Of Tech, Looks And Power

Updated: Dec 29 2002, 05:30am hrs
FE On Sunday brings you the five best cars to have hit the Indian market this year. After consulting three well-known automotive experts, Gautam Sen, Murad Ali Baig and Ranojoy Mukerji, we managed to get some unanimity in listing the best four; the fifth one varies in each experts opinion. Please remember, our list does not necessarily rank the cars (although the experts have ranked them while airing their opinion), as it is spread across the various segments; rather, it is a reflection of the best four cars to have hit the Indian market this year.

Mercedes-Benz New E-Class
Priced at Rs 38.33 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi), the New E-Class is definitely one of the costliest cars to be launched this year. The price, however, is not without a reason.

Gautam Sen: Mr Sen puts this car in second place on his list. Although the price is ridiculously high, it is the sheer technology of the car that is noteworthy. The technology offered in this car is the ultimate in the country.

Murad Ali Baig: The New E-Class comes fourth on his list. The quality is the most important factor of this vehicle. The technological advancements in this car are far ahead of the rest, he adds.

Ranojoy Mukerji: The New E-Class comes first on his list. From the sexy, svelte shape with its menacing cat eyes to its luxurious interiors, everything about the Mercedes-Benz is special, says Mr Mukerji. It is one of the most desirable cars in the world, a measure of success. The New E-class manages to look sublime and feline at the same time, while the 166bhp V6 endows it with extremely rapid performance. Pricey, but the ultimate in looks, style and snob value, he says.

Toyota Camry
Brought into India under the completely built unit (CBU) route, two variants of the Toyota Camry were introduced this year. The V3 version is priced at Rs 18.45 lakh, while the V1 is priced at Rs 17.95 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi).

GS: Mr Sen puts this car in fifth place on his list. This car has been a bestselling car in the US. So its coming to India is a significant development, he says. The Camry is a picture of what Toyota stands for today, he adds.

MAB: The Camry is ranked fifth by Mr Baig on his list. Finally, it has arrived in India, he says referring to its success in the US market. To be successful in a market like the US is a significant achievement, he adds.

RM: Mr Mukerji puts the Camry in second place on his list. The Camry is quite expensive at around Rs 18 lakh, and the optional leather upholstery can put you back by another Rs 50,000, he says.

But if you have the money, go for it because then youll get one of the smoothest and quietest cars on the road today for your money, he explains. However, fog lamps are missing in the Camry, a glaring omission in a car of this category, he adds.

Hyundai Accent Viva
A five-door, semi notchback design from Hyundai Motor India Ltd (HMIL). Priced at Rs 6,79,999 (ex-showroom Delhi), this car has been projected as HMILs attempt to transgress into the realms of the casual.

GS: The Viva finds itself on top of Mr Sens list. This is a significant car. It is smaller and shorter than its original base version, but space is not a constraint, he says. It is a very practical car at a low price, he adds.

MAB: The Viva occupies second place on Mr Baigs list. Five doors, space and ergonomics are key in this car, he explains.

(The Viva does not find place in Mr Mukerjis list of five best cars.)

Hyundai Accent CRDi
Priced at Rs 7.24 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi), this car has been widely accepted as a car that redefines the diesel engine. CRDi stands for common rail direct injection, a technology that allows constant pressure to be maintained throughout the diesel fuel injection process. The engine has been developed jointly by Hyundai Motors, South Korea, and Detroit Diesel, USA.

MAB: This is an outstanding car. Such a beautiful engine, he sums up, putting the CRDi on top of his list for 2002.

RM: The CRDi clocks in at number four on his list. Driving it, you would be hardpressed to tell that there is a three cylinder mill under the hood breathing through four valves per cylinder and displacing 1,500 cc, says Mr Mukerji. The car goes like a bomb and the only other change to the interiors is the addition of a digital odometer. Personally, given the level of technology in the car, I would say its good value for money, he adds.

(The Accent CRDi does not find mention in Mr Sens list of five best cars.)

The Fifth Car
GS: Mr Sen ranks the Mitsubishi Pajero as number three on his list. The world renowned sports utility vehicle arrived in India through the CBU route, thanks to Hindustan Motors. Priced at Rs 33.8 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi), Mr Sen says, The Pajero is among the best vehicles to hit the Indian market this year as it stands for the ultimate in the 4X4 SUV category.

MAB: Mr Baig considers the new Fiat Siena a deserving candidate for third place on his list. Relaunching a model that didnt work earlier is a dicey thing, but the new Siena has done remarkably well, he explains. This car is suitable for public consumption, he adds. Priced between Rs 4.85 lakh and Rs 6.70 lakh, four variants of the Siena were launched, with the 1.6 Siena Maestro at the top end and the 1.2 Siena EX at the bottom end.

RM: The Hyundai Sonata 2.7 V6 Automatic occupies third place on his list. The automatic Sonata is a pleasure to drive with 166bhp on tap, says Mr Mukerji. Slot the lever into D, floor the throttle and take offyes, the V6 is that good, he says. If you are feeling adventurous enough, move the lever to the left and simply shift sequentially and the four-speed automatic will move through the cogs seamlessly, while the electronics will make sure that you do not over-rev the engine. Priced at Rs 15.9 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi), the rest of the equipment and trim levels stay exactly the same as in the previous version.