Review: (Tata Motors) Vista D90

So, a few weeks back I got to know about the Vista D90 promo being run jointly with Blogadda, and one thing led to another, with my eventually getting to spin the Vista D90 around for a couple of days. T&C – few tweets and FB posts, followed by a blogpost reviewing the car. Expressed intent behind the initiative– instead of the “expert reviews”, the Vista team wanted a “user review’ of the car and they wanted to reach out to bloggers who apparently have a decent enough reach and audience. So, if you were to search right now, there would be a fair number of bloggers (about 30 I believe) who’d be talking about their experience with Vista D90.

So, to cut the long chase short, what did I think of the car and the experience? [Album Link]

The promo itself, I believe, is a great idea. Subject to you having enough clarity about your target audience. It’s a contest that should work quite well for the younger audience where a sizeable number might be looking to buy their first car. That’s the point where the opinions of people around you matters a lot. And I believe that me having posted random tweets and fb statuses and pictures about the car would at least remind you that there is another car that you may want to look at within your consideration set. Irrespective of your existing opinion of Tata’s car-set.

Two suggestions for the program – 1) Give a letter to the participants stating that the car has been issued to them by Tata Motors for the assigned period. I had a minor run in with a traffic policeman who wanted to understand how I, without being a Tata employee or a dealer employee, was driving this car around. 2) The promo mentioned 3 days, but in effect, it was about 48 hours or so. I am not complaining about the duration, except that the mismatch should be avoided. Even two days is good enough! 😉

The car now. Bunch of positives. Few negatives. And from there, it would depend on the relative pricing within the segment, and a bit of customer friendliness.

On the positive side, the engine is powerful, and delivers good acceleration. The thrust you feel, if you’ve been driving Maruti all your life (with the exception of Swift), might rattle you the first time. The car spikes on you in traffic. And that is the single biggest USP of the car.

The handling and control you feel while navigating stiff traffic is also very zippy. It’s a good car if you want to drive rash. And explains why most Indica/ Vista drivers on the road are so rash. It’s makes you feel comfortable as you cut your way through the traffic.

The car feels very solid and stable, especially at 40+ kmph speeds. All of you who have grudges against Mumbai roads where the smoothest of the roads isn’t smooth enough, and your car makes you feel that vibration quite a bit, this one holds you quite stable and still. I also liked the seat. The lower lumber support is helpful.

Compared to the earlier Vista variants,  this one seemed a little sharper in design. Slightly longer nose, and somewhat better rounded outer body. The alloy wheels looked good. More importantly, the turning radius was good. Had no problems taking sharper U-turns in and around the place. The ground clearance (which becomes a factor if you drive a City or a Cruze or one of those cars) is right, given the number of speed bumps it avoided near my apartment. It still needs to be tested in Bangalore though! The triple barrel headlamps looked quite impressive, though the same cannot be said for the depth of light in high beam mode. Good fog lamps. OVRM, follow me home headlamps, blah blah – technical razzmatazz to position the car as a premium hatchback against jazz et al. And most of them have been executed well. The dual color design also can be used as a way of keeping it interesting visually. Instead of the black that you can see in the image alongside, if it had been white, it would be pretty wicked, right? The USB/Aux points are conveniently located (I hate how they are located in my City by the way). And there is an additional charging point for the back seats, which is a rather nifty addition.

The dashboard is a major improvement on most cars in the segment I’d think. Definitely way ahead of Maruti cars and Polo. I haven’t driven Brio so I cant compare. Better than Santro/ i10 for sure. It’s almost a big car feeling, the way it is designed. My guess is that it has been adapted from the Manza.

The integrated Bluetooth works very well. Easily paired, it tends to connect well with your address book for instance. And the call controls are on your steering. The volume is good, loud and clear. The mic tends to avoid catching too much interference. And the car has been sealed rather well to cut out most of the outside noise. And it offers you a numeric keypad in case you want to dial a number from your memory rather than having to scroll through a handbook, for instance.

The mileage is good. Having done a fair bit of the 140odd kms that I clocked on this one inside Mumbai traffic (including areas like Goregaon, Jari Mari, Kurla, Powai, etc.), coming out with a mileage of 14+ is respectable. Considering it’s a diesel car, the economics are in your favor.

On the negative, The first thing that you’d is the overall space. Not bad, but not the best in class. It’ll probably not be a choice for taller people. And if you are tall family, it’s a no no. Because the passenger seat has a space issue. The storage box comes quite low and tends to hit your knees if you’re tall. The back seats are average/decent leg space, which will work for an average Indian family. The boot space/ dickie is small. Smaller than the Santros/i10s of the world I’d think. One way to overcome this is a smart move  from the guys – a 60-40 seat split at the back, So you can fold away 60% of the back seat and create extra storage space for a 3 member travel.

The car feels very heavy at lower speeds. A typical diesel car phenomenon, but in the case of VistaD90, its enough to put you off. The initial acceleration is quite noisy as the engine makes a bit of a rattling sound. Once the engine settles down, it’s a lot more pleasant, but the first few minutes might push you on the negative side.

It is definitely not a car meant for women. Even though I come across as a sexist saying this, but that level of effort at gear 1 is not something that I have seen most women appreciate. Most of them tend to prefer cars that respond well to them at low speeds. That’s also going to be one reason why the conversion rate between test-drives and sales might end up on the lower side for this car. If Tata’s provide test drives they should ensure that people get to drive it on a secluded stretch at least once. Once you’ve taken the car to 80-100 range, you start seeing the real strength of this car.  But most test drives tend to stop at <40kmph, and in that range, this car will not impress.

The interiors need some work. The cup holders are tiny. They won’t hold a bottle. And incremental small stuff storage space is negligible in this car. Even my Maruti 800 had better storage options a decade back. The side storage in the doors is good for toll receipts, some papers, etc., but not smart enough to either hold CDs very well, or a bottle of water. People sitting in the back have no holder options.

The music experience is average. With 3-4 presets, you almost invariable want to switch off the presets and listen to the base. The bass is bad, and at louder volumes, the sound cracks. The speakers are in-the-doors, and the overall acoustics is not that bad. I just think that they should have gone in with better speakers and audio systems to maintain the premium feel.  A small noticeable glitch – typically, when my phone is paired with a car, and I am navigating on the maps, then the directions are audible through the car stereo. Here, you have to switch to BT streaming to be able to hear the instructions. Which also implies that you have to switch away from the music, unless you use your phone to stream the music as well. Perfect for iphoniacs, but not for everyone.

Probably because of the newness, I felt the gear transmission between gear 1 and 2 to be quite stiff.  Also, the reverse gear. But that should improve.

Endnote: The real USP of the car is the power and thrust. The stability, responsiveness in traffic etc only add to the experience.  The real negative is the early stage noise/rattling sensation and the space issues. Otherwise, for people looking for powerful drive at a reasonable value for money, this could be a decent buy.

Happy to drop more points if someone is interested. But overall, good fun experience.

Book Review: When The Snow Melts ( Vinod Joseph)

After a short gap, I again signed up to review a book under the blogadda book review program. First, about the program itself – I think it’s a great idea as it serves two purposes – it gives bloggers a chance to take their blogging seriously (with the realization that you might be representing something bigger than yourself), and at the same time, it creates a network effect/ word of mouth for some good books written by upcoming Indian authors.

The book that I lined up for a review is – When The Snow Melts, by Vinod George Joseph. I first came across Vinod several years back, when he was active contributor for Epic India e-magainze. The e-zine is long defunct, and so are the few forums where saw Vinod’s writing. So, it was good to see that he had published something, and not just something, but a thriller.

About the book

From amazon: Veteran spook Ritwik Kumar is sent by the Indian government to the Intelligence Assessment Group (IAG) in London, where intelligence agents from all over the world work together to fight global terrorism. The IAG has a few pet projects: nabbing Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar is one; purging Pakistan’s secret service agency, the ISI, of rogue elements and fundamentalists, is another. Despite years of working in Central Asia and Afghanistan, things don’t go well for Ritwik at the IAG. Addiction to alcohol and gambling drive him to borrow heavily from loan sharks and even misappropriate office funds. When Ritwik’s senior officer, General West, gives him only a fortnight to return the money he has stolen, Ritwik defects to the al Qaeda.But he is a man who doesn’t easily fall in line and doesn’t share al Qaeda’s ideology. Events take a turn for the worse not only for Rikwik but also for all those who come in contact with him. Even the beautiful Nilofer, who is married to the al Qaeda fanatic and one-man army Junaid, is not spared. When the Snow Melts takes you through a dangerous world of diplomats, spies and fanatics, where appearances are deceptive, and danger lurks around every corner.


Now then! WTSM sets out to be a spy thriller set around an Indian spy working with IAG who ends up defecting to a pro-Taliban sub faction within ISI. Expectedly, the life of a defector is not too rosy to start with, since there are more people who expect the defector to be not that but a double agent. So, our protagonist, Ritwik Kumar, is in a hellhole soon enough. Or rather, moving from one to the other.

I have always been intrigued by how the best thriller writers set up a key event in a prologue which keeps you glued to the plot, and that exact setup that leads to that moment. However, my biggest disappointment from WTSM was that the prologue of the book was too simple a set up that could be smelled from a mile. X caught by bad guys, X in a mess, X shows some moves, but they are not good enough, and suddenly, X gets saved by Y, and Y knows a lot abot X already. Scene begins. You know what’s coming, right?

VGJ’s debut novel is an interesting effort in a space rather untouched by Indian authors. The recent barrage of Indian authors have abused the modern Indian male/female, life in the metros, IIMs/IITs/etc on the one end and adapted the Indian mythodology on the other. There is precious little by way of variety and style. That’s score 1 for VGJ. There are as many facts as there are myths about the Indian spooks, and you can be sure that I have been in the middle of some, given my family background. But, an interesting article to read before you start reading this book would be a recent Caravan article about the case of Madhuri Gupta. There are some minor traces of the case in the book, but that article is a good starting point if you’re new to the Indian spy world. Secondly, don’t forget that the movies have glorified spooks across the world to such heights that beatable, un-crazy spooks are not welcome, usually.

The book is a lazy afternoon read with a decent pace, but does not have much to offer. The plot is is highly predictable and the suspense not layered. The story telling is so obviously linear that it smells of a Yashraj film. It moves continuously from the same scene to the same scene without ever breaking away from the pattern. There isn’t a second vantage point in the entire book, which is its biggest weakness. If you’ve read two spy books before this, most likely, the plot will be staring in your face. In fact the surprise is that there is no surprise. From someone like VGJ, I’d have expected a lot more research into the subject. My fear is that he ended up writing the script for the next Salman Khan movie – Ek Aur Tiger. And you know that script and Salman Khan don’t quite go together, right?

The lack of context – the prologue does not explain the gambling and the debt, the IAG as an entity is never really explained, the set of caricatures that form this faction of ISI, the linkback to RAW, the way intelligence is collected, the rather talkative ring leader – these are just some of the loopholes or missing elements. The extent of stereotyping makes it worse. And there aren’t enough thrills.

The plot’s smartest setup fails because the protagonist talks too much… Or.. err.. thinks out loud too much. His doubt in the moments when he is with Niloufer, reveal the essence of the plot way up front. And the dragging end with Ritwik wanting to save Niloufer, was an avoidable mess.

So, in short, the book promises, but fails to keep them. On the positive side, the narration is breezy and well edited, and does not get boring at any point. Its one of those simple things you can do one lazy Sunday afternoon. or, when you don’t have any work at office and your twitter handle has been blocked by the government.

I remember what AKC (a friend) once remarked about bollywood movies – “These b****** have two problems – the need to explicitly explain everything. And, the need to have an explicit climax!”

If you want to read good stuff, read Mohammad Haneef’s Case of Exploding Mangoes. This one is barely passable.





This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at Participate now to get free books!

Some of my other book reviews are here.

Book Review: The Wednesday Soul by Sorabh Pant

It’s been a while since I reviewed a book. But the book review program and the fact  that I signed up for reviewing will make me come out of my slumber. And the book getting unveiled is “The Wednesday Soul” by Sorabh Pant, who is also a stand-up comedian by the day.

Plot Summary: The book is primarily about the afterlife experience of Nyra Dubey, a female vigilante , Chitr Gupta, a higher mortal/ demi-God, and their super-powered nemesis, Kutsa. The broader blurb is available on the publisher website. But in short – Girl is a vigilante, meets and likes an interesting guy one night who’s apparently invulnerable and can read people’s innocence in their eyes through a score, has a nemesis who’s despatched a few too many people to the nether world. Girl like guy, nemesis kills girl, guy and nemesis die in a clash. A whole battery of support characters come into play as the afterlife world is constructed, while the broken fragments of the mortal world come together as well. Etc Etc.

The concept of a “Wednesday soul” or “Sunday Soul” though, I believe, is driven off our expectations and evolving lifestyles. The mid-week peaking frustration making people suicidal to the Sunday being the most sacred of all days. Nyra, the central character, is a Wednesday soul, people who subconsciously drive themselves to death (say, by overworking, over-eating, putting themselves in the path of danger).

Liked : Many of the jokes and potshots. Right from Lenin spewing Russian comedy to Indian PhD in queues, to Agatha Christie connecting with Inspector Sharma in Sanskrit. The pace is fine, if not submerging. You can finish off the book in one go (or two). Its not a very complicated story, and you can get the sense that there are several ideas introduced in the book that can easily help you create more stories/ books around them. The book is irreverent and there are no holy cows in the book. And that’s where the books biggest strength is. The funny potshots at everyone and everything.

Did not like: The story at large and the narration leaves much to be desired. Far too many loop holes in the story (the character of Harithi and her ability to score cadavers for instance), and fairly incoherent storyline (Inspector Sharma’s character, or Agatha’s link with the world starting off with British English in Harithi’s head and Sanskrit instructions later), the idea of “Thinkers” viewing what’s going on in the world, but not being able to locate the Third, and the missing Sunday Soul. However, the thing that really got me was the editing and printing of the book (at least the edition I have in my hands). It’s a mess. So much so that it reminds me of Times of India. For instance – the editing jumps refers to a flying eledactyl (an elephants -pterodactyl) as Air-Awat, Ayr-Awat or Ayrawat at different places. Insignificant editing errors such as these are present in significant numbers across the book. The bigger peeve I have against the book is actually the quality of editing. The narration and character sketch is hardly consistent. Inspector Sharma graduates from good English to grammatically incorrect English in the later half. The beings do not exist in the same plain consistently. A weird character (in the earthly sense) like Chitr Gupta, fighting off goons in a lowly locality of Delhi thinks of Grey’s Anatomy and Literary Jokes in his head. There’s a subliminal level of awareness that makes most characters speak in the same language/style and intonation and binds them to the same awareness about different things, issues and people. 87 rewrites do not seem visible from an editing lens I think.

End Verdict: At 250, this one session book seems very steep. For an INR99 kind of price established by Chetan Bhagat, this book could have been a passable read. It’s a book that showcases Sorabh’s abilities as a funny person, but not as a narrator/ story-teller. What really works is that Sorabh is a stand up comedian, a funny guy, in short. What really doesn’t work is that the book does not go much beyond that. It’s a series of gags, puns, pot-shots woven together. The book has some extremely funny moments, or gags as I’d rather refer to them as. But I wouldn’t mind missing out on this book. The book is like a DJ mix of spoofing and puntastic commentary on the world beyond and the powers that be. You may dance the night, but you won’t remember why.


This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at Participate now to get free books!

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