Some of the best driver’s cars can be found in this segment and though it can be called as costly, there are many who would readily put their money on this cars and go and buy them out on a limb. Welcome to the Rs 5-6 lakhs bracket. There are as many as 30 cars in here for a comparison and this should actually display the amount of thinking that a buyer in this segment would have to do. Moreover, with the input that he or she would be receiving from friends and family, the confusion is only going to add even more. There are some hatches in this segment also (to be expected considering the number of premium hatches coming our way). As far as the hatches are concerned, there is the Skoda Fabia and also the Nissan Micra along with the Polo. A surprising inclusion is the Hyundai i10 Kappa2 engine. Due to the engine upgrade, the price bump has taken it into this league.
The best driving dynamics would undoubtedly go to the Maruti Swift diesel while the Micra diesel would also be another strong contender. The Swift has got a better engine which is more like a point and shoot tool. The Micra’s engine takes things sedately. As far as handling goes, it would be the Skoda Fabia with its tight body construction, predictable road manners and an able chassis which overall comes out to be the winner. The new engine upgrade from the i10 has resulted in it getting a boost in power and a surefootedness in its attitude. A respectable top speed only makes matters all the more good and in favor of the Hyundai. However, we would be wrong not to include the booted cousin of the Swift, the Dzire here. Both the petrol and diesel Dzire cars rate high in our books for their driving dynamics and sometimes tail out action. The torque management system in the Micra is a gem and it enables the diesel Micra to give a very good fuel efficiency and also the engine is the most environmental friendly one around.
The newly launched Toyota Liva and Etios do have good engines if not for their NVH but for the torque figures. These go a long way as far as their acceleration goes. However, the feeling less steering wheel seems to have being a gremlin at high speeds. Though adequate for the city drives, there is not much of feel on the highway and the tyres seem to have been made entirely with the purpose of fuel efficiency in mind. The Polo is let down by its steering wheel response and also an anemic engine in the form of the 1.2 liter one. The Fabia is a bit let down by its engine, otherwise, built on the same platform as the Polo, it does have good body control and a build quality which none of the other cars here including the Polo seem to exhibit. The Etios has a good braking characteristic but the directional stability as also steering response seem far better in the Fabia. The i10 loses out on the driveability count and we wish that Hyundai would have given it shorter gearing for the initial ones since the car is otherwise geared pretty tall. Moreover, the dash mounted gear lever is a darling as far as the shift quality goes.
The others like the Tata Manza, Tata Indigo e-CS and also the Punto were also considered. While the Punto chassis is a good one, there is nothing in the engine department which would make one go wow. The Punto could also do a lot better with the ergonomics part wherein the steering wheel comes entirely close to the driver’s chest. The steering wheel is a direct unit though and has got lots of feel to it. The Manza as also the e-CS have got steering wheels which are direct but lack communicative powers when needed the most. Moreover, body roll is very prominent in the Manza. As for the Hyundai Accent, which is also available in this price range, the only dampener is the steering wheel and also the body roll which accompanies the car while taking tight turns.
In all, we would rate the Skoda Fabia as the best handling car in this comparison followed by the Etios sharing the best driver’s car tag with the Nissan Micra diesel. As far as performance is concerned, there is no touching the Swift series including the Dzire sedan. All the others cars are ranked below these cars.