbox. Through the years the engine has been quite reliable as are most Maruti Suzuki engines. The engines state of tune is best suited for city use. The throttle response is good and there is a decent amount of low end torque which allows easy overtaking in city traffic conditions. The gearbox itself is fun to use. It has a nice mechanical feel which gives the driver an idea of what’s going on and is very smooth & easy to slot into any gear. The engine itself is very silent and there isn’t much vibration which gets through to the cabin.

The ride of the Dzire is defiantly made to make sure its passengers feel comfortable. The suspension at both the front and rear is quite soft which contributes to quite a bit of body roll in the cornering. This along with the skinny tires doesn’t reassure the driver a lot especially at high speeds. For this reason I up sized to 185/70 section R14 tires for better stability although fuel efficiency did take a bit of a hit (with the 165/80 tires city mileage was about 12-13kmpl). The steering to is made for city use. Its lightly weighted which makes life easy when taking u turns and the turning radius is small too.

Running Costs:

Fuel efficiency is something Maruti Suzuki takes into account very seriously and this car performs quite well in the city. I get about 11-12kmpl with smooth driving and on the highways about 15 km/pl.

Service and after sales:

Service of the Dzire by Maruti Suzuki is of a good standard. Most of the spare parts are readily available at the service center and come at cheap rates compared to other companies. The car service doesn’t take too long and I’ve always informed of any repairs that have to be done or being carried out.

Shortcomings of the Swift Dzire LXI

–          The quality of the body work and the interior plastics is a bit low compared to others cars available at the price. Also the interior look is dull and doesn’t look very elegant.

–          The car is made for Indian cities so if your daily life takes you along highways and covers long distances look at another car.

–          The driving controls such as the steering and the brakes lack feel and don’t give much feedback.

–          The engine although brilliant in the city, lacks punch in the top end and combined with tall gearing makes life difficult on highways.

 Bottom Line:

Maruti Swift Dzire without doubt is a car made for Indian cities. Everything about it makes sure it’s occupants feel comfortable when battling the heavy traffic of modern Indian cities and there aren’t many other cars which give you the same value for money as this one!

VOLKSWAGEN POLO- OWNERSHIP REVIEW

In India one of the most popular types of cars are the Hatchback’s. A small sized car which can fit 5 people, fuel efficient and relatively economical to buy. Anywhere you look in an Indian city & you will for sure find a Hatchback. For years now Maruti Suzuki has ruled the Hatchback segment with a variety of cars for sale in this segment but in recent years they have come to face a lot of competition from other manufacturers. One of them is the mighty Volkswagen !

When Volkswagen introduced the Volkswagen Polo back in 2010 to the Indian market, the car came as a refreshing modern addition to the hatchback segment which seemed to be ageing a bit back then. The car was aggressively styled, spacious, had lots of modern technology fitted in, and was a lot sportier in terms of rid and handling than most of its competitors ( thanks to its stiff suspension ). But there was one part of the hatchback segment which seemed to be an unexplored territory in India.

The Hot Hatch

A hot Hatch is a sort of a hooligan version of the civilized hatchbacks many people use in their everyday lives. They look almost the same (few cosmetic changes are made at times to better performance) or exactly the same to the cars they are based on but aren’t the same under the hood. Around the world, the Hot Hatch range of horsepower is quite wide. They go from 120hp up to 250bhp. But in India this isn’t the case. Back in 2010 if someone wanted a hot hatch in India there wasn’t much choice to go for. There is the Punto sport ( 90HP) but many people (including this cars owner) looked away from fiat due to its poor after sales quality, interior quality, and service problems such as lack of spares.  One more reason for the lack of interest in this segment is that in India people do tend to lean toward to fuel efficiency and cutting down running costs rather than having a car that can make you smile wide as u depress your right foot. Volkswagen decided to give this category a shot with the Polo 1.6. Although VW has stopped production of this car in India (due to it not being able to become the hit they thought it would be, their current entry in this segment is the Polo TSI) it still remains a very appealing car to those petrol heads around town.

This specific Polo 1.6 belongs to a good friend of mine and he was very kind enough to allow me to drive it and do this review on it. He bought the car in April 2011 and has done about 14000kms on it and every time I see him drive it there never seems to be nothing but a smile on his face (there was one on my face too, when I drove it!) What makes this car appealing u might ask? Well let’s take a look at it in a bit more detail.

Exterior Design and looks:

The Volkswagen polo is a car which was designed keeping in mind the modern world. Most car manufacturers are designing their hatchback keeping the youth in mind (considering that nowadays hatchbacks are the cars which most people in their youths go for because of their pricing and value for money). The Volkswagen polo is one car which oozes modern design philosophy. Its aggressive styling and sharp lines are very striking and attractive to look and the same principle is followed all along the car.

Volkswagen polo ownwership review
The aggressive styling of the front make it very appealing to the modern generation.

The car’s front end is what is the most striking and distinctive to look at! The whole flow of aggressive and bold lines along the car starts from here. The uniquely styled headlights and bumper give the car a menacing look (at night there is no question on which car is behind you when you see those set of headlights). Although this car is styled in this manner, there is still a certain amount of fluidity in the whole overall shape of the car.

Due to the lack of a proper boot, the nice looking sharp lines come to a somewhat of an abrupt end. However Volkswagen has done its best to make the rear of this car as good as the front (tried & in my opinion the front looks very much better than the rear). The 15” alloy wheels look good too and suite the cars design very well.

Volkswagen polo ownership review
The bold lines flow right along the car.

When it comes the build quality of the car there is no doubt of the supremacy the German manufacturer holds in this area. The exterior feels very solid and very well put together. The quality of the body work Is very good and the finish as well. This is one area I feel Volkswagen has the edge over other cars in its segment although there are a few which run close with it – one being the Fiat Punto and the Honda Brio.

Interiors Design & Quality:

Take a look inside and the polo follows the same standards it does on the outside. The interior of the car feels very solid and the materials used are of quite a good quality. The Instrument cluster makes use of modern technology with a digital display which gives the driver information about fuel quantity and data from the trip computer such as fuel consumption average, real time consumption, range, and speed. The display itself is very clear and easy to read. There have been complaints that at night, especially on the highway the screen is a bit too bright and hampers visibility a bit but the owner of this car said he didn’t find the display disturbing at night and I too didn’t find it very disturbing while on the highway.So I guess we will leave this up to personal opinion.

Volkswagen polo interiors - ownership review
The solid and good looking interiors of the polo 1.6

The Center console is simple and functional in its design. It isn’t cluttered with buttons and the controls are simple and easy to use. The touch and feel of the controls too is solid as with whole of the car. However when it comes to comforts, the Polo 1.6 isn’t as well equipped as one would want. There is no climate control all thought the air conditioning is powerful and cools the car well. The music system doesn’t have AUX or Bluetooth capabilities but the speakers are powerful and clear lending to a more pleasurable drive.

The seats on the Polo 1.6 are comfortable and supportive to be in. The driver seat is height adjustable and the steering can be adjusted in rake and reach but the reach is limited to only 3-4 inches. The interior also comes in a nice dual tone beige and black color scheme. But all in all there is nothing to complain about with this interior, its solidly built and will last long into the cars life.

Engine & Driving Dynamics:

Now we come to the part which really sets this car apart from the others in its segment. The Engine!  The car is powered by a naturally aspirated 1.6L four cylinder engine which churns out 103bhp @ 5250 RPM and 153NM of torque @3750 RPM. In India these number are usually reserved for the mid-size sedan segment (By looking at these numbers itself anyone would come to think that this car is no slouch). It doesn’t let your expectations down. Initially it does take a bit to get going, but as the RPM needle crosses 1500 – 2000 RPM it comes alive and you suddenly find your body a little further away from the steering wheel if you weren’t leaning back into your seat already. Lean in to the throttle further and the engine just pulls all the way through up to the red line. This sensation of being pressed in your seat is also accompanied by a deep roar from the engine bay. However while idling I found that there is a minute lag in throttle response.

This hunk of an engine is mated to a Five-speed manual gearbox. The gearbox itself is slick and slots into gear very easily making changing gears a peach. But it lacks that mechanical feel and on a side note to engage reverse you have to push the gear leaver down and then push it into the direction of first gear. The gear ratios are more suited to city driving. On the highway due to the lack of low end torque you do need to downshift a gear to overtake but else this can take you up to some serious speeds which could get you into some serious trouble!

One place the Volkswagen polo seems to be different from the rest is its suspension tune. Whether you like It or not is up to personal opinion. Some people like having stiff suspension as it contributes to better handling characteristics and less body role during cornering and then there are the people who like to have a softer state of tune so that all the bumps and potholes are soaked up. Well, from day one the Volkswagen polo has been criticized a bit for having too harsh and stiff a ride, but I don’t mind it. For me it’s not that harsh it does a decent job of dealing with our constantly dug up and pothole ridden road (there are cars which deal with the roads much better e.g. Hyundai i20, but then again it can’t match up to the way this car takes the bends). The car feels planted at highway speeds and give the diver more confidence in driving the car. The steering is light which is perfect in the city but for highway driving a bit more weight would have been a lot better. The steering is a bit dull in feedback which is nice if u don’t want the steering constantly moving around to every bump and pothole forcing the tires to move, but if u prefer a steering with feedback then you might not fancy this one ( This is due to it being an electronic power steering rather than hydraulic).

All in all this is a nice car to drive. With its powerful engine and its good handling and road holding you find yourself wanting to spend more and more time with it and drive it on a nice highway till its tanks are empty (suggest you don’t though).

 Service & After Sales:

When it comes to VW’s service the owner said that delivery and availability of parts weren’t an issue with Volkswagen polo. However he did mention that if he had any specific technical complaint the ability of the VW’s mechanics to troubleshoot and isolate the problem wasn’t good enough. He once found himself complaining about the same problem twice. Each time the representatives said they found the issue and fixed it but the problem lingered. Only on the third attempt was the problem actually resolved.

Where The Volkswagen polo 1.6 isn’t up to mark:

–         The initial throttle response is a bit slow.

–         There isn’t as much low-end torque as expected for a petrol engine, so for overtaking (especially in a fully loaded car) on highways you do have to down shift a gear to get the engine to its peak torque output.

–         For people who like riding in comfort this is not a car for you in terms of ride quality. You do feel the bumps and potholes in the car due to its stiff suspension.

–         The car isn’t packed with as many features as it competitors like the Hyundai i20, Fiat Punto, and the Honda Brio.

Bottom Line:

This car was definitely a hot hatch for the Indian market (I say it because VW has stopped production of this car in India). It was most definitely an appealing car to look at and drive and would get your adrenaline pumping when you want it too. But if any company including Volkswagen wants to bring out a true hot hatch and contend seriously, then I think they should take things a step further (Maybe more powerful engines and better handling).