Me: I moved to India after working in the US for the past eleven years and as you would imagine, driving a automatic for so long - I intended to buy an automatic in India. Keeping in mind the traffic in India and also the fact that I will have to get used to driving here,I decided I should go for a moderately priced car and try to upgrade later. Keeping this in mind I decided to analyze cars in the Rs 10-Rs 12 lakh range.
My usage would not be much - usually around 150 -200 Kms a month (plus an occasional outstation trip). I explored the car market, read a number of reviews and spoke to my colleagues and based on my research shortlisted the following:
Honda City AT
Notice I opted for all sedans so - the I10 and I20 AT were ruled out.
Verna was easy to eliminate since it had no Air Bags and a new revamped model is scheduled to come out around March 2011. Still cannot digest the fact that the Verna AT
is almost Rs.10 lakhs OTR and comes with no air bags!!
The fight between the City and Vento was indeed a close one.
The City had a number of good things going for it - excellent engine, well established company in India, good resale value and complete peace of mind. But the interiors of the City left a lot to be desired. No offence to City owners, but IMO
the interiors never excited me. My first impression of the interiors turned out to be disappointing. The knobs on the dash looked very cheap and honestly knobs on sleeper class trains looked better! I do believe that Honda is short changing customers with respect to interior features.
Part of this, may be due to lack of competition in this segment but with the advent of Vento, maybe one can expect more from Honda. Also in the City, there are hardly any storage space for rear passengers. The City's outside view is awesome but for me the deal breaker was the interiors and they did not come up to my expectations.
When I asked for deals for the Honda City considering the fact that I was shopping for a car in December - the dealer laughed at me and said this is Honda - we give no deals.
The next day he called and I told him that I would be going for the Vento - He then offered me free insurance worth approx Rs 25K on the Honda. So much so for the Honda!!
I had seen the City and Vento on different days and before finalizing my car, I thought it would be better if I see them both again on the same day. This way I would be able to appreciate the finer points in the two cars and this could help in my decision making.
Next, enter the Vento and I could immediately see the difference. The exterior, though not as dashing as the City held its own and Vento definitely had a elegant look. It looked sturdy and ground clearance was better than that of the City.
The interiors were very pleasing. Simple, uncluttered (exactly as Europeans like it and so do I!). The slightly tilted dash looked good and there was ample storage space inside. The automatic climate control was intuitive to use as was the rear AC vents. (Both these features were lacking in the City). The Vento, though good was not perfect either. I was disappointed to see that even the Highline version did not come with a Aux or USB input for the audio. But the accessory list had this covered and I had to pay the difference to get a upgraded unit with the AUX and USB inputs installed. Rear view from this car is not good and parking sensors are a must for this car. Test drove the car and was satisfied with the road handling. The steering wheel had both telescopic and height adjustment and the cabin was quiet once all the windows were rolled up. An added convenience is a lever on the back of the front passenger seat so the rear passenger can adjust the front passenger seat by turning this lever from the rear side itself. Time will tell how useful this feature would be.
Inspite of what the carmaker says - this car is definitely not a 5 passenger car. The reason being the hump on the floor for the middle passenger on the rear seat is quite pronounced. In fact, it can quite incovenience the middle passenger on long trips.
Even for tall passengers, the rear seats are comfy with ample leg room.
I called the only dealer in my city and was told that they have 2 automatics - once which was already booked and sold and the other was available. Turned out the second car was booked by an NRI but he would be in India only in March and so the dealer wanted to dispose off the second car. I was lucky in the sense that I did not have to wait to get delivery of the car - I can bring the money and take the car!!
The odometer of the car showed 32 kms and was told that this was due to the distance between the stockyard and the showroom. I checked the VIN number and it showed it as 2011 model and month of Production as October. (Also insisted to see a copy of Form 22) The dealer was surprised when I showed up with the PDI inspection list and went through that list exhaustively to make sure I am comfortable with the car. (Thanks again to this forum for the PDI list).
I have driven the car for around 100 kms (City only) now and here are my observations Pros:
Good Sturdy looks
Automatic climate control (probably the first in this segment)
Rear AC vents
Good ride quality
Lots of information on the MID (Multi Information Display)
Remote Key opens doors, windows and boot
One touch windows
Neat, small, foldable keys Cons:
Not a 5 passenger car because of the noticeable hump in the rear
Rear View vision is limited
Only one coffee cup holder for the rear seat passengers - Volkswagen takes care of the Sethji only? Not the better half??
Driver seat has no vanity mirror - Don't women drive the Vento??
If you change the temperature on the Automatic climate control - the rear ac vents take a few minutes to recognize it. (It's not instant like the front AC vents)
Even the Highline AT version audio does not come with an AUX or USB as standard.
Volkswagen provides same manual for Polo and Vento. Moreover the manuals also refer to left hand steering which is not used in India - Adds to the confusion.
Spare tyre is 14 inch while the other tyres are 15 inch.
No free services. - First service is due at 15000 kms/1 year
Here are the accessories I bought:
1) Head Unit Nippon NDC-MP 9019 BT (had to pay the difference of cost to the old HU)
2) Floor Mats
3) Leather Seat Covers
4) Car Cover
5) Sun Film
7) Parking Sensors
Took me less than a minute to pair my Ipod touch with the head unit using Bluetooth. I can now listen to any song on my Ipod wirelessly through the car speakers and this in fact makes the AUX and USB ports redundant. Pairing my mobile to the HU was similarly quick without any issues.
On the way out, I did tell the dealer this is my first car purchase in India and he was shocked. He told me very few customers come so well prepared and with the kind of exhaustive checklist I had, he had assumed that I was a veteran car buyer!!
All in all, thus far, I am pleased with what this car has to offer for the price.
I have uploaded a few pics of the car.
Will post updates as and when there are any.