Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Our Car Story Unfolded



Reviving my blog after almost 5 months and wanted it to be something special. It is all about how we bought our car and simultaneously explaining the frequently used terms, technology when dealing with cars. This article may be helpful to you as brief guide. This article has been complied with help of my twin brother 

The toughest task
Never imagined that selecting a car is a tough job. Buying a mobile phone feels very simple !. The first and most important consideration is the budget, first set the budget range and then look out for cars. For every 10,000 rs increase in your budget, a new model or variant will be added to the comparison list. There are tons of features, you need to prioritize them before buying one. These features can be broadly classified in to four types

1) The Engine
2) Safety
3) Comfort and Convenience
4) Miscellaneous

These four features are sorted according to "our" priority and may vary according to individual requirements. Every car will have its unique selling points (USP) and  disadvantages. It is ultimately the buyer who needs to select them based on his/her requirements.

1) The Powerful Engine: Engine is the heart of a car, no second thoughts about it. It is the most crucial part in experiencing the pleasure of driving a four wheeler. An engine power is determined by two outputs 

i) Brake Horse power (BHP, some companies mention this as kilowatt, KW) 
ii) Torque (measured in newton metre, Nm)

Diesel engines will give you good torque ( how much capacity it can pull) but lose out in the horse power (how fast it can pull) whereas petrol engines are vice versa. Besides these, the maintenance costs differ between both engines and considering the recent ban of diesel cars in Delhi and heavy taxes, buying a petrol car is a safe choice. For our usage (which is less than 1200 km per month) petrol engine suits well. Hence we made our first choice that it should be a petrol car. We wanted the engine to be a powerful one albeit our budget is around 10-11 lakhs. Our priority is a minimum 100 horse power (HP) engine with very good amount of torque  (minimum 150 nm)

An automatic transmission will give you the best comfort in ever increasing Bengaluru traffic (and similar metro cities too). Automatic transmission comes in two forms 

1) a continuous variable transmission (CVT or fully automatic) and 
2) automated manual transmission (AMT or semi automatic transmission where you can shift gears with out clutch pedal). 

There are several other components that come in to picture like valve configuration (SOHC vs DOHC) or the geometry of the valves (variable vs waste gate) which are beyond the scope of my knowledge or this article. For a common buyer, these are not bothering things other than whether it is auto or manual transmission.

2) Safety
Safety of a car is equally important like that of its engine. We listed the following safety features as mandatory list before comparing

1) Two Airbags minimum (4-6 would be really great)
2) Disc brakes with anti lock braking system (ABS) (4 disc brakes are welcome but 2 are ideal for a sedan like vehicle)
3) Electronic Stability Program (ESP)
4) Traction Control System (TCS)
5) New Car Assessment Program (NCAP) rated
6) Brake Assist (BA) and Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD)
7) Hill Hold and Descent Control


Other small yet important safety features include height adjustable seat belts, alloy wheels, front and rear fog lamps, double beam head lamps or preferably projector headlamps, speed sensing auto door locks etc. Unfortunately most cars which are available to middle class range are not equipped with many of these features especially in the low trims.

3) Comfort and Convenience
This is where most car manufacturers attract people. From manufacturers point of view, providing these features will cost them less compared to safety features and powerful engine. Moreover, it makes the marketing team's job easier. The costliest comfort feature one can go for without second thought is the automatic transmission. You will know the comfort level when you drive in cities like Bengaluru but this comes at a higher price (almost 0.80-1.5 lakhs more than manual variant cost). Other comfort features that are worth considering include the automatic head lamp projectors that turn on in darkness and rain sensing vipers that automatically clean the windscreen when its raining or drizzling, an armrest for long drives and a rear AC vent for equal distribution of air.

Coming to the convenient features, one can think of power outlets (12V charger points) in all seat rows, one touch power up and power down windows, steering mounted audio controls, paddle shifts (for automatic transmission only), cooled glove box, cruise control and dead pedal for long drives etc. The most convenient feature could be the keyless entry and engine on/off button.

4) Miscellaneous
These features include the spare wheel, navigation systems, sound system, reverse parking camera and sensors etc. Most of these features are actually post market customizable which means you can get them later when you have money (Should be careful as some fittings void warranty if touched).

The two main points which we did not discuss here but influence lot of buyers is the design and color, and mileage. Design and color are purely subjective in nature and should be considered based on the buyer's taste. For me, both these are neutral. We like both the sporty look design with fancy colors like red as well as the classy design of cars with dark colors. Regarding mileage, engine performance comes with fuel cost and you have to sacrifice either of them.

The following cars fit in our category in sedans and hatchbacks
 1) Hyundai Verna (SX variant)
2) Honda City (SV CVT)
3) Volkswagen Vento (TSI) and 
4) Polo GT (both Vento TSI and Polo GT TSI have the same engine with very small difference)
5) Skoda Rapid

and in the light utility vehicle (LUV) or compact SUV segment 
1) Ford Ecosport with ecoboost turbo 1 L engine
2) Renault Duster (RxL)

We initially zeroed in on Volkswagen Polo GT TSI. Ford Ecosport also meets most of our requirements but because of lack of automatic transmission in Ecoboost variant, we didn't prefer that. Other competing cars miss out one or two features which we thought are really important like ESP which is absent in almost all sedans/hatchbacks of similar price range.

We approached Volkswagen Whitefield showroom, with lot of excitement, in Bengaluru to enquire about the Polo GT TSI and any year end offers (since it was in December). We were disappointed to hear that GT TSI is the only model of Volkswagen that has been sold for three consecutive years, since its launch, without any discount except the corporate discount of 3000 rupees! We were also told that there would be a waiting period of around three months for red color, although the sales guy tried to convince us by saying that he could provide the car in four days if we pay the booking amount right away. Since there was no discount on offer, we had to rethink about our choice. By the way, the sales guy also said that he could give up to 75000 discount on select manual variants of Vento! We then approached Volkswagen Palace Cross showroom. Although we heard the same news about no discount offered on Polo GT TSI, we were pleased to hear that there was 75000 rupees plus corporate discount (8000) on offer for Vento TSI comfortline model. This has helped us choose Vento TSI over Polo GT TSI as the on-road price of Vento was 11,65,000 against 10,45,000 of GT TSI after all discounts.  

Volkswagen Vento TSI 1.2 Comfortline
VW Vento was first released in Indian market in 2010 and since then underwent many changes in its design and features. The recent facelift launched in June 2015 is the last modified one.

Our car model : Vento TSI Comfortline
Model year : 2015
Color: Toffee Brown
Fuel: Petrol
Volkswagen Vento 1.2 TSI Comfortline, Toffee Brown



The RFID based key

First thing that comes to our mind when describing the car will be the "premium" feel. Right from the logo on the key to interiors like dash board to exteriors like paint quality, everything looks premium both by look and feel. 

The engine is 1.2 litre (1197 cc) turbo stratified injection (TSI, is a direct fuel injection system coupled to a twin charger - turbo and super charger) with 7-speed direct shift gear box (DSG, a registered trademark of VW CVT technology) with dual clutch mechanism. In dual clutch transmission, one clutch employs a gear (for example odd number gears) while the sensors monitor the car movement, anticipate the gearshift (up or downshift) and load it in the other clutch so that the gear is shifted seamlessly in very short time (often within milli seconds scale). Added fuel to the fire is the "turbo" charging of the engine rather than natural aspiration. In turbocharging, the air required for combustion is compressed and supplied in greater quantities whenever required for example during a quick acceleration while overtaking a vehicle. The overall effect of all these components helps in smooth gear shifts in very less time and fast acceleration.

Right Side View 


Rear View
We took it to drive on NICE road and NH-4 
around Bengaluru over the last two weeks and tested the engine noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) levels. 
Absolutely no sound or vibration inside the cabin with 6 people on board at higher speeds (100+ kmph). Top speed we achieved was 163 kmph! with 5 people on board on NH-4. The ABS disc brakes were excellent and the vehicle was very well controlled while taking sharp turns aided by the ESP.

DSG Gearbox
Flat bottomed steering wheel
The leather wrapped flat bottom  steering wheel added sporty look to the car. The gearbox has 5 modes parking (P), reverse (R,), neu-tral (N), driving (D) and sports (S) (4 modes P, R, N and D are common to all automatic cars of any make).
You can manually shift the gears in D mode if you feel the automatic transmission in not responding properly in challenging conditions like ghat roads or water flooded roads. Suspensions are good with average ground clearance of 165 mm

Coming to the safety features, it has 2 air bags for front passengers and 2 ABS disc brakes (front) fitted with 15 inch 10 spoke alloy wheels that complemented the classy look of Vento (Our comfortline variant was supplied with  only steel rims and wheel caps which we got replaced, while purchasing, with company made alloy wheels that are available in highline variant). The new car assessment program (NCAP) simulates the car crash test under controlled conditions and rates them cars based on collision resistance, severity of injury to passenger and child safety. Most of the Indian made cars especially the hatchbacks and low end trims fail in these tests. Air bags will only work if the car can withstand the impact of collision. One more reason for us to go with VW Vento is, it is rated 4/5 star in NCAP global rating, which is very good for a car in this segment.
10 spoke Zirconia alloy wheels
A reverse parking camera is absent even in highline variant (even in VW Jetta!) but the rear parking sensors alert the driver when there is any obstruction.

The safety feature that requires special mention is the Electronic Stability Control (ESC) system (also called as ESP by most manufacturers) which also includes the traction control. We really think every car should be equipped with these advanced features. You can feel the difference right away while taking sharp turns at 80+ kmph speeds. ESP gives super confidence to the driver especially on long drives.

3D LED tail lamp (Stripes only LED)


Features we liked very much :

The rear 3D LED tail lamps which give the premium look, a segment above.

The flat bottomed sporty steering wheel with tilt and telescopic function.

Ample boot space of 495 litres. No big luggage worries for long drives.
Instrument cluster

MFD displaying outside temperature


Multi function display with many features like mileage, digital speedometer, outside temperature display, engine temperature, average speed, mileage. It is very brightly illuminated and looks super cool.

Dead pedal


Rear arm rest  








Theatre effect lights inside the cabin.

A very comfortable dead pedal.


Cruise control system on the light dipper lever



















Features, we felt, that need improvement
a) Better infotainment system, very outdated one given in Vento.
b) Transmission trunk which makes it inconvenient for the fifth passenger.
c) Reverse parking camera is missing, only parking sensors are available.
We could not test the sports mode automatic transmission and cruise control as of now. We are getting mileage of around 10-12 kmpl when A/C turned on in city and 12-14 kmpl when turned off.

The purchase experience was good at Volkswagen Palace Cross, Bengaluru and exciting as it is the first car in our family. As a freebie, we got the 10 litres of petrol and a chocolate box which is very cute.

IPL edition scuff plates

Most important thing we checked before finalizing the payment is the vehicle identification number (VIN) which will give you the important information about the car manufacturing year, model year etc. VIN can be found in many places. For example, on left bottom of windscreen. Paid accessories we got during delivery are the rain/wind visors (you can see them in side view of the car image), scuff plates and car cover besides the costly Zirconia alloy wheels.

That's the story of our car selection, purchase and ownership experience. Hope you enjoyed the article. Please share the link if you like it and add comments below. Thank you

Outdoor Photoshoot Location : Ragihalli forest range, Bannerghatta national park
Camera : Nikon D7100 with 35mm lens