Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Two fantastic diesels

Two fantastic diesel cars were launched recently, and I sincerely hope both of these do well. I couldn't say two beautiful diesel cars because while one of them is from the same design house that designs Maseratis, the other looks like an Australian hybrid cow. But they both seem set to be champions in their respective segments.

The first is the Fiat Linea. Designed at the Fiat Style House, it has European elegance written all over. In an age when the Japs are busy making their midsize cars look like spaceships, the Linea is simple and beautiful without too many nicks and edges like the new Honda City, which loses it in trying to emulate the beautiful Civic. While the Linea has two petrol variants, it is the diesel (1.3 liter multijet, tweaked to make 90 bhp and capable of 160 kmph) that will sell in the midsize segment, given the price sensitivity in that class.

From the back, the Linea will remind you of an Opel Vectra, and the front grille continuing down to the bumper is a powerful style statement as well. I am an elegant car, and not a wannabe. Here's a design that takes the Linea from the midsize and places it right in the executive segment, where the Civic, Accord, and Camry rule.

What's attractive about the Linea is its pricing. It is priced lesser than the ugly Korean Hyundai Verna and also a lot lesser than the Honda City or the Toyota Altis. Will it be able to wean away Honda and Toyota buyers? There's little chance of that happening, but people considering buying the Swift Dzire (which gets the ugliest car award along with Suzuki Versa, Toyota Qualis, and Toyota Innova), Tata Indigo, and Mahindra Renault Logan will definitely consider this as a viable option. It would have been nice to see Indians falling in love with the European character of a car instead of falling prey to boring Japanese reliability, but Indians are only second generation car buyers and you cannot expect a lot of class and maturity in their choice. They want practical cars, and Honda and Toyota give you stable, practical cars that don't give you any trouble. The fact that they don't give you any pleasure either can be overlooked in a market like this. I would like to keep aside Mitsubishi from this discussion because that's one company that has given us cars that you don't want to part with. You can soup up your Lancer, add a different engine, take it to a rally, and give it a wacky paint job after you have had it for ten years, whereas you will only upgrade from your Honda or Toyota.

Will Tata be able to do justice to the Fiat name? Unfortunately, no. The Tatas make the Safari owner and the call center Indica driver stand in the same queue when they come to get their cars serviced. It is doubtful that they will do any justice to the Linea either. It would have been a different case had Fiat had their MoU with Mahindra and Mahindra.

Coming to Mahindra, the Xylo is the other car that I want to write about. It baffles you at first. Is it as ugly as the Innova? Is it as butchy and mean looking as the Scorpio? It will be nice if you can reach the driver's seat before you can make up your mind either way. If you think it is ugly, you will miss what this car has to offer once you are inside. Plush seating, lots of legroom, unexpectedly sweet ergonomics for an Indian car, and a lighter and surprisingly fast engine. It also has the most spacious third row, and is ideal for the big, fat Indian family, like mine. I sometimes have to take 8 people in one vehicle for distances anywhere between 300 to 650 kms. And the knowledge that they are not trying to fit themselves in in the third row of my Bolero on those two jump seats meant for monkey-sized people is a huge relief. In my Bolero, I always feel awkward sitting in the driver's seat because I know two of them at the back must be cursing the roads and everything else in general.

Will the big Indian family now buy a Mahindra Xylo instead of an Innova or a Tavera? I hope they do. It makes sense because again this baby is priced at 7 lakhs on road, which is way cheaper than the Innova. The 2.5 liter engine of the Xylo produces 112 bhp, and despite the weight of the vehicle, it is very quick. I read that the cons are braking and the lack of anti-roll bars at the back, but I haven't driven one to confirm that yet.

What will it be for you, then? Practically thinking, a person like me should go for a Xylo, but the beauty of the Linea (and the affordability factor) is too tempting to resist.

Images from:


Anonymous said...

I will wait for the Xenon.. am with the Tata's for ages now :-)

But the Linea looks fascinating

Oreen said...

yeah, that's a fabulous pickup indeed.

I looked at the Xylo again and wondered what would happen if we replaced the 215/75/R15s with 235/70/R16 all-terrain radials. Add a Thule rack on the roof, and a black Xylo won't look that bad after all.

Is anybody listening?

Pinku said...

thanks for the evaluation.

agree with u on the looks of the Linea its super good...and if i could i would have picked up one right away.

Rocky said...

Not seen the Linea in real - will comment after that. The Xylo is not so ugly in real. Its loaded with features.

Regarding which one to buy - I think it wrong to pitch both. One is a sedan the other a MPV. Depends one what you want it for.

In fact the ad "the era of sedans is over" - is stupid. What da... why can't they boldly say - "the era of Innova is over". But it worked. They did manage to confuse consumers like you ;) Kidding

Mampi said...

Xylo, Xylo, Xylo,
You just sold the xylo to me.
Btw M & M have hired you??
No offence, just asking aiwen hee.

Till then my Zen Di zindabad.

How do we know said...

oh tell me more.. i want to pick up sth in the 6L range.. it has to be safe to carry a baby in, sturdy and easy to handle, roomy for a kid, and well, not as ugly as a Dzire.. what do u suggest?

How do we know said...

oh, and i m allergic to the smell of diesel. REALLY allergic.

Oreen said...

HDWK, it has to be the Linea for you. But find out about how the Tatas are handling Fiat servicing in your city. They have a dubious reputation in Bangalore.

the mad momma said...

my parents just picked up the Xylo and they're loving it. will send this post to my dad.

the mad momma said...

Yes, we were probably the first to pick up the xylo in this part of the world and I guess our hands on driving experience would be of interest to those wishing to buy one.

We drove from Allahabad to Bhopal and back just a day after taking delivery of the vehicle. Our route while going was via Rewa, Satna, Sagar and then Bhopal and returned via Jhansi/Banda. The last time I took this route on my Fiat weekend was 6 years ago when there was no road to speak off and so was pleasantly surprised to find the MP roads had vastly improved.

It took us some time to get used to the high sitting posture and on very bad sections were one had to dip in and out of crater like potholes you got the feeling of a ship on high seas. The vehicle seemed a bit bumpy so we stopped at Rewa to check the tyre pressure which showed it was 41 lbs as against the recommended 32 lbs.

(Did the guys do the PDI or what?). Anyway we got that fixed and suddenly the whole driving experience changed and brought a wide smile to our worried faces.

I am a die hard diesel fan and I must say the Xylo engine is fantastic. The power is smooth and seamless. Even in the 4th and 5th gears you can gently push down on the pedal and the huge monster just surges ahead and overtakes with ease. The comfort and quiet can fool you easily and before you know it the car starts beeping - which we found it does if you cross 130 kmph

We traversed a wide variety of road surfaces and I must say the xylo behaved well on each of them - yes it probably could not take the ghat section turns at the speed my Fiat would have, but then this vehicle is not meant for that.We did a total of about 1700 kms and got an average of 13.5 kmpl. Not bad - considering the conditions.

The only thing I was unhappy with was the braking. The xylo should have actually come with ABS. At one point I hit the brakes at 120 to avoid a guy who suddenly decided to cross the highway with a bundle on his head and that sent a chill down my back. I realised that you can't hit the brakes of the xylo at that speed. I had to quickly release and press down again to get it back into control. Decided wisely to keep below a 100 after that.

Except for that, its a lovely vehicle and drew a crowd at every Dhaba we stooped at. The two day Royal wedding we went to attend at Bhopal had cars from a 1948 dodge to some mercs and beemers, but believe me our black and silver xylo made everyone stop and take a look.

Want to get one? Well if you want a vehicle in which 2 couples or a family can stretch out in comfort, throw in the baggage and just cruise along at a comfortable speed, then this is it.

This is the first time I am writing on a blog or posting a comment so forgive me if its too long. The mad daughter is going to get really mad. Anyway I must close with a truly hilarious incident. We were driving past Banda towards Allahabad and came across a whole lot of election hoardings of Mayawati all along the route.. While passing a small village we heard a bunch of kids running after the vehicle and shouting. I thought I may have hit something and asked my wife to put the window down and hear what the hell they were yelling for. To my astonishment and my wife's utter embarrassment they were screaming Mayawati!! Mayawati!! My wife who has a short haircut and similar rounded face was to our disbelief being mistaken for Mayawati!

I found it quite hilarious really but my wife however did not find it very amusing!

So that's what the xylo can do to you in a place like UP. It can transform the "aam aadmi" into either a Netha or a Gangster. So take your pick folks.

The mad mommas insane father (using her login since I dont have a blogger id)

Oreen said...

Thanks for you long comment, sir.
Now I see where the mad momma gets her writing genes from :)

I am thinking of the Xylo too...