Well, it all started with me buying Alto LX in 2006. When confronted with a choice of LX Vs LXi, I opted for LX since I had never driven a car with power steering till then and hence, never realised what I was going to miss in the years to come! Additionally, "Real men don't need Power Steering" sort of false bravado was also working full time. So, with a huff, Lxi was discarded and Lx embraced. Happiness prevailed till I got to drive my first power steering equipped car - a Hyundai Accent. The immediate exercise, as a result, was to chase all Maruti dealers of Bangalore (I was in Bangalore then) asking for installation of power steering. No one said it cant be done but no one displayed any enthusiasm which could have inspired some confidence in me to take the plunge! I even thought about selling this Alto and buying an Lxi, a proposal that was promptly shot down at its germination by the other sensible person in the house - wife! (The first one is my daughter, of course!) So, ever since then, I was on a lookout for something better than an Alto LX. Why Hatches?
Single Child. No pets (Dogs, Cats etc). Transferable job, so parents stay with me only on vacations. Hence, Hatch is perfect. (My daughter hates the Alto, though! Says "I'd rather go in an Auto!!". She is one car and bike crazy person. Her room has Volkswagen Passat posters instead of Justin Bieber and she identifies a Hayabusa at a time when I am still at "Oh! A superbike!"). In my view, if you dont have a need for Sedan, stick to a hatch instead. An ideal combination, if you can afford it and have space to park, is to have a hatch and a sedan or a hatch and an SUV. Ride comfort is not very high on my priority whereas squeezing into gaps in traffic is. So, Hatches, despite their smaller wheel bases, work for me. What Alto couldn't do?
Cycles! Those who have read my intro may know that cycling is one of the things that I like doing. What I couldn't do in my Alto was carry my cycle along with the other two passengers. And, of course, my old grouse - My Alto couldn't Power Steer! Quick Decision!
If you have Cycles + Two Passengers + Hatch in a single sentence, there is one other word that usually accompanies this - Honda Jazz. That's it. Simple decision. No road tests of different cars. No calls to dealers etc etc. So, did I get the dream car so easy? No way. Read on. Honda Jazz Evaluation
Saw and drove my friends 40,000 km old Jazz and frankly, I was blown away by the smoothness of the engine (Remember, though I had many hours of driving under my belt, all of it was on three pot engines!). What impressed me no end was the spaciousness of the car. The most amazing thing was fantastic engineering to carve out large internal space out of a comparatively small external footprint. Boot was great and so was the fit and finish. Brilliant! Handling was satisfactory. That's it! Game, set and Match - Honda Jazz! Decided on the Jazz X Model. The "City" Bug!
Life gives you choices when you don't need one! At the end of the day, one has to go through all the trials and tribulations before the dream car lands on your doorstep! A friend of mine was buying a Brio and reps of Automax Honda (Bhikaji Cama Place) landed up at my office for him to fill out some paperwork. Why they came in a City VMT is still beyond me but soon, I was in the City's driver seat, taking her out for a spin. Ride quality was same as Jazz, no major difference that I could perceive. Handling was also similar. Surprisingly, driving in Delhi traffic (in terms of road space occupied and squeezing in gaps) was also the same as a Jazz and both were not very different from an Alto!! Big Lesson! "Squeezability", if there is a word like that, depends on width and not the length! So, in my view, a three box is as drivable in traffic as a hatch of a comparable width though parking may be a different ballgame altogether. While the rest of me was not greatly impressed by City as compared to Jazz, my right foot came out smiling after caressing that accelerator. What a brilliant engine!
Next twenty five days were spent measuring the two cars. Boot size - will a cycle fit in a City Boot - Distance of furthest end of car from drivers seat - width of both cars - and the list goes on. What made the decision even more difficult was that both cars were within my budget. Finally, undecided, the matter was referred to the female of the species (wife and daughter). Daughter said - "Audi, but I'll settle for a Passat", father said "You are born in a family of limited means!". Wife wanted to sit in the City. At the showroom, as she sat, I saw the sparkle in her eyes. Oh No! She fell for the Beige interiors, just as Honda intended, I thought! Booked the City within 24 hours of that! Buying Experience
The car was bought from Lally Motors, Patiala. My case was handled by Mr Vinod and what a gentleman he was. I am gaga over this dealership. No schedule slip ups. Reached Patiala on 25 Oct 12 and they were gracious enough to pick me and wife up from the Bus Stop itself. (The journey to Patiala by an ordinary bus from ISBT Delhi is another story of a Lead Footed, Pressure Horn Equipped Driver at the helm of a rickety but fast Punjab Roadways bus). Car was immaculately prepared. Did the PDI and everything was fine, except that I could not get Michellins and had to be content with Goodyears. I wasn't prepared to wait for Michellin equipped car and so, accepted it. Quick pooja at the dealership and we were all set.
Pati, Patni aur woh!.
After PDI, my instructions were to remove all polythene covers from everything includung the steering height adjustment lever! And no ribbons/ sashes. It was followed, as you can see. The Machine
I'll let the pictures do the talking, helped by a few captions.
Lets get inside!
L-R : Seat Height Adjust, Boot Opener, Recline Adjustment
The center console
Gear Lever - Love its feel!
Glove Box - pretty spacious and snaps shut with a reassuring albeit loud click!
Indicator Stalk with Headlight and Fog Lamp Controls, on inner side of the stalk. Fog lamps can be switched on only if either headlights or parking lights are ON.
Standard Wiper stalk
IRVM is Day/Night type
ORVM is sturdy, folds both ways and has indicators mounted on it (in VMT). On the inner side of the Mirror, one can see the Tweeter Enclosure
Window Control and Mirror Adjust for driver. It has one touch Auto up for the drivers side and is illuminated (Only the Auto Part).
Window control for the 'Lesser Mortals'!
And now, here's something that I did not find very many pictures of on most fora! The OBD Port!
A far off shot, taken low from driver side entrance. You can see the brake and clutch pedals. The Port is just behind the center console, under the steering. It can be seen far in white colour.
And we get closer
And even closer!
The OBD plug press fits into the metallic frame for stowage. If you try to connect the OBD scanner with the OBD Plug in-situ, most will foul with the plastic from center console. The plug needs to be disengaged from the frame (as shown below) and then OBD scanner can be plugged in. I am using ELM327 Bluetooth along with Torque Android App. Works like a charm! PART II Initial Drive Experience
Looks and Colour - Love it but not worth a discussion - beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder!
Engine - Gem! But, she has the two LOWs. LOW end torque is LOW, but was not too bothersome since I was migrating from Alto. I keep my Alto on the boil in every gear. Don't have the tacho to know if I am redlining it but it sure heaves a sigh of relief when my wife gets behind the wheels! That training notwithstanding, managed to stall it twice in the first two days trying to pick up from the second gear at crawling speeds without raising throttle. Have adapted now. Normal changeover is presently being done between 2000 to 2500 rpm.
Gear Box - Another gem! Very smooth, reasonably short throws. Sure slotting. Pleasure to hold. No vibrations seeping on to the Gear lever. Overall, very good.
Ride - First ride from Patiala to Delhi, on 26 Oct 12, was pretty supple. However, when I checked tyre pressure, it was between 26 and 27 PSI. (I have a Michellin Digital TP Guage). When I filled air to make it read 30 (Rear) and 32 (Front) using the same guage, the ride was pretty jarring. Got Nitrogen filled to 30 and 32 as per Guage at Petrol Pump. Now, the ride quality has been restored to original. So, I am concluding that my Guage needs calibration! I still feel that Hyundai Accent rides better.
Handling - Not chucked her around much but what little I have seen, there is perceptible body roll. Its not like the tall boys or High GC SUVs but perceptible considering it is a reasonably low slung sedan. Steering is delightful (only checked up to speeds of 120kmph) and steering the car is a pretty low gain task.
Cruise Control - It has three steering mounted buttons, shown here.
Left most button is a push on push off button, which only energises the CC circuit to a status where it can be engaged. We get a caption of Main ON on the dash. Above 40 km/h, CC can be engaged by pressing the SET button. The current speed is held. Cruise caption is illuminated along with Main caption on dash, as seen below [Pic taken on Yamuna E Way by my wife (Pretty steady hands, don't you think!)]
Speed can be varied by Accel Decel button. Each press varies speed by 1.6 km/h. You can use the accelerator with CC. As soon as you release the accelerator, the speed will reduce to the set speed. Anytime clutch or brakes are touched or cancel button is pressed, Cruise disengages but Main caption remains on. At speeds above 40 km/h, if RES or resume button is pressed, the previously set speed is resumed. This speed stays in the memory as long as Main circuit is energised.
Ergonomics - The placement of most controls is spot on. However, I felt that the seats are pretty wide for me and both my elbows don't rest when holding the steering, which is further not helped by a non-movable centre armrest. The steering itself feels nice to hold and so does the gear lever. Central locking with remote works well (no security alarm though). It unlocks all doors including fuel cap door. Thereafter, fuel cap door can be opened by one press on it and closed by the next press. Boot has a light.
ICE - I am not an audiophile but I dont like booming bass. I like some trebble and bass needs to be tight.
I believe its an Alpine system. Sounds pretty nice. But I do find the door vibrating slightly and booming, which seems to spoil an otherwise basic but decent SQ of the system. Perhaps, as most experts say, damping the doors should improve this. comments/ suggestions/ corrections welcome. Sore Omissions
1. ACC; could have been given instead of Cruise Control at the same cost.
2. Electrically retractable ORVMs - Even Jazz X has them.
3. Ability to operate power windows for some time (one raising or so) after turning off the car. Again, Jazz has it.
4. Self locking doors after the car starts moving
PART III - Accessories, still under work, will be up soon.