It has generally been a calm, smooth ride with my Micra CVT, which has served as a city runabout 95% of the time, except when we made a couple of outstation trips with the extended family in two cars (my other car being Duster 110). The positives of the Micra CVT have been low cost of maintenance, reliable and sturdy mechanicals, and a rattle-free, solid interior that has also fared well (look wise) over 3 years, 34000 km. So what is the issue ?- The lack of grunt due to the CVT seems to be an ever increasing problem, especially on my office commute route which goes through village areas where often you need to overtake slow moving trucks/UVs on single lane roads.
Another peculiar realization is that with crowded traffic patterns in Pune, you get a sense of the car always being either too ahead of the driving curve or too behind (the CVT rubber band effect), especially under load of 2-3 occupants. I sometimes felt that I am able to modulate the throttle response on the manual Duster to adapt to traffic patterns better by playing with the 3rd/4th gears and easing up on the accelarator for engine braking, whereas on the CVT your right foot is consantly engaged in trying to speed up from 0-20, 20-50, brake back to 20 and then encounter the rubber-band. In effect, its becoming a bit boring !
Besides, Nissan is simply not focused on the Micra in the future , and so the brilliant looking 2017 Micra will likely not be brought in India, given the overall response to current gen-Micra itself.
With that in mind, the search for a suitable replacement is being contemplated.Here are the options (petrol only):
i) Replace automatic with another automatic, where we have
a) Polo GT TSI, b) Figo DCT c) Baleno CVT, d) Jazz CVT, e) Elite I20 Auto, f) Ignis AMT
or go for manual hatchback.
Of these, I am not interested in replacing a CVT with another CVT, so Baleno CVT, Jazz are out of contention. The Elite I20 Auto is priced outrageously high compared to the feature list, no ABS
, no rear wipers (wonder what Hyundai is smoking). The Ignis AMT reports are encouraging, but again the Zeta AMT version offers less for the price. More on Ignis a bit later.
As far as Polo GT TSI
is concerned, it has an excellent engine and great transmission (esp S-mode), but cramped interiors. My wife loved the rear-seat ride though.
To add to that the high cost of ownership, DSG uncertainty and lower than expected resale value (after putting 10+ on the car).
The Figo/Aspire DCT
is a bit of a mixed bag. I am not sure what to make of the driving experience. Great numbers (110BHP/136NM torque) on paper, but I felt the car was getting constrained by the transmission, and so driving in the typical 20-50, 50-20 traffic of Pune, the car felt sluggish. Perhaps it would fare well on open roads, but somehow I was not fully convinced. The ride comfort was excellent (they have only an Aspire DCT for test drives for some reason), and the car felt well built and planted inspite of the 14in tyres.
So now, its the turn of the manuals!
i) Elite I20
- excellent driver ergonomics, smooth clutch/gearbox, good build quality, but the performance was just 'adequate'. Somehow I would think it is not a great 'lateral' replacement for the Micra. Although 6 airbags in the top-end version are an important factor.
ii) Newly launched Grand I10
- did not like the driver seat comfort, and dont like the skimpy 165/65R14 tyres. Did not test drive it, will be happy to know if it is worth a look.
iii) Baleno Alpha
- great driver ergonomics, smooth clutch/gearbox, build quality seemed to be okay, and the performance was quite sprightly in all gears. My wife felt that the rear suspension was not great (as is well documented in various forums). Looking forward to the Baleno Boosterjet , but I sense that it will be a noisy, peaky engine with spurts of power, and not amenable for city driving.
iv) Ignis Alpha
- This is an interesting car. My impressions of its drive are mentioned in the link below Maruti Suzuki Ignis Now Launched. Starting Price: ₹4.59 Lakh
I was not a fan of its looks or its rear seat space, but i found out during my test drives that the driver seat comfort is much better than the Micra, the rear seat can accomodate 2 adults (my parents typically) quite comfortably, the boot space is decent, and most of all, the car rides in a very mature fashion on our less than perfect city roads. The rear undulations seemed well controlled at low/medium speeds and the performance, like the Baleno is peppy. The build quality is strictly 'ok', but the overall dimensions of the car have a couple of advantages in terms of parking and a tight turning radius (4.7m), besides a good clearance of 180mm.
Another possible contender I looked at is the Etios Cross 1.5
. Now this may seem to be a really oddball choice BUT
-it is a powerful car (90PS/132NM) and a true upgrade in terms of performance.
-Good seating comfort for driver and passengers
- mature ride quality
- build quality looks ordinary but mechanically felt very robust
- small city footprint with 4.8m turning radius
The obvious negative are the ordinary interiors and lack of contemporary features like climate control etc.
The Toyota salesman however said that they had not received any new 2017 Etios Cross cars yet, and I was in a minority league of people who looked at this car as a second car, most people who can spend 9lac would go for the Etios sedan itself.
So therein lies my quandry. Havent really narrowed down my choices, and am in no hurry either. Have I missed anything else in this range ? Would like opinions from drivers of all these cars to give their views!