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Buying a car and running it ‘bone-stock’ might get help the vehicle hold its value for longer, but if you’re looking for a considerable performance gain, then that’s not the right way. While the Indian car culture is yet to shape, there has always been a strong ‘Tuner’ culture around. We take a look at five cars that can be modified easily for performance gains, but without putting a lot at stake. For the first part of this story, we’ve kept our budget relatively small – Rs 10 lakhs. Keep in mind that a lot of modifications can cause result in the loss of warranty, so enquire before you take the plunge.

Maruti Suzuki Alto K10

2015 Maruti Suzuki Alto K10 AMT Facelift 1

If Maruti had to reinvent the Zen (the original, and not the not-as-likeable Zen Estilo), there’s a good chance that Alto K10 would have been it. The car, powered by a 1-litre ‘K10B’ engine that makes 67hp and 90Nm of torque, is one of the simplest automobiles in India. And even in its fully loaded spec, it won’t go too far away from its lightweight nature – the VXi tips the scales at 755kg.

A set of better tyres is what the car needs, and that should ideally be the first upgrade. The 155/65 R13 might not be anaemic but get better quality rubber for more stability and better road-holding capacity. All that means you can push the car a bit harder, and make the most of that 1.0-litre engine. Upsizing the tyres (using a larger sized tyre) will also help, but keep in mind that changing the profile can cause problems with the suspension. The speedometer error could increase, too.

Maruti Suzuki Swift (Diesel)

Maruti Swift in Red 1

Since we’re talking about usable performance here, let’s not get into the petrol vs diesel debate. Diesel engines might not be as much fun when revved, but the abundance of torque and the turbocharger boost make some of them pretty interesting to drive. Maruti Suzuki Swift, with its lightweight chassis, very smooth and positive gearbox, and overall peppiness (even in stock form), makes for a great platform.

The 1.3-litre Fiat-sourced diesel engine (74hp; 190Nm) works arguably the best in the Swift, but a bit more power will not  hurt. ECU remaps and diesel tuning boxes are very popular these days, and they don’t really cost a lot. A gain of about 25hp isn’t anything unheard of, but that will make a great difference in the way the Swift drives, while keeping the good things intact, of course. Just ensure that like on the Alto, the tyres on the Swift aren’t really meant for performance (especially those on the lower trims), so get them changed while you’re at it.

Honda Mobilio petrol

Honda Mobilio front three quarter

Using the same engine as the Honda City, the Mobilio petrol turns out to be a cracker to drive. The chassis is pretty rounded, and the engine is one of the best petrol engines in the segment, and clearly better than the Brio/Amaze’s 1.2-litre petrol and the 1.5-litre diesel.

The petrol unit can be revved hard, and if you’re in for a performance MPV, the Mobilio petrol is a great choice. In terms of stock figures, the maximum power is 118hp while the maximum torque is rated at 145Nm.

While it’s far away from the original VTECs of the yore, the i-VTEC unit can still be a very rewarding, especially from the modifier’s perspective. An ECU-tricking chip, a free flow intake, and a free flow exhaust in collaboration should be able to offer 10-15 per cent more power and torque. And all that at a fraction of the vehicle’s cost.

Volkswagen Polo GT TSI

Volkswagen Polo GT TSI

(Photo courtesy Zigwheels)

The good part about the GT TSI is that, apart from being an almost perfect ‘hot’ hatch, it shares a lot of parts with other VW Group cars. That means retrofitting a VW Polo GTI steering with paddles is possible!

Engine remaps etc. are abundant, too, but the ability to fit company parts without tinkering with anything makes the GT TSI all the more special. In stock form, the engine makes 105PS, while the 7-speed DSG transmission works in conjunction to ensure shifts are quick.

Now, keeping in mind that ECU remaps can easily get up to 20-25 per cent of increase in performance (in turbocharged engines, stage 1), the GT TSI can be a very potent mile-muncher.

Fiat Linea T-Jet

Fiat Linea

While the solid build soldiers and the direct steering (with both feel and feedback) wins hearts unlike any other car, the Linea isn’t the most powerful car around. The T-Jet is a different animal altogether. The turbocharged 1.4-litre petrol engine makes 112hp and diesel-beating 207Nm of torque.

The driver-oriented Fiat Abarth Punto will be launched soon, but considering that the T-Jet uses the same engine, why not make use of that.

And while a little more power will always be useful, the T-Jet does everything else so freaking well that one starts to question the regular Linea’s credentials. Give the T-Jet a bit more power though an ECU remap and you won’t have to wait for the Abarth versions, either.

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