Honda City CVT owner drives the Fronx Boosterjet AT: 6 key observations

The car felt planted at turns at 80kmph and quick lane changes at highway speeds. I felt, this was at par or maybe even slightly better than the City.

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Hi folks. We went for a 80+km test drive of Fronx Alpha AT today and thought I'll share my expectations and impressions here.

To give a bit of context about us, we have a 2012 A Star VXI AT (bought at 37k in late 2016) and a 2014 Honda City SV CVT (bought at 33k in 2018 by exchanging a 2014 Amaze S MT which had covered 35k kms). Both having completed 70k kms, both had tyres and suspension replaced in the last 1 year. Both are ASS maintained. I'm 6' 4" 110kgs and my wife is 5' 3", 70 kgs. Our driving is mostly in the city with 4-5 highway trips a year.

I had bought the A star as a cheap automatic for my wife to learn driving in. The plan was to keep it till she learns and then replace with something better in a couple years. However, I instead upgraded my Amaze to a City , for better seating comfort, power and auto gearbox so she can also drive it. So was looking for an upgrade in the sub 4m space as my wife feels that more her size, even though she has taken the City to all the same places as her A Star without any issues. And I must admit, every bit matters during parking in busy areas (cough T Nagar cough). While the 1.2L class of engines will have enough grunt for the city, I am also looking for a car that can do highway duties, which for me means:

  • 100-120 acceleration should be at least a good as the Honda City.
  • Handling should be decent, minimal body roll during curves at 80-85 kmph and quick lane changes.
  • Suspension should be balanced enough for good low and high speed ride quality.

The idea behind a good handling highway car, is that this will allow us to replace the City with a 7 seater MPV in the future which can be used to travel together in with extended family members (I'm not going to drive zestily with that crowd for my own good :P, and neither will the car allow me to). In addition to the above, there are the general requirements in a car, in order of importance:

  • Reliable
  • Decent service experience and parts availability
  • Stable body shell in crash test
  • Low NVH
  • TC or CVT. Maybe iMT/DCT if everything else fits, but thankfully, the ones that do give them fail in the above 3 aspects, saving me the confusion.
  • Big enough to seat 4/5 people with me at a comfortable spot in the front (A star cannot seat anybody behind me when I'm driving
  • Good mileage
  • No sunroof (eats into my headroom and the non panoramic ones don't really improve the experience for me)
  • Creature comforts but not really interested in gimmicks

The Tata Altroz DCA is slow and not that much of an upgrade in performance from the A Star. iTurbo does not come with an auto box. Rest of Tata's lineup is AMTs and worse ones than MS (they are deal breaker slow for me, even in manual mode). Even if I wait for Nexon DCA, the refinement and service are still question marks. XUV 300 is AMT as well, and from what I've read online, only a fraction faster than Tata and not in the same league as MS or Hyundai.

None of Hyundai's lineup has a stable body shell. Even if I ignore that for the turbo petrols with DCT, they cost 14+ on road and I would prefer MS lineup instead at that price.

Honda has only the Amaze. A used Amaze diesel or Jazz were considered as well. I backed out of the Diesel due to low NVH, the discontinued engine and because the copy I found had some battery issues. The petrols didn't have adjustable headrests at the back (something that the A star has, WTH Honda!!), no rear AC vents, the 100-120 acceleration isn't much to look forward to and noise insulation isn't great either. But it is very VFM at 11.5L onroad for a new Amaze top end and 8L for a 2019/2020 35k odd run used copy.

Kiger has a good powertrain, but service is a question mark. The NVH seems to be low based on multiple reviews.

Kushaq pulled at my heartstrings because that is the one car that fit me the best in the driver's seat (though not perfectly). It's turning radius is 5.2, same as brezza and isn't too much wider or longer than it either. However, the bad reports in reliability and service even for the TC variants along with a much bigger price sticker ruled it out.

The ones in MS which satisfied safety were Baleno, Fronx and Brezza. Almost all the requirements are met by the Baleno, except a quick 100-120 and the type of auto gearbox. I have driven an AMT Swift during a road trip in Kerala. While I can accept the jerks, the reliability concerns and the momentary failure of the gearbox during that trip where it refused to change from N to D without restarting the car is preventing me to go for it. That incident created an aversion in me to AMTs, because this happened when we had reversed out of a restaurant parking and into the road, and the car refused to go to drive causing a small pile up of traffic. I don't want this to happen when my wife is driving without me.

The Brezza has a sunroof in the higher variants and I thought the Fronx would have better roll on acceleration due to the turbo and the slightly higher torque. So had requested for a long test drive for the Fronx which I just completed today.

After a long winded context setting, here are my impressions of driving the Fronx:

  • The suspension is better at handling bolts on speed breakers and potholes than even the City which causes a bit of a jerk, while this was more cushioned. At moderate speeds, while the potholes are held, they are barely felt by the body. However, on concrete roads at 80-100kmph, it felt as if the car is shaking. Not something I felt in the City. The stupid and steep mini ramps which connect the plain road with a bridge also did not send sharp jerks.
  • The torque converter is fast. Well maybe not as fast as the DCTs, but it was faster than the City and A Star. The shifts in manual mode are even faster.
  • The throttle response is balanced. If I'm gentle, it keeps things smooth. If I press down harder, it drops even two gears quickly and surges ahead. I didn't even have to go full throttle.
  • While the engine is audible outside the car (I can barely hear the City at a distance and I could clearly hear the Fronx), inside the car, the engine noise does not filter in much. Engine and road noise was also well contained even at 120. I'm wondering if changing the tyres to XM4s or UC6s will not show significant difference or if the cabin will be even more silent. My wife didn't even realize she went to 120, when she generally stops at 100-110 in the City. I think this has to do with the better mid range. Even when I was driving, the RPM barely went above 4k and never above 5k even when I was demanding power. In the City, I easily go above 4k consistently.
  • Body roll was very well contained and handling was also good for me. The car felt planted at turns at 80kmph and quick lane changes at highway speeds. I felt, this was at par or maybe even slightly better than the City. Stability in the start of continuous beep zone was okay but it did not inspire confidence to go further, while the City has no problems going to silly speeds in a straight line. Doesn't matter much for us since we barely go into that zone.
  • Indicated FE at the end was 12.8 kmpl. For some reason the mild hybrid system was not working. The Auto start stop was on, but it kept saying it's unavailable. The battery didn't charge during braking or slowing down either and was at 2 bars throughout the drive.

I have requested a test drive of the Amaze, to see if the extra 3.5L are worth it. It seems to be for now, but will drive it before making up my mind.

Also, the only thing I care about in Alpha variant are the UV cut glasses and maybe the 360 deg camera and a bigger ICE unit.

I read in the XL6 thread that the UV cut glasses do work and are not a gimmick. 360 camera should make things easier for the wife. And a bigger screen should help with quickly identifying icons in the cluttered UI. However, not sure if paying an additional 1.1L for them is worth it. If UV cut glasses were no there, I would even be thinking about this variant.

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