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|16th December 2009, 19:37||#1|
Up early. Rush to airport covering 41 km to catch a 10.25 flight to Delhi and then to catch a connecting flight to Udaipur which leaves Delhi at 1.45 pm.
Delhi flight is late. It is 1.45 pm and we are nowhere close to Delhi. By the time plane parks in Delhi, it is 2.30 pm.
Udaipur flight is just waiting for us to jump in. We get in to see everybody is giving us dirty looks since it’s the two of us who held this flight back for more than hour and a half. We, (me and Jaggu) are maintaining a blank look and trying to make ourselves comfortable for next one more hour of journey. Come on, we didn’t fly that plane from Bangalore!
Plane starts rolling almost immediately. AND I START HAVING A SERIOUS SUSPICION.
It’s 4 pm in the afternoon and we have reached Maharana Pratap airport, Udaipur.
And my suspicion is now a reality. OUR CHECK IN BAGGAGES HAVE NOT COME FROM DELHI.
Faxing, calling and mailing from Jet Airways confirms that we can get our luggage by tomorrow 10.30 am earliest. And if we’re really keen then we can come back to airport by 7 am to collect them. According to me, this is not really the perfect way to start a journey.
4.30 pm we are outside the airport. It is looking totally deserted. No wait!
There is one TATA Safari waiting there to take us to the hotel.
We welcome ourselves to Udaipur. We are here to participate in the FIAT DIESEL DRIVES INDIA tour. The very last leg of the tour, to be precise.
Narendra Sharma from FIAT, a young leather clad gentleman meets us for dinner. He tells us the plan and purpose of this drive. There are four cars for us to drive.
One Linea, one Punto, one Palio and one FIAT 500. The common thread here is that they are all running with 1.3 Multijet engine. So there are 4 cars and one blue Punto for him to act as pilot car. Same engine but in different states of tune. Out of this bunch, Linea offers a different turbo configuration (Variable Geometry) having the highest Power and Torque figures.
Originally designed & developed by Fiat, the 1.3 liter SDE (Small Diesel Engine) has gone on to win many awards including "Engine of the Year" award world over.
In India, thanks to many collaborations and technology sharing agreements, the motor is offered by Fiat, Tata and Maruti.
Thanks to the fuel quality issues, the engine is offered domestically with a very conservative state of tune (5 points injection), which offers 76-86 (PS) and an amazing torque figure of 145-203 (NM). The second iteration of the same engine (Multijet II) uses 8 points injection, which along with a more aggressive ECU tune and Turbo can up the performance figures quite a bit. How we wish this version land on our shores along with BS IV norms!
FIAT DIESEL DRIVES INDIA tour started on 27th of October. First leg was from FIAT’s state-of -the-art facility at Ranjangaon, Pune plant and ended at Goa.
It is a great initiative from FIAT calling print and TV channels to drive their cars.
A sure shot way to know and plan their road ahead. Cars have been through 8 such legs and we are here to complete the final run.
With proper dinner and with deeply concerned state we hit the bed. I am worried but Jaggu is not. I am worried because all my photography accessories including dismantled tripod are in my baggage. Long travel and shooting experience tells me to be prepared for worst shooting situation. Tomorrow early morning we have to leave for airport to collect our baggage. Otherwise JET AIRWAYS can only deliver those around 10.30. This essentially means that we will get delayed for our trip. Airport is 25 km from our hotel. So we need to make a trip of 50 km before actually starting our trip.
12.30 in the night I am thinking about these and Jaggu is watching the movie AS GOOD AT IT GETS. Irony of the highest order.
Around 9.30am, we are back from the airport with our luggage and feeling of winning a battle. Other two teams, TIMES NOW and TOP GEAR are already there to roll.
We are the only people in the restaurant trying to finish our breakfast.
Outside, photography and videography is happening in full swing. These five snaps below are shot at Gujrat and not at Udaipur.
What are we waiting for? Let us go!
Some settlement issues with the hotel seem to give us some time. Excitement is too much to handle for all the teams and we start the driving around the hotel.
Jaggu has decided to fiddle around with the controls and figure out what those many buttons are for? The battery of the 500 was replaced in between (Delhi leg) and since the reset codes were not available during the short visit to the dealer, the CD/Radio unit remains locked!
Lucky the multi-information display (MID) at the center of the speedometer is working! Menu offers standard Fiat MID stuff including Range, Trip logs, FE figures, Passenger Airbag Activation, Service schedule and last but not the least day time running lights, which is unique for the 500. Fiat 500 otherwise is not equipped with park lights nor does it have a switch position on the control stalk. One needs to switch on the daytime running lights through the MID Menu.
Another unique feature for 500 is the Park assist switch that sits on the center fascia, next to the hazard light switch. This is a boost mode for the steering which will make it super light for parking speeds and is indicated on the MID as “City”.
FIAT 500 had 50,000 + km on its ODO, this is the same piece that has spent time with various auto journalists for the zillion test reports, and it has started to show its age. Service reading says 30,000 km overdue? The interiors, especially the upholstery and the leather steering have taken a lot of abuse. But thankfully the mechanical bits have held up well. No niggling plastics falling off here, only the sunroof curtain was little out of place. Though for a 14 lakh car we would appreciate better grade materials!
To be continued..
Last edited by Rudra Sen : 16th December 2009 at 22:14.
|16th December 2009, 19:44||#2|
DAY 1. UDAIPUR TO AHMEDABAD.
Local FIAT dealer flags us off. Man, he is surely looking pissed. He probably thought we would be out of his sight latest by 10.30.
So we potter our way out of Udaipur by noon and a nice winding tarmac stretch greets us. Jaggu is pushing the car a little bit now, she is peppy but the hard clutch (again due to the abuse?) is not very appealing to him. The gear lever positioning is sweet and the gates are precise, stick her in the right slot and mash the pedal and she responds beautifully. Brake is terrific and the tires more than adequate for the power and weight of the car. But that is when we encounter the first serious undulations on the road and suddenly all hell is breaking loose. Car is bobbing up and down and no other way but to cut speeds and manage the steering.
The choppy slow speed ride gave us a false feeling that suspension is taut, which is not the case! The choppiness is due to the low profile rubber 195/50/15 and the stiff suspension up front. On the rear it is a totally different set up all together, maybe the package has been softened for our Indian roads. But the stiff front and soft rear is a recipe for disaster on broken patches and road undulations at higher speeds. Moment the car goes over them, it has a tendency to pitch up and down at the rear which can be quite unnerving. In such situations, a quick dab on the brake helps in recovery.
Having said that, if you are on a normal cruise mode of 100-120 kmph, things should look good and you can take couple of high speed twists with grace, that is if you can keep an eye out for any mid corner undulations. The baby Fiat is managing to put up a decent fight with its bigger siblings and is keeping with their pace most of the time. Only at very high speed and that too when we get long straight stretches she has to move out from the fast lane. Still she is managing to keep the Palio at the bay. 140-150 kmph is exciting for her, beyond which one has to be little bit careful.
Interior space is plenty for two. Forget about the back seat. Your dog will never forgive you if you keep him there even for a short drive. Ergonomics is quite decent and the seat, steering adjustments provide an overall good driving position. We have a feeling that in this car you can drive all day and not feel tired.
Yes, this car is meant more for the city dweller and is very attractive! She is a real eye candy! Wherever we are stopping we are getting attention and comments.
We are nearing Ahmedabad and I have taken the wheel from Jaggu. Sadly fun ends soon and we are being greeted by 2 lanes road and that too filled with slow moving trucks. Time to give her some stick and the compact size and the peppy acceleration is a boon to squeeze her in and out of tight overtaking spots. Linea tailing us is having a tough time keeping up.
It’s peak evening traffic at Ahmedabad. Extremely chaotic and this is the worst I have seen in this country so far. We can’t see the leading car anymore but eventually after ignoring the directions given by Jaggu’s Google maps, we manage to catch up with the lead cars. Around 8.15 we are all checked in our rooms at Pride Hotel.
To be continued..
Last edited by Rudra Sen : 17th December 2009 at 18:39.
|16th December 2009, 21:24||#3|
DAY 2. AHMEDABAD TO SURAT.
9.30 in the morning we are all out and set for the second day. Our actual drive will start only after a press meeting at dealerís showroom. So I donít see any drive happening before 2. Why do I say this? Because I overheard somebody saying that lunch is at dealerís place. This is what we are going to drive today.
Jaggu grabs the key for the Linea and demands to drive. He is commenting that the initials are much better compared to the 500, despite the weight disadvantage.
We drive in to dealerís place. Almost a royal treatment, as all the cars go for a body wash. We walk inside a see a group of local media people. Funny part is almost most of the media people there have no clue about what they are supposed to report. For them it is just another daily coverage.
Customary flag off from Ahmedabad. Jaggu is bound to oblige them.
Nobody is actually hungry for lunch. We have been through a very elaborate breakfast. Just because we need to nibble something we go for lunch. Typical nice Indian lunch with roomali rotis as big as a bedsheet.
Run for dear life and start the run please. Around 3 pm we hit Ahmedabad Ė Surat highway.
The roads leading from Ahmedabad are an absolute driverís delight, as soon as you enter the toll roads you are greeted with super smooth 4-lane tarmac. Jaggu is going aggressive with the throttle, but it took him a while to figure out the throttle though. Initially the car was losing steam by 140 kph. The pedal is super hard and that gives the feeling that engine has hit a brick wall with revs. He is realizing it now - the trick is to stomp on them hard, from that point onwards. Linea speeds are now climbing, touching 160 and moving on to 180 kph.
Linea comes with a really tall 1st gear, which is pretty much useless if you are planning on spirited acceleration. Trick is to slot her in 1st, get the engine to hit the sweet spot of around 3000 rpm and shift to 2nd immediately without wasting any time. The VGT works better from 2nd gear onwards. Somehow the accelerator pedal on all the 3 cars felt hard (European specs?), and is feeling little disconnected. Maybe itís due to the abuse, but sadly all 3 of them never gave the crisp feel while pulling away from a stand still. Linea showed 16000 km service overdue? Wonder if its matter of forgotten resets? Me and Jaggu are exchanging notes and this is unanimous, if Fiat has to make a killer package out of Linea, it will have to dump in a bigger engine. Maybe it is their earlier FE fiasco with bigger engine that is stopping them or is it the Indian consumer? But FIAT seem to be happy with the engine and still lapping up 2000-2500 cars (Linea + Punto) every month?
Road now feels really good. IT IS TIME FOR ME TO GET INTO SOME CLICKING.
Sunlight is strong. I need to cut down ISO as much a possible. So with 50 ISO and Cokin filter collar mounted 20mm gets into action. Iím sitting inside blue (pilot car) Puntosís hatch. Cokin P 121S graduated ND filter looks fine to pull out some tone from an otherwise colourless sky.
Stop convoy. Tell Jaggu to exchange seats. I start driving Linea.
Apart from looking handsome, this car is a real handler too. Suspension is superbly set up, neither too bouncy nor soft. Takes on broken stretch with just some minor protest with suspension thuds, but otherwise rides amazingly well. She is definitely a competition to the class above her, when it comes to ride and handling. Steering is one of the best in India and dare I say, she has more feel and feedback compared to certain 3 pointed star cars.
One needs to really taste the high speeds to understand the handling and steering prowess of Linea. One can really attack the corners and feel absolutely safe and in control of the situation. Straight line feeling is superb. The steering weighs up just perfect, no vague feel whatsoever even at speeds of 180+ kmph and mind you, these are on stock Goodyears. With Prolonged driving at 120-140 kmph the brakes are holding up well without any fade or unwanted fuss like lock ups. Yes we are driving the emotion pack, that also matters I guess.
One thing is sure for us, for Lineaís weight, she needs a bigger heart. A 1.6L or better the superb 1.9L with VGT!!! FIAT, are you there??!!
We reach Surat and there is a TATA SUMO waiting for us to guide us to hotel. But before that we need to fill up diesel.
A gas bunk full of large FIAT sticker plastered cars are bound attract attention. In India especially. One very inquisitive guy comes next to me..
- Yea kya hai saab?
- FIAT family hai.
- Ek saath panch gaddi? Picnic ke liya gaya kya?
- Nahi, Bharat darshan ke liya.
- Aur yea gaddi? (pointing at 500) Yea kahaan se aya?
- Italy se.
- Baap re! Italy se drive karke aya?
- I keep my mouth shut.
- Saab, yea gaddi kitne ka hai?
- 15 lacs.
- Hai Ram! Teen lakh me Spark milta ji!
- Haan, ohi bahut accha hai. Le li jiye.
To be continued..
Last edited by Rudra Sen : 16th December 2009 at 21:50.
|16th December 2009, 21:45||#4|
Night halt is at TAJ GATEWAY hotel. We need to leave early morning tomorrow. According to Narendra, we should reach Bombay before 3. So packed breakfast is the only way to cut time. It is also very important to beat city traffic. Jaggu needs some time to open his laptop and reply to all his official mails. Right from the beginning of our journey Iím getting SMS only from AIRTEL cordially inviting me from state to state. Does that mean nobody wants me back in office? Jagguís phone is busy all the time.
DAY 3. SURAT TO BOMBAY.
Surat looks like a city full of flyovers and more to come up. Early morning roads are pretty much busy. We cross half cut drains, bypass constructions, take diversions and finally reach a fog filled road. Heavy traffic but this is probably the only way to get into Surat Ė Bombay highway.
This road surely has the poorest surface compare to what weíve experienced in last two days. Punto though lighter to Linea has a Fixed Geometry Turbo and that makes it similar to Linea when it comes to power to weight figures. This is the car with least number of kms 20,000 on ODO and a 0 reading for service due.
The gear ratioís is feeling somewhat different from Linea, the second and third gears feels more suited for city driving. Pushing the car high in these gears and you are greeted with not so pleasant response from the motor. This is not the case for gears 4 and 5. The same engine feels eager to respond and deliver power towards the higher rpms? Surely itís the gearing thatís working behind this phenomenon. One can easily cruise all day at speeds of around 120 kmph with this car.
Again the beauty of the package is the suspension/steering setup. This is one area where Fiat has achieved a fine balance, compared to the competition.
Traffic is becoming thick and Jaggu has finished the packed breakfast, I am asking him to take over..
We are entering Maharashtra and traffic has cleared up a bit compared to Gujrat side. Sweeping turns are greeting us and by now all the teams are charged up, after the early morning wake up and breakfast. Road condition though has deteriorated, too many rough patches and that too at the most unpredictable corner. This is where the Punto and Linea scores with their terrific suspension and steering set up. They are an absolute hoot to drive in our Indian highways.
A white Dezire is fast approaching us on the rearview. Dezire is a lighter car but still she has tough time catching up with the Fiat bunch. Especially the Puntoís that are gunning up and down the curves. We are approaching the toll-gate and this is the usual regroup point for all the cars, and decides to pull over for the white Dezire to overtake us.
We are waiting for others to catch up. In front of me blue Punto really looks nice through 20 mm lens. I donít know why we donít get to see this colour Punto that often (in Bangalore). Jaggu is as usual busy with his official calls.
FIAT team (so to speak) is basically 4 members. Narendara Sharma (product manager) with Arvind Ramteke (photographer), Yogesh Singh (video) and FIAT mechanic Pandu. Arvind and Yogesh are with FIAT DRIVE for last 45 days. Shooting every single thing what comes on their way. Only time they spare us during our pee breaks. Arvind has 85 GB of shots. He has to go through all of them before processing. He has my full sympathy.
After half an hour other two cars join us. Traffic is extremely heavy here.
We reach Bombay well within 3. Cars go above one gas station to have their beauty bath for evening closing ceremony. We cannot stay back because we need to catch our flight back to Bangalore.
Our experience has been great. We from team-bhp thank FIAT for their superb hospitality. Special thanks goes to Narendra. He is a super host.
We can now relate to the reply Fiat official gave at the press conference to a particular question: ďWhatís so different or special about Fiat cars, compared to others?Ē
He Replies: ďDrive our cars and then you will know.Ē
And yes we know now.
One may dislike Fiat due to the bad image the brand built up during the initial years. But once you drive their cars over couple of 100 km, you will see a very different perspective. They say ďsome cars have soulĒ. One definitely cannot ignore.
Thankfully things are improving, Fiat is also taking actions to fine tune their vendor arrangements as well as to sensitize the dealer networks towards a better customer experience.
Finally that all important National Question? Mileage kitna deta hein?
The Average FE figures remained almost identical for all 3 cars and was hovering around 15-17 kmpl (as per the MID). Mind you all the cars were loaded to their gill either with people or with spares and luggage, and was driven most of the while ďpedal to metalĒ mode. On a normal highway trip for you and me they should easily return 20 kmpl.
Last edited by Rudra Sen : 16th December 2009 at 21:53.
|16th December 2009, 22:22||#5|
Senior - BHPian
Join Date: Sep 2008
Thanked: 19 Times
I have driven a FIAT for 62000 KMs, hence i know, how good the FIAT car is
Rudra moshai, great report and great snaps
i sincerely hope FIAT indeed rules the market again.
all the best to them.
|16th December 2009, 22:41||#6|
Distinguished - BHPian
Join Date: Sep 2005
Thanked: 1,389 Times
Rudra; loved the write up; was glued coz a review from our old man is rare and will have more matter than masala.
Saw the program on TV and hence was praying it to be the same!
And SDE; Small Diesel Engine, didn't know that.
|16th December 2009, 23:23||#8|
Join Date: Aug 2009
Thanked: 136 Times
Excellent report and awesome photography. Congratulations
This will definitely change minds of people who have bad impressions about FIAT cars. A 30000km service over due 500 handles very smoothly and that we call a reliable car.
Those FE figures are really good for a run which had 180kph+ speed. In normal drive one can extract more juice from the cars easily.
Which were the major problems or issues faced though out the run? ( in tv they told some problems delayed the trip, could you please tell more about it).
|16th December 2009, 23:36||#9|
Join Date: Nov 2009
Thanked: 57 Times
Nicely written,I just felt like reading the initial few lines but then the way it as written & the pic's,i just read it completely.
I am desperately waiting to know more of the onlookers STUPID questions.
|17th December 2009, 00:03||#12|
Join Date: Jun 2007
Thanked: 18 Times
Rudraji, Great Report and pics. Nicely written and its good to see that FIAT has lot of respect for the team-BHP. Kudos to team-bhp. Feels proud to be part of this forum
|17th December 2009, 00:27||#13|
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|17th December 2009, 00:36||#15|
Join Date: Mar 2004
Location: SF Bay Area
Thanked: 125 Times
Great pics and narrative Rudra. Thanks to you and Jaggu for bringing the MultiJet drive experience to us.
How was fun sitting in the boot of the Punto and shooting? I really liked those "in motion" pics.
Enjoyed reading through this!
Last edited by gomzi : 17th December 2009 at 00:37.
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