We are out here to crown the hottest hatchback in the Indian car scene context. Hatchbacks as we all know are one of the cheapest modes of personal 4 wheeled transport. Well, nowadays, hatchbacks have become more pricier than even some sedans including the hottest ones. We Indians want everything from our car. It should be spacious, fun to drive, should ride well and also deliver zillions of kilometer to the liter. Oh, one more factor is that it shouldn’t cost a bomb. That’s what we call having your cake and eating it too. If wishes were horses…………. However here they aren’t. Either you get performance or fuel efficiency in your hatch or neither. While your hatch may be fun to drive, it is not necessary that it would ride well. Even if it does all this well, it would be well beyond your budget. However the cars we have here for comparison lay their claims to be one of India’s hottest hatchbacks. Why we haven’t included the old champion, the Swift is because it is an ageing model and also has a 1.2 liter engine as compared to the 1.3 and 1.5 liter engines in this comparison. The Jazz in the meanwhile has 90 Bhp on tap from its small 1.2 liter engine but it is very pricey at approximately Rs 10 lakhs, paying which, you can maybe get two Tata Indica Vistas. Ohh, did we also miss out the Palio 1.6? It was omitted because it is made to order car and one wasn’t readily available for the comparison. The Hyundai 1.4 diesel was also omitted because it is very pricey while the Getz 1.5 Crdi is no longer manufactured. So prepared for the duel are the Tata Indica Vista90 in India, the Fiat Punto 90Hp in India, the Skoda Fabia 1.6 in India and the Volkswagen Polo 1.6 in India. The hunt for India’s hottest hatch is on now and read more to know who wins this round.
In the looks department, we have the Fiat Punto and the Volkswagen Polo standing side by side. The Vista and the Fabia cannot be called as good lookers however their design is on the safer side and cannot be entirely called as a bad one. While the Fabia is the newest of the lot, the Punto is the oldest one but not by a good margin. The Volkswagen Polo 1.6 in India with its crisp lines delights anyone looking at it and especially one in red color really steals the show. The Punto, when launched was a head turner and it even is now. The reason may be the exclusivity factor as not many Puntos are to be seen on the road. The Tata Indica Vista90 in India however gets some differentiation with the normal engined ones in its stable. First up is the 15 inch alloy wheels with their different wheel design pattern, which has been adopted by now the Manza Elan as well. The Skoda Fabia 1.6 in India or the Volkswagen Polo 1.6 in India don’t have a differentiation factor for them, from their lower powered variants, not even the badges. The Fiat Punto in the meanwhile gets a 90Hp moniker on its grille and that’s about it. However the alloy wheel design of this Italian car is something which we usually don’t see even in cars two range higher up. Thumbs up to the Italian on that job. The Fabia in the meanwhile has undergone some revisions in its head lamp design and also the tail lamp one. The rubber boots that it wears now is also a bit thinner. So who wins the beauty contest round? It is the Fiat Punto and the Volkswagen Polo who are neck to neck in this comparison. The Polo due to the newness in its design, just edges past the Punto.
Round 1 goes to the Volkswagen Polo followed by the Fiat Punto and then the Indica Vista. The Skoda Fabia comes in last due to its ubiquities.
The Tata Indica Vista90 impressed us with its list of features and a sort of cheerfulness from its beige interiors. The vast amounts of space inside the cabin makes it a delightful place to be in. The steering wheel as also the seats require the minimal adjustment to accommodate even the taller drivers. The space at the rear even with the front seat stretched all the way to the back is also enormous. Quality of materials used, however is a bit doubtful and also the overall construction of this car, especially in the company of the other three cars. You get Bluetooth connectivity however no audio controls on the steering wheel. Boot space is 232 liters however it is usable. The Fiat Punto with its dark interiors and red stitching on the seats does look plush but the steering wheel has no rake adjustment and getting inside the cabin is a bit more of a hassle. The pedals are also placed a bit awkwardly. The front seats are supportive enough once you settle in them however the rear ones aren’t comfortable by any measure. Infact, based on the exterior dimensions, the Polo and the Punto (their names start and end with the same letters, is that a coincidence or more?) seem pretty much even. The German car has a much better carved front seat with steering wheel adjustment as well. Getting into the rear seat is a bit of a hassle however after checking out the Punto, the Polo’s rear seat seemed like a familiar place. Unfortunately there is no lever given on the Polo by which one can actually slide the front seat forward. Boot space is also dismal and the Polo is the least equipped of all the cars in this comparison. Its cousin, the Skoda Fabia however has an adequate feature list while the front and rear seats both are comfortable but not quite in the same ball park as the Indica Vista. The boot space of 315 liters is the best in this lot, though the loading lip is a bit high.
Overall, based on the convenience features as also the space that it provides, the Indica Vista90 comes out as the first one followed by the Fabia, Punto and the Polo. The Polo loses out on the space utilization as well as features list while the Punto loses out on the space quotient.
Handling and ride quality
The only reason as to why people buy these hatches is because they want more power and better ride, handling qualities than their lower powered counterparts. That said, the Polo and Fabia share the same platform while the Punto and the Vista use the same Fiat engines. The Punto feels very stable around corners and the ride quality though a bit stiff, like other Fiats, never feels too intrusive. The Punto’s steering wheel sometimes, however, loses out on its feel factor and this takes some getting used to. The NVH level from the 1.3 liter multijet engine is also very sorted out and never too irritating. The Tata Indica Vista90 has a predictable ride and handling package. While the car may feel a bit bouncy on bad roads, its very stable on the straights. Handling in the meanwhile is also predictable with the car understeering at the very edge of its limits. NVH though is a bit on the higher side but then one wouldn’t mind slight mixing of sporty exhaust note, would they? The steering wheel however plays a spoil sport in what would be an entirely new effort from Tata Motors. It lacks the feel at high speeds though normal everyday chores would be handled with ease. The Skoda Fabia and the Volkswagen Polo are the ones which share the same platform and would have many believing that they would behave similarly. However the truth is far from that. The Volkswagen is the more accomplished of the lot. It handles like a dream while the ride quality is also not far off the mark. The Skoda in the meanwhile running on puny tyres loses its grip very easily. The steering wheel of the Skoda is the better of the two though. Ride quality on the Skoda is a bit harsh and bumps are more easily felt than the others in this comparison. The Volkswagen’s steering sometimes feels dead. Except for the Fiat Punto, all the other cars in this comparison have a neat turning circle. The Fiat is the one with the longest turning circle. NVH though is better insulated in the Fabia than the Polo.
The Volkswagen Polo followed by the Fiat Punto with the Fabia and the Vista trailing behind.
Engine, performance and fuel efficiency
The engine in the Skoda and the Polo are the same and in almost the same state of tune. The 1598 cc 4 cylinder engine makes 105 Bhp of peak power and 153 Nm of torque. The final gearing ratios however differ in both these cars. The gear synchronization in the Fabia is a better proposition. The gears slot into their gate very nicely. The Polo’s in the meanwhile take a bit of rocking action before one can actually slot them into gear. Due to this difference in the gearing, the Skoda Fabia 1.6 in India races from 0-100 kmph in only 11.4 seconds while the Volkswagen Polo 1.6 in India covers the same distance in 11.8 seconds. Top speed for both the cars is similar at 168 kmph. This saying, the Skoda has to be goaded into delivering the goods while the Volkswagen’s engine does it in a calm manner. The Tata Indica Vista90 in India gets a 1368cc, 16 Valve, DOHC, FIRE engine, which is the same as in the Linea minus the T-Jet moniker. This engine pumps out 90 Bhp of power. However the torque figure is not that impressive at 115 Nm. It is mated with a much improved Drivetech4 gearbox with 5 speeds. The Indica however is not in the same ball park as far as performance is concerned. It is the fastest Indica that is available in India but then the 0-100 kmph time of 13.6 seconds for a 90 Bhp hatch is not that scorching. The gear shift however is as good as the one in the Fabia if not better and that is a huge improvement for Tata Motors.
The Fiat Punto 90Hp in India uses the 1.3 liter multijet engine that is so widely available in India, but with variable geometry turbo. This engine makes 92 Bhp of peak power and 209 Nm of torque, which is by far the largest in this comparison. It is aligned with a 5 speed manual transmission. The transmission as also the engine are not so eager and the Fiat has been geared shortly as well. 0-100 kmph times of 14.7 seconds mean that this car isn’t too fast. Its top speed is also far less than what the others can achieve. It peaks out at a the speed of 157 kmph. The Punto’s engine is also not the most refined in this lot.
Brakes are equally good in all these cars however the ones on the Punto require a firm shove. This is a time honored Fiat problem, one which is yet to be cured. All the cars come with all ABS, EBD and also life savers such as dual air bags, collapsible steering columns and tailor banked steel columns. Fuel efficiency is outstanding for the Skoda with an overall 15.3 kmpl with the Volkswagen Polo following behind closely at 14.8 kmpl. The Fiat Punto delivered 14.3 kmpl and the Tata Indica Vista notched up 14.2 kmpl.
The Skoda Fabia wins this bout followed closely by the Polo, Indica and the Punto.
This wasn’t a much tough comparison. However as with all the comparisons, one car fared good in one parameter whereas the other one stood out in another. Tallying up the overall points reveal the Skoda Fabia to be the winner however in our ratings, ride quality rates very high than handling, so the winner is the Volkswagen Polo but just by a whisker. One preferring more space and almost equal handling like the Polo can look towards the Fabia. The Punto meanwhile has been outclassed by its German competitors. The Tata Indica Vista90 is the common man’s performance car and can sometimes bring a smile or two on one’s face. The Punto isn’t as fuel efficient as one thinks it would be however diesel running costs tip the scale in its favor. Now comes the pricing. The Skoda Fabia 1.6 price in India is Rs 5,811,02. The Volkswagen Polo 1.6 price in India is Rs 6,160,00. The Fiat Punto 90Hp price in India is Rs 709,592 and the Tata Indica Vista90 price in India stands at Rs 580,261. All these prices are ex- show room, Thane. Our top pick is the Volkswagen Polo. What’s yours? Do write in with your reviews on the same.