Clash of Smaller Titans- The Cruze, The Jetta and The Kizahshi
(Review by Gibu Reji- Mechanical 2010-14)
Heyya there folks!! It’s been a good start this year and let’s hope it stays that way! First of all, I would like to urge all of the petrol heads out there to see the movie ‘Rush’, if you haven’t, yet. It is a brilliant picturisation of the rivalry between two F1 drivers, Nikki Lauda and James hunt in the late 1960s. And back to the job of reviewing three sedans; the Cruze, the Jetta and the Kizahshi. All are in the price range of below twenty lakhs and are a mix of family saloons which can be used to satisfy that itch found in married petrol heads. 😉
Well, for obvious reasons models chosen are diesel except for the Kizashi, ‘coz it dosen’t exist. But don’t lose hope on the Kizashi, yet. 😛 We’ll see what the new kid is upto against and whether it will be able to fend off the ones in hoodies with things that looks a lot like baseball bats in their hands.
The Cruze. (13-16 lacs; 164 BHP)
Lets review the Cruze first. Why? Alphabetical order, that’s why. When the Cruze was first released, I was like, ‘Wiiiaaaaaww’!! Well, there is a reason, because it is drop dead awesome. Yes, yes it is a sedan but it is muscular! The front end is quite intimidating and the rear looks very good! It goes on with the interior as well. So, I was in complete awe, till I tried to enter the back seat. I couldn’t! Yup. If your dad is six foot tall, He will have to push the driving seat way back which means you will have to learn yoga to squeeze yourself behind it. So, a bad mark against the Cruze there.
Let’s get to the better stuff now. The car is absolutely loaded with equipments. The LT variant is now far better equipped and gets a full MID, pure keyless entry & engine start / stop button, tilt & telescopic steering, 6-way adjustable electric driver’s seat and front fog lamps. And the LTZ version has even more for an extra 90k which I’m sure you’ll love. The instrument cluster is a thing of beauty. You will probably park on the hard shoulder during a night drive just to keep turning the ignition on and off to see the needles come to life. The centre console is quite plain but not boring. The buttons feel quality and are properly sized, which is a relief! But if you plan to get one, do have a spare 30k around for a headlamp mod since the stock ones are, well, bad.
So, as far as equipment is concerned, the Cruze has a huge advantage. The heart of the car, the engine. Needless to say, Its brilliant. But it also feels as though they’ve put some reins on it as well. The ‘swish’ of the old car when the turbo kicks in is absent. You have to hand it to Chevrolet for the constant updating that has been done on the model. The turbo has been repositioned, few tweaks to the engine and injector which results in higher bhp and better torque figures. The gear shifts are much smoother and so is the insulation. Inside one of these, you will barely notice that the heart takes diesel for the throb.
The first and second gears are not much impressive, if any, it is inferior to the previous version! But wait a sec, shift it to third and floor the pedal and you’ll be seeing 150 on the speedo and holding on with a grin from ear to ear. It is as sturdy as anything and the surge is smooth and will definitely surprise you. But it is quite posed at the moment and will keep on going. Finally the sixth definitely feels as an over drive gear.
In short, it is pretty obvious as to why it took this long to get ahead of the Cruze in the sales figures. It is one of the most popular choices in the segment and now, you know why! 😉 All the same, GM still lied about the rear seat!!
The Jetta. (14-18 lakhs; 138 BHP)
Alright. So, the first figure to notice is the decrease in BHP. Hold on fellas. Power isn’t everything! This is one car that defines class. It’s got a classic, timeless and also an understated styling. Equivalent to the word, ‘Tharavaadi’ in Malayalam. One of these in the porch and it will definitely be an aesthetic asset to your home. The Jetta, is like one of those people who are generally with exceptional manners. Well dressed, crisp speech, a muffled laughter at a joke and a voice with a deep base to it. It doesn’t yearn for attention, it is calm and very well composed.
The same cannot be said for the interior, though. No leather seats and the center console is quite dull. VW has put in some fake wood and a touch screen (for a price, ofcourse) but it isn’t quite a place you will appreciate to be at if you are in a fun mood. It isn’t bland but neither is it exotic. And the multifunction stalk! Boy, you’re gonna take some time to figure out all the functions cramped into that lil’ fellow! On the positive side there are many small touches that impress. For instance, the way that the air volume rotary controls on each vent “click” shut & open. The glove-box pops out in a slow, gradual motion. Even how the audio system automatically lowers its volume when you engage reverse gear is nice. Then, the boot lid has cut outs that you can use to pull the boot down (usually seen only in hatchbacks).
The Jetta now gets 30 more horses than the outgoing generation. Torque delivery is almost instantaneous, and the DSG downshift response time is good at lower speeds (high speed kick down time is strictly average). Anybody who’s driven a Skoda Laura DSG will feel right at home. Urban drivability is really good, even with the 6 speed manual, with the diesel engine churning out torque from low rpms itself. Sure, there is some turbo lag, yet it’s too negligible to talk about. Not only is the drivability good, but even in the mid-range, the chosen gear ratios are spot on. While the Jetta is fast, its power delivery is fairly linear in comparison to the Cruze. There isn’t the lag and sudden push-into-the-seat whoosh that the Chevy experience gives you. Part of this is due to the controlled turbo-lag. In terms of drivability, there is simply no comparison. The Jetta is the far superior engine to live with. The DSG automatic gearbox is amongst the best in the business and offers supremely smooth shift quality. With a light foot, the DSG upshifts at a really low rpm. This keeps the drive relaxed and also maximizes fuel efficiency. On the other hand, keep the accelerator buried into the floor in “S” mode, and the Jetta will shift at anywhere between 4,600 – 5,000 rpm, with lightning quick upshifts that are impossible to replicate in a manual. Downshifts at high-speed in kick down mode do result in a lag though; if in a hurry, use the paddle shifters. The paddle shift function is fairly obedient, and will even allow for aggressive downshifts. Quite the fun factor one dosen’t really expect in a car with such classic exterior, huh?
The build quality as well is very much amicable. Wind noise, engine noise and all are way negligible. Well, the Jetta seems to be a wonderful choice, or is it?
The Kizashi!! ( 18-20 lakhs; 184 BHP)
The name itself sounds kinda powerful, doesn’t it? Kizashi. It has an authoritative note to it. And so does the styling. It looks a lot like the beefed up brother of the SX4. The muscular styling, the unique rear and the sporty detailing definitely places it in a different league when compared to the Cruze and the Jetta.
The same story does not quite continue on the inside. The Kizashi has ample space, thanks to its wheelbase and height and it feels very secure. But, the dash and the centre console is a dour affair. The instrument clusters are clear even on the brightest summer noon. But the arrangement and styling is not what you would say, eye catching.
But hey, the car is set up with some features that cant be even dreamt by the others in this price range. To begin with, it is a 2.4 litre engine which is the biggest so far, and it is an all-wheel drive. That is a three word announcement for much balanced power delivery and superior road control and safety. The 184 horses are distributed to all wheels via a CVT transmission which is an absolute beauty. The gear shifts are smooth and the car rarely feels slow. But it doesn’t tug at the reins urging for an adrenaline pumped drive either. The japs have definitely achieved a machine that can be said as the first economic performance sedan in the country.
The drive is smooth as well, on the NH’s to be honest. I must say it wasn’t bred for the typical Indian roads. The chassis is stiff and it can be a little annoying while traversing the rural roads. On the bright side, spec is high and the standard leather seats are stylish and very comfortable. Cabin space is excellent all round. Doors shut with an upscale thunk and cabin trim and plastics are well up on repmobile class. Suzuki, in fact, benchmarked BMW, Audi and VW, which explains the strong, solid Germanic feel to the interior as a whole.
Yes, if you are a hot head yearning for a sedan that is unique but doesn’t affect your pocket much, this is a good competitor. But many other factors such as, brand name being known for economical cars, never-heard-of specs (to an Indian family man of previous generation) and so on has lead it to being a flop in the Indian market. Well, if you still want one, Suzuki is offering a 5 lakh off on the price as a stock clearance offer. Chop chop!! Go get ’em!
Well, recall the two hoodies with the baseball bats? The Kizashi has clearly been put to a state of coma by the Chevy and VW. Kinda like in WW2. 😛 Between the German and the Yankee, well, it depends. What is your preference? Class and comfort or adrenaline rush and customization possibilities? Food for thought! Later fellas!