Toyota's foray into the hotly contested B-segment is bound to shake up the current competitors. However, Toyota may find that most competitors aren't pushovers. With the likes of the Maruti Suzuki Swift up for a model change, the Hyundai i20 setting new records month after month and the Ford Figo and VW Polo doing decent numbers as well, Toyota have a task on their hand.
We look at what the Etios Liva is up against in the next few pages. From the Fiat Punto and Tata Indica Vista to the upcoming Honda Brio and Nissan Micra-based Renault Clio that are also headed to our shores.
All these cars (with the exception of the Etios Liva and Honda Brio for the moment) have diesel motor options. We look at where the Liva stands next to its competition, where it has the upper hand and where the competition may make life rather difficult for what is the cheapest car in India to wear the T badge.
So what's new about the 'new Swift' you ask? Well, for starters, it does resemble the outgoing car a fair bit deal, simply because it has been loved and accepted by a whole lot of people and that made Suzuki's job even tougher. Instead of radically changing the car, Suzuki have opted to make the second-gen Swift an 'evolutionary design'. The headlamps are larger, the snout is a bit longer and the bonnet has a thicker crease line on either side that join the waistline. In profile, the car doesn't look much different, but it's the longer snout and the wider flared rear arch that make it appear longer than before. The tail lamps are new and the tailgate treatment is quite different too, though we hope it doesn't make loading and unloading difficult.
Internationally, the new model is 90 mm longer, has a 50 mm longer wheelbase, is 10 mm higher and 5 mm wider than outgoing model. That still shouldn't bother the Swift, given the fact that it will stay well under 4-metres and continue to receive excise duty benefits.
On the inside, the new Swift apparently uses better material and is better built than before. That however will be verified once we test the first of the Indian-made Swifts. Nevertheless, the Swift will have features that should continue to keep it competitive in the market. From what we have heard, the top-end variants may have a Start-Stop button, making it the only other car apart from the Micra to offer it in its segment. There will also be features like steering-wheel mounted audio controls which the outgoing-Swift pioneered in the segment as well as Bluetooth connectivity.
Given the larger footprint and overall dimensions, we expect the car to be marginally more comfortable as well, which is always a plus given the relatively tight-confines of the existing car when compared to most other cars in its category. Despite the heavy use of black, we expect some of the silver trimmings found on the European Swift to also adorn the Indian-made cars in higher-spec. Airbags and ABS should be standard on the top-end variants, but whether there will finally be a ZDi trim this time, remains to be seen. The new Swift will come with two powerplants, just like the outgoing model. A 1.2-litre petrol motor with 85-90 bhp and the 1.3-litre DDiS diesel model will be the mainstay of the model range. More powerful motors aren't expected in the interim, but it will be interesting to note whether Maruti Suzuki finally bite the bait and launch a 1.6-litre model on a future date.
The 1.2-litre petrol motor will be the current K-Series motor, but whether Maruti will offer it with variable valve-tech like the European model or skip it for the moment is a matter of debate. With the addition of variable-valve tech, that figure could bump up to 90 bhp or so. The 1.3-litre DDiS diesel will remain unchanged, so expect the same 74 bhp of peak power and 19.4 kgm of peak torque. Maruti is expected to make minor tweaks to make the car more efficient and less-polluting than before, but apart from that the basic nature should remain the same – nicely sorted NVH levels included!
Dynamically, the car will remain as sorted as ever. Expect the same cheerful handling that has got the Swift accolades from the enthusiast lot. Ride quality could be more mature and less thrashy than before. The new Swift also benefits from a new steering setup that is quicker turning than before.
Like the VW Polo, Skoda Fabia, Fiat Punto and Hyundai i20, the Tata Indica Vista comes with three motor options – two petrol and one diesel. It borrows the same motors from the Fiat range that power the Punto – the 1.2-litre Safire petrol with 65 bhp, the 1.3-litre Quadrajet diesel with 75 bhp and the 1.4-litre petrol 90 bhp motor, badged the Vista 90.
The Indica Vista, now on Indian roads for the last three years has helped change the face of Tata Motors as a company that has brought its quality and finish levels up several notches. While the car has still some way to go, before it can match the quality levels of the Hyundai i20 and VW Polo, the Vista does boast of best-in-class space and comfort levels.
Like the erstwhile Indica, the Vista has space levels that can match or even better most C-segment saloons. Legroom at the rear is excellent and the seating position is good for long drives. The use of soft-touch materials on the dash has helped the Vista look richer and plusher than erstwhile Tata cars. It's loaded with features too, with top-end models fitted with airbags, ABS and Bluetooth among others.
The Vista has decent dynamics on offer, though it isn't the most fun-to-drive car of the lot. Ride quality is the vehicle's strength, offering good pliancy and a comfortable ride for its occupants. Handling is understeery, the steering doesn't provide adequate feedback and body-roll, though better controlled than its predecessor, is still some way away from class benchmarks.
The 1.2-litre petrol motor is basic and good for city use but lacks grunt for the highway. It's pretty efficient though, but the heavy kerb weight means you really have to give it some stick to get a move on. The 1.3-litre Quadrajet is refined and has decent power and torque, with nicely spaced gear ratios. The Vista 90 is positioned as the hot hatch of the lot, though performance is adequate and it makes for a good highway cruiser. The 1.4-litre, turbocharged diesel engine is also available, but is not on sale in metros (only BS III compliant). It's efficient, but isn't as refined as the common-rail diesel Quadrajet.
Petrol: 1.2-litre, 65 bhp, 16.74 kpl (ARAI) Rs 3.87 lakh to Rs 4.17 lakh (ex-showroom, Mumbai)
Petrol: 1.4-litre, 89 bhp, 13.5 kpl (BSM) Rs 4.59 lakh to Rs 6.06 lakh
Diesel: 1.25-litre, 75 bhp, 19.23 kpl (ARAI) Rs 4.86 lakh to 6.04 lakh
Where the Liva scores: Better handling, efficiency, Toyota's reliability reputation
Where the Liva loses: Ride quality at higher speeds, has a little less occupant space, could have more features
Fiat's only credible small car currently on sale, the Punto hasn't really taken off on the sales charts. Despite improved build quality and attention to detail, vis-a-vis the Palio, the Punto still continues to lag on the sales front. But that doesn't stop it from being a competent little car.
It's easily the best looking hatchback on sale, with its Maserati-inspired snout and teutonic-like build. That doesn't necessarily translate into the car being comfy on the inside. Space is adequate, given its overall dimensions, the thick A-pillar and swooping roofline and high waistline cut into the car's overall interior space. Solidly built, the Punto is pretty loaded with features on the top-end variants like the Emotion and Emotion Pack with ABS, airbags, Bluetooth connectivity, USB port, multi-information display among others. Rear legroom and kneeroom feels a bit short for its dimensions, while the large dashboard in front also doesn't help in better space utilisation.
What the Punto is, is a very good handling and riding automobile. It rides with a degree of authority that rates it among the best in the segment, and yet, despite its higher kerb weight, it handles very well. Steering feedback is good, the car turns in positively and the chassis feels it can handle a lot of power.
That unfortunately isn't the case. The 1.2-litre Fire powered Punto is okay for city use but feels a bit out of breath on the highway. The 1.3-litre Multijet too is adequate at best, but pretty efficient. What you need are the 1.3-litre Multijet 90 hp version that gives it better top-end performance and the 1.4-litre 90 bhp petrol that makes it a 'warm' hatch.
Petrol: 1.2-litre, 67 bhp, 15.2 kpl (ARAI) Rs 4.4 lakh to Rs 5.1 lakh (ex-showroom, Mumbai)
Petrol: 1.4-litre, 89 bhp, 13.8 kpl (ARAI) Rs 5.6 lakh to Rs 6.22 lakh
Diesel: 1.25-litre, 75 bhp, 19.9 kpl (ARAI) Rs 5.33 to 6.7 lakh
Diesel: 1.25-litre, 90 bhp, 20.0 kpl (ARAI) Rs 7.05 lakh
Where the Liva scores: Toyota's reliability reputation, after-sales service, efficient petrol motor, better space efficiency
Where the Liva loses: Ride quality at higher speeds, not as sporty handling, could have more features
Ford's biggest success story in India to date, the Figo has changed not just the volumes that Ford India now has to deal with, but also the perception of the company - from one whose cars are expensive to buy and maintain with little resale value, to a company that can build and sell cars that are not very different in value and approach that the market leaders offer.
The Figo comes with two motor options - a 1.2-litre petrol with 70 bhp and a 1.4-litre TDCi, Duratorq diesel with 68 bhp. Both these engines are built in India with the car enjoying high levels of localisation, a reason why Ford has managed to price the car competitively. The petrol motor isn't the most enthusiastic of the lot and neither the most efficient. It's a good cruiser and deals well with start-stop traffic, but isn't our pick. The diesel motor on the other hand changes the character of the car. It's good fun to push, is efficient and offers great driveability both in town and on the highway, thanks to well-selected gear ratios.
What makes the Figo particularly good is its ride and handling package. The ride is a bit on the stiffer side, but what you gain is a neat handler with decent amounts of steering feel with quick turn in and good amount of body grip. On the inside, the Figo is spacious with enough room for five occupants for a weekend getaway. The dashboard is shared with the Fiesta Classic but altered accordingly to suit the Figo customer base. On the high-end Titanium variant you get airbags and ABS, apart from a bluetooth system and an optional red treatment on the dash. Ford, however have cut some corners to bring the car at this price and the presence of scruffy plastics all around does take away some of the sheen. Despite being a last-gen Fiesta, the Figo suits well to the needs of most Indian consumers.
On the inside and out, the facelifted Fabia has fewer features than before, but with a substantially reduced price-tag. The strengths of the Fabia are its well-thought out interiors with a bent towards practicality, good interior room, comfy seats and a well-built and finished cabin. The 1.2-litre petrol motor provides decent performance, while the diesel is reasonably quick and efficient. The 1.6 is the pick of the lot that somehow seems to blend performance and practicality in a rather irresistable package.
The car has nice poise and it rides and handles like a larger, more mature car. Ride quality is quite good, with handling bordering on the neutral. In fact it is a more involving drive than the Polo. On the whole, the re-packaged and re-positioned Fabia is a serious contender in the small car market and it deserves a re-look.
Petrol: 1.2-litre, 75 bhp, 16.25 kpl (ARAI), Rs 4.44 lakh to Rs 5.8 lakh (ex-showroom, Mumbai)
Petrol: 1.6-litre, 102 bhp, 15.75 kpl (ARAI), Rs 6.3 lakh
Diesel: 1.2-litre, 75 bhp, 20.95 kpl (ARAI), Rs 5.7 lakh to Rs 7.1 lakh
Where the Liva scores: Petrol motor's efficiency, perceived cost of ownership and reliability
Where the Liva loses: No diesel option for the moment, not as solidly built or as dynamically adept.
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