Since doing a 4 bikes comparison on our bikes page, I am being forced to conduct one such comparison here for the cars. This actually left me pondering as to how to go about comparing 4 cars at a time. However not one to be stuck, I roped in some of my colleagues from office and set about the big task of conducting a comparison. But here we outdid ourselves with not 4 but 6 of India’s most desirable cars. Yes, you read it right. It is a 6 cars comparison that we have got here. And what best to compare than the diesel small cars and ones which claim to be macro hatches. So without further ado, here is the comparison of all these 6 cars on Indiandrives.com.
Well, I am not going to categorize the cars based on their names and then point out each detail. Instead it would be a mix of which car will appeal to the prospective customer. Out of the 6 cars here, it will be the Volkswagen Polo and the Nissan Micra which would be brought basically for their looks. A Volkswagen Polo in India in red color is similar to Pamela Anderson in bikini. For the Nissan Micra in India, it is more like the Minnisha Lamba in throngs. The Polo’s strong Teutonic designs and solid German engineering lend it an air of flamboyance. The Micra on the other hand cuts across as a cute figure with that half eaten apple look for a grille. The Fiat Punto in India used to be the design king but no longer. Its lines are ageing now and especially in some colors, the Punto looks just like the Palio. The Skoda Fabia in India has undergone a bit of a mild refresh however it still looks like a Fabia and gets a more functional boxy form. The Maruti Ritz in India is more of a crossover hatch and has CR-V like tail lamps with A-star like front end. The Hyundai I20 in India is the forbearer of the “fluidic concept” design language echoed by the Korean manufacturer nowadays. Not enough to attract the eyeballs but like the others, highly functional form.
So the winner of this round is the Volkswagen Polo followed closely by the Nissan Micra, Hyundai I20, Skoda Fabia, Fiat Punto and the Maruti Ritz.
You wouldn’t buy a car just for its looks and there are many other factors which count in. Most importantly for Indians, it has got to be space. So, the ones giving maximum space in the interiors are welcome. So the ones who won the beauty pageant step down and now it would be the reverse order. The Maruti Ritz in India by virtue of its tall boy design gives more head room than the others. Even for taller passengers, it is very easy to get in and out. Quality of materials used is also good and the 236 liters of boot space is also very usable. Next comes the Hyundai I20 in India and one can easily notice that this is the biggest hatch in its category and all this translates to good interior space. There are many goodies on offer too and it is the only car in this category to have steering mounted audio controls and also AUX input. Sitting three along isn’t a problem for this hatch. Boot space is the second largest in this comparison at 290 liters. The Skoda Fabia in the meanwhile gets the best front seats in the house and overall German engineering which means the layout of the dash is pretty simple and intuitive. Back seat space is at par with the Ritz, though the Ritz with its taller proportions has overall good space. Boot space is the biggest in this lot at 315 liters. The Fiat Punto in India has good front seats and solidly put together interiors however somewhere down the line, the use of materials is a bit iffy. Rear seat space is marginally better than the Polo and boot space of 280 liters is marred by suspension intrusions. The Volkswagen Polo in India has very supportive front seats and a better finish than sister concern Skoda Fabia. The overall ambience inside the cabin is excellent with good fit and finish and the use of beige and dark plastics. The rear seat space however is at a premium and taller passengers would be pressing their knees against the front seats. Boot space however is a tad lower than that of the Skoda Fabia at 294 liters. The Nissan Micra in India also uses a better space utilization inside the cabin than what its small footprint outside may suggest. Rear seat space however is more than what the Polo and Punto have to offer. Boot space however is the smallest in this test at 226 liters.
The Hyundai I20 wins this round followed by the Maruti Ritz, Skoda Fabia, Nissan Micra, Fiat Punto and Volkswagen Polo.
Handling and ride quality
All the cars here feature almost similar layouts as far as suspension is concerned. Out of all the cars here, the Nissan’s motor is the most silent followed by the others. Modern day diesels have been so engineered to give their petrol cousins the run for the money. The Nissan Micra has a somewhat jittery ride quality but given its small size, the handling is okay but would enthuse the enthusiast.However for those looking for ride comfort, it is the Hyundai I20 which dishes it out in dollops however the smaller Maruti Ritz provides both in equal doses and that is given on any condition of the road. The Fiat Punto has that typical Fiat firm ride quality however in the handling stakes, it is behind its petrol powered sibling with body roll being very pronounced while going around corners. The steering wheel doesn’t give too many inputs as of such. The Hyundai I20 also suffers from the same problem and body roll is more than the Punto. The steering wheel is ultra light in the city but has that lifeless feeling on the highway. Alarming sometimes. Engine noise is also on the higher side. The German twins have a firm ride quality but the dampers on the Skoda Fabia are a bit more pliant. The Polo is the one to go for pure handling thrills. Its steering wheel is a bit imprecise but the chassis more than makes up for it. The Skoda Fabia in the meanwhile is not much of handler but can handle the handling duties when called upon. It is the more silent of the Germans here as well.
Opinions would be divided here but then the overall ride and handling package goes to the Ritz with is virtue of being one of the most silent cars in this comparison.
Engine, performance and fuel efficiency
Most of the cars here share engines like the Maruti Ritz and the Fiat Punto, though the peak power output is different. The Skoda Fabia and the Volkswagen Polo share their engines in the same state of tune. The Hyundai I20 and the Nissan Micra have 1.4 liter engines but with a contrast in the power figures. The main motive behind all these engines however is fuel efficiency, driveability and low NVH. The Maruti Ritz is the complete package which achieves all this and without much effort. Its 1248 cc Multijet engine brings in 76 Ps of peak power at 4000 rpm whereas the torque figure reads as 190 Nm at 2000 rpm. It is mated to a 5 speed manual transmission. Since I have extensively test driven, compared or even reviewed all these cars elsewhere on our portal, I would refrain from making any high speed runs or performance figures. I would focus more on driveability. So the Maruti Ritz diesel does make sense as far as the latter is concerned. Its calm and composed manner as also the way it handles at speeds makes it a very good car here. The gear shifts are also butter smooth. Next is the Hyundai I20. Now, the I20 has a weak bottom end and a peaky power delivery. Like the 1.5 CRDi in the Verna, this engine also doesn’t have a linear power band. It is the only car here to feature a 6 speed manual transmission. This car however doesn’t like to be hurried. Next up is the Fiat Punto. The Fiat Punto has the same 1.3 liter engine but on papers puts the maximum power output out of all these cars here. It rakes in 93 Ps of power with 210 Nm of torque. It has got driveability akin to the Ritz but its gearshift lags behind that of the Ritz. The gears feel a bit notchy and don’t encourage spirited driving.
Next up is the Nissan Micra. The Micra however from its 1.4 liter engine only has a peak power of 64 Ps and torque of 160 Nm. It gets a 5 speed gearbox which sometimes baulks. However for the majority of times, it is smooth. The engine revs up nicely and this car is also good as far as driveability stakes go. The German brothers have a engine which makes do with massive turbo lag and driving them in traffic can be a bit of chore. The saving grace is that both have superb gear boxes which try to eliminate the turbo lag as far as possible. Even then smooth progress isn’t their forte.
All these cars have good brakes with ABS, except for the Nissan Micra. For the safety thing, all cars are evenly specced with the Hyundai I20 being the cream of the lot with 6 airbags and other safety gadgets.
As far as fuel efficiency goes, all these cars have fuel efficiency in excess of 17 kmpl on an overall however the Maruti Ritz in India and the Hyundai I20 steal the honors for the top fuel efficiency stakes.
Overall, it is a tough fight between the Maruti Ritz and the Hyundai I20 as far as engine configuration comes into picture. However the Maruti ekes forward by a slight margin due to its driveability quotient.
The toughest time. All these cars are equally competent in one way or the other. If its safety that is bothering you, the Hyundai I20 is the safest thing that you can lay your hands on. If its looks, it’s the Volkswagen Polo. If its looks and interior space, then it is the Skoda Fabia. If cuteness appeals to you, then the Nissan Micra will tickle your funny bones. If utility is your forte then the Maruti Ritz would be your grand prize and if fun to drive characteristics along with decent space is your cup of coffee, then the Fiat Punto is up for grabs. However diverse characters that they may display, there has to be a winner and there is one. It is the Maruti Ritz. The Maruti Ritz price in India is also the lowest at Rs 5.35 lakhs with the highest price tag commanded by the Hyundai I20 at Rs 7.33 lakhs. The others slot in neatly in between. The Nissan Micra retails at Rs 6.33 lakhs while the Skoda Fabia is available for Rs 6.82 lakhs. The Volkswagen Polo Highline is for Rs 7.01 lakhs while the Fiat Punto Emotion is for Rs 7.02 lakhs.
So the Maruti Ritz in India is the new diesel king.