Fiat accomplished


In my garage
A well run-in cobalt blue Fiat Punto joined the Business Standard Motoring long-term fleet on my insistence. The Skoda Laura was sent back to its maker (I worried that I was spending too much time in VW Group cars!) with a thank you note. The Punto is arguably one of the best-looking hatchbacks in India today — it is another thing that the car has already received a minor facelift in Europe. Slightly iffy build quality (doors that don't shut well on the first try; different shades of blue between the plastic bumpers and the sheet metal body; mild squeaks) apart, there’s a lot you'll like. First, the way it dismisses bad roads — Fiat has put to good use what they learnt from the A178 (Palio) world car exercise while choosing the underpinnings of the Punto for developing markets. I was switching from luxurious cars thrice the price, yet this little Italian was proving that it is clever engineering and not list price that matters. And I am already impressed by the mileage that hovers around 15 kpl of diesel despite severe traffic conditions. I always had a soft corner for Italian cars, but normally they feature ten-odd cylinders and 500-plus horses. Stop tugging at my heart and behave like just another runabout, you little Punto!

In my mind
The media has gone overboard with Toyota- and Honda- bashing. Last week I gave you my view on the issue. It now seems that these extraordinary companies are victims of their own tremendous success. Toyota is taking the brunt of a recall storm all right, but the fact remains that they have revolutionised car building and have made affordable, safe, economical and reliable cars a reality for millions. It makes me think that this is part of an extensive ploy to get back at the Japanese carmakers who have forced erstwhile auto giants into bankruptcy or got them to the verge of it. C’mon, get back to building good cars and let the buyer decide! 

Car of the week
Long flights, missed connections, crowded lounges, duty-free window shopping taken to another level… All is forgiven when you get to spend a day driving a brand new BMW. More so when that day involves driving on scenic roads in and around Estoril, near Lisbon. If the road lined by the deep blue Atlantic on the left and gentle hills on the right was not exotic enough, a visit to the erstwhile Formula 1 track of Estoril was. The new car is more conventional to look at compared to the Chris Bangle-designed model it replaces and features a double wishbone front suspension as well as electric power steering — conceptual departures that underline the facets of the newest BMW. With this car, BMW is admitting it is time they took the ‘luxury’ in their ‘luxury sport sedan’ image seriously. The car now rides better, steering is easier on the driver (though there is less feedback now), yet the sportiness is there for enthusiasts to enjoy. Good news then, for over 80 per cent of BMW owners in India who will rely on the services of a chauffeur.

Bike of the week
What is missing in my garage is an on-off road scorcher and I’ve wanted to add a suitably modified Yamaha RX100 to the list. Looks like the wait is finally over, as an RX135 with a five-speed gearbox will join the fleet soon. Fluorescent green frame, white tank and panels, knobblies front and rear, green mud-guards and a raised handlebar should bring my very own two-stroker to an all-new life off-road. Now to get all that done before the rains!  

Question of the week
How many of the £1.2 million Ferrari 599XX will be built?

Only 29 over two years — this is Ferrari’s way of conducting R&D with the help of its discerning clientele. Buyers get an extremely rare, er, test mule.