Tuesday, December 26, 2006

K's Honest Car Reviews Part 4 : Zen Estilo

When you get a free car, you learn that you should not crib, even if it is Pink! Now, while I am fairly confident about my sexuality, driving a Pink car (or using a Pink phone, for that matter) is a bit much. Pink is the new Blue, creative folks in advertising might argue (referring to Hutch, which might not remain Hutch for too much longer), but a Pink car is a bit too much even for me. Maruti countered, that it really isn’t pink, rather it’s a nice ‘Mauve’ or ‘Light Baingan’ (that’s what it is!) or as my friend Sam kindly put it, ‘Fushia’. I don’t care, any which way, it was Pink, not a glorious Baby Pink or a stunning Magenta, but still an affront to my masculinity. I think.But, that isn’t the point. The point is the new Zen Estilo. Honestly, can can dismiss the driving dynamics bit with the following words – ‘Remember the Alto 1.1?’ Because, underneath that it what this car is, the underpinnings of the Alto with Maruti’s 1063cc engine which is frugal, not terribly rev-happy, but it gets the job done, with a bit of harshness, but that could be put down to the fact that the car still hadn’t been broken in. On the whole, the old Zen was a far, far more involving car to drive.

My mother had one till she upgraded to a City, this was one of the first Zen’s off the line with the then new MPFi engines and my god, that car rocked. The new car, while not sharing the unsteadiness of the WagonR at speed, is not as much ‘fun’, but ‘fun’ is a subjective term here. The old car rocketed off the line, push it hard off the line and you could go with tyre smoke and throw it into a sharp bend , or throw it into a handbrake turn, it gave you its all and there was no better small car at that than the old Zen. I loved that little car and I was sad to see the thing go when it did. The new car, as I said, gets the job done, it can go fast if you mash the gears, maybe even contemplate 150k’s on the speedo, but it doesn’t feel like fun, like the old one did
However, the monovolume shape, which imparts the car a part-Matiz/part-Innova/part-Honda City look, doesn’t do much for me from the outside, however, the insides is where this car scores. Big time. Even though I used the top-of-the-line four lakhs or somewhere around thereabouts VXi model (without optional ABS or the driver-side airbag) and even though this seems to have borrowed liberally from the WagonR parts bin, the two-tone brown-beige interiors, with a not-so-bad silver touch to the centre console and unbelievably good plastics (for a small car!) it felt nice. Honestly, there were times I really didn’t care that half the people at the Zakir Hussain Marg red light were staring at this guy wearing a button-down shirt and tie driving a pink car!
The problem with the Estilo, even though it shares the WagonR’s platform, is that while interior space is better – luggage space included (best in class, maybe, I don’t have figures though!), the tapered shoulder of the car means that there is no way you’ll fit three grown men at the back. Three grown people is a bit of a stretch in a WagonR, but this car, like the Alto is a four-seater, even though Maruti markets it as a fiver.
This car will not compete with the Alto (which is cheaper) or the WagonR and Santro (which pretend to be family cars) but maybe puts more pressure on GM (if bad aftersales and a bleeding bottomline wasn’t bad enough) to market the Spark, because this car suddenly killed that car’s value proposition. It has also given a decent alternative, thanks to its ‘interesting’ colour choices for those of us who have alternative choices in life. And if you’re single and you don’t want a boxy tall-boy, you got this ‘monovolume’, which isn’t a family car, it isn’t a fun car, but as a city runabout and maybe on the small off-days with someone (not the whole jing-band) this felt sensible even.
Just don’t buy it in Pink if you're a guy!


Bonatellis06 said...

ok, nice but so many options you've left to the readers have left me confused.
If I cut to the chase, here's the question:
my wife wants to trade in her 4 yr old Santro for something new. does she go in for Zen Estilo or not? If not, then what is the better choice at the 3-4 lakh range?

simran said...

pink cars - dreamy. i'd love to be driven in a pink car but just so it doesn't feel too staid i'd probably accessorize it with a distressed red leather seatcover. now that would be a very whimsical fashion statement but i'm not sure the husband would agree.

Anonymous said...

There is no doubt that Zen estilo is a better value for mpney than Santro..
Check out comparitive stats at Maruti website

S.Kumar said...

Hi read my comments at the link
Zen estilo is by far the superior car!

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