Thursday, April 3, 2008

Diesel engines

I've never been a fan of diesel engines. Having traveled quite a bit in my friend's Tata Indica, I found the noise and vibration to be terrible, especially compared with the new generation of petrol engines, which are so silent that you have to really strain to hear them. Plus, it was slow as hell and used to take forever to accelerate.

Over the past few days, however, I've changed my view especially when it comes to performance. My friends and I have test driven three diesel cars over the past few days, the Ford Fiesta, Hyundai Verna and the Maruti Dzire. The Fiesta was refined, had fantastic handling and was responsive, but was way too overpriced at close to 8.5 lakhs. The Hyundai was an explosion of power. It was exhilarating to ride the torque curve, I was constantly letting the revs drop to below 1000 and
then flooring the accelerator. Initially nothing happens, but when it crosses 2000 rpm and the turbo kicks in, the power comes on in a violent manner and the car surges forward. Very soon, you're doing some serious speed indeed. Still, it was way too overpriced at almost 9.5 lakhs OTR and it doesn't even have airbags!!!

Yesterday, I test drove the Maruti Suzuki Dzire. I didn't like the looks and it was a bit cramped, especially compared to the Verna, but the engine was a revelation. Sitting inside, we couldn't believe that it was a diesel, it was so silent and free of vibrations. The power does not come on like the Verna as it is just 75 bhp instead of the 110 bhp, but it is still fairly fun to drive. The top end model is 7.65 lakhs OTR and its surely going to be a huge success.

It's still not all advantage diesel. The fact is that modern petrol engines are even more refined and silent, and they still have the edge when it comes to all out performance. The clincher is the fact that they're priced significantly lower than the diesel version (blame the Indian obsession with fuel costs and greedy manufacturers). So, if at all, I decide to buy another car, I still think I'll go with petrol.

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