Hot hatchbacks: Cars with big hearts

Updated: 30 May, 2012

The Volkswagen Polo 1.6, Skoda Fabia 1.6, Fiat Punto 90HP , Tata Vista Safire 90 and the Honda Jazz find their way to this list of the most powerful hot hatchback cars in India. We are considering only petrol manual cars to keep this simple.

What’s not to like about hot hatchbacks? They’re small, they’re efficient and they’re loaded with big engines that encourage you to flex your right foot a lot more. Here we take a look at India’s small street burners. We’ve set the minimum power output the engine has to put out to qualify as 90 PS.

So that cuts the Maruti Swift, Nissan Micra and Ford Figo out of the race. If the much-loved Fiat Palio was still being produced, it would also have found its way into this list of the most powerful hatchback cars in India.

Volkswagen Polo 1.6

volkswagen polo ipl edition
Photo: The Polo 1.6 makes an impressive 105 Bhp of peak power at 5,250 rpm

Price: Rs 6.48 lakh

Mileage: 15.96 kmpl

Power: 105 Bhp

VW Polo research hub

Volkswagen launched its much-awaited top-end Highline variant of the Polo in September. The big-brother in the Polo range has got a more powerful heart – a 1.6 litre 4-cylinder petrol engine that develops maximum power of 105 Bhp at 5,250 rpm and torque of 153 Nm at 3,750 rpm. Zero to a 100 kmph is dispatched in a claimed 11.1 seconds. It’s the same engine that is found in the more expensive (and heavier) Vento sedan.

The engine is paired with a 5-speed manual transmission. The company claims a mileage of 15.96 kmpl. All the other features except the engine in the 1.6 Polo are the same as the 1.2-litre Polo.

Not much has changed on the exterior. It retains the clear cut German styling of its sibling – no unnecessary frills, just form following function. But some differentiation would have been good as the customer is paying more for it. Some modification would go well to lift the car’s street presence and the owner’s street credit. Also read: New Hyundai i-Gen i20 vs. Volkswagen Polo: Diesel comparison

Unlike most new generations of the same car, the Polo has cut flab and actually weighs a few kilos less than its predecessor. Further, contrary to the global trend where cars get taller with each successive generation, the 5th generation Polo is actually shorter than the 4th. Build quality is solid German and should easily handle the abuse meted out by Indian driving conditions.

The new 1.6-litre Polo comes with features such as chrome strip in front grille, body-colored outside door handles and ORVMs, green wedge at top section of wind shield, galvanized body with six years anti-corrosion warranty and 15-inch alloy wheels.

The interior of this car features a chrome-coated gear shift knob and internal door handles, chrome interior trims, 1-litre bottle-sized storage compartments and rear seats with 60-40 split folding as well as superior “livon” fabrics. The Polo is also dressed with an array of safety features like dual front airbags, ABS with electronic brake distribution, three-point automatic safety belts and head restraints that counteract the risk of whiplash injury for four occupants. If a hot hatchback with German engineering is what you need, look no further!

Skoda Fabia 1.6

Skoda Fabia
Photo: The Fabia 1.6 is essentially a badge engineered Polo 1.6

Price: Rs 5.9 lakh

Mileage: 11 kmpl

Power: 105 Bhp

Skoda Fabia research hub

The Skoda Fabia 1.6 and the Volkswagen Polo 1.6 are virtually identical under the hood. Yes, they share the same 1.6 litre, 4-cylinder, petrol engine that develops 105 Bhp at 5,250 rpm and torque of 153 Nm at 3,750 rpm. What’s different is that the Fabia seems slightly more spacious on the inside, compared to the Polo.

It’s also about 30 mm longer at 4,000 mm in length, and has a wheelbase that’s about 9 mm longer (not much of a difference really). The Polo is about 40 mm wider, leading to more shoulder room. The weight of both cars is almost identical. As for ground clearance, the Polo is better off at 168 mm, compared to the Fabia’s 158 mm. Also read: Skoda Fabia Scout launched at Rs.6.79 lakh!

The Fabia in Elegance trim comes with front fog lamps, beige upholstery, double DIN music system, and daytime running lights (DRLs). The DRLs are not ideally suited to the Indian market as there is no regulation that mandates it, and you will have passers-by waving to you to tell you to turn your lights off! Only manual air-conditioning is offered on all variants and there is no rear wash/wipe feature.

The Fabia 1.6 also boasts of safety features such as dual airbags, ABS and motor speed regulation or engine braking control (this regulates engine speed to prevent excessive wheel spin). As far as comfort goes, the Fabia is not overly luxurious. It has manually adjustable internal controls for the outside mirrors, and AC vents for the rear that sit under the front seats. The instrument panel has a multi-info display that reads out distance-to-empty and instant mileage figures. The Skoda 1.6 gives an average of about 11 kmpl.

The Fabia 1.6 is definitely a hot hatch. But with Skoda’s unreliable service backup and high maintenance costs, it may find fewer buyers.

Fiat Punto 90HP

punto 2012
Photo: The Punto 90 Bhp is a blend of good looks and performance

Price: Rs 7.21 lakh

Mileage: 20 kmpl

Power: 90 Bhp

Fiat Punto research hub

Designed by the famous Giorgetto Giugiaro of Italdesign, the Fiat Punto 90HP retains the gorgeous looks of its siblings. It is an attractive and spacious car. The styling of the Fiat Punto 90HP stands out in the current automotive scene for the beauty of the exterior line, which is modern, elegant and distinctly ‘Italian’, with tapered rounded lines that seem to be inspired by the sports cars of the 1950s and 1960s.

The Punto is a car which has been created to ‘excite’, Fiat says, but also to express the solidity that comes from superb quality standards. This is borne out by extremely high safety standards and attention to detail. The result is a car that has been given the Euro NCAP five-star rating for passenger safety.

Powered by the Linea’s variable geometry turbo-charged 1.3 multi-jet engine, the peppier Punto produces 90 Bhp at 4,000 rpm. Maximum torque produced is now 209 Nm at 2,000 rpm. Displacement is the same, but earlier the engine was tuned for fuel efficiency and produced just 75 Bhp. What we now have is an increase of 15 Bhp and if driving pleasure is what you are looking for, this is sure going to make you happy. The company is claiming a mileage of around 20 kmpl for the 90HP. Also read: Top 3 feature loaded hatchbacks under Rs.8 lakh in India

The Punto 90HP will come only in the Emotion Pack trim. That means all the frills, plus chrome door handles a la Linea and 90HP badging at the rear. The interiors of the Fiat Punto 90HP are inspired from the Linea – many switches and controls have been picked from Linea to keep costs low.

Inside, heavily bolstered sports seats provide plenty of support during cornering, and are comfortable on long journeys. The chunky leather steering wheel of Fiat Punto 90HP is a joy to hold, while the dashboard design is simple and well laid out.

Main comfort and convenience features of Fiat Punto 90HP are: electrically adjustable outside rear view mirror, automatic climate control, Blue & Me technology developed jointly by Microsoft & Fiat to connect and sync mobile via Bluetooth and voice dial/read SMSes. Fiat Punto 90HP features customized instrument display setting with My Car, remote foldable key, intelligent rear defogger which switches off after 20 minutes to prevent damage to the glass, convenient driver facing key slot, and intelligent ignition which prevents turning the key when the engine is running.

Fiat Punto 90HP also comes with an MP3 player with 6 speakers, front fog lamps, rear washer, rear wiper, ABS, EBD, rear defogger, alloys and dual front airbags.

The Fiat Punto is a genuine hot hatch alright. But despite offering great products, the company just doesn’t seem to be doing as well as it should. If a powerful, stylish hatchback car is what you need, you should definitely take it for a test drive. And the fact that it comes with a diesel engine, must attract running cost conscious-buyers as well.

Tata Vista 90

tata vista front
Photo: The Tata Vista with its 89 Bhp of power just about makes it into our list and is a practical hatch too

Price: Rs. 5.46 lakh (GLX), Rs. 5.93 lakh (GVX) & Rs 6.43 lakh (GZX)

Mileage: 12 kmpl

Power: 89 Bhp

Tata Vista research hub

Tata Motors launched the Vista 90 in May 2011. Tata has plonked the 90Bhp 1.4 litre Safire engine that powers the Fiat Punto 90HP and Fiat Linea into the Indica Vista and badged it the Vista 90 HP. The Vista 90 is available in three trims, GLX, GVX and GZX.

The Vista 90 is powered by a 1368 cc, DOHC, 16-valve petrol engine with variable valve timing that develops 90PS of power at 6,000 rpm and 116NM of torque at 4,750 rpm. This engine is mated to a smooth 5-speed gearbox also sourced from Fiat.

The engine is refined and you can hardly hear any noise inside the cabin. Unlike other Tata cars, even at cruising speeds, the engine noise is less heard inside the cabin, which is a good thing for frequent highway riders. The Vista 90 can hit high speeds such as 160 kmph but its lack of steering feedback and evident body roll doesn’t inspire confidence to push the car to its limits. Read more: Tata Indica Vista VX Quadrajet video review: New and improved

The Vista 90 comes with beige and black interior combination. Plastic quality is good and way better than the old Indica, but still, the fit and finish is inconsistent. The instrument clusters are good, but they are centrally mounted making it hard for driver to read the gauges at a glance.

The Vista 90 GZX comes with alloy wheels, dual front airbags, ABS, front ELR seat belts with pre-tensioners and load limiters and LED high mount stop lamp. Other noteworthy features include BLUE 5 (Bluetooth connectivity), 2-DIN music system with FM/MP3/CD playback, four speakers and two tweeters, USB port, auxiliary input and audio controls on steering wheel.

Honda Jazz

Photo: The Jazz gives a premium feel and also has a healthy 89 Bhp of power

Price: Rs. 5.75 lakh (Standard variant) to Rs. 6.31 (Jazz X)

Mileage: 17 kmpl

Power: 89 Bhp

Honda Jazz research hub

The Honda Jazz face-lift was recently launched with a price tag of Rs. 5.5 lakh making it a very attractive option for buyers in the premium hatchback segment. The price was later increased and it now starts at Rs. 5.75 lakh in Delhi.

Honda had made some minor tweaks which include re-designed, raked-up headlamps, a chrome grille up front and a chrome slat at the rear. The bumpers have been re-designed giving the car a fresher look and stance.

The interiors have beige upholstery which instantly gives the Jazz an up-market feel. That coupled with the neat and sorted dashboard almost makes you forget that you are sitting in a hatchback and not a sedan.

The new Honda Jazz is powered by the old 1.2 litre i-VTEC petrol motor that the Jazz has always had. It produces a healthy 89 bhp of max power, but only 110 Nm of max torque which means that the car is peppy and fun to drive, but is a bit sluggish at low rpm.

The ARAI claimed mileage of the Jazz is 16.9 kmpl. The Jazz moves effortlessly both in city traffic and out on open highways. The car feels stable even at high speeds and the engine does not yelp in pain when revved hard. The brakes are effective and ABS kicks in effectively, but the brake pedal feels a little soft. Also see our Honda Jazz video review