The Hunt For A New Car Begins
If you didn’t already know, it was time for my almost 15 year old Maruti Alto car to be re-registered. Like I mentioned in my previous post, I was contemplating whether to renew the registration or buy a used/new car altogether. From what I gathered, it will cost me some 30-40K on my old car to get it registered for another 5 years. The problem was that I was not sure that it will pass the fitness test even with all the repairs. Moreover, the new registration is valid only for another 5 years. I felt it may be better to sell the car and buy another used or a new car instead of spending the money on it. Then I faced another problem which tipped the scale in favor of buying a new car. First, I could not find a decent used car. Second, I found that it was not easy to sell my old car.
I already knew that used cars have become expensive because of well – inflation due to supply and demand, but I did not know it was this bad. This is a big problem in the US when used car prices have shot up, but even in India if is quite bad. Back in the day you could find 5 year old car for almost 50% discount. In August 2022 when I was looking to buy a used car, a 3 year old car was almost 90% as expensive as a new one. For that price, I might as well go with a new car and not have to deal with all the leg work of checking several cars, have a mechanic check them, negotiate a good price and still at the end take the risk of any issues that the previous owner might have covered up.
So I decided to buy a new car going against my own rule of always buying an old car. If I could wait another year or two I am sure the used car prices will come down to earlier prices. But I don’t have time on my side. This is a good lesson for me. Next time start looking for replacements a couple of years before the deadline. Anyway I started researching new cars from there on. While I narrowed on Maruti cars, I still wanted to test drive cars from other manufacturers to make sure I am not missing out on any good deal. Like I mentioned in the previous post, the reason I chose Maruti cars is for their reliability and cheap spare parts.
I finally decided that I should exchange my old car and buy a new car. Leave all the headaches of repairs, renewing registration and selling my old car to the showroom. The search was on for a good new car. As usual I made a matrix in a spreadsheet with all my requirements in the order of importance along one axis and the contenders (cars) in the other axis.
Here are my requirements in that order
- I wanted a small car that is easy to navigate in the city and fit in small parking spaces. If you know Bangalore, you know how difficult it is to find parking space and the constant towing that happens for illegal parking.
- The engine capacity should be a minimum of 1000 cc and preferably 1200 cc. You may be wondering why a small car would need a 1000 cc engine. I always felt that while my Alto 800 was light weight, it was always underpowered especially when the AC is on or when going up slope with full capacity of 5 passengers.
- Should have at least R14 tires with 165 mm width, preferably R16 at 185 mm. I don’t want skinny, low traction tires of Maruti Alto which were 145/80 R12.
- Road clearance should be at least 170mm but not more than 190mm. The reason for the higher limit is that it becomes difficult for my mother to get in the car if the car is too high. The lower limit is quite obvious for Indian roads. I faced the toughest challenge with my Honda city which would pretty much guaranteed to scrape every speed bump in Bangalore. Alto was better but it still struggled in bad roads outside of the city.
- I wanted a bigger trunk (boot) space of at least 240L with foldable rear seats. It will be especially beneficial if the car has 40:60 split rear seats. I have this requirement because when we have family visits (from international travel), the luggage fits with great difficulty. While my Alto has a folding rear seat (not split seats), when there are 3 adults, the configuration would not work.
- Finally there is a hard limit of 6 lakhs for the price of the car including all the discounts and after exchanging my car.
- Bonus would be a 4 cylinder engine and good mileage. I just love the refinement and quietness of my Honda city’s 4 cylinder engine. I miss it greatly in my 3-cylinder alto. But a 4 cylinder engine in a small car is quite rare. And even rare is to get good mileage in a 4-cylinder engine.
I shortlisted a few cars from different manufacturers although my preference is Maruti cars. Just did not want to miss out on others just in case they offered better value. The shortlist is based on my requirements, and doing internet research and watching reviews on youtube. I skipped a few cars like Wagon R or Swift for some reasons. The shortlisted cars were Maruti Suzuki Ignis (Delta), Tata Punch (Adventure), Renault Kwid (RXT), Maruti Suzuki S Presso (VXi plus), Maruti Suzuki Celerio (ZXi), Renault Triber (RXL), Renault Kiger (RXL), Tara Tiago (XT O), Mahindra Kuv 100 (K4+).
Renault Triber was a surprise addition because someone said that I might be interested in a 7 seater car at the cost of a 5 seater. I liked the idea because when we have extended family all of them can fit in the car. Of course we cannot carry any luggage at all in that case, but works for short road trips. Moreover there are rear AC vents which is rare to find in any other car in this segment. But the best part is that the last 2 seats are removable so we can actually leave them in the house and use the car as a 5 seater, until that point when we need 7 seats. Sounded good on paper but not so much in practice which I will get to in a minute.
So after having shortlisted the cars, I test drove a few cars from different manufacturers to get a feel for the drive quality and engine refinement. Since we are already on the topic of Renault Triber, let me discuss that first. What I did not immediately like about this car is the engine. While it was a 1000 cc 3-cylinder engine, the torque was quite non uniform, the engine was loud and was underpowered with 5 adults and 2 kids. Another problem was reverse gear which is different from all other cars. I can imagine how Kiger and Kwid from Renault would perform.
Next in list was Tata Punch. This is a car that I really liked in most aspects. It has a strong, really strong body. Doors close with nice thud. Has good stance and tires. Excellent boot space, comes with 1200 cc engine. The suspension and stability is just awesome. One problem is that it was too expensive and felt a bit too big for city drive. Another one is that engine is not as refined and was noisy and not peppy.
Then I tried Maruti Suzuki S Presso which was again fine in most aspects but the instrument cluster was in a weird position in the middle. Although I did not have any trouble while driving, it just felt wrong. Another problem is that there are no rear power windows even in the highest variant which is a big miss in my opinion in this day and age. But the engine was refined even though it is a 3-cylinder one. It was peppy with such low body weight paired with a 1000 cc engine. Mrs. reynd enjoyed driving it as much as I did.
Finally, we test drove Maruti Suzuki Ignis and it was love at first drive. I did not enjoy any other car as mich as I enjoyed this. I cannot explain how good the engine is. Very quiet and refined like my Honda City engine and why not because it is a 4-cylinder engine. Generates excellent torque because for one, the kerb weight of the car is low, coupled with a 1200 cc engine. Very peppy and the gear shifts were short and sweet. Of course no car is without its cons and this is no different. The suspensions are crap. They are extremely stiff. While it helps in reducing body roll at high speeds, the ride quality on bad roads is just not right. You will feel every minor uneven detail of the road inside the cabin.
Once I test drove, I awarded points based on all my experiences and various features of the car. One car that I could not test drive although I wanted to, was the Mahindra Kuv 100. I booked a test drive online but no one contacted me. Anyway it has the lowest number of points in my matrix already so I decided to skip it. Then I ranked all the cars based on the points. The filled matrix looks like this now
Out of these, I shortlisted only 5 cars for further discussion with the showrooms and eventually bought one. More on that in my next post.