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Automatics for the people

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Hyundai i10
WHAT’S IT LIKE?
The i10 is arguably one of the finest small cars on the planet today. And be proud of the fact that it is built only in India! Being loosely based on the exoskeleton of the Getz means the i10 feels grown up on the move. Ride quality and handling can be rated the best in the industry, while build quality is simply too good. Sure there is a great deal of plastic, but then you don’t pay a Bentley price either.

CAN IT BURST THE ‘AUTOMATIC’ MYTH?
The fact that Hyundai shares the same gearbox with bigger-engined cars such as the i20 goes on to prove that it can easily handle the 1.2 litre Kappa engine to provide linear power delivery and hence driveability. The four-speed box cannot be used to launch moon rockets successfully, but it disperses 79 bhp and 11.4kgm of torque like cards by an expert rummy player. Driving and parking is a breeze and it is worth spending every additional penny on it if you hate city traffic. The best bet indeed for those who are skeptical about automatic cars in India. It can stretch a litre to 12-13 km with ease inside towns, while returning more impressive numbers on traffic-free highways.

WHAT ARE THE DAMAGES?
There are two variants of the i10 which come with the automatic option. The 1.2 Sports GLZ retails for Rs 5.6 lakh (on-road Mumbai) and is all the automatic you need in Indian driving conditions. The 1.2 Asta AT comes with a sunroof — avoidable, going by the kind of monsoons that we have in our country (they leak, sooner or later!). But only the Asta version at Rs 6.5 lakh (on-road Mumbai) features ABS and airbags (for driver and passenger). It may on the expensive side, but the i10 will prove a great companion to those who are taking their first steps towards driving as well as to those who take a while figuring out their car in the parking lot.     Maruti Suzuki SX4
WHAT’S IT LIKE?
The Maruti Suzuki SX4’s trump card has always been value in a slightly quirky package. It is loaded with all the essential luxury and safety kit like airbags and ABS, but you are seated rather high, thanks to its high ground clearance. Since it is based on a modified Swift platform (more soft-roader than saloon), the SX4 is pretty practical too in the Indian context. And with a new 1.6-litre variable valve tech engine, it has become a wee bit more powerful and refined too.

CAN IT BURST THE ‘AUTOMATIC’ MYTH?
The 1.6 VVT is mated to a four-speed automatic gearbox that is new to this application. In urban surroundings, the car feels relaxed and responds well to throttle inputs, largely due to the strong bottom-end and mid-range torque. It’s only once you hit triple digit speeds that you feel like it could have done with an extra ratio. It starts sounding buzzy and loud in the 100-130 kph bracket and doesn’t feel relaxed for highway use. The trick here is to accelerate gently and force the transmission to upshift. On the whole, it does its job well if you take things easy in life.

WHAT ARE THE DAMAGES?
Maruti offers two variants for the SX4, essentially a standard ZXI automatic priced at Rs 8.4 lakh ex-showroom Mumbai and one with leather seats for Rs 8.7 lakh. Spend a bit more and you can add a body kit to that too, taking the price just upwards of Rs 9 lakh. Does that make it good value? By default it does, considering Maruti is the only company to offer a petrol automatic saloon for under Rs 10 lakh. 

  Hyundai Verna Diesel AT
WHAT’S IT LIKE?
The Verna was and still is a very robust car. Although rather under-rated, the diesel engine provides ample power for the highway and relatively good economy in the city. Styling won’t give an Italian supermodel a complex, but it’s nice enough to be parked in your building. A decent handler, the Verna also boasts great ride quality and a supple suspension set-up. Interior space is a snug fit for an average sized family of five; just make sure that it’s the kids who sit at the rear. With this car, do not expect exotic wood inserts on the dashboard nor leather seats. What you get is what you pay for — a good all-round family car that can handle the brunt of daily city commuting and occasional jaunts into the country.

 

 

CAN IT BURST THE ‘AUTOMATIC’ MYTH?
With 109 horses on tap and 24 kgm of torque from the common-rail diesel injected engine, the Verna isn’t sluggish. We haven’t seen the Verna crush any land speed records, but what the inline four can do is fling the Hyundai to a top whack of 175 kph. The gearbox shifts seamlessly, but once your right leg gets heavy, the shifting through the cogs becomes apparent. Refined on the whole, the sole thing that the automatic tranny needs is a sports mode to make things more fun. Traffic crawl is now a mere tapping of the accelerator and brake and even the most arduous of commutes is far easier in a Verna automatic. What are the damages? There is just one version of the automatic Verna and that’s the 1.5SX. The ex-showroom, Mumbai price tag of Rs 9.4 lakh gets you peace of mind in traffic and a good all-round car.     Hyundai i20
WHAT’S IT LIKE?
What is the secret of the i20’s huge popularity in the country? What did the i20 do right that its predecessor, the Getz, couldn’t manage? Certainly, the i20 is not exactly cheap, still Hyundai easily sells about 5,500 units a month on an average. And don’t bother asking Hyundai why the i20 is so successful — they themselves have been taken by surprise! What we can certainly tell you is that the i20 is a good-looking, contemporary car that’s easy to pilot for the driver and comfortable for passengers.

 

 

 CAN IT BURST THE ‘AUTOMATIC’ MYTH?
The i20 has the unique reputation of being offered with three different engines paired with three different gearboxes. Of these, the bigger petrol-engined 1.4 is the one that gets the four-speed automatic transmission. The 1396cc motor develops 98.6 bhp and 13.9 kgm of turning force which provides it with enough go for most applications. The additional power helps, as the automatic gearbox tends to absorb the fun factor out of the effervescent engine (as an aside, a five-speed manual with this motor would be nice). The drivetrain does a decent job within urban limits, suitable for our city driving conditions. It is not too enthusiastic a gearbox, so it is not exactly a car you want to participate with in a traffic light grand prix. Take it easy and let it take the stress out of your commute.

WHAT ARE THE DAMAGES?
The very fact that the 1.4 i20 automatic doesn’t qualify for an excise duty cut (it’s bigger than 1200cc) means this version of the car is not cheap. Hyundai offers only one version of the automatic i20, the Asta, which retails in Mumbai for Rs 7.84 lakh. But for that price, the car comes fully loaded — it comes with tick marks on all the boxes, including the ones for safety. While it may not be cheap, it still remains the only large automatic hatchback you can buy today.