Test Drives pt2: The car that outgrew me

So…with the Jazz ruled out, I thought about my options and one immediately came to my mind: how about another i20? I had wanted to buy a different car this time. But after all, my 2013 petrol Asta had served me well for 120k km (other than the fact that the engine went out once! Yeah.). So why not? And the i20 had automatic options anyway. It would be costlier than what I had budgeted but it gave me enough car for the money, it would be worth it.

The problem was by the time I thought of the i20, it was too late on Saturday evening to schedule a test drive. So I decided to just ring up the showroom on Sunday and try my luck. They said it wouldn’t be a problem but that only the DCT was available for test drive and not the CVT (which is what I had had in mind). I had heard reports about problems being encountered with the Volkswagen DSGs so I wasn’t too keen on landing up with what might be a white elephant.

But I said the rest of the car barring the transmission would be the same so why not just take the DCT for a spin. When I reached the showroom, the salesman had nearly talked me into junking the CVT and going for a DCT. But I said I wanted to drive it anyway.

Well, boy, did it convert me. The salesman had said that the pickup would be noticeably better than a CVT. And sure enough, this bird could fly. Basically, with the DCT, the feedback I got from the throttle input was similar to a manual. When I steadily increased the acceleration, the car responded. It didn’t whine unlike the Jazz CVT when I stepped on the gas. And past 40-50ks, the turbo kicks in so that the wondrous i20 gives a ‘big car’ feel at higher speeds. This was the thing I had loved about driving the old manual and I was delighted to see it had been replicated in the DCT too.

For all that, though, I still wouldn’t quite compare the response to my manual. It was still just a bit less of a livewire than the manual and I noticed the difference immediately when I drove my own old i20 back home from the showroom. True, I was driving the test drive car more cautiously than I would mine, but I still did rev it up to nearly 80ks as I hit Sanpada flyover. And the i20 DCT turbo 1.0 can generate 118 bhp power which is a lot, lot more than my manual, which does 82 bhp maximum. Given that massive power differential, it didn’t fly quite as much as I would have expected. But it was enjoyable enough to drive.

And as for the rest, I loved the interiors as well as the cooling. Overall, the package was a beauty. And since I had been parking the old i20 in and out hassle-free anyway, everything was taken care of, right? This was going to be the happily ever after, right?

Wrong! This is where I was dead wrong, in fact. I hadn’t accounted for the fact that models would actually grow wider, significantly wider over time. My old i20 is 1710mm wide. The new one is 1775mm wide. Wait, that’s just 65mm, i.e., 2.5 inches, right? Surely, that’s not a big deal, you say? Well, those are the margins I work with as far as my parking goes.

Additionally, the new i20 has a bigger turning radius by nearly 10% than the old. Now this I couldn’t get at all. I do understand why hatchbacks, especially in the premium segment, are getting bigger. The market is getting more and more demanding and not everyone is stuck with a nightmare parking slot like mine. But why increase the turning radius, why, why?

The salesman would point out the increased turning radius later. But I felt it intuitively while attempting to park it in. I had enough margin between car and the right pillar to make it if this was the old i20. But this one wouldn’t turn. I narrowly escaped grazing the pillar and being inflicted with a damage claim. But the car was a no-go.

With great disappointment, I had to let the salesman know this wouldn’t work out. He added insult to injury by telling me that if this one didn’t fit, none of the premium hatchbacks would. And he was right. It’s not just i20 that has gotten wider. So has the Swift, the Dzire as well as Magnite (the Micra replacement). Back in 2013 when we got the old i20, I had around ten options or so at least in the premium hatch/compact sedan segment. By 2022, I discovered, most wouldn’t fit into my parking.

As I began to tell the salesman about how the parking slot thwarted us from buying the car we wanted to, he offered comforting words, saying after all I had a 2BHK flat in Vashi to live in and that counted for much more than what car I owned. He was right again. But the thought of downgrading to something like a Grand I10 was still upsetting.

Would I have to? Or would there be other premium hatchbacks that would fit? Or some other segment/body style altogether?

By the way, this was the third of the four cars I tested. I will write soon about the very first one that I tested. Watch this space.

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