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Old 27th October 2010, 16:52   #1
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Default Blind Spots - New Cars, Road View and Driveability

I have been driving Maruti 800 for 12 dog years now and obviously it's age is showing. So I decided to buy a new car. since Maruti gave me a good service for all these years and I find it totally reliably, a Maruti Product was my first choice.

My budget brings Wagon R, Estillo, Swift and Ritz within my range and so I decided to go to the showroom and decide.

I was shown all these cars. My excitement turned quickly into disappointment when I sat in them one by one. All the cars seemed to have a basic design flaw - The left and right pillars that hold the windscreen (and the roof) seem to have been placed at an extremely odd place that blocks the front view. The seats are so recessed that the front pillar comes in the way of the road and side view. It blocks the view of traffic that approaches from left and right.

Here are my observations:

>In Wagon R this is slight (but still considerable to make one uncomfortable)
>In Estillo it is so pronounced that it looks a basic design flaw.
>Ritz had a dashboard that climbs up from bottom to top to reduce the ground view considerably.
>Swift had the best road view but its thick side doors and the protruding rear make driving largely a guess game. My fears proved right when my brother went ahead to buy a Swift and despite being a pro managed to hit his bumpers, side doors (left and right) in a space of 3 months.
>The rear view in Ritz was pretty cramped. Swift's was good.
>Alto K100 was surprisingly the best one of the lot in terms of road view and handling.

When I questioned the salesmen they said I will get used to these things. On further probing I was told that these things also have happened because of the retrofitted K series engine that had to be made on the older version of these cars. It is a longer engine and to accommodate these, the cars have developed these view problems.

Disappointed with these cars that had been built for other engines but have been dangerously modified to fit new engines I went to Tata. The Indica Vista was so good in terms of road view and handleability that I fell in love with the car. Sitting inside it felt that I was not a 'fussy' or 'cantankerous' customer. My objections were genuine. Though a wider car than all these, it looks comfortable to handle and maneuver than the other cars. But a little research proved my doubts - Tata does not hold a candle to Mauruti when it comes to service and reliability of its products. It is a no no for me.

Since then I have been observing many cars and have found that even Corolla which is a very wide car boasts of an excellent view.

I wish to know why no thought has been given to the above points when Maruti designed its new cars. Are we supposed to drive these cars with guesswork and suffer consequences when we accidentally hit someone? Did the designers think we were playing video games instead of real driving where we can restart the game after a crash?

Delhi driving conditions are extremely congested and tight. Even the parking is at a premium. So a lot of close maneuverability is required to drive, park and reverse cars. In the absence of a good front and rear view, driving can become dangerous.

Most innocent drivers will only blame themselves in case they hit side walls or other cars but what they do not know is that their car might be badly designed. It might be because of a higher Blind Spot Area of these cars.

Though my family wants to buy a premium car, I would have to go to Alto K1000. Maruti despite its shoddy design still gets a customer. But what they will never know is they lost a premium customer.

This is not a biased review. I love cars but they should be sensible. To make lots of leg space, make them 'comfortable', look luxurious etc, if the front view is being compromised by designers, then I wish to ask them something - Are we there to sleep inside them or drive them?
I feel these things for a crucial part of safe driving and should be monitored by a body that should certify new designs on some kind of 'road viewability' parameters. Because they affect the safety of the drivers and those around them.

Has any of you felt these issues in your car? I invite you to share them here.

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Old 27th October 2010, 17:33   #2
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Almost all the modern cars have thick A-pillars to conform to safety standards.

I have a thick A-pillar in my Hyundai i10 too. This should not be a problem unless you are taking a very cramped right corner.

Just make a habit of looking ahead before you turn.

Modern cars will protect you and your family better.
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Old 27th October 2010, 18:01   #3
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I've driven Ritz , and it has a pretty comfortable driving position with good view ahead , the only hinderence is the thick C pillar . Same with the swift , and yes it has a thicker A pillar . In case of new wagon R , the dash is high set , I think that hindered the view infront , for you.
The best car in terms of viewability , amongst hatches , is Jazz for me .
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Old 27th October 2010, 18:27   #4
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@syravi, I totally agree with your observations of pillars hampering the view in current Marutis and other modern cars, but Maruti sales persons reasoning I don't agree with. Its more to do with strengthening the passenger cabin than anything else that the pillars are thick and it affects the shorter drivers more. However, one will eventually get used to it or drive with the necessary margin for error to compensate for this lack of view.

Do check out the new Ford Figo though, this has the best all round visibility in my view. Another good option is Nissan Micra.
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Old 27th October 2010, 19:29   #5
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With all recent cars (in my knowledge, at least 2004 onwards), the front columns are thick; be it a modest alto or a premium corolla. It is so, to conform to safety standards. It's just that with longer cars like Corolla, your view improves eventually.

The thick pillars do affect your view on the extreme left and right; but you can overcome this by simply bending forward slightly while negotiating a sharp/blind turn!
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Old 27th October 2010, 20:08   #6
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Not only maruti, but cars from all over the world have thick A pillars to conform with the safety standards.
My dad's 2001 M800 has a wafer thin A pillar, and as per your comments, the Alto follows the same path. They are the most unsafe cars for head on collision.
Another common gripe that has its roots in pedestrian safety norms is how easily the body gets dings/dents.
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Old 27th October 2010, 23:54   #7
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I guess it also to due to the crash test requirements. Compared to the previous gen M800s, Zens, Altos etc the CarDesign2.0 (as I call it! ) have been designed with thick pillars. Designers should ease the problem with more glass view etc (I am referring to Jazz).
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Old 28th October 2010, 07:33   #8
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Red face

One more car from Maruti stable the SX4 is a well known example of the obstructing A pillar because of the half glass. When I was checking out the new SX4 of my office colleague, I could see that even at normal standstill position I wasn't able to see at the right and had to put my head slightly out to get a better view.

Add to the misery my colleague had dark tinted the half glass making it much more difficult to view. Even he was of the same opinion.
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Old 28th October 2010, 10:08   #9
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Very interesting topic indeed. Let me add some technical aspects of the A-Pillar (the one marked in your picture).

1. A-Pillars in today's scenario are meant to transfer the energy during frontal crash along with the bottom chassis / long members that support the engine.

Further with the B-Pillars they need to transfer energy of crash during vehicle Roll - Over condition (It is done by crushing the roof statically).

Hence, the current vehicles will have thicker Pillars compared with their older generation vehicles.

2. There is a design rule for all vehicles to comply as far as the obscuration caused by A-Pillars (AIS:021 - Driver's Field of Vision & also for inner & outer rear view mirrors)

These rules make sure that the obscuration levels on all the modern generation vehicles are almost same.

Hence the front A - Pillar thickness will be more or less equal in most vehicles in the same category.

3. Apart from forward obscuration, the obscuration caused by B-Pillars on lateral / side view is being researched by respective agencies to develop a rule on them as well.

A-Pillar obscuration is critical if you are going ahead in a + (Four way) junction and there is another vehicle approaching from the right / left at speed, the time taken based on your current speed to identify it and take evasive action.
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Old 28th October 2010, 10:09   #10
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Most cab forward designs have blind spots, Thanks to the Windshield fixed at an angle hence the slanted A-Pillar. Similarly for some reasons(Safety+ Design) the C-pillar over the time has become thicker and the glass area has reduced, this has reduced rear visibility as well.

The newer generation cars may have lost out on visibility, but they have gained a lot in terms of safety. The safety in newer cars like Swift, Ritz, i10 etc has taken a giant leap if we compare them to cars like Maruti 800, which does even have the crumple zones.

syravi, you will get used to it very soon once you start driving a different car.

Last edited by .anshuman : 29th October 2010 at 12:44. Reason: Typo
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Old 28th October 2010, 10:13   #11
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maruti is giving a decent safety package in most of its cars but certainly cars like SX4 have a very bad blind spot because of the a pillar. once i could not see a innova changing lanes and coming towards me. i have been careful and not faced anymore frights since.
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Old 28th October 2010, 10:29   #12
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Safety Cars. read about Volvo Safety car long time before. Here is an image and link
Name:  volvo.scc.apillar.500.jpg
Views: 7022
Size:  42.5 KB

Source: Volvo's Safety Concept Car: The Shape of Things to Come?
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Old 28th October 2010, 11:10   #13
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First of all, K-Series engine has nothing to do with thick A-pillars and C-pillars. New cars have thicker pillars for the sake of passenger safety.

Secondly, there is nothing dangerous about Maruti cars with K-Series engines, whether they were specifically designed to accommodate a K-series engine or modified to accommodate a K-series engine.

Coming back to the visibility problem faced by you in most of these cars. The Swift seems to have better visibility because the A-pillar is further away from the driver's seat as compared to the other cars you have mentioned. Hence the viewing angle it occupies is lesser, even though the A-pillar is almost the same thickness as compared to the other cars. Same might be the case with the Corolla that you have mentioned.

To solve this problem, you just need to adjust your driving style a bit. When approaching a corner, you need to tilt your head slightly to see what the A-pillar is concealing. Like the salesman told you, you will get used to this in no time. Please don't let this be a criteria based on which you reject cars that are safer for you.

I do agree that rear visibility in Swift and Ritz is a problem and can possibly be termed as a design flaw. Even I don't like the high dashboard in cars like Ritz and A-star.

If you are open to other brands, please do take a test drive of Hyundai i10. It has better visibility as compared to Swift and Ritz, and is very easy to drive and park in congested areas.

Please stop comparing new generation cars to your existing M800. Times have changed for better or worse, you need to accept the change and move on with the times.

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Old 28th October 2010, 12:23   #14
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Good discussion. Got to know few things which i was not aware of. When i bought Swift Dzire, i was also worried for first few days. I was not 100% confident. But got used to it in months time. While taking corners you have to be careful anyways, due to this thick pillars, u become more cautious & avoid accidents thats the plus point i would say !!! Hehehe ...

Jokes apart, dont worry & go ahead with Maruti, you will get used to it very quickly
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Old 28th October 2010, 14:44   #15
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I remember when cars like NHC or Corolla came out (in fact even Santro), in which from the drivers seat one could not see the bonnet. And that was a huge concern to people - how will I park the car in tight spaces, how will I maintain that 1-inch gap with the car in front in bumper to bumper traffic, how will I cut across lanes and give others a scare of a potential scratch.
This might still be a big concern to some people - but I guess since then folks have learned that these cars have other merits and they can come to terms with these shortcomings over a period of time - they can leave more margin for error.

Road visibility is definitely a concern while driving in our crowded city conditions. But at the same time manufacturers also need to provide other features like good interior space, safety, contemporary styling, else we would still be stuck with the same old designs which take up a lot of road real estate without benefiting the occupants inside.
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