Blog Posts by Clint Thomas

  • Road Test and Review: All-New Ford Figo

    Ford had been a niche player in India until 2010. Then they introduced the Figo, a car that became a runaway hit and turned the American carmaker’s fortunes in India. As the Figo went on to become one of the most popular choices in the B segment, Ford established itself as a strong player in the fiercely fought small car market.

    Hot on the heels of the success of the Figo Aspire compact sedan, Ford has launched the all-new Figo hatchback with substantial improvements over the previous model. Let’s find out what makes an already strong product even more compelling.


    Styling wasn’t the fist generation Figo’s strong suit, but in its second avatar, the car is an absolute head turner. Viewed up front, it’s easy to mistake the Figo for the Aspire because there’s nothing different from the sedan until the B pillar. The gaping grille with thin chrome bars gives the Figo the same character as its elder sibling - the Fiesta. The swept-back polygonal headlamp and the bonnet bulge add to its

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  • In conversation with Vincent Cobee, Datsun’s global head

    Datsun’s global head, Vincent Cobee, has been tasked with the tough mission of reviving a global car brand that was discontinued about three decades ago. Datsun, although a brand with great pedigree, has not been in people’s minds for long now and Cobee’s job is to reestablish Datsun as a low-cost aspirational brand in emerging world markets.

    In an interaction with online media, Vincent Cobee spoke about global trends, his strategy for Indian market and the safety concerns over Datsun products in India.

    Datsun as a brand doesn’t seem to have done as well as everybody expected; how are you planning to change that?

    There’s no such thing as a revolution overnight. When you are targeting a huge group of ambitious but anxious middle class customers who invest up to two year’s of their disposable income in buying a car, it’s impossible to expect tomorrow will be a revolution. But, are we taking more time than we hoped to ramp up? Yes. Is that a surprise? No. In India it takes time for any

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  • Nissan’s New Mobility Concept could change the way you commute

    If you walk down the streets of downtown Yokohama, chances are high that one of these funky-looking vehicles will zip past you. Essentially an all-electric quadricycle, Nissan’s New Mobility Concept (NMC) is awaiting commercial launch because Japanese authorities are undecided on which category to slot this vehicle in.

    I’m equally confused as the Japanese regulators on what to call this car. It has two seats in tandem but it’s not a bike. It has four wheels but it doesn’t fit in the car category either. You can call it a ‘heavy quadricycle’ or an ‘ultracompact car’, however, what is important is not to find a category for this vehicle, but to encourage such concepts at a time when air pollution and traffic congestion have reached alarming levels.

    Nissan is a big name in the electric car market, with the Leaf being one of the most popular electric cars in the world today. New Mobility Concept (NMC) is the carmaker’s attempt to discover new ways in which electric vehicles can be designed

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  • Nissan will bring more innovation to India, says Christian Mardrus, SVP of Nissan AMI

    In a discussion with automotive journalists from India, Christian Mardrus, Senior Vice President of Nissan Africa, Middle East and India, spoke about the company’s positioning in India, its future plans, recent reports on job cuts and safety concerns. Here are the excerpts from the interview.

    What is Nissan’s positioning in India? What’s the brand’s identity in the county?

    Nissan group has two brands – Nissan and Datsun. The positioning of both brands is different. The objective of Nissan is to be consistent with the company’s motto – “Innovation that Excites.” When we launched Micra, we launched innovation. Micra was the first car to get push start button in the small car segment. With Terrano, too, we introduced innovative features that the Duster didn’t offer.

    However, when we compare the current situation in India with what we are actually planning to do, I cannot claim we have completely achieved the objective. But “Innovation that Excites” is exactly what Nissan aims to bring to

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  • Road Test and Review: Renault Kwid

    Photos by Clint ThomasPhotos by Clint Thomas
    No other car in recent history has created as much buzz as the Renault Duster did. A brand not very familiar to Indians until then, Renault became a household name following the prodigious success of the Duster. Many studies have been conducted on what made the Duster such a popular choice and all of them pointed to one conclusion -- the originality and freshness in design backed by compelling price-value equation.

    Building on the success of the Duster, Renault is entering the small hatchback segment with the Kwid. Is the Kwid suitably armed to snap at the heels of the entrenched competitors in this segment? I spent a whole day in Goa with the Kwid to find that out.


    The Renault Kwid is a breath of fresh air in the boring entry-level segment. At the first glance, it’s difficult to figure out whether the Kwid is a hatchback or an SUV. In fact, it wouldn’t be an overstatement to call it a crossover of a hatchback and an SUV or even a shrunken Duster.

    Raised bonnet, a rugged grille,

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  • Datsun redi-GO hints at an exciting future

    The entry-level hatchback segment is India’s favourite and the fiercest-fought, which accounts for 25 per cent of the car market. This matured segment with entrenched market leaders is the toughest to crack; yet new entrants see it as a strong category from an opportunity point of view.

    Customers are highly aspirational and extremely cautious in this segment and increased affordability has driven buyers to look for stylish design, modern features, better fuel efficiency and good service.

    Since most carmakers play it safe in this segment, there hasn’t been much innovation in terms of design or features. Industry leaders admit that the entry-level segment is not satisfying customer demands any longer.

    However, Datsun’s soon-to-be-launched entry-level small car, the redi-GO, stands out from the mundane and conventional styling of the econoboxes. The redi-GO concept was showcased at the 2014 Delhi Auto Expo and it reflected Datsun's key values of modernity, quality and inventive-thinking.

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  • Road Test and Review: Audi A6 Matrix

    The Audi A6 has a special connection with India. 30 years ago, when young cricketer Ravi Shastri was named Champion of Champions as India beat Pakistan in the World Championship of Cricket in Australia, he was handed the keys to a smashing Audi 100. Shastri took laps around the MCG in the Audi 100, with the team piled onto the car -- it stays indelibly etched in the memories of many cricket fans.

    The Audi 100 matured and mellowed over generations and in its latest A6 Matrix avatar, the car inherits many character traits from its big brother A8 and can even be called a “mini A8”.


    As with the previous generations, the A6 Matrix remains one of the most elegant and appealing designs in the executive car segment. The styling cues inherited from the A8 make it stand out from the crowd.

    The most obvious changes are up front. Apart from lending the car an aggressive scowl, the Matrix headlamps comprise an array of intelligent LEDs to give the driver a clear view of the road ahead, while

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  • India’s automobile revolution a boon or bane for the country?

    Automobile industry in India has come of age. The roads once dominated by Ambassadors and Premier Padminis are now teeming with foreign-born luxury cars. The public transport system that started with hand-pulled rikshaws and bullock carts has advanced to a stage where air-conditioned cars can be hailed with a tap on the smartphone screen. In 68 years of independence, India witnessed an extraordinary revolution in the automotive sector.

    A world of opportunities opened up in the post-liberalisation India for the global automakers. Suzuki, Toyota and Hyundai were the pioneers to venture into the market but now, all major carmakers have invested in manufacturing in India, clearly upholding the fact that despite several negative perceptions still associated with the country, India is competitive and capable of delivering quality.

    Hyundai, which set up their plant in the Chennai in 1996, now exports to 119 countries, shipping over 190,000 cars in 2014-15. Maruti, too, saw sales of 1.29

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  • Road Test and Review: Mercedes Benz E400 Cabriolet

    Most say buying a convertible in India makes no sense. Dust, smoke, stink, noise… our cities offer the most unfavorable conditions for open-top motoring and the roof spends a lot more time up than down. However, convertibles are meant to be driven across wide-open country roads in fair weather with sun on face and wind in hair. Thankfully, our country has no dearth of such roads.

    Mercedes Benz E400 Cabriolet recently came to Bangalore to adorn the carmaker’s new state-of-the-art city showroom and the weather down south was just perfect to indulge in open-top motoring.


    I was not really comfortable driving this car around city; not for anything else, but because I’m slightly scopophobic. The E400 Cabriolet is such an attention-grabber that no one passes by without staring at the car and also the one behind the wheel.

    Talking about the styling, I would say the E400 Cabriolet is elegance personified. Viewed up front, the Cabriolet is a lot similar to the E-Class but the

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