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Sunday, Aug 17, 2003

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Corsa Sail: Stylish and comfortable

S. Muralidhar

THE launch of the Opel Corsa Sail (that's three big time, famous brands from the GM stable in a line) was expected since GM launched the three-box Corsa model. It was just a question of when. Now, finally, the Corsa Sail is signalling GM's tentative, yet firm, steps towards entering the small car segment.

The Corsa is an extremely popular model from GM, sold across many countries in Europe and South America as also in China.

While the three-box Corsa is sold as the Buick Sail in China with respectable sales numbers, the two-box hatchback is not sold in that market. However, it is the sub-compact, two-box hatchback that is a major hit in Europe, especially in the UK, where it is sold under the regional label - Vauxhall.

In India, after the initial success of the Opel Astra, GM just could not replicate same level of brand respectability and appreciation among potential Corsa customers.

This was partly because both the Opel Astra and the Corsa were trying to address a similar set of customers (sedan buyers) though the two cars were positioned at two different price points.

So, the Corsa Sail was launched so that GM could exploit the brand's potential to the full. The car, starting at Rs 4.55 lakh ex-showroom, is positioned at the emerging cusp between the B (small car) and C (sedan) segments.

Though, dimensionally, it will be classified with the small cars, the Corsa Sail is longer on the outside and larger on the inside (in terms of shoulder space) compared to the Maruti Zen, the Hyundai Santro and the Suzuki Alto. However, the Fiat Palio and the Tata Indica will be able to match the Corsa Sail's vital stats. The extra size also affords the Corsa Sail a larger 300-litre boot which goes up to 1,150 litres when the rear seat is folded.

In terms of engine performance, the comparison is again loaded in favour of the Corsa Sail, whether it is the 1.4 litre (1,378cc) or the 1.6 litre (1,598cc) powertrain options. Both the petrol engines generate class-leading power of 88bhp and 92 bhp respectively.

Even going by the other yardstick of "bhp per tonne," or power to weight ratio, the Corsa Sail leads the competition's (B segment) average of about 75bhp per tonne.

The Corsa Sail is otherwise externally identical to its larger sibling, of course, minus the boot. The safety and comfort features on the Corsa Sail are again ones that have been carried down from the original three-box.

As a result many of the features are class leading.

The tropicalised air-conditioning, higher power availability, frill-free and extremely functional dashboard, and the India-specific suspension that the Corsa is renowned for, are also available on the Corsa Sail.

The opportunity to get your hands on a German engineered car and the renowned safety features of the Corsa Sail are compelling reasons why the car will be a good choice.

But being nearly a lakh more expensive than the average B segment car, makes the Corsa Sail that much more difficult to choose from among the crowded lot of small cars.

Maybe, GM should also consider a diesel-engine option and price it lower than Rs 5 lakh. Then, it (GM) may have to handle a stampede at the showrooms.

I live in Chennai and am looking for a 150 cc bike. Between the TVS Fiero F2 and the Bajaj Pulsar 150, which would be the better choice? How does the riding comfort of Pulsar 150 compare with the Fiero F2? In my experience, the original Fiero offered good riding comfort. Does the F2 give the same level of comfort? -- Jayakrishnan, Chennai

The TVS Fiero F2 is essentially the same as the original Fiero. However, the bike has been put through a makeover for a new look and improved ride quality. The headlamp design and the fairing have been changed for better illumination and a new instrument panel has been added. The seat has been reshaped to offer better thigh support.

The engine continues to be the 150cc, four-stroke engine that generates about 12 bhp, with a constant vacuum carburettor and an electric start option. Build quality is good and a two-step adjustable rear shock absorber allows the rider to choose between softer and stiffer suspension to handle smooth and rough riding conditions respectively. Expect mileage in city driving conditions to be in the region of 55-60 km per litre in the long run. Ex-showroom price - Rs 48,500.

In the Bajaj Pulsar 150, you have a more daringly designed bike. The Pulsar's four stroke, 144cc engine also pumps out 12 bhp. The styling of the bike is a big plus and build quality is on a par with industry peers. The bike seat is slimmer in comparison to some of the competition's bikes, but it is in keeping with the Pulsar's overall appeal. The ride quality, however, has not been compromised.

The rear suspension features a trailing arm with coaxial hydraulic shock absorbers and coil spring with a five-step adjustment. Despite the much larger (18 litre) fuel tank and the resultant increase in weight, the Pulsar can be expected to offer mileage similar to that of the Fiero F2. Ex-showroom price - Rs 49,000.

You may also want to consider the 157cc, 12.8 bhp, Hero Honda CBZ before you finalise the purchase decision. Ex-showroom price in Chennai is about Rs 54,000.

All the three bikes offer value that will meet your expectations. However, the design and utilitarian features may or may not meet your tastes. So, test ride all them before you zero in on the one you like. In addition to personal use, if you intend using the bike to also drop your child in school, the Fiero, with its level seating, maybe the better option.

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