Euro Fighter

It may be nearing the end of its life, but this generation of the Octavia still looks fresh. And in RS trim, it looks even better. The Mk3 Octavia RS is godsend to anyone who wanted an immensely practical, fast car that is relatively affordable. You could buy one as a family car and daily drive it while being able to hold a candle to many entry level sports cars.

 

This particular one has been done up rather tastefully. The unique ‘b.fifty5 Mesh series’ 18 inch wheels, look perfectly suited for the car’s character. The red and black combination works really for the Octavia RS. The extra stripe running along the sides go well with the rest of the car despite it crossing an upward swept character line on the rear bumper. The front canards are well integrated into the front bumper. The more you look, the more details you will find. There is a Maxton spoiler cap that sits on top of the standard RS spoiler giving it more definition. Also there is a black pin stripe along the shoulder and you know its owner has got taste.

 

 

APR is a big name in the European tuning scene and is highly revered among VAG enthusiasts. This Octavia RS has tricklings of APR goodies, thanks to Harmonixx Tuning of Bangalore, who has done over 60 RSes including one with over 500 bhp! The engine gets an enhanced intake system, a performance turbo inlet, a downpipe and resonator delete, a muffler delete – all courtesy of APR. It also gets a Stage 2 APR Performance Tune along with an APR Performance TCU Tune for the dual clutch gearbox.

 

 

The result is an Octavia RS that hasn’t got the memo about the new road fines and wants to reintroduce you to your breakfast that morning. The beauty is all these updates are so matched to one another, they deliver a punch twice as strong as the regular RS230. The wide powerband of the EA888 motor combined with its free revving nature was never short on thrills, but the added bump in power is evident right from when the turbo spools up. You get a lungful of acceleration out of any engine speed and the DSG box is now even faster delivering it to you. The Forge blow-off sounds sweet between every upshift and you can drive this Octavia RS all day and still not get tired of it. The tuners estimate approximately 330bhp and 530Nm and it surely feels that way. We even managed to time it, though not properly, against our Racelogic and it did a 0-100kmph time of 5.9 sec with two people on board, lots of fuel and very, very wet roads. Had it been a cool morning with some dry tarmac, it would have easily been half a second faster, may be more. There are other APR stuff like Dog Bone mounts, an oil catch can etc and these are for longevity.

 

 

The car sits on Eibach Pro-Street S coilovers that makes it a little sharper on anything less than ideal roads. Yes, they lend the chassis with even better response than stock, which coupled with the electromechanical differential, makes it very capable on the twisties. The e-diff, it must be noted, can send upto 100 percent torque to whichever wheel can cope with it, making for lesser scrabble and a tighter line. When this car was being developed, the Octavia RS230 with its e-diff was nearly ten seconds faster at the Nurburgring compared to a standard Octavia RS. This particular car also gets black diamond pads with slotted and drilled rotors. The owner prefers this setup than to commit to a big brake kit and live with the constant squealing that come with it. Those work great for the track, but for street use, these black diamond stuff does the job well.

 

 

All through the story, we haven’t mentioned whose car it was. Well, this belongs to a Doctor in Kochi who doesn’t want to be named. He says the extra performance comes in ‘handy’ for emergencies – when he wants to get to the hospital as quickly as possible. After spending a morning with it, we don’t see why it should be done any another way!

 

 

Kia Seltos

Kia is to Hyundai what Skoda is to VW. It is the more lifestyle division of a main stream brand. Apart from the R&D and few of the top management, both companies don’t share much. Kia has been testing the waters here for a while and now has a full-fledged manufacturing facility in Andhra Pradesh and a reasonably well established dealer network. We were among the first to drive the Seltos, its first offering for the Indian market, ahead of its actual launch.

The Seltos’ styling is sure to please everyone. It is roughly the size of a Creta but is marginally longer. In fact the Seltos is based on the next gen Creta that will hit the Indian markets later this year. It looks very upmarket from the front with LED headlamps and fog lamps whose elements resemble ice cubes. The traditional Kia grill is well finished with a knurled finish and has DRLs extending on to it. The bonnet has a squared off edge giving it a purposeful look. The 17 inch wheels in both the GT Line and Tech Line models fill the arches well. The GT Line has red accents on the alloys along with those in the airdam, sides and rear. The side profile has an upward swept quarter glass while the rear is quite conventional in design and layout.

The interiors are well made too. The dashboard has a pleasing design and overall quality is excellent. Plastics have a nice texture to them and there is a faux leather trim on the dashboard. The buttons have a quality feel, the knobs have a knurled finish and even the speaker grills are designed to look expensive. The dashboard has a Merc look to it with the infotainment screen and gauges being part of one big rectangular console. The 10.25 inch touchscreen offers Apple Car Play, Android Auto, Navigation and voice control along with various Connected car features including a concierge service. You can press a button for a location query and an actual person will answer to whom you can then request to patch the route map to your navigation system. You get wireless charging, tyre pressure monitoring, a 400W Bose system, ambient lighting etc. The lower trims feature a standard Arkamys sound system and we didn’t feel the Bose system was that superior. The steering wheel is great to hold and everything has a well put together feel. What’s also impressive is the driver MID is another 7 inch screen with crisp graphics and cool animations, supplementing two analogue gauges. The GT Line cars get another display in the form of a heads-up on a small retractable screen which shows maps, speed and other important info. Apparently, like with Hyundais, you can’t have the fully loaded variant if you choose an automatic. Kia should have known better.

I usually prefer black interiors in a car, but in the Seltos, the Tech Line interiors seemed more appealing than the GT Line. Perhaps it had to do with the stitched pattern of the seats with matching carpets or that the automatic version of the GT we tested, was missing out on the ventilated seats and sunroof. The front seats are comfortable and the driver side gets electric adjustment. The rear seat is reclinable by 6 degrees, gets sun blinds for the sides and is a comfortable place to be. Headroom and legroom though not in the league of the larger SUVs like the Hector, are still good. You wish it offered a bit more thigh support at the rear. Still, the shoulder line is lower than in the Creta, giving you better view and the extra quarter glass at the rear makes the cabin feel airier. You get the same air quality index display above the rear air vents and a charging socket for your mobile phone.

You get a choice of three engines with the Seltos – a 1.5L petrol, a 1.4L turbo petrol or a 1.5L diesel. All three engines come with a 6 speed manual or its own type of automatic transmission option. The basic 1.5L engine gets a CVT, while the diesel gets a 6 speed conventional torque convertor while the top spec 1.4L turbo petrol gets a 7 speed Dual Clutch. We haven’t driven the base naturally aspirated model yet.

 

The 1.5L turbo diesel is soon going to be the mainstay engine in the Kia and Hyundai range and is a brilliant performer. It makes 115bhp and 250Nm – slightly down on power and torque compared to the Creta’s 1.6L with 128bhp and 260Nm. But, on the road, it feels just as good with a much linear nature making up for the sudden bump in the power. Performance is adequate and power stays strong till about 4600rpm. The gearbox is smooth and the clutch is easy to operate.

 

If you are buying the diesel automatic, you’d be surprised to know that the driving experience in much better than in the Hyundai Creta diesel AT. The same six speed gearbox in the Creta used to get confused with full throttle inputs, wrongly selecting second gear where it would often rev the engine out of its powerband before selecting the third gear and accelerating. In the Seltos, the gearbox shift logic has been improved to select the right gear and the wider powerband means there is always ample pulling power after each downshift.

Just as impressive as the diesel is, 1.4L turbo petrol is the engine to have right now. Essentially a 4 cylinder version of the one in the Venue, this direct injection motor with its healthy 140bhp and 242Nm torque is very refined, eager to rev and enjoyable. The dual clutch gearbox doesn’t feel as lightning fast as it does in a VAG car, but does its job brilliantly. It can upshift closer to the red line and even lets you do manual downshifts at reasonably high revs giving you better control over the car. Still, like in the Venue, the DCT gearbox is tuned conservatively to extend its clutch life with gentler shifts. There is even a mode in the driver’s MID to monitor the temp of the transmission.

 

Dynamically, the Seltos also happens to be one of the best SUVs to come from the Korean shores. The ride quality is brilliant and the Seltos soaks all broken patches of roads with aplomb. The suspension has an adequate amount of travel and doesn’t feel as wallowy as in the Creta. Despite the focus on comfort, it somehow manages to grip well too. On the wet roads of Goa, the Kia felt planted and although the steering isn’t the most feel-some around, still feels direct. The brakes which are discs at the rear, manage to stop well too. The GT Line car offers three driving modes (Eco, Comfort, Sport) and traction settings (Mud, Snow, Wet/Sand). While Sport makes the steering stiffer and the throttle a bit more responsive, the traction settings made no noticeable difference to the driving.

 

Kia’s maiden product for India seems to have got everything right. It has got the style, appeal, space, comfort and is just the right size. It also drives well and there is an engine option for everyone. And Kia offers one of the best warranties in its class, on top of the excellent reliability we have come to expect of new Hyundai products. With entry level model starting from Rs.9.46 lakhs, they even got the pricing right. If we could find a fault with it, it is that the choice of engines, transmission and variants can give you a hard time at the dealership.

 

 

Renault Triber

 The Triber is what Renault thinks India needs at the moment – a compact MPV that can go places. It has the practicality and seating capacity of an MPV, ruggedness and ground clearance of a crossover, yet is under four metres like a small hatchback. Small hatchbacks and MPVs are what Renault is known for worldwide, and this India specific model based on the Kwid platform has a lot going for it.

Sitting 1.7 meter wide, the Triber has a rugged look. The Renault lozenge logo sits right in the middle of the grille that straddles the headlamps. The front end has a Kwid inspired look. The overall styling is very European especially at the rear. There is a particularly interesting kink in the C pillar. And those cleverly designed roofrails may help disguise it, but you can see the roofline rising abruptly after the B pillar, to maximize headroom and give a theatrical seating to every row. There are other clever touches too. To reduce the visual bulk, the tall sides need these black elements on the doors, but to save costs, it is a vinyl sticker than an actual plastic side cladding. And these lovely 15 inch wheels that you see here may look like alloys, but are in fact, plastic wheel caps over a steel rim!

Just like the exteriors, the interiors are every bit as interesting. The dashboard feels good quality and feels more expensive than the sticker price suggests. It is a good design too with a solid European flavour. There is a band of silver trim that runs across the width below which sits the 8.0 inch infotainment system. The AC controls are chunky knobs, the starter button has a shiny bezel around it and there is a dedicated space for your cellphone. There are two glove boxes one of which is cooled and the centre console has another cavernous storage box which is also cooled. The steering wheel is the perfect size and like the rest of the dashboard, feels much better than the ones in more expensive Renaults. The all-digital gauge cluster on the other hand is trying too hard with various circular segments lighting up in white to show engine rpm, fuel, temp etc.

 

The front seats are comfy and are set high enough to give you a commanding view of the road. All the seats are made of good quality fabric and the colour palette used for the whole cabin is pleasant. The second row seats are set higher than the front ones. There is an adequate amount of legroom while headroom is enormous. The seat splits 60:40 and its recline can be adjusted to your comfort.  There are AC vents in the B pillar and their fan speed can be controlled by a knob on the centre console. With doors that open wide and the middle row seat that can be tumbled forward with a lever, access to the last row isn’t that difficult. You do get a reasonable amount of space here too, and it is brilliant considering the car is under 4 meters long.

 

 

The rear most passengers have to make do with non-retractable seat belts and have to sit with their knees up although Renault has provided adjustable head restraints in this row. With all seats in place, the boot is just 84 litres, but you can easily take the last row out and you have 320litres. With the middle row folded down, this becomes 625 litres.

 

The engine is perhaps the least impressive bit in the Triber. It produces 72bhp and 96Nm, and is a development on the Kwid unit that also powers the base Clio and Dacia Sandero in other markets. It is pretty high tech on paper with dual variable valve timing and all, but the performance is rather pedestrian. It also sounds gruff when you rev it, which you have to, considering how weak it is in the midrange. It is adequate for city use, but you will struggle with full complement of passengers or on an incline. The clutch is snappy and the gearshifts feel a little vague.

 

The ride quality is very good as we have come to expect of Renaults. The suspension can cope with bad roads and potholes with ease. There is a good amount of suspension travel and ground clearance of 182mm makes it almost as good as a crossover. There is a hint of firmness in the ride, but it gets better with speeds. Triber rides on 185/65 R15 tyres which are better at dealing broken sections than most other hatches. The handling is acceptable, although the steering isn’t the most communicative around. It understeers a bit when pushed hard, but this isn’t a car which you drive fast anyway. Brakes feel strong enough for the car’s capabilities too.

 

The Triber has a lot going for it. The combination of various seat adjustments give it a lot of flexibility and the general cabin quality seems to belong to a class above. The engine and driving experience could have been better, but the Triber claws back lost points with good design, space utilization, ride quality and value. With prices starting from Rs.4.95 lakhs and going up to Rs.6.49 lakhs, the Triber is a practical alternative to a conventional hatchback.

 

 

 

Petrobug