Its surprising, but I've never been a petrolhead in the sense that I want to go out and take part in a race or want to fiddle around with a car too much. Even though I do play around a little bit - I've never really had the money to seriously play about with a car - new filters, turbos etc. One of the reasons I do envy Americans is because of the ease of playing about with motor vehicles. I mean only the Americans would put a jet engine in a bike - and then have a celeb buy it. And I think Chip Foose who does amazing things to cars - see Overhauin' on Discovery T&L (also see Miami Ink on that channel, amazing show)
I've never been one for dramatically altering the exterior looks of a car because I think most cars look far worse when you emblazon them with tens of ugly stickers, than they do when they leave the factory. Even though that really can't be said for the Orange Chevy Aveo I'm driving right now. Its BRIGHT ORANGE for gods sake. Well, it isn't as bad as the Parrot Green, no not quite Parrot Green, almost Floroscent Green Opel Corsa Sail that GM gave me, which was embarassing to say the least. I mean even in a city notoriously colour-blind (please visit GK-I M-Block or any of the Gurgaon Malls to understand what I'm talking about) I was being stared at almost everywhere, even in West Delhi. It was scary, kinda like advertising yourself having an seriously alternative lifestyle, which I don't.
Anyway, back to the point of this post. I've covered the Indian automotive industry for the last few years and I've always believed that a good automotive reporter should drive the vehicles made by the manufacturers - I have therefore driven motorcycles, scooters, mopeds, cars and even a truck (once). Of course, this is a very facile argument - one person told me that a good liquor correspondent should therefore be a drunkard, to which I replied yes, but you get the point. Cars are different, and honestly I like driving and if you drive around in a vehicle a bit you will get an idea if it will sell or not, because at the end of the day a car has to give you basic levels of performance and comfort. The problem is because this is a purchase decision you make carefully, you want much more from your vehicle. The reason I'm writing this post is because everyday I get asked what is the best or the worst car to buy for XXX lakhs. I really don't think I can ever give someone an honest answer, because the car I wouyld want to buy might be totally different from the car you should buy.
But, I do get asked a lot nowadays by people who have between Rs 7-8 lakhs to spend on what car they should buy. Essentially you have three choices - the Honda City, the Ford Fiesta and the Chevrolet Aveo. I would buy the Honda City EXi ZX. Why? Because, to quote Jeremy Clarkson here "Johnny Jap knows how to screw together a car." Also, inside the city the car has fantastic milage and it because of its mad space-age looks, it not only feels futuristic but has more interior and luggae space than either of its two competitors. However, because I don't have another lakh to spend I cannot go in for the VTEC engined City, but the 77 horses that the New City churns out is fairly sufficient for the City and it is a very comfortable car to drive.
But, if I just want fun and I have a company taking care of the petrol, I'ld buy a Ford Fusion. Not the Fiesta, but the Fusion, because weirdly enough, I feel the Fusion handles better. That said, the Feista also has tremendous handling, this car likes being thrown around. Well, not the diesel model because it never has the power to be trashed about, but heck, you shouldn't complain when you get fuel ten bucks cheaper. Which is why I feel if you do buy a Fiesta, buy the Diesel with ABS. If you want a petrol-engined Ford and don't mind the petrol bills (Really it is not as grim, it gives around 10-11, the Fiesta gives a kilometre per litre more), the Fusion is a great car, but it is a lot smaller inside than it looks. I enjoyed the Fiesta when I drove it, but as I said, the only compelling reason to buy the car is the Diesel engine.
Now, we come to the third of the lot - the Chevy Aveo. Well, actually it is a Daewoo. It is actually a Daewoo Nubira. And it did pathetically in a recent EuroNCAP crash test. Of course, no Indian automotive magazine will write about that little fact. However, while driving around Bombay yesterday, I liked some things about the car other than the fact it was bright orange, not that it made much difference under Sodium lights. The 1.6 engine is peppy, but is coupled to a very irritating gearbox, optimised more for open road driving than the city - this made my 30-minute drive through Peddar Road in the evening pure hell, as I kept on stalling until I got a hang of it, and I'm not a bad driver if I say so myself (the car is very 'jerky' between gear changes because it tends to declutch a bit faster than you expect). On first gear, the car likes to be revved, which can not be terribly great for milage. As for the 'Mindblasting' performance that Rani Mukherji promises us, well, if I had to buy a car for performance I'll still buy the Fusion. The car moves decently fast but because of its 'tallish' feel, it doesn't exactly handle like a pocket rocket - which the it replaces, the Opel Corsa did.
But, since you spend most of your time inside rather than outside the car, the insides do matter. The Honda City has the most space, but the Fiesta has the best driving position in my view. The Aveo has the best toys (and the fake wood fascia) which includes a great sound system - which should never be a reason to buy a car but, it is really good. The Aveo also has ABS and airbags, so you really can't complain about fitment and it is priced very aggressively.
Yet, there is another reason I'ld buy the Jap car. Its called depreciation. Ask any Ford or GM owner in India about depreciation and they would tell you a tale that would bring even a strong man to tears. A story that a friends father told me about his four-year old Rs 9.5 lakh Opel Astra Club being sold for just over a lakh, makes you cringe. But ask any Honda owner about how well those cars hold value and they will tell you that the cars are good. No auto magazine in India writes about depreciation, but they should, because more and more buyers I know nowadays are factoring in that crucial factor. Ford and GM have worked a lot on the vehicles they've brought in to India, and they've made them great value propositions, but they really have their job cut out on the depreciation front.
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