Maruti has given its Zen Estilo in India a makeover. The car is based on the Suzuki MR-Wagon from Japan, and while that car has moved to a new generation, what we get is a facelift. The new Estilo certainly looks a lot fresher and more grown up. It has distinct headlamp styling, a new grill and slightly tweaked tail lights too. There are three new colours now, along with the existing five. The interiors are now all-beige, but I will come to that later.

The bigger change is under the hood, where you find a new engine. Maruti is slowly moving its entire range to the K-series engine family. The Zen Estilo gets the same unit that also powers the A-Star hatch, so it’s a 1 litre unit with 67 bhp on tap. The Maruti tradition of not even tweaking the tuning slightly between models has been maintained with exactly the same figures on this unit as the A-Star’s.

The Zen Estilo gets to speeds of 120 kmph with ease, and even 140 kmph with just a little coaxing. But that’s when you start to realize that the package is not really built for such speeds. The car is too light on its feet and feels a little out of depth at higher runs. This means it is definitely not a highway champ. Also, while the car’s engine is great, it does seem noisy due to poor sound damping between the engine bay and cabin.

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Despite being a new and improved car, it sadly doesn’t impress much. Now, don’t get me wrong—as a value for money city runabout, the Zen Estilo has the basics covered. But I expect a lot more from Maruti Suzuki today. The company is finally giving Indian consumers cars from its global portfolio with the best engines, design and interiors. But the Zen Estilo is neither a great ride, with its light steering and poor handling, nor are the interiors up to the mark. The quality of the materials is tacky and the fit and finish are disappointing—especially the plastic bits. And this sticks out like a sore thumb when compared with competing cars such as the Chevrolet Spark, or even the ageing Hyundai Santro.

The bottom line: This is a car with an efficient and energetic new engine, but the shell that surrounds it is a problem. At between Rs3.12 lakh and Rs3.66 lakh, ex-showroom Delhi, the Zen Estilo’s prices are also attractive. But is it the ideal family car? Not really, because its rivals are more stable, better built and, therefore, better value.

Cruzing in

The new sedan from General Motors (GM) in India, the Cruze, is all set to debut in about three weeks. It is a global replacement for the Optra sedan, though in India the two will sell alongside, with the Cruze occupying a slightly premium position. The Cruze went on sale in Europe in February, Korea and Australia soon after, and after we get it next month, it will be launched in the US.

I really like the unconventional front-end styling, which is very bold and attention-grabbing. At the rear, the design is a bit like the Honda Civic’s and fails to stand out.

Its cabin is dressed in a brighter, lighter grey than we are used to seeing in cars, which was refreshing. It is also different from the usual beige interiors that most manufacturers have been bringing in. There will be two variants, with the top-end LTZ sporting segment-first features such as keyless entry—where the car’s sensors pick up the key in your pocket and unlock the doors automatically, and even a start-stop button instead of a key ignition. It also has a sunroof, in-built music system, a multifunction information display screen and trip computer, parking assist and climate control. The two variants are expected to be priced at between Rs13 lakh and Rs14.5 lakh.

GM has worked specifically on the rear seats and given them some extra cushioning, since buyers here do opt to be driven, rather than drive.

Also reworked for India are the suspension, ground clearance and the gearbox. The car performs very well, with the gear changes nice and notchy. There is only a manual and a 2-litre diesel on offer for starters, though automatic transmission and petrol engine variants will follow in a few months.

Siddharth Vinayak Patankar is editor (auto), NDTV. Write to us at