Hola, señores! WHY
DID WE WANT A NEW CAR?
We bought a Hyundai Santro (the pre-Xing model) in 2001 and the car is still going strong eleven years later. In recent months, however, it had begun to show its age. Furthermore, a single car was no longer meeting our needs, so a new car was definitely an urgent need. I am an interior designer, and the car will primary serve as my workhorse vehicle. I drive around 1,000 kilometres per month, most of which is within the city limits. We will also occasionally go on long drives up the hills of Darjeeling, Sikkim and Bhutan. WHAT
DID WE WANT FROM IT?
One of the decisions made early on was that it would be a sedan. My father was quite fascinated with the Honda City and had made up his mind years ago that that would be our next car. And while a small car is far more practical in a small city like Siliguri, the heart is sometimes more influential than the brain.
The budget was set at around ₹10 lac and the list of requirements was pretty short: it had to be a Honda City. This is how the Santro was bought years ago (when I was too young to have any say in the matter), market research be damned, and this is how he wanted it to be this time.
But for me, the priorities were roughly in the following order:
- Equipment list
- Ease of city driving
- Seating comfort
- After sales service
ONES DID WE CONSIDER?
My brother’s mind was set on the Chevrolet Cruze, which was significantly outside our budget. However, we had heard that it was possible to get the test driven vehicle
from the dealer at steeply discounted prices and were expecting it to fall within our budget.
So that’s where we started… Chevrolet Cruze
: We loved this car! This was the 2009 model and I’d read about the hard clutch, uncomfortable rear seats, cheap build quality and significant turbo lag, but none of that seemed to matter to us when we gave it a test drive. Although the stiffness of the clutch did bother me, it was in no way a deal-breaker. The car’s fabulous performance and impressive equipment list won us over. This was the car we would bring home.
But that was not to be. When we spoke to the dealer about the price, he said that we’d have to wait four months for the car’s test drive period to expire and the price would be in excess of ₹12 lac. We also knew for a fact that the owner of the dealership used it as his personal car. We could pay the amount he was asking for, but we didn’t want to buy a thoroughly used car at any price. So even though it was an excellent car, the Cruze was out due to budget constraints. Renault Fluence
and Sköda Laura
: We considered these two cars from the Cruze’s segment and loved them both for different reasons, but eventually had to stop lusting after these vehicles when we realised that they were simply outside our budget. It was time to descend to a lower segment. Mahindra
: These companies were already out of the running because I absolutely hate them. I have no respect for companies that make purely utilitarian products in any industry. You can tell me all about how many service stations they have, what mileage they give or how many people have these cars, but the simple fact is that they do not excite me. Mahindra’s vehicles have very poor quality, Suzuki’s are just plain boring, TATA makes taxis and neither of these companies pay any regard to aesthetics. So they were out. Nissan Sunny
, Sköda Rapid
and Renault Scala
: All of these vehicles do that platform sharing business, which is just a fancy term for we-are-so-lazy-about-are-designs-that-we-don’t-mind-making-one-car-and-selling-it-under-different-names. They were also out. Besides, Nissan doesn’t have a showroom here, and the other two cars are also crappy. They get poor reviews and I wasn’t impressed by the test drive of the Scala either. Chevrolet Optra Magnum
and Fiat Linea
: I noticed while conducting research online that both of these cars have an almost cult following. They are not too popular, but the few people who do own them seem to love them. For me, however, a long equipment list was a must-have, and both of these cars fail to deliver on that quite spectacularly. What’s more, I find the Fiat logo to be terrible. I hate it so much that that alone is reason enough for me to not consider its cars.
That left me to choose between the Ford Fiesta, Honda City, Hyundai Fluidic Verna and Volkswagen Vento.
Initially, I wanted a diesel car because of the presumed lower cost of ownership, but some online research and careful calculations made it clear to me that it would be very unlikely that, with my estimated annual running, the diesel engine would end up being any cheaper for me over time.
But then I test drove the diesel versions of many of the cars mentioned above, and in every case, I found them to be far better than their petrol counterparts when it came to sheer driving pleasure. None of the diesel engines felt any harsher to me than their petroleum cousins, and the former were definitely more torquey and powerful. You step on the pedal and these diesel engines surge ahead like a freight train.
I had never owned a diesel car before, and I knew it would cost me more, both initially and later when getting them repaired, but I was sold on diesel engines. This meant that the Honda City
, my father’s choice, was disqualified. In any case, it is far too common, has a short equipment list and the front looks quite ugly. Ford Fiesta
: Initially, I was convinced that this would be my next car. I liked the fancy equipment list, the dual clutch automatic six-speed transmission, the awesome safety features and the Ford drivability. In pictures, I thought it looked pretty swanky, but I was disappointed by its looks when I saw it in person. The real buzzkill, though, was the lack of keyless entry and a bunch of other fancy features. If I needed to take a key out of my pocket to get in, the car was out, no questions asked. Volkswagen Vento
: Audi is one of my most favourite luxury car companies, and just knowing that it is owned by Volkswagen has made me want a Volkswagen car for a while. However, despite the very forgiving eye with which I was looking at the company, I couldn’t help but notice that it was essentially ripping the customer off. Forget the Vento, even the more expensive Jetta only had about half the features of the Verna. It pained me to stop considering Volkswagen, but it simply didn’t have what I wanted from a car. Hyundai Fluidic Verna
: I had read a lot of reviews of the Verna and was mightily impressed with the car from the get-go. Early on, I thought it looked a bit too feminine, specially since I was comparing it to the muscular profile of the Cruze, but its styling grew on me. I now think it is the best looking car in its segment by a significant margin. Then I saw the impressive features list, and I was blown away by it. Really? For just ₹10 lac (for the petrol variant)?
I knew about the suspension issues, the shifty handling at high speeds, the lack of steering response, the slight turbo lag, the lack of under-thigh support in the rear seats, the stiff middle seat, the weak bumpers and the lack of full-size bottle holders—but when I took it out for a spin, I came away with a huge grin on my face. I don’t know how happy I’ll be once I’ve driven it over the congested, pothole-ridden roads of Siliguri for months, but for now, I cannot look past the absolutely loaded cabin and the 126 bhp engine.
So the car was decided, but we still didn’t know which variant to choose. My initial choice was the diesel automatic, because—well, why not? It was the top model and I had always wanted an automatic car. But with the on-road price shooting significantly past ₹12 lac (and way beyond our original budget), my father had to step in and put his foot down. That, combined with the facts that it is only a four-speed transmission, isn’t dual clutch, has lower fuel efficiency, no extended warranty and possibly higher maintenance costs, sealed its fate. The CRDi SX (O) AT trim was out of the running.
After that, I was trying to decide between the diesel manual and petrol automatic variants. I wasn’t quite ready to sacrifice the power of the diesel motor, but I also wanted the convenience of an automatic. My father was more inclined towards the petrol version too, so I went to the showroom to book the VTVT SX (O) AT.
Just when I was signing on the dotted line, however, I had a strong sense that I was making a mistake. This trim had the lowest fuel efficiency in the entire lineup and I would be sacrificing the power and six-speed transmission of the diesel manual to be stuck with a four-speed gearbox and a far more sedate petrol engine. I changed my decision on the spot and left the showroom with a CRDi SX (O) trim booked in my name. HOW
DID IT GO?
The booking process was painless enough. The staff at Durga Hyundai in Siliguri was very helpful (though not always as knowledgeable as I would have expected) and was never pushy. They set me up with test drives of three different trims of the car, which is basically unheard of in Siliguri, and left me free to make my own decisions. It was clear that they were interested in selling the car on its own merit, not by goading and hassling the customer into making the purchase.
I did, however, insist that no one should take my new car for a test drive, like I had done of the unfortunate people who’d ordered theirs before me. This is standard policy here and my only other option was to purchase the car blindly without a test drive (except in one petrol variant). They have assured me that they don’t delay deliveries to use them as test drive vehicles, so if I pick it up on the day it arrives, I should be all set. Luckily, the showroom is a short walk from my house, so I’ll make sure that no one messes about with my car.
I purchased it in silver and it is currently in transit, with delivery expected on Monday, December 10. I paid ₹50,000 in advance and the on-road price is going to be ₹11,91,048, if I pay the ₹35,268 to get the car insured through the dealer. They’re saying that they will throw in a bunch of basic accessories, but didn’t agree to give any discounts. This car sells itself, so that was to be expected.
My only sticking point is that they are quoting an ex-showroom price of ₹10,87,715, whereas both Hyundai’s official website and the toll-free helpline have it listed at ₹10,76,946. The showroom people tell me that the extra ₹10,750 is for transportation of the vehicle, even though they are separately charging ₹3,000 for handling. Does that sound right?
Another question: is it a good idea to get the insurance done through the dealer? I know I am paying a higher premium, but have heard from a lot of local friends that it is worth it, because they take all the hassle out of filing a claim. If I get it online through TATA AIG, it will cost me ₹35,457 for the zero depreciation plan or ₹31,345 for the regular. Can someone guide me about the best course of action please?
That’s it for now. Consider this a prologue; I will update this post to include the ownership review once I actually become an owner. I hope that will be comprehensive enough for you folks. (Oh, who am I kidding? The friggin’ thing is too darned long already!)
Thanks for tuning in.