Blog Posts by Clint Thomas

  • Road Test and Review: Maruti Ciaz

    Maruti has it easy in the small and compact car segments.  But India’s top carmaker hasn’t been able to hit the sweet spot in the midsize sedan category dominated by the tasteful rides from Japan, Korea and Europe. Now, in what could be a do-or-die effort, Maruti is once again vying for the wallets of C-segment buyers with an all-new car --the Ciaz. Ciaz not only ups the ante on what have historically been Maruti’s lackadaisical attempts to crack the midsize segment, but has developed into a resilient contender among its feature-laden competitors.

    Design

    Maruti cars have never been stylistic standouts but the Ciaz is absolutely more assertive than anything else from its maker’s stable. The four-slat chrome grille looks neat, so do the large dual headlamps with projectors. Remarkably, all variants of the Ciaz will get projector headlamps. The well-molded bumper adds some zing to the front, however, the chrome accents around the fog lamps as seen on the concept car would have made it

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  • Road Test and Review: Mercedes-Benz B Class Edition 1

    Photos by Clint ThomasCarmakers generally introduce special editions on two occasions – to mark the tremendous success of a particular model or to give it a boost when sales show a downward drift. Mercedes-Benz India, which is observing 2014 as the “Year of Excellence,” has registered a strong half-yearly growth of 25% and a significant contributor to this growth trajectory has been the NGC portfolio comprising the A-Class and B-Class. Celebrating the overwhelming success of its New Generation Cars (NGC) portfolio, the Stuttgart carmaker recently introduced the A-Class and B-Class ‘Edition 1.’


    These two adorable baby Mercs have already found appreciation among young Indians and the Edition 1 takes them to new heights with some tasteful touches. Over the previous long weekend, I took the B Class Edition 1 on a roadtrip not just to find out what’s new in the special edition, but to explore the capabilities of the B Class as a sports tourer.

    Design

    The B Class is often described as an inflated A Class. While

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  • Road Test and Review: Hyundai Elite i20

    The dictionary defines the word elite as ‘someone who is superior in terms of ability or qualities to the rest of the society.’ Well, in that sense, Hyundai’s premium hatchback i20 has been an elite car since its inception in 2008. With its impressive fluidic design, interior quality and avant-garde features, the i20 redefined the benchmark in the segment. Now, in its second generation, the i20 has been justifiably christened the Elite i20 and let’s find out what makes an already good car even better.

    Design

    The Elite i20’s exterior represents the latest iteration of what Hyundai calls Fluidic Sculpture 2.0 design language. However, Hyundai has ditched the rounded fluidic edges for a bold design with sharper character lines. Dominating the front is the signature hexagonal grille, but this time with honeycomb mesh surrounded by chrome accents. The lower bumper is adorned by a plastic mesh strip that neatly connects the fog lamps. The striking design of the swept-back headlamps yields an

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  • Road Test and Review: Isuzu MU-7

    Photos by Clint ThomasPhotos by Clint Thomas
    A fellow auto journalist who is embarking on a 50-day road trip to Europe has the Isuzu MU-7 as his top vehicle of choice. As a car critic who has driven almost every car in India, he thinks MU-7 is the right vehicle for the 25000-kms drive. Built like a tank, the MU-7’s go-anywhere capability is impressive, but what caught his interest was the luxury of space the SUV offers - and that’s exactly what Isuzu highlights as the USP of the car.  

    In a country that loves SUVs and spaciousness alike, offering a full-grown SUV with some extra space can be a formula that endears itself to the buyers, but that alone doesn’t make a successful product. So I recently spent some quality time with the MU-7 to find out what makes it distinct in a segment where competition is razor-sharp.

    Design

    The MU-7 is unmistakably an old-school SUV that blows you away with its very aggressive front fascia. Wide tooth grille, sharp projector headlamps and beefy bumpers coupled with the large intercooler intake scoop

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  • India will be the biggest pickup truck market by 2023: Shigeru Wakabayashi

    Q&A with Executive Vice President and Deputy Managing Director, Isuzu Motors India Pvt Ltd

    Isuzu is betting big on India as an emerging pickup truck market. The company, which has recently launched the D-Max pickup in India, is currently building a new plant in Sri City with an investment of Rs 3,000 crore. In an interview with Clint Thomas, Isuzu India EVP and and Deputy Managing Director Shigeru Wakabayashi spoke about the company’s expansion plans and the future of pickup truck market in India. 

    How do you see India as a market for pickup trucks?

    Our target customers for pickup trucks are farmers and small business owners. Currently, 40% of fruits and vegetables are being wasted during transport. If farmers can bring them directly to the market in their own pickup trucks, the wastage can be significantly reduced, thus bringing commensurate economic returns to the farmers.Mr. Shigeru WakabayashiMr. Shigeru Wakabayashi

    In countries like Thailand, it’s very easy to get a small business loan to buy pickup trucks and that trend is coming to India soon. An Isuzu D-Max customer in Madurai used to spend Rs. 20,000 monthly on

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  • Road Test and Review: Audi A3

     

    Two burgeoning segments in Indian automobile industry – compact sedan and luxury hatchback – have elicited a raving response. While one segment offered cheaper sedans, the other made luxury more affordable. When Audi decided to introduce its cheapest car in India, they charted a new path by blending together the best of both worlds. Thus, the Audi A3 creates a new market segment – the class of luxury compact sedans.

    Design

    The A3 is quintessential Audi. So it takes an eagle-eyed enthusiast to tell the difference between the A3 and the A4 - or even the A6 - from a distance. And it’s a great thing because on the road, the baby Audi grabs as many eyeballs as the more expensive models do. Like its elder siblings, the A3 gets the signature single-frame grille flanked by slim bi-xenon headlamps with DRLs that help the car retain its regal image. Striking horizontal contours and large air inlets on the bumper add to the broader stance of the front end.
    The ‘tornado line’ slicing the length of

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  • Road Test and Review: Tata Zest

    When Tata launched its first indigenously made car Indica in 1998, it proved an instant hit, thanks to its spaciousness, practicality and fuel efficiency. But the inevitable had to happen – Indica soon became the favourite of taxi fleet operators. The ill-maintained, often run-down Indicabs cast a pall on Tata products’ appeal to individual customers. Tata’s attempt to steer away from the ‘taxi image’ and attract more personal buyers saw some very good products coming to the market, but their uncanny resemblance to Indica marred sales drastically.  

    In what could potentially lead to a dramatic perception change of the company, Tata is set to launch the all-new Zest compact sedan. Zest looks promising, but will it help transform Tata’s fortunes and give the company a new identity? Let’s find out.

    Design

    You might not realise it’s a Tata until you see the badge, because the overall styling of the Zest completely sets it off from the Indicas and the Indigos. However, from certain angles you

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  • Road Test and Review: Honda Mobilio

    Indian MPV market has been very conservative where carmakers seldom go out on a limb to make their cars stylish. The monotony in design has made MPVs an unpopular choice for families despite the need for a larger vehicle. Honda’s first MPV for India, Mobilio, is set to break new ground in the MPV market with its stylish look, superior performance and a practical cabin.

    Design

    If you said MPVs are boring, eat your words. Agreed, the Mobilio’s face is nigh-on identical to the Brio but the sharp bumper design adds more aggressiveness to the Mobilio’s visage. Move to the side and rear, sharp lines and chiseled facets give the car a sporty attitude. What I liked the most about the Mobilio’s design is the beltline that kinks downwards at the B pillar. This simple but clever design touch yields an airy greenhouse and a feeling of spaciousness. The large, wraparound tail lamps, floating D-pillar and black inserts on the bumper gel neatly with the rest of the styling and the Mobilio is best

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  • Meet BMW 7 Series 760Li, Narendra Modi’s new ride

    Narendra Modi was driven to Rashtrapati Bhavan for the swearing-in ceremony in an armoured Scorpio, long used by him during the campaigns. But soon after the swearing-in ceremony, the Prime Minister had to ditch his favourite SUV for a swanky BMW due to security reasons.

    Mahindra & Mahindra had written to the Prime Minister, requesting he continue to use the Scorpio as his official car. Mahindra said it would be a matter of great pride and honour for Indians that the PM uses a vehicle designed, developed and built in India. However, the Special Protection Group (SPG) decided to go with the BMW 7 Series 760Li Security Edition— the most secured vehicle in the country.

    BMW Security Vehicles are designed to withstand a range of three risk situations – street crime (attacks with blunt objects and handguns up to a calibre of .44 Magnum), organised crime (attacks with the most commonly used automatic weapon in the world, the AK-47) and attacks with explosive devices and armour-piercing

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  • Road Test and Review: 2014 Ford Fiesta

    In over a century of evolution, automobiles have transformed dramatically. As I drive the 2014 Ford Fiesta today, it’s quite amazing to see how technology has changed everything, except the Ford script logo, since the first mass-produced Ford Model T. While a swathe of once state-of-the-art technologies such as ABS and airbags are increasingly becoming part of standard safety package, in-dash user interface is the new battleground for carmakers.

    There is no question the 2014 Ford Fiesta is a head turner. But what makes the Fiesta unique is the in-car technology that earns it the well-deserved title of a “connected car.”

    Design

    The 2014 Ford Fiesta’s styling is not a huge departure from the outgoing model, but it gets a handful of changes that make the car more desirable. The large air dam that dominated the Fiesta’s nose has been traded for a more stylish hexagonal grille.  Five thin chrome bars on the grille along with the chrome accent around the air dam breathe new life upon the

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