Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 1, Issue 16, Tuesday, September 16, 2003







wheels and deals

Prelude to the hunt
WHY would you buy a brand new car? Doesn't it seem like the act of the mentally insane considering the first year depreciation? Some cars especially relatively unknown luxury marquees can lose as much as 20 percent of their original value in the first one year. But then again any car except the likes of Ferraris devalue the moment you drive away from the shop floor.

Would you buy a brand new car? Doesn't it seem like the act of the mentally insane considering the first year depreciation? Some cars especially relatively unknown luxury marquees can lose as much as 20 percent of their original value in the first one year. But then again any car except the likes of Ferraris devalue the moment you drive away from the shop floor.

A new car is more than the monetary sum. Gone are the days when carmakers could fob off a lemon onto the public based on good looks. They have to provide reliable cars so that the customers do not dump them. Reliability is the norm. It assures you peace of mind as you drive off a car that has traveled very few kilometers after its birth. A new car gives you that assurance knowing no one else has mistreated it before your ownership.

By June 2004 reconditioned cars will no longer be brought into the country. It means anyone wanting a new ride get precisely that; a new ride. The following is a list of most of the 2003 models.

All good things come in small packages.
The saying may be true in view of our traffic situation. Mini cars are so much easier to squeeze in between the other cars. Also it's a hoot to park in the tiny apartment allotted parking spaces. Add to that the low thirst of the small engines that leave your wallet looking nice and healthy at the end of the day.

If you want a trunk to carry extra luggage go for a Toyota Echo. It has a 1300cc and costs 9.5 lakhs. It is a cute looking car with lots of curves. The theme is followed in the interior with an oval centrally mounted instrument panel that may seem odd to most drivers a first. It has the nicest steering wheel with three spokes and a fat rim. It also comes with airbags and 85 bhp provide plenty of acceleration.

Navana offers financing for Toyota with the help of Al Baraka Bank with 25 percent down payment and 14 percent interest on the rest.

Opels 1400cc Corsa is another funky little car with lots of rounded styling costing 7.9 lakhs. Fiat sells several models of small cars within 5 to 10 lakhs. These are mostly contemporary designs of which the Palio is a notable one that also has a diesel version.

If you want performance in a small size check out the Proton Satria Gti that costs almost 14 lakhs. It's a 1.8 litre two-door hatchback with spoilers, side skirts and suspension tuned by Lotus. Reliability is exceptional as these are based on previous Mitsubishi models. Check it out at the Proton showroom in Panthapath.

Other than the cars mentioned above the rest of the small car segment consists of Japanese brands that are made in India. Although these are not that good in terms of build and material quality in context of our country these offer something that you could use without worrying too much about scrapes and dents. Also the engines are relatively primitive in design and can be fixed by the general "haturi mistri".

Suzuki has made a name for itself in the micro car segment. Most of these are assembled in India and are quite good. The cheapest and smallest is the Maruti Suzuki 800. It's a wheezy 3 cylinder 800cc car being the most basic car available. Fit and finish are rather poor but the mileage and reliability are the things you get. It is not very pretty with shiny cheap interior plastic and dashboard graphics that resembles an arcade game console. At 3.65 lakhs it is a bargain basement car. Others on offer are the Alto and Zen by the same company. These have slightly bigger engines which translate to a bit more power. Also these have a design more in tune with the present century than the Maruti 800. The latter has the same lines it had 20 years ago.

The Zen also has a diesel variant. Contrary to popular belief diesels are not the smoky loud and noisy vehicles they used to be. The engines clatter a bit but that's normal. What you get is a huge savings every time you go to fill up at the pump. The Zen has a 1500 cc diesel engine.

Another small car that has a diesel variant is the Tata Indica. Both engines come in 1400cc guise and both cost 5.9 lakhs. The car has a smart wedge design and comes with power windows. Oddly the rear window buttons are located close to ankle level. There are speakers on the dashboard but surprisingly there is not even a radio. Audio equipment has to be dealer fit later. The petrol engine delivers 75 brake horsepower that translates into pretty fast acceleration in such a small car.

The Suzuki Wagon R is a smart boxy design that has lots of headroom and comes with an 1100cc 64bhp engine. It costs 5.75 lakhs and comes with power steering and fully reclining seats that pretty much become like an airplane seat so you can have a good snooze. It also warns if you leave your headlights on after turning off the engine. The Suzuki showroom is along the Tejagaon Road.

If you want something bigger these are the cars to go for. Suzuki's Liana is a tall and narrow car with looks that you either love or hate. It does have a nice interior with powered steering and windows and a digital dashboard. The 1300cc car costs 8.95 lakhs and comes from Japan.

Hondas City comes next in size offering 1.3 or 1.5 litre engines. The price is about 10 lakhs for a fully loaded car with automatic transmission. The Civic follows at 12.5 lakhs for a 1.5 litre engine delivering 110 bhp. Just slam the door shut and listen to the deep satisfying thunk. The showroom is in Gulshan 1

Nissan offers the Sunny which starts from 9.7 lakhs for the basic 1300cc car and 13.5 lakhs for the 1600cc Super Saloon version. You can order it in manual or automatic modes. It has a hidden exhaust so wannabe racers cannot show off their chromed exhaust tips. All the Nissans come with standard equipped ABS and EBD systems to ensure safer braking. Nissans distributor Pacific Motors in Gulshan 1 offer financing with 30percent down payment and 5 years to pay the rest.

Toyota offers a 1300cc variant at 12-13.5 lakhs and a 1500cc model for 16.5 lakhs that comes with disc brakes on all four wheels along with ABS.

The Mitsubishi Lancer is a similar car with similar equipment at 13 lakhs. It has a revamped interior with soft touch dash board fittings and very easy to reach controls. With the new head lamp design introduced a few months ago the car has a more aggressive stance.

A touch of luxury
If you like Jaguars then you will love the 2000cc Hyundai Sonata. It looks like one with its four round headlamps and jeweled tail lights. At 19.5 lakhs it is the cheapest of the luxury barges and comes with the usual wood embellished fascia and leather upholstery.

Next in line is the Honda Accord at 23 lakhs for the 2.2 litre version with all the electronic gizmos fitted as standard. Audiophiles get CD player with remote. Of course if you want something a little more aggressively designed check out the Mitsubishi Galant. The nose design looks as if the car is leaning forward. It is similarly priced like the Accord and if you choose the Galant VR you get added power with body kit.

Volvo has come a long way since its shoebox shaped cars of the 80's. The present S40 starts at 23 lakhs for the basic 1600cc model. Basic here stands for all the safety gadgets like airbags and ABS braking. The S80 starts at 40 lakhs for the 2000cc 180bhp turbo version that comes with such gadgets as a hands free GSM phone on the dashboard. Prices go up to 46 lakhs for the bigger 2400cc turbo model with 0-100kmph in about 8 seconds. Now that's fast for such a big car. If you're worried about servicing Volvo has a computer database for all cars since 1998 that uses a laptop to plug into the cars onboard computer and detect any problems whether it is for the engine, suspension, electronics, transmission or brakes.
A1 Motors in Tejgaon offer 70percent loan that can be repaid in 5 years with a down payment of 30percent.

The Toyota Crown comes at 55 lakhs and has all the toys but doesn't look as good as the Volvos.

Mercedes offers the C and E class. The former starts at 55 lakhs and the latter from 65. There is a midnight blue E200 Kompressor on the showroom floor costing 73 lakhs with huge 17 inch diameter wheels. Kompressor after any Merc name means that it is supercharged. In layman's terms the air is force-fed into the engine to create extra oomph! Also the car has an option called Linguatronic which is a voice activated system to use all the electronic gadgetry without moving a finger. For your parking convenience there is the Parktronic which measures the distance between your car and any other object and gives visual and aural cues.

If you step across the road you enter the BMW showroom of Executive Motors which displays a huge 7 series with a love/hate design. It has the trademark twin kidney shaped grill and four headlamp cluster. Compared to the previous model this looks bloated. Frankly the backside looks like a huge chest has been shoved in with a hammer. Sadly prices or performance matters couldn't be discussed by the salesperson for reasons unknown. Wonder how you buy the car. Beside it is parked a beautiful blue 325ci convertible at about 75 lakhs.

Soft roaders
Here we call them 'jeeps' which actually happens to be an American brand name. These are cars that you use to pretend that you can go off road in. In fact, most are designed with off-roading in mind but they hardly see a speck of country mud mixed with manure. It's all about urban mud if you please.
We started off with the Suzuki Ignis. It's not really a car because it has a high ground clearance but then it isn't a 'jeep' either. We slotted it into this category because it has permanent four wheel drive. At 1300cc it wouldn't fare very well in serious country mud. In the city though it excels over all the potholes. At 10.55 lakhs it is a bargain with air conditioning and power everything.

The Suzuki Grand Vitara comes next at 18.55 lakhs and a 2000cc engine. You can drive in two wheel drive mode for better fuel efficiency and shift to 4WD on the move when more traction is needed. It has all the usual electronic gimmicks with many cupholders and couple of 12 volts plug points to use your electronic goodies. You can shave and toast your bread while on the road for days.

Honda offers the HRV at 16 lakhs which looks like an elevated station wagon. The restyled CRV with its triangular headlamps cost 22.5 lakhs and both cars come with every conceivable electronic goodies. Safety features like immobilizers, ABS and EBD (electronic brake distribution) are standard. The latter helps to put appropriate pressure on the brakes depending on the speed and traction. Toyota has a similar offering like the CRV called the RAV4 and costs about 25 lakhs.

Nissans X-Trail is the revolutionary new design with centrally mounted instruments that take a while to get used to. The engine packs adequate punch and costs 19 lakhs. It has polymer fenders that are color coded and do not dent when hit by car doors or other objects.

Serious mud slingers
Now these are actual off-roaders that are designed for mud but they re usually too busy plying the city streets with their menacing bull bars and terrifying fuel consumption.

Other than the usual Nissan Patrols and Mitsubishi Pajeros you have the 2.7 liter Toyota Land Cruiser Prados. The mouthful of a name comes at a price of 22.5 lakhs for the locally assembled units. These have rather primitive suspension setups and have a stiff ride. Imported models cost about 40 lakhs and have all the necessary goodies.

The SsangYong Rexton RX230 is a handsome off-roader that has a hint of the Mercedes M class. This is because it is licensed by Mercedes. This alone is a guarantee of its reliability. On the outside it is a futuristic design with leather seating for 7 people inside. The wood trim is a bit over the top though. It costs 27 lakhs and also has a turbo diesel variant.

Speaking of Mercs why leave out the M Class? Prices start at 70 lakhs for the snooty faced vehicle. If your bank account is large enough to give mathematicians a head ache then go for the AMG tuned ML 55 costing 1 crore 40 lakh. AMG is an official tuner that turns already powerful Mercs into crazy maniacs. Crazy here is defined as 5439cc V8 engine that delivers 347bhp. That translates to a 6.8 seconds time to reach 100kpmh and on to 235kmph. Just remember that this is one heavy vehicle. With so much speed comes all the safety features like the usual ABS and airbags and the unusual side airbags that pop out from the doors to cushion you in case of a side collision. Of course when you're stuck in the jams entertain yourself with the optional 9 speaker Bose audio system and DVD player. The options list takes up several pages and delivery times are about 5-6 months.

The BMW X5 offers an aggressive looking design and comes in 3.0 and 4.4 litre variants. The prices are again hush hush according to the salesman for reasons very much unknown to us. Maybe that is why the off roader wasn't in the shop even.
Of course if you want an off-roader to beat all others check out the brand new Range Rover from Land Rover. It has a box shaped design in tune with the classic 70's style with clear lensed lights, blacked out windows and straight body panels. It's the interior that awes with brushed aluminum, leather and wood symmetrically arranged to mimic the looks of a top end stereo design. It's the interior to benchmark all other interiors. Prices should be around 70 lakhs.

Pile in the grandparents as well
People carriers, multi purpose vehicles (MPVs) or microbuses; call them what you want but these are basically glorified vans. That doesn't make them bad though. These are the cars with a snubbed front and have enough space inside to take in the children and the grandparents with space left over for the kitchen sink as well.

Toyota offers the Lite Ace but it comes in basic form with no multiple climate control, no CD player, no nothing. You will be better off to buy the reconditioned ones termed Noah that come with all the necessary soul pampering equipment and decent suspension to prevent the kids throwing up. Both types cost a little less than 10 lakhs.

Hyundai on the other hand delivers a smart little unit costing 11 lakhs called the Matrix. Whether it's inspired by the movie or not the design has a certain crispiness. If you look around you will notice a label bearing the legend Pininfarina. That's the Italian design studio that comes up with all the Ferraris. At least you can brag that you have a designer car. There are of course actual bragging point such as a smooth 1600cc engine, powered options ad clear visibility fro all angles.

Hondas 7 seater Stream is a van that looks a bit like a station wagon. It costs 21 lakhs and comes with a dashboard mounted 5 speed automatic gearbox that can also be shifted like a manual for faster acceleration. The Germans call it Tiptronic, the Swedes call it Geartronic and others surely have different names but this clutchless manual cum automatic transmission basically performs the same functions.

The Honda Odyssey is a van per se. Its large 2.2 litre engine has plenty of power and costs 24.5 lakhs. Both Hondas come with the usual ABS and EBD features.

For the cool and the curious
Nothing says cool like a fast convertible. Volvos C70 is in stock and costs 65 lakhs and delivers a whopping 250 bhp. 7.5 seconds to 100kmph should be a breeze. The car in the showroom is in deep blue with blue highlights for the leather seats. There is the usual wood garnish which would be better without.

The Alfa Romeo 156 is a beautiful work of art and looks smaller then in the pictures. It is the same size as that of a current Corolla. What sets it apart is the distinctive retro dashboard design and the narrow head and tail lamps. Some cars bark while others growl but the V6 when revved up has a beautiful rasp that sets your hair on end. Price starts from about 22.5 lakhs.

For those of you who are looking for the next best thing check out the completely remade Nissan March coming in December. It has no components in common with the present model but has the trademark reliability. As you know the cars like March, Corolla, Lancer, Sunny etc are over present. They never seem to die which is good for the consumers who buy a car pretty much for life. The March will cost about 8 lakhs and has taken design cues form the new Mini and the Volkswagen Beetle. It even has a body kit option that completely transforms the front to resemble the Mini. Don't look at it as a copy but as a compliment to great design.

The Nissan 350Z and the BMW Z4 are special cars. The latter is a 2 seater convertible priced about 56 lakhs. The 350Z is a sportscar delivering appropriately 350 horsepower. That is blistering performance for roughly 40 lakhs. The best thing about the Nissan is it is not a technological feast meaning it can be relatively easily maintained.

Families can look for the Toyota Camry coming early next year at a price of 24 lakhs. Another new Toyota will also be here that looks remarkably like a Carina. This is because it is a Carina with a new name. Toyota decided to change the name to Avensis a few years back.

The epilogue
The cars listed so far come with electronic engine management systems. Even the Maruti 800 boast of a 16 bit micro processor although it is a decade too late. It helps to serve you the power with less wastage of fuel.

Almost all the cars come with catalytic converters which neutralize the gases before they are let out. Other safety features include the ABS system to help you steer the car while braking hard. Generally the wheels look up and you slide without changing directions even with the wheel is turned. This is environment friendly too considering how you don't damage the trees with a head on collision. In case you do collide there is the airbag to protect you. Most cars also have anti whiplash seatbelt systems that prevent your neck from snapping in case of a rear end collision.

The best reason to buy new cars is that the manufacturer already evaluated what the country is like. For example the Indian cars have a strong suspension which is perfect for our potholed streets although this creates a stiff and jerky ride. Fuel adultering is a common practice which fouls up the engines. If you use bad fuel on an EFI equipped engine you will notice a light knocking sound whenever you accelerate. The new cars come to this country with these conditions in mind. Also whenever your car needs servicing or parts replacement the manufacturer will be able to fit the exact part. This might prove a little more expensive than taking to a regular Kashem Bhais Workshop but it pays off in the long run.

By Ehsanur Raza Ronny and Mishel Ali Khan



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