Saturday, May 19, 2007

good motoring
Season of ‘safe’ hatch-backs
H.Kishie Singh

Its raining hatch-backs. With Maruti offering the Estillo and Swift, the floodgates seemed to have opened. The latest offering from General Motors is the Spark. In my opinion, it is one of the best-looking cars in the market. Actually it’s the Daewoo Matiz of yore and offers some interesting features. The most interesting feature is that the instrument panel is centre-mounted on the dash-board, not in front of the driver as is conventional. Possibly, it has the best safety features. It has 14 impact bars, in the doors, front and rear and the ‘B’ pillar extends into the roof. So if the car overturns, the occupants have protection. The roof won’t cave in. The doors are non-jamming, being made from a one piece sheet metal. The engine is referred to S-Tec, is 1000 cc with 4 cylinders, 8 valves and puts out 63 bhp.

The Spark has impact-absorbing bumpers and will take a 15 kmph bump without any hassle. Great for the parking lot. Tyres are tubeless. McPherson strut suspension up front and torsion beam axle at the rear. All shocks are gas filled. The Spark has a 100.000 km 3-year warranty. GM also offers a service package. It costs Rs 7,600 approximately and is good for 3 years or 45,000 km. All service will be provided free during this period i.e. engine oil, filters, air cleaner, brake oil, spark plugs.

This service is a first in the industry. The Spark is available as the 1.0 E, 1.0, 1.0 LS and I.0 LT. Prices range from Rs. 3.09 lakh for the base model to Rs. 4.30 for the top model, which is fully loaded. Power steering, power windows, body-coloured bumpers are available in the medium-range variants.

Fiat has introduced the new Palio Stile. It comes with a 1.1 litre engine, 4 cylinders and 2 valves per cylinder. The fuel tank has an increased capacity of 47 litres and the manufacturer claims 15.5 km per litre. This gives you a cruising range of over 700 km. The highway fuel consumption could be 17-18 km per litre. The reason for this would be a lower kerb weight and a 1.1 litre engine. The Stile has four-wheel McPherson independent suspension. The interior remains unchanged.

In the 1.1 litre engine there are three variants. The SL is priced at Rs 3.56 lakh. The SL has no power steering or A.C. The SLE, priced Rs. 3.77 lakh, has power steering, A.C. and two power windows in the front doors. The top-end SLX model at Rs. 3.97 has four power windows, lights, de-fogger and rear window wiper.

The 1.6 litre Palio Stile has a four cylinders, a16-valve engine. It puts out 100 p.s. of power as opposed to 57 p.s. of the 1.1 litre engine. The cost is Rs. 4.38 lakh.

Hyundai has brought out the Getz Prime with a 1.1 litre engine. The changes are cosmetic with possibly a more spacious cabin. This gives a sedan-like feel, courtesy the Space Wizard design. The variable seat-folding options provide versatile combinations. The driver has an arm rest. The Prime is equipped with ABS brakes and has a clutch lock, meaning you have to de-press the clutch before starting the car. Basically, the cars remain unchanged. There are four variants—- the GLE 1.1. at Rs 3.91 lakh, the GVS 1.1 at Rs. 4.21 lakh, the GLS and GLY, both 1.3 litres, at Rs 4.89 lakh and Rs 5.24 lakh, respectively. The owner’s manual is available in French, Spanish, Italian, German and, of course, English.

The introduction of the Logan is bound to make waves simply because of the price and options offered. Most important, they offer a diesel option. They also offer a price that is hard to ignore. The 1.4 litre petrol engineed Logan is Rs. 4.38 lakh. It has AC and heater but no power steering. For Rs. 4.82 lakh you can get power steering. The 1.6 litre petrol engine Logan is priced at Rs 5.78 lakh and is fully loaded and has a driver’s side air-bag, a feature not found in more expensive models.

Happy motoring.