Being Different - Life With a Premier Rio CRDi4 Lx
DISCLAIMER: I am not working or associated with PREMIER Automobiles, XENOS or any automotive firms other than being a customer. All Views expressed here are from my perspective only and I will try my best to give a clear and honest outlook of the Rio because there aren't any ownership review of the Premier Rio with the ‘Multijet’ Heart (CRDi4 Engine as they’d like to call it.A.K.A DDiS,Quadrajet,TCDi ,SmarTech etc) Let’s Start, But Fair Warning - This could turn into an excruciatingly long post than what you'd normally expect. I had started writing in 2015 and still haven't got the time to finish it. But I will try my best to keep it less boring as possible. So, read on when you're ready... Selecting a brand new car has now become a very tough call for us unlike the olden days. We are spoilt for choice as there are just too many options out there which makes it just ridiculous. And if you happen to be an enthusiast, it’s just an all new high of agony For example, if you are particular about having a car with FIAT’s Multijet engine, it doesn’t end by choosing a Fiat car. In India, you have a choice of 19 models from different car makers and the list is increasing day by day. Wonderful...
BackStory... If you had asked any of my close friends about what probably could be my next car, They would have hinted towards a Linea TJet.I was so smitten by the car that I almost started convincing my family about the T-jet although it made no logical sense whatsoever.One drive of the Jet would leave a lasting impression on anyone. The fact that we already had a sedan(2006 Esteem VXi) and a hatchback(2002 Maruti 800 5Speed Limited Edition a.k.a Joymobile) only made things worse as the TJet would give lesser fuel efficiency than the current cars and to top it off, the usual cons associated with FIAT at the time; bad service by Tata, unknown reliability factors and terrible resale altogether hit the final nail in the coffin for the T-Jet [all this was back in 2011-12 when I was in Engg college and the TJet had a whopping Rs 2.36 lakh discount at the time making it a mouth watering deal)]. Now most of you may have asked themselves at this point about why is the Linea TJet mentioned in a review of the Premier Rio??? I am getting to it... As i was saying, being smitten by a vehicle because of its sheer performance, agility (READ:HANDLING) and built quality etc and ending up buying a Rio, which is from a maker whose cars were notorious for poor built, after sales and what not,doesn't make any sense at all. Why? Because... THIS CAR TICKED MOST OF MY REQUIREMENTS (THERE IS NO PERFECT CAR) INCLUDING PRICE AND THE COMPANY SURPASSED MY EXPECTATION WITH THEIR SUPPORT FROM THE DAY OF ENQUIRY TO DATE OF SALE WHICH WAS MORE THAN A YEAR IN TOTAL FIND THAT HARD TO BELIEVE? YES, IT IS INDEED TRUE... I remember seeing the first Rio back in 2009-10 at a traffic signal in my hometown Trivandrum, Kerala and it was passing through the T-Junction road across me and I saw the side profile of the car in Bright RED.I thought it was a Suzuki Jimny or a new Gypsy being tested, until I saw the monogram on the derriere 'PREMIER RIO'. It looked proportionate from the side and back and had a character of its own. But when i reached home and searched the internet for the pictures, I saw the front of the car and it was TERRIBLY DISAPPOINTING to say at least. There was a Premier showroom in our city as per the company website (I'd never seen it till then) and there were a few cars on the road showing up now and then,which later vanished among the crowd of new entrants in the market and the Rio was forgotten... Somewhere in 2013,The Rio made a comeback into my life. Was it sheer Co-Incidence or Destiny? I would go with the latter because if it had been some other car, maybe i wouldn't be writing this review at all...
A Peek At My Garage... Like I mentioned earlier, I had a 2002 Limited Edition Maruti 800 5-Speed in 'Riviera Red' christened the 'Joymobile' from my college days and a 2006 Esteem Vxi in Silky Silver. Both the cars were impeccably maintained with strict 6 month service intervals irrespective of running and pampered every now and then as I am very attached to my rides . Everything including the powered radio antenna on the Esteem works flawlessly till date and there are no rattles which is associated with Maruti car's nowadays. The Esteem has covered 52,000 kms in 10 years.The dashboard plastics are soft touch and nothing has faded except the silver paint finish on the gear knob which is mostly gone because of our finger rings scraping against it.
The buyer for the 800 just came in for a casual look after seeing my ad on Olx, but after the test drive he wouldn’t leave until I accepted a token advance (he was the first one to call and show up) and the whole deal was done in 3-4 days even though I wanted sometime more with ma car . He was bugging me every now and then for speeding up the sale. It was to be his family's first car. He came with all the papers I asked for and took away the car. My mother and I were very sad that day but I happy that it found a good home. The car had done ~53000kms in a span of 12 years then and not even once had it let me down.
Most of the fun parts of my college life were associated with this car.
I used the 'Joymobile' to get to college and at the time it was shod with Potenza GIII 165/60/R12 tyres (changed to MAXXIS MA701 155/70/R12 in 2013) and it was rock solid doing 100+ speeds. But although having power brakes, the stopping power was inadequate at high speeds. Later due to high running costs since both of our cars were petrol, I switched the 800 to LPG (Lovato Auto change over Kit) which also happens to be a Green fuel [OFF TOPIC : Did you know that LPG is the fuel used in diesel vehicles just like NOS(Nitrous Oxide) in petrol for sudden bursts of power? The process is known as LPG FUMIGATION ] But now the trouble was that I was taking the 'Joymobile' for long trips as well because LPG costed under 40/- where as petrol was hitting 78/- at the time. The F8D motor on the 5-speed model was a hoot to drive and even with LPG and AC on.There was no sign of being under powered in any case. But my back and left leg cursed me after such longer trips and I needed ~2 days to regain left leg awesomeness.
Now,that was the time I thought of owning a bigger, more comfortable car. And preferably a diesel. To be Continued...
Why A Diesel? I remember the time when my uncle had a Mahindra Scorpio ( a 2003 Turbo 2.6). Although it had a sweet kick from the turbocharged 110hp motor, it still sounded like a tractor and so were all diesel cars back in the day. Regardless of the car or bus I used to puke in whenever I got on one (rear seats especially. Only exceptions were the Swaraj Mazda and DCM Toyota mini buses) plus, it was a disgraceful sight for petrol heads seeing black soot/smoke coming out of the exhaust pipe. God,I hated it so much.
Then the Swift 1.3 diesel (Fiat-sorced Multijet engine) came along. It is the vehicle which changed my perspective towards diesel cars. The drive was quite fun and my friend was driving it like a maniac with an evil grin. Later when I got to drive it, I quickly fell in love with the sudden burst of power post 2,000rpm and impressed by the overall NVH characteristics inside the car. It was very reliable and easy on the pocket unlike the Scorpio. Much later, my close friend bought Hyundai's Fluidic Verna. The power delivery was very linear (the turbo rush was missing) but at the same time I was stumped by the refinement levels and drivability of the beautiful 1.6L motor. You could feel the power right from the word Go. The in-cabin insulation was excellent and you could rarely hear the engine in the cabin. To top it off, he was getting 18-20kmpl on the highways from a 128ps car. The service bills were 4-7k per year (as Hyundai still use Mineral Oil) which is excellent for a million rupee car. So I made up my mind that my next car can be a diesel although my running wouldn’t justify the extra money spent .
Modern Day Diesel cars have come a Long way.
My requirements 1) Since I was replacing the 800,I wanted something bigger yet compact enough which could do city runs and be squeezed through the narrow city streets without much fuzz. The effort to park the car also needed to be easier. 2) Good ground clearance. The 800 scraped its underbelly quite a lot due to the wonderful roads we have here and the low profile Bridgestone Potenza tyres. The front bull bar mounts only made things worse. So this was a non-negotiable criteria in my next car. Also in Trivandrum, Kerala just after a 45 minute rain, the city centers would be flooded (and be ok the next day). So higher the clearance, the better chances of driving 'Like a Boss'. 3) Must have safety features like ABS as I have come across some wheel locking situations on the road. But with God's grace, I've never had any serious accidents till date. Airbags were optional as my driving would mostly be in city but good to have if it fits my budget. My take is that ABS is a feature that will help avoid a crash where as Airbags will come in play after you've had one. 4) Although my running is not a lot, I still preferred getting an LPG or Diesel. But since I was not used to owning a diesel. the best bet was to start with an engine which is a proven workhorse, usable in the city and out of the highway, fuel efficient and easily serviceable with good parts availability even after years of use. So it was a choice between the Renault 1.5L K9K or FIAT's 1.3 Multijet which are considered as the National engines in India as they are used in more than a dozen models from different makers. 5) The car should have good usable low end torque. The Esteem is notorious for its absence although the spec on paper is a respectable 85bhp with 110Nm of torque but all the power is at the mid-high end of the band and I have to constantly keep it in rev band not to stall the car. It is a pain in bumper-to-bumper traffic with A\C on (which is the default mode). 6) Should look distinctive and have character/identity from the crowd and yet not too flashy. I have tried to give my cars a unique touch to stand out amongst the others on road and I will do the same to my new car as well, but it would be nicer to have something different yet good at the same time. Boy oh boy, I never thought it would get this unique 7) Good AC.I never drive my cars without AC. So this is again was a non-negotiable criteria. Fancy things like climate control is not important. It should be ICE COLD that is the norm 8) Good to have good boot space as my sister and family live abroad and those airport runs require good cargo capacity. The Esteem actually belongs to my sister and it was doing the job pretty well. But if it was to be sold in near future, this was also to be considered. 9) Bluetooth phone connectivity and navigation. My sense of direction is awful, period. Answering a phone call after pulling over to the side of the road, with the phone being either in my pocket or on the dashboard with seat belts on is quite a task. So I would love to have these features in my next car if possible. 10) Strong sheet metal/build quality. Cars nowadays are so flimsy and made like tin-cans that you can't even lean on them without causing a dent or at least flexing the panels (forget posing for selfies sitting on the bonnet in new cars). The Fiat/Ford/Volkswagen cars are the ones with stronger body casing than the other mass market manufacturers. [Surprisingly, the Rio has strong panels and I believe it is because the panels are already made and imported here with only assembling taking place in India. You can safely poke the metal all around and it will not go in and out like on a Nissan/Honda/Suzuki/Hyundai] NOTE: I wasn't really bothered about 7 seats or rear seat comfort as mostly i would be driving alone or with my mom at the front. So as long as front seats provided stress free driving and support, I was happy. Budget was set strictly below Rs 10 lakh OTR (on-the road) which I thought was fair for what I was looking for in a car. Now,The Contenders Being a car fanatic and a Cartoq panel member (See,I am bragging now ) I had to keep myself updated about cars available in the market quite extensively. I had connections to most of the car showrooms in Trivandrum and had driven most of them and got familiar with them. So, it meant I had only to re-visit the cars which appealed to me and ticked my requirements 1)Chevrolet Beat LPG 1.2 (DEEDI MOTORS,TVM) PROS-Peppy 1.2L motor and Fuel Injection LPG Kit, value for money pricing (with discounts), looks and AMC package CONS-Fuel Efficiency, abrupt braking with even just a dab on the pedal, poor rear seat comfort, No top-end mode 'LT(O)' with LPG [even on LT, split seats were skimped from LPG variant which was available on the Petrol] Since I was very comfortable using LPG in my 800 and had authorised Auto LPG service centre near my office and 5 LPG filling stations in Trivandrum, I was interested in replacing the 800 with another LPG powered vehicle but with better brakes,space and seating comfort. I had given more priority to the Beat LPG because the Hyundai Grand i10 LPG had the 1.0 motor from the Hyundai Eon and they had not sold even one unit until then. The Beat had a peppy 1.2 motor and funky looks plus good discounts due to abysmal sales. But the LPG variant was not available for TD and the variant was not well kitted as it came only in 2 variants.I didn't liked the brakes and found the seating position a bit awkward.the rear suspension also was stiff so all the jolts were getting to the rear passenger. So there was no point in looking further. The Beat was out. I did check out the Chevy Sail twins on display in the showroom but closed the door as soon as I opened it.The brown interior combo was a disaster. A note worth mentioning. When I was test driving the Beat Petrol, I got the 'Joymobile' evaluated for exchange at the showroom just to know. They gave a generous offer of 50k (+10k exchange bonus and a special +5k bonus) which I politely declined because I had already taken token advance from buyer and you know at what price I sold the car via OLX? Rs 92,000.
Moral of Story : Always pick quikr or olx like portals and sell direct if you have a well maintained car.Your baby (vehicle) is worth more than just market value to the right buyer. 2)Grand i10 1.0 LPG (HILTON HYUNDAI TVM - NOW CLOSED) I was constantly following up with the dealers since this car's launch and even after a month the dealerships didn't have any more info in the car or a test drive car. Everyone had the price list . Both the petrol and diesel were better VFM than the LPG and someone would buy one only if they badly needed an LPG powered vehicle. The Beat in comparison had better looks, power, proper 4 cylinder engine and better pricing. Even in 2015-16 I am yet to seen a Grand i10 with LPG on the road. May be Hyundai wanted to keep this variant to fill the product lineup because Chevrolet had one and the old i10 was soon to be phased out. So,off went the Grand i10 and LPG as a fuel choice.
3)Ford Ecosport 1.5D (KAIRALI FORD,TVM) PROS- Ground clearance and built quality, powerful and economical 1.5 Diesel, excellent road dynamics and kit on offer (top variants), 60:40 split-folding rear seats CONS- Waiting period, insane pricing for both car and accessories, alien looks (subjective ) India was then hit with the Ecosport Fever for quite some time and I was also very excited and pleased with the vehicle when I drove it for the first time. I can't say the same about the looks as I am one of the few guys who doesn't like the styling bit (no offence to any owners ). It looked like an alien from all sides and minus the spare tyre, doesn't look SUV-ish from any angle.It was a hatchback on stilts by all means and the interiors were lifted from the new Ford Fiesta which made it look like a car but quality was top notch. It looked like the perfect vehicle for my requirements until they hiked the prices and took features off of variants without customers noticing and the tall waiting period just kept climbing. Still I revisited Kairali Ford and looked at the possible variants in my budget, The base Ambiente was costing 8.62 OTR (on-the road) and Trend was 9.35 lakhs OTR and the accessories were priced through the roof like; a plastic painted spare tyre cover was priced 12000/-.Talk about milking customers. I politely took the quotes and walked away...
4)Mahindra Quanto 1.5(TVS AND SONS,TVM) PROS- Actually feels like a proper big vehicle with spacious interiors and comfortable seating for 3 adults in the 2nd row, twin stage turbo diesel engine, good city drivability, RWD layout, 7 seats although not usable on longer journeys (good to know it's there if you need it), sales and service centre was merely 2 kms away from home, Exclusivity factor. CONS- Dealership attitude. The model was a market dud and it was bobbing and pitching on bad roads , Clattery 3-cylinder engine, fugly looks due to the cut-paste job (especially side profile), high parts and service costs, not much discounts as I expected even though sales was dismal. The Quanto was the first Indigenous car from an Indian manufacturer to boast of a Twin Stage Turbo charger, usually a term associated with performance brands like Mercedes, Porsche, BMW etc [But this is different from the original Twin Turbo’s and has only one Turbo with special fin layout to give boost at different rpm bands].The specifications on paper was also exciting 100PS and 240Nm from as low as 1600 rpm. But the real world experience was disappointing to say the least. The car was bobbing like a TATA Sumo on braking and on bad uneven roads. The 3-cylinder engine was noisier and clattery than I expected it to be. But that said, the car has its own strengths as well. The cabin is very spacious and solidly put together. There were no rattles or squeaks for a car that had done considerable kilometres doing test drives. The centre console and layout was boring and no tech wizardry on board other than the Micro Hybrid system which would anyway be off in most cars (as it cuts the Air Con also). The jump seats could seriously come in handy when you need to punish your friends .The weight of the car is what slows it down although having great specs on paper. It looked.. well, different and was most visually bearable in a shade of black. The pricing and the puke inducing dynamics sealed the fate of the Quanto. But if it had come with great discounts on offer,I would have bought it for the sheer uniqueness and convenience factor of having the A.S.S at walking distance. Now,I have to go travel 14 kilometres for a service. BUMMER...
5)Renault Duster 1.5 K9K (RENAULT,TVM) PROS- Solidly built, car-like road manners, robust suspension, fuel efficient, reliable, spacious. A product you know will age well. CONS- Insane pricing just like the EcoSport, for a car built on the Logan/Verito platform, dated looks, less gadgets also points to the rip off feeling for the price, high maintenance costs,no variant I liked came within my in budget. To be Fair,I knew from the start this car was out of budget but had a look anyway.Drove it,felt great,took quotes,thanked them and left.FIN
6)Fiat Linea Facelift(MOHANDAS MOTORS,TVM- NOW CLOSED) PROS- Finally a cabin the car deserves, has elevated the premium feel of the car, 15,000 kilometre service intervals, discounts on the new model already and on pre-facelift models, good fuel efficiency, fairly loaded with equipments, familiar Multijet, solid built quality, suspension, ground clearance and boot space CONS- I didn't like the exterior. The old model with the newer interior layout would have been hauntingly beautiful , a bit sluggish due to the extra weight and noticeable turbo lag on incline start stops, turning radius of the moon, protruding mirrors are biker magnets, still a sedan (already had one). The exterior looks of the new Linea was actually a bummer for me.The old one looked way classy and timeless. But I was happy with the new interiors and the plushness it offered. The Multijet was feeling a bit sluggish than expected owing to the extra weight this car has. There is something special with Fiat that their engines performed and sounded better in cars not made by them . So the impression that the T-Jet made on me was missing in the diesel and buying another sedan didn't make any sense.So I avoided driving the T-Jet not to make any stupid decisions and checked my next favourite model in the showroom.
7)Fiat Punto 90HP Sport (MOHANDAS MOTORS,TVM- NOW CLOSED) PROS- Sporty performance as the tag says, can fly over bad roads and good ground clearance,Looks great with the black roof, chunky discounts, Multijet magic, 15,000 kilometre service intervals CONS- Dated interiors, soon to be discontinued (back then), expensive cosmetic spare parts The Punto felt a bit more lively than the Linea because of being less fat and the ground clearance was also good. The only downer was that the updated EVO was just around the corner. I had just missed a Rs 50,000 added discount which was available 2 months before. So it was a question of why buy a car which is to be discontinued at a slightly higher price? But I have to say that the drive was extremely pleasing the enthusiast in me. I told them to contact me of any offers or price revisions when the new model arrives (which they didn't) and left.
8)Finally The Premier Rio CRDi4 Lx (AMC PREMIER,ERNAKULAM - NOW CLOSED) PROS- Looks Like a proper shrunken SUV i.e 'COMPACT SUV' , RWD (rear-wheel drive) layout, value for money, fuel efficient yet powerful because of Multijet magic (23.75kmpl as per ARAI), strong sheet metal quality, can be driven in rough roads and narrow streets, infamous Turbo KICK still retained, head turner on roads, exclusivity, chunky siscounts on offer, ABS available as standard on all models, 50:50 Split folding rear seats + rear seat reclining function. CONS- Questionable Reliability due to low vehicles on road, extremely low sales and *** around, unknown customer support (at the time) and parts procurement time frame since they are imported, poor resale value, brand value The Rio enquiry started out of curiosity and ended in a sale due to the fact that the car was scoring high on the things I was looking for in my next car. At Rs 8.4 lakhs on-road, the Rio was Rs 22,000 lesser than the base model of EcoSport to start with (but too much for a Premier product in the eyes of a customer). Plus I got a sweet deal on the car from both company and dealer. So I had excess amount in hand which I would use to spruce up the ride with many,many things which would make the Rio up to date with the rest of the cars in the market.
A Bit of History Lesson... The Premier Rio Multijet in India is essentially a Zotye 5008/Nomad-II/Hunter model from China and this is an updated model of the Zotye 2008 which is the original Daihatsu Terios from Japan,a.k.a Daihatsu Taruna/Taruna OXXY in Indonesia, Luis 4U Green in Germany, Perodua Kembara/Toyota cami in Malaysia/Canada/Kenya. Now thats quite a handful of information.
Zotye acquired license from Daihatsu and are making it just like Hindustan Motors(HM) were making the Ambassador which essentially was a Morris Oxford Series III; The Indian Muscle Car 'Contessa' which was originally the Vauxhaull Victor; The Premier Padmini which was the Fiat 1100 and the 118NE from Fiat 124 etc. It seems that only assembling of cars/vehicles is the past and present for Premier Automobiles and no indigenous product is to be expected. The Premier plant in Chinchwad has a capacity to produce or assemble 200 units of the Rio Per Month (If you think 200 units/month sales was over ambitious by Premier, imagine what TATA Motors were thinking when setting up the plant for churning out 21,000 units of the Nano per month ) . What's Unique About the Rio... Just state some facts about the car to someone without giving out the make and model one by one
Imported-CKD kit (Completely Knocked down)
Rear Wheel Drive
Hydraulic Power Steering
Rare car with limited sales and service support
By this point,for an unsuspecting soul,the image of an imported sports car builds up in mind... Then you go again and add 200mm of ground clearance to the detail. Still confused.. finally you pull out the final card - The price I'm pretty sure no one would agree or guess such a car exists in India. Now give out the Model Name-Rio. I'm sure 90% will still be in dark. Then give out the maker and only the elderly and middle aged apart from car fanatics will still remember Premier Automobiles especially with the new logo'P' than earlier 'PAL'.
This is how 'Unique' the Premier RIO is. One and a half years have passed and I'm still being pulled over at times to have asked about the car. So its still like driving a new car/Test mule Technical Specifications And Features.
Oddly enough, cool features like LED cabin lamp, instrument panel backlight adjustment and rear seat recline function is not mentioned anywhere in the brochure
More Facts Only assembling of the CKD (Completely knocked Down) Kit happens in India and none of the parts or spares are manufactured in India apart from the engine which is made by FIAT and supplied to Premier Automobiles. The downside is that you are getting a 90's product but the silver lining is that this is a tried and tested product and should be quite reliable owing to its Japanese Lineage. One Interesting thing about the Rio is that since the body panels are made abroad, it is not as flimsy as the Koreans or Japanese cars made in India. You can safely lean onto the car and poke the panels with force, no sir.. It won't go in/out like my other cars.The under body is also quite confidence inspiring as the metal parts are really strong and should last the distance unless they fouled up the manufacturing which is still unknown. The front has MacPherson struts with springs and rear suspension has a 5 rods setup and it is quite interesting to see the front and rear wheel articulation when we are parked on uneven surfaces or road surfaces and it gives character to the vehicle and a person looking at it will see the rear wheels spinning being a RWD and would mistake it for being a 4x4 because most cars in India are front wheel driven (FWD) only. I love this fact and had purchased a 4x4 monogram to fix on it even before taking delivery. Nobody would sense it as an aftermarket addition as the car itself is very rare. So I'm enjoying all the attention
The Multijet engine has the barcode sticker from Fiat with the codes saying its a 75hp engine but from the original 75bhp 190Nm figure, Premier was happy with only 72bhp and 183Nm. I'm thinking the power is lower because of transmission losses being a RWD vehicle, but it doesn’t feel under powered at any instant and feels spirited to drive. Drive the 1.5 TUD5 model back to back (Ha! Good luck finding those...) and you will find what a world of difference the vehicle has received with the engine swap in terms of power, torque,fuel efficiency, emissions(Now BS-4), NVH and overall drivability.[Chevrolet Enjoy is another vehicle with the Multijet engine(Badged SmarTech) powering the 'Rear wheels' but a bit higher power output of 73.8bhp yet even lower torque figure of 172.5 Nm which doesn't sound too promising as it’s supposed to carry 7 plus+luggage with A\C on] On another note,Premier seems to have done the tuning to give good fuel efficiency.The Rio has an ARAI Certified Mileage of 23.75 Kmpl which they have proudly announced in the ad’s and website as "India’s Most Fuel Efficient SUV" replacing the original slogan; "India's First Diesel Compact SUV".
Sadly,It didn’t make much difference to the sales numbers as expected. The Rio in other markets comes with petrol engines with a 4x4 system from the original Terios. It can be turned on or off from a button on the dashboard. It's a simple system similar to that of the FIAT Panda. But it was avoided in India to keep the cost of the vehicle low and foreseeing lower demand for petrol 4x4's (because of the Indian customer's mileage consciousness). It should have been introduced as it would have made the product more appealing to customers. Another weird thing is that although the exteriors are the same as Zotye 5008, Premier didn't bother to change the interiors of the same car and chose to stick with the old design which is a BIG glaring omission done by the company.The original 5008 interiors looks premium and would have increased the Rio's sales figures a lot more.I don't agree if someone says it makes significant cost reduction because if you take the entire pain to update the whole car,what more could it cost to replace a dash board since there are no airbags/complex items inside to worry about anyway.Pity!
There is already a facelift selling alongside the 5008/Nomad-II which is the T200 like the Linea Classic and New Linea.This model has even more classier interior but I found the exterior of the current Rio more appealing.
The actual story of my Rio purchase is coming in the next post.Stay glued to this thread for more. To be Continued...
A Bit of History Lesson... The Rio in other markets comes with petrol engines with a 4x4 system from the original Terios. It can be turned on or off from a button on the dashboard. It's a simple system similar to that of the FIAT Panda. But it was avoided in India to keep the cost of the vehicle low and foreseeing lower demand for petrol 4x4's (because of the Indian customer's mileage consciousness). It should have been introduced as it would have made the product more appealing to customers. [/SIZE][/FONT]
Wow JOY MRC that's a detailed thread on how you chose the Premier Rio over the others. They should have offered 4x4 as standard on the Rio though. It's compact dimensions would have made it a hoot to drive off road. Also, JOY MRC when did the Hilton Hyundai showroom close down? Haven't been in TVM in a while and I'm losing track of things happening there. Is this the one that was in Sasthamangalam junction?
Wow JOY MRC that's a detailed thread on how you chose the Premier Rio over the others. They should have offered 4x4 as standard on the Rio though. It's compact dimensions would have made it a hoot to drive off road. Also, JOY MRC when did the Hilton Hyundai showroom close down? Haven't been in TVM in a while and I'm losing track of things happening there. Is this the one that was in Sasthamangalam junction?
All Hilton Showroom's are closed as of now in Trivandrum.Even service centers are non operational.They have very poor customer review and have been hit hard by financial crisis.I remember them having bucket loads of Eon's,some Xcents,Fluidic verna and Grand i10's parked in stock for very long unsold.I don't know what happened to those cars as they shut shop towards the end of 2015.The showrooms have 'FOR SALE' banners all around. The Hilton showroom we visited was located @ Enchakkal,Airport road and I had many good contacts there for years and got test drives of every newly launched Hyundai cars then and the only reason why my friend bought his Elite i20 from there,albeit having appalling customer reviews.Towards the end they were taking full payments from customers stating speedy delivery of cars[Std. waiting periods for the Elite i20 were touching 7+ months then] which they never did(including my friend who paid full payment in advance only to wait 4 months).People were showing up, shouting and going berserk towards the end.When i contacted Hyundai South India Manager,they said the despatch of cars to Hilton were stalled due to some payment issue's.A lot of raised exchanges and 4 months later they bought the car(s) from another Hyundai showroom in Pathanamthitta,driven by road(with no paper work) and applied Hilton stickers all round the next day and performed the Delivery.He had initially paid for a Silver Asta car but finally had to choose between a Red or White one(Common colours),of which he opted for Red.They gave Teflon and under body coating coupons to be claimed during first service but by then they were closed
ACT-I : ENQUIRY AND FIRST ENCOUNTER Somewhere in 2013... After having lunch with my friend,went to find the Premier showroom which was at walking distance from my office(according to Premier website) Supreme Premier,Manacaud(But haven't went or seen till date).I asked people nearby and found that it was permanently closed.Still I visited the showroom and it was totally deserted with the impression that it had been closed for some time now.The showroom still had the Rio hoardings inside and 2 Premier Roadstar pickups inside with tire pressures almost completely out. In a heavy heave of disappointment, I went back to my office Later that night,I emailed Premier customer care citing my experience and contact details.It was promptly acknowledged with an automated reply from the server and off i went to bed. Next day I received response stating that the only functioning Premier Showroom in Kerala was in Ernakulam(From the early 3 - Trivandrum,Ernakulam and Trichur) and it was called AMC Premier.I was provided with the necessary contact details of one Mr.Robin Thomas who was the concerned person for Premier Sales down south. An e-brochure of the vehicle was attached with the mail with a note to Mr.Srinivasan(Asst manager,Premier[Automotive Division]) to help me out with the enquiry.Although a Test drive car could not be made available,(as the showroom was ~250 kms away) He gave me the details of a customer with a White Rio Multijet Lx from Trivandrum to get an idea of the car until I visit AMC Premier.I spoke to him over phone.He was a gulf return citizen running a business and he had purchased the Rio and 2 Roadstar pick up's back in 2012.After talking for sometime we realized of our similar interests on cars and he was very kind enough to offer me a drive in his car. So..Excited by the news,I scheduled a meeting with him and went to his place to see his pride(He was very fond of his Rio).The roads were totally broken and filled with mud,slush,craters -in short, a car killer and there were a lot of by-roads.I approached cautiously with my heart in my mouth in the humble low slung Esteem avoiding the holes and sure enough I was lost. Some phone calls later,He came to my rescue and there I saw it for the first time... It came through the bad roads like if it was no big deal and stopped next to me.He told me to follow him.I had some difficulty keeping up because of the road but I was really blown away by the way it was running over the broken tarmac and mud.The diesel's low end torque and high ground clearance was clearly showing,plus he was a bit showing off . We reached his place and chatted for sometime on how he bought the vehicle and its merits and demerits.I also filled in with my share of info on the Rio,Zotye group and how we could get parts online when he mentioned parts unavailability as an issue in future.It was an interesting chat.for car bores that is . After sometime,He took me in his car to a near by shop about 1-2kms away to get many things and I got to ride shotgun in Rio for the very first time...
First thing i noticed was the ease of getting into the vehicle especially from my Esteem which was pretty low slung than usual cars.I could literally walk-in(a bit heave-in really) to the cabin rather than crouch and this was refreshing change to say the least. I Was smitten by the vehicle and i tried my best to put on a serious face.But by Now I was totally like a kid in a candy store.Until my eyes fell onto the Dashboard...
Well,I had a clear picture about the car and interiors from pics online,But The WOW Factor that i felt when i saw it in person shattered the moment i stepped inside.So this is Compact.Sure,but the dash and dials were too hard to digest for a car worth ~9 lakhs on the road.The plastic quality also was nothing to write about.The width of the cabin is lower and this is at best a 4 seater rather than 5*(*sitting 3 well built ones at the rear).The reason is because the car belongs to the 'Japanese Kei car' category(which a special category of cars just like 4m compact cars in India.They enjoy lower tax benefits)[Maruti WagonR is another Japanese Kei car available in our Market]. The finer details i liked though were the chrome accents on the air flow control near the ducts,Rear seat back angle adjust with split 50:50 split fold function,LED cabin lights and the 2 DIN stereo system(Same as the one on the Quanto but with Green backlight rather than Red on Quanto/Verito/Vibe.It is a Nippon Unit).The 4 headrest also were full sized adjustable ones and were sure to avoid whiplash injury(Nice!).but that was about it.The whole head turner affair of the exterior was sorely missing on the Inside.
So,after reaching the point,he went to the shop and I waited beside the car.The Rio was grabbing attention even there although the car was 2012 and it was then 2014.I liked that part very much When he came back,he gestured if i wanted to take the wheel.I shook my head like Noddy and he gave me the keys... Boy oh boy,Moment of Truth.Got in.There is commanding view and I was able to find a good seating position in a jiffy(there isn't much adjustments other than back and forth and backrest angles).Heck my Esteem had more seat adjustment options and longer travel than this.but somehow I was more comfortable due to the higher seating and ease of getting in and out.cranked it up and the Rio came to life,but with a distinctive diesel clatter(Reason-was driving non AC with window open).But when i slotted into gear and went off,there was this engine note which i have not heard in any Multijet powered vehicle till date.It sounded a lot like an Diesel SUV like a Mahindra or TATA.It sure had SUV Character.The Speed sensing door locks were also a nice feature,Shame its missing in even cars of higher segments these days.It should be made mandatory in all cars.the doors would lock after 25-30kmph and would unlock if the engine cuts off.The door lock/unlock button is not there with the window controls in this car.you have to use the remote key or pull up the door stalks like old school fashion.Takes you back to the 90's The Drive was OK,nothing exceptional except the Torque rush which is very pronounced from the 2000 rpm range. The Long lost old Swift punch is still there but the Rio behaves a bit different because where the swift pulls from the front on acceleration,The Rio gives a Pushback to the seat which can be clearly felt being a Rear Wheel Driven Car.The Shifts were positive and slots in perfectly but not in the league of say a Maruti or Hyundai.It was a bit clunky and felt mechanical to operate,I loved it. The steering being a hydraulic unit has some feedback to it but the shorter width and higher ground clearance means you always have a bit of body roll(although not as alarming as the Quanto).Now this is a car I would not do hard cornering [The Ecosport Toppling Stories were strong on the Net at that time].The car dismissed the bad roads with ease and the 205 section tyres were also giving good road contact.The Rio is different to drive than anything I've driven till date,It somehow feels different.The shorter dimensions meant it was quite enjoyable to drive and overtake.slot into 3rd or 2nd and give a dab of accelerator and the guy tailing you(There is always someone trust me) would be fading away in your rear view mirror almost instantly.I really enjoyed this(On the contrary,the owner may not have ).after the Drive, we discussed some more,thanked him for spending so much of his time and left with a Smile back home.This was the only CRDi4 Rio in Trivandrum then.all others were old gen models. Long story short,The decision from the Heart had been made... Next post will be upped tomorrow.Thanks for reading To be Continued...
ACT-II : PURCHASE CONSIDERATIONS AND FEASIBILITY What started as just a casual inquiry,was now changing into a serious purchase decision.. My other shortlisted cars(See 2nd Post) were each giving a reason not to buy them.Things were looking good for the Rio but I was confused nevertheless.The major letdown was that the only service and sales center in Trivandrum was now closed and driving 500 km's to and fro for a service,even if was once a year didn't make any sense But I wasn't letting it go that easily.I called up Mr. Srinivasan again and detailed the tale of the short spin of the Customer Rio.Then I told that I was interested but wouldn't buy or even go near one without a Service station in my city. I was adamant NO P.A.S.S(Premier Authorised Service Station),NO SALE ! That would have been the end of it.But the car gods had other plans for me... After a month or so,I received a call from Mr. Srinivasan saying that they had indeed setup a P.A.S.S in Trivandrum.Although I was happy that they were quick in listening to customer queries,I was not sure of how good the service center would be as its supposedly a quick setup.So i took the details of the same and waited.After 2 months went there and saw the Service station for the First time GENUINE MOTORS,Trivandrum.
It was along the route to my college. I had literally passed by countless times in those 4 years.Chatted with the owner Mr.Khader [His son was my same age and we also completed Engg. same year but from different colleges.Needless to say,we bonded very fast and the whole service experience went up by a few notches]
I learned that they were doing Rio repairs even before and while I was there a White first gen Rio was getting repaired (Supreme motors,Trivandrum customers were visiting him for repairs) and now being the official service partner,they had facility to provide free services,had access to Rio Workshop manual and could do warranty repairs as well,Perfect ! .
What impressed me was how well equipped it was.The AMC Service center in Ernakulam was a small single workshop even without a name board.This however was fully kitted with car-lift,Seperate ramp,dedicated body shop,a closed paint booth,wash bay,and good friendly mechanics.They also had lubes and small spares in stock for various cars.yet the highlight was that they also had Wheel Alignment facility.I haven't seen many private workshops in Tvm with all these facilities other than Authorized service centers.So I was happy to know that I would be going to the best P.A.S.S in Kerala .
Mr.Abdul Khadar(P.A.S.S Tvm Owner),Mr.A.Srinivasan(Asst.Manager,Premier LTD),Myself and Thaslim(Mr.Khadar's Son) @ P.A.S.S
So the service part was not much of an issue now.[But problem was if they ever stop functioning,the next service center would still be 250 km's away which would be fine if it was a Lambo,Bimmer or Porsche. but Sadly,that's not the case here].After all this,there was not much talk about the Rio for a while...
Next post will be upped soon.Thanks for reading To be Continued...