Good Motoring
Power-packed small car
H. Kishie Singh

Let us face it! The Maruti 800 changed transport concepts in India like nothing before or after. To make sure the "after" stays forever, Maruti has updated the 800 to new levels. It still has the three-cylinder 800 cc engine but has been updated to meet the Bharat Stage V emission norms, which come into force in 2015.

The new 800 shares the platform with the Alto. There is nothing much to say about the 800 since it has been on the roads for over a quarter century and is loved by one and all. India is the country for hatchbacks. One of the most loved, cuddly and cute cars ever made is the Mini. It looks much the same as the original from the 1950s but is packed with modern mechanicals like disc brakes, ABS and more to make it truly a mini bomb, as it was known. It is to be a two-door, four-seater but the rear two passengers have to be midgets or very small children.

The price of the Mini Cooper is expected to be Rs 12 lakh
The price of the Mini Cooper is expected to be Rs 12 lakh

The original offering will be the Mini Cooper available with 1600 cc engines in both petrol and diesel. The price is expected to be Rs 12 lakh (approx). Expect it early 2012. The Mini Cooper will be followed by a convertible and the Countryman, which is a cross-over. It has five doors. This could cost about Rs 20 lakh. Whichever model you buy, the Mini makes a statement and has a road presence.

Another promising car will be a Renault hatchback. It is the Pulse, which was shown at the Renault party during the F-1 extravaganza. Informatively, Renault engines power a number of F-1 cars. It will be built in Chennai at the Renault-Nissan factory. It will share the platform with the Micra and so will have a lot of Nissan Micra bits and pieces.

The size will also be the same. However, it could beat the Micra in fitments. It will be launched at the Auto Expo in January with the 1.5-litre dCi engine. The 1.2-litre petrol will come later. The prices will range from Rs 4 lakh to Rs 6 lakh.

Ford has had tremendous success with the Fiesta Sedan; so it comes as no surprise that Fiesta is going to be available as a hatchback next year. The mechanicals will not change, neither will the main body. The boot has been chopped off, and so it becomes a hatchback! The 1.5 Duratec (Petrol) and Duratorque (diesel) engines will power the cars. The price will be about Rs 6.50.

Fiat has upgraded the Punto and called it the Punto Evo. Actually, it is a lipstick and nail polish job. New front grill, new headlights, new tail lights; the front and rear bumpers have been changed. Under the skin it is still a Punto and under the bonnet it will have the petrol engines in 1,200 cc or 1,400 cc capacity, besides the 1,300 cc diesel capacity, which have been around for some time. The price will be between Rs 5 lakh and Rs 6 lakh.

Chevrolet will introduce the Sail hatchback. Like all Chevy products, it is a very good-looking car. The small car is big on space, always a major selling point with all Chevies. It will share the 1.2-litre petrol engine and the 1.3-litre Fiat multijet diesel engine from the Beat, plus many more other nuts and bolts. This will keep the price of the base model at about Rs 4 lakh. The top-end model could be around Rs 6 lakh.

Skoda has had a lot of success with its many models on Indian roads. Why not? It is VW engineering and VW makes some of the best cars. The Fabia was one example. The Fabia has a new avatar, the Fabia Scout. The main change is the lack of a 4x4-drive train. Suspension has been raised to give it more ground clearance. The engine is the same as Fabia, 1,200 cc petrol and diesel, plus a1,600 cc petrol. The price ranges from about Rs 6 lakh to Rs 7 lakh.

The Reva Electric has been around for many years without success. Mahindra has bought out Reva and infused new life into the vehicle in the way of improved mechanicals. Ooops! Electricals! It has an electric engine. The looks have changed; it is a good-looking, sleek, three-door hatchback with a huge glass area on the sides and rear. The front end is somewhat confusing. It has a huge radiator grill. What for? It does not have a radiator to cool the engine. It is electric. No engine.

The three-door four-seater family hatchback will be sold in two versions the NXR City and the NXR.

The NXR City has a lead acid battery and a range of 80 km with a top speed of 80 kmph. Great! You won't get any overspeeding challans. The NXR comes with lithium ion batteries with a range of 160 km and a top speed of 100 kmph. This, of course, would be the more practical choice.

It is the ideal second car for city driving.

The next column will feature new Sedans for 2012.

Happy motoring.