Highway stars – Five Hatchbacks under Rs 7 lakh made for long distance cruising

Thing about travellers and explorers, especially those who love to drive, is that they don’t think twice before setting off to scale new roads. Thankfully India has a huge network of roads, and if you are in for long distance driving, you are, more often than not, in for a treat. Here are some of the hatchbacks, priced under Rs 7 lakh, that will satiate the explorer among you.

Apart from the handling and road holding capabilities of the cars here, we’ve also focussed on the boot space, because that’s another crucial aspect that shouldn’t be overlooked.

Ford Figo

Ford Figo front motion

Not exactly too different from the original Figo, but the new Figo twins are more powerful, comfortable, and better highway cruisers. The larger engine, especially the 1.5-litre diesel, has enough grunt (100PS, Nm) to take almost every challenge the Indian highways might throw at it.

It stays stable, but not inert to your steering inputs. Bad roads are handled better than how the previous Figo managed, and on the whole, the Figo sound like the best entry-level package for long distance cruising.

Although its prices might suggest the ‘entry-level’ tag but its features and looks don’t. All variants get decent safety equipment, while certain versions get ABS, which can be really useful on the highways. In terms of luggage capacity, the Figo hatchback offers 257 litres of boot space, which is not bad for a mid-range hatchback.

Fiat Punto

Fiat Punto EVO 6

Once said to offer the best balance between ride and handling, not much has changed with the Punto. It still handles as brilliantly, but doesn’t disappoint when on bad roads, either. What stands out for the car is its high speed stability.

Talking of which, the biggest downside of the Punto is also related to its high speed only. Getting there isn’t the easiest of tasks because the engines feel underpowered. But as far as long distance cruising goes, the Fiat should have no problem doing that.

Interior fit and finish is vastly improved over the previous models, while the space is just okay. The boot space, at 280 litres is pretty decent, too.

Volkswagen Polo

2015 Volkswagen Polo Hatchback 6

Unlike the Polos of the past, which either were too noisy or too powerful (loved both 1.6s, though!), the new one is a more rounded product. And it’s as rounded in terms of dynamics, too. The steering might not feel as weighty as that of the Punto, but it’s responsive and doesn’t take confidence away, even at high speeds.

Legroom isn’t the best here, but the boot space at 295 litres is better than both Punto and Figo. Among the engine choices, it’s again the diesel that makes more sense here as well. The 1.5-litre unit isn’t just better than the 1.2-litre version, it doesn’t make its presence felt like the earlier one did.

Honda Jazz

Honda Jazz  rear styling

When the Jazz was originally launched, Honda failed to turn it into a successful proposition given the car’s high pricing. But a few revisions and finally an all new model later, it seems that the company got it right this time around.

The presence of a diesel engine makes things more interesting, especially given that it’s essentially the same unit that powers Honda’s other cars in the line-up: a 1.5-litre ‘i-DTEC’ unit that makes 100PS and 200Nm of torque. The 6-speed gearbox also ensures that you don’t run on high revs to maintain momentum.

The boot space is another area where the Jazz annihilates the competition – it comes with a massive 354 litres of that! The versatile seating (Magic Seats, in Honda’s lingo) helps you choose between carrying your ‘homies’ or their luggage.

Upcoming Car

Maruti Suzuki Baleno

Maruti Suzuki Baleno 23

With a huge weight saving (of up to a 100 kilos) and increased chassis stiffness over the current Swift, the Baleno could go on to beat the current generation Swift in more areas than one. For instance, the boot space on the upcoming car is said to be almost 340 litres. That, in comparison to the Swift’s paltry 204-litres, isn’t just huge but it even diminishes the gap with the Jazz.

The Swift is a decent handler (a really good one if you pair it with anything other than the poverty-spec tyres most of its variants get) but with a larger wheelbase, the Baleno could be the more stable, more highway-oriented car that we must mention of in the list.

Maruti Suzuki will launch the car on the 26th of this month, and with an expected price range of around 6-9 lakhs, the company appears to have created the slightly larger, roomier Swift that we always wanted.