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Check out the famous 4

BS Motoring | September 04, 2004

Take a close look at these four all-new automobiles: the Suzuki Swift, Hyundai Elantra, Honda FR-V and the Land Rover Discovery. The first two will be making their international debuts at the Paris Motor Show this month, while the other two have recently been launched.

Take a closer look because all four of them look likely to be launched in India in the near future, and all four of them look exciting. If they take too long coming, better start petitioning the respective manufacturers right away!

Hyundai Sonata: Flagship unfurled

Okay, maybe Sonata sales have gently been tapering downwards in India. If all goes well for Hyundai, the all-new Sonata that's replacing it should turn around this D-segment car's fortunes in the country. It better, because Hyundai is aiming to sell 300,000 Sonatas around the world in 2005.

The new Sonata marks a clear departure in the way the Sonata looks, in fact, it's a whole new design theme for Hyundai -- European, non-controversial, and a global look suitable for over a hundred countries around the world.

The development for the new Sonata was based on one key benchmark the Audi A6 (which shows in the headlamp/taillamp treatment), while it was also obviously measured against its arch-rivals, the Toyota Camry and the Honda Accord.

It took almost four years in the making, and is bigger than the model it replaces across all aspects, including wheelbase and ground clearance.

The two all-new Theta engines that make a debut in the new Sonata are equipped with variable valve timing, a vibration and noise reducing balance shaft, and unlike the steel block of the previous inline four, they feature all-aluminium construction.

And needless to say, both these inline-fours are more powerful and consume less fuel. The 1998cc unit develops 143 bhp at 6000 revs and 19.1 kgm at 4250 rpm, while the 2359cc powerplant produces 165 bhp at 5800 rpm and 23 kgm at 4250 revs. The latter unit in fact will be sourced by DaimlerChrysler and Mitsubishi for use in their own models.

The Sonata has just gone on sale in the domestic Korean market and will be showcased at Paris later this month. The all-important American market will see it at the Detroit Motor Show in January 2005 and it will go into production later next year in Alabama.

Hyundai Motor India has been quick to launch contemporary models, so we expect the new Sonata to arrive by the middle of next year, if not earlier -- once Hyundai Korea finalises production for the right hand drive version. A host of hopes are pinned on the new Sonata and it's unlikely to disappoint.

Suzuki Swift: Swift shift

It gets confusing a bit, so pay a little attention. Badged as the Suzuki Swift in Europe, we know the previous generation of this vehicle as the Esteem in our country and as the Subaru Justy in some markets, but it's not to be confused with the Baleno, which is known as the Esteem in the US.

Comprendi? Never mind. When Suzuki showed the rally-inspired Concept-S at Paris in 2002 and the Concept-S2 convertible at Frankfurt last year, they had announced that it will get into production in 2004. Well, they have kept their promise, and the all-new Swift will be shown in flesh-and-blood on the 23rd of September at Paris.

The Swift will be displayed in both three- and five-door versions and has been completely developed in Europe, but to us it seems applicable for other markets wherever Suzuki operates.

For the moment, the new Swift is clearly looking at the supermini segment in Europe, and it has, for competition, established players like the Fiat Punto, Skoda Fabia, Toyota Yaris, Opel Corsa and the Peugeot 206.

So the car has been through an extensive development programme in Europe and will also be built there -- to be precise, at the Magyar Suzuki plant in Hungary.

The Swift will come with three powerplant options, two petrol and one diesel. The 1300cc petrol develops 90 bhp at 6000 rpm and 11.7 kgm of torque at 4000 revs and the bigger 1500cc unit with variable valve timing is good for 100 horses at 6000 rpm and 13.7 kgm at 4000 clicks.

The diesel engine, of course, is the one that's co-developed by General Motors and Fiat, which Maruti will start production in India in 2006. This unit develops 68 bhp at 4000 revs and 17.3 kgm at just 2000 rpm.

About as big as an Indica or Palio, but wider, this mature hatchback makes brilliant sense for filling up the gap in Maruti Suzuki's portfolio. Hopefully, India's largest car maker stops producing facelifts of outdated cars and launches something as promising as the

Swift. We can't wait.

Honda FR-V: A Multipla from Honda

Research would have told Fiat that the Multipla would not do well in India, but research can only do this much. Honda, on the other hand, would do well to create a new category in India, that of the compact MPV, with the new FR-V. Compact MPVs offer versatile and large seating/luggage capacity with the performance and driving pleasure of cars.

Based on the CR-V platform, but with a longer wheelbase, the FR-V stands for Flexible Recreational Vehicle. Like the Multipla, the FR-V has six seats arranged in two rows of three and the seats fold in various ways depending on how many people you want to carry or what sort of stuff you want to load it with.

And yet, it features a large boot to carry luggage even when fully loaded with passengers. The seat backs can function as trays and little nooks and crannies abound, to store various things. And to make space for the front passengers, the gearshift is mounted on the dash, next to the steering wheel, like the CR-V.

Though it is entirely utilitarian and functional, the FR-V, according to Honda, is fun to drive. Sitting on a wide track, the FR-V offers stability, agility and a good steering response.

The track geometry has been devised to reduce body roll considerably, so Honda could fit softer springs to offer a comfortable ride without compromising on handling.

The FR-V will be offered with two petrol mills and a diesel too. The 1700cc SOHC VTEC unit develops 124 bhp at 6300 revs and 15.7 kgm of torque at 4800 rpm, and it's mated to a five-speed manual tranny. The 150 bhp 2000cc DOHC i-VTEC produces 19.5 kgm at 4000 revs and is combined with a six-speed manual gearbox.

Honda's brilliant new 2.2 turbodiesel will be shoehorned into the FR-V next year. This 2204cc unit delivers 140 bhp at 4000 revs and 34.3 kgm at just 2000 rpm. The FR-V goes on sale in Europe in November, but we want it here now.

Land Rover Discovery: Waiting to be Discovered

The new Land Rover Discovery -- known as the Discovery 3 and the LR3 in the US --replaces one of Land Rover's most popular models. It's the first vehicle to be fully developed after Ford took Land Rover over from BMW in July 2000.

Though it is not much bigger than the preceding model, Discovery 3 is much more spacious inside and offers seating for up to seven and adequate space for luggage.

With permanent four-wheel drive, and options like adaptive headlamps and air suspension, the new Discovery is bristling with technology. Chief amongst them is the new Terrain Response system, where the driver can choose one of five terrain settings through a rotary dial on the centre console.

Terrain Response controls ride height, engine torque response, Hill Descent Control, Electronic Traction Control, transmission and differential settings.

The top engine option available on the Discovery is the 4400cc 295 bhp petrol V8 derived from Jaguar's AJ-V8. Here, the engine has been developed to offer better low-end torque (42.8 kgm) and better weatherproofing against dust and water.

The other petrol option is the 215 bhp 4000cc V6 that offers 36.3 kgm of torque. But the more promising engine option for India is a V6 turbodiesel borrowed from the Jaguar S-Type.

This 2700cc common rail unit produces 190 bhp and 44.3 kgm of turning force. A six-speed 'intelligent shift' automatic transmission is available for all the three engines, while the diesel gets a six-speed manual gearbox option too.

Land Rover promises the new Discovery is as good on road as off it. A new innovation used in the Discovery is the Integrated Body-frame, a new type of construction that combines torsional rigidity, car-like handling and refinement of a monocoque with the strength and go-anywhere-ability of a traditional ladder frame.

A fully independent suspension set-up and height adjustable air springs offer the kind of handling you would want from your SUV.

BMW dealers in India can take orders for the Land Rover Discovery, so why buy an expensive Range Rover, when you can get a Land Rover Discovery that is equally good?

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