When one asks for car recommendations, often, the car expert gets it wrong – because he does not understand exactly where you are coming from.
The right car for the enthusiast is most often not the right car for the normal guy, or the family man, who uses it for commuting and a rare highway or hill drive. He wants convenience, ease of maintenance, resale value and economy. The enthusiast on the other hand looks for punchy getaways, top speeds, torque and overall feel-good factor.
Here, we take a few of the popular car segments in India – and choose the right cars for both the enthusiast and the regular guy.
B+ segment Hatchback
Top regular guy’s car: Maruti Suzuki Swift
The Maruti Suzuki Swift is the leader of the pack in India’s B+ segment hatchback space and deservedly so. The car has the Maruti Suzuki badge on the bonnet, which translates into reliability, reasonable cost of maintenance, fantastic service back up and good fuel efficiency. While it could be a coincidence that the first generation Swift seemed to be heavily inspired by the 3rd generation Mini Cooper, the fact that the Maruti hatchback handles well and delivers a modicum of fun for the driver is no coincidence. These all rounder traits, combined with smooth, naturally aspirated petrol (86 Bhp-112 Nm) and punchy turbo diesel (74 Bhp-190 Nm) motors make the Swift a top choice for B-Segment hatchback buyers. If you’re a family man who wants some fun behind the wheel, you can’t go wrong with the Maruti Suzuki Swift.
Top enthusiast car: Volkswagen Polo GT TSI
The Volkswagen Polo GT TSI is perhaps the sportiest petrol B+ segment hatchback in town, more so since the Punto EVO T-Jet is still a few months away. Armed with a 1.2 liter TSI turbo petrol motor (103 Bhp-175 Nm) that operates through a 7 speed twin clutch DSG automatic transmission, the Polo TSI seems built to delight the driving enthusiast. Delight it does, with perky performance throughout the rev range. The blazingly quick shifting automatic gearbox only adds to the fun, making the term ‘slush box’ a relic of the past. Of course, Volkswagen may not have a stellar service reputation in India and the cost of maintaining the Polo GT TSI may not be cheap. But as an enthusiast who wants to ‘drive’ rather than ‘commute’, this hot hatchback will deliver smiles in spades,
Entry Level Sedan
Top regular guy car: Maruti Suzuki Dzire
We’ve just elaborated on what the Maruti Suzuki badge is all about. Getting a move on, the Dzire is a sub-4 meter compact sedan, a creation that is unique to India, a country that is yet to see the car as a basic means of transport. Instead, most cars sold here, price tags notwithstanding, are image boosters for their owners, symbols of aspiration among the teeming middle classes. Image boost = big sales in India, and this is why every automaker in the country is tapping into the compact sedan segment. Maruti Suzuki’s Dzire is the pick of the lot when it comes to delivering a well rounded package to the compact sedan buyer, a fact reaffirmed by its consistently high monthly sales. If you seek ‘image’, plus a great car at an affordable price point, the Dzire will do it for you.
Top enthusiast car: Ford Classic 1.6
The Ford Classic won’t be around for long. While this car’s days are numbered, the 1.6 liter petrol powered variant of the Classic is what the enthusiast can still pick up and hustle around happily for the next half a decade. While the Ford Classic 1.6 will make way for the Figo Aspire 1.5, which also promises plenty of pep, the former is the only enthusiast focused, affordable entry level sedan sold in India currently. The 1.6 liter Duratec petrol motor (100 Bhp-145 Nm) that powers the Classic likes to be revved, and the ride and handling package makes the car a hoot to drive, both on city streets as well as on the highway. If you want a great deal on the Classic 1.6, the timing couldn’t have been better. Bargain hard and be sure to tick on the ABS and Airbag options.
C+ segment Sedan
Top regular guy car: Honda City
Safe and dependable, and now very fuel efficient too with a turbo diesel motor in tow. That’s the Honda City C+ segment sedan in a cinch. The fourth generation car for the Indian market has improved upon virtually every aspect of its predecessor, and therefore it’s of no surprise that the City dominates numbers at the hustings. If you’re looking for a refined, reliable and high quality C+ segment sedan that will hold its value well for years, the Honda dealership should be your first stop. That the City – in diesel guise – is also one of the most fuel efficient in its class is the icing on the cake.
Top enthusiast car: Ford Fiesta Diesel
If you love driving, go buy the Ford Fiesta Diesel. The car looks rather tame on paper but endlessly talking only numbers is what fan boys do. If you know your onions, one drive in the Fiesta Diesel will leave you convinced that it is “the car” when it comes to being focused on the enthusiast rupee. From the seat that literally envelopes you like second skin to the brilliant chassis balance, to the poise during cornering and the sheer fun delivered per mile, the Fiesta Diesel (1.5 liter, 89 Bhp-204 Nm) is a driving enthusiast’s dream. Don’t take our word though. Drive one, with a bunch of corners thrown in and find out for yourself. Fuel efficiency is very impressive, and in facelifted guise, the car is a looker too. When it comes to petrols though, the Linea T-Jet (114 Bhp-207 Nm) and the Volkswagen Vento TSI (103 Bhp-175 Nm) are two cars that we’ll vote for with our wallets.
D segment sedan
Top regular guy car: Toyota Corolla Altis
Think of the Toyota Corolla Altis as the Honda City, with a different badge, larger dimensions and improvements all around. In a nutshell, the Corolla Altis is the safe., steady bet that will deliver years of reliable, fuss free performance, traits for which millions of car buyers around the globe opt for Toyotas. The Corolla is served up with a responsive, smooth 1.8 liter petrol motor (138 Bhp-176 Nm) and a fuel efficient but turbo lag prone, 1.4 liter D-4D turbo diesel (89 Bhp-205 Nm) engine. Either ways, the Corolla Altis makes for a compelling choice as far as the ‘family man’ looking for a premium sedan is concerned.
Top enthusiast car: Skoda Octavia 1.8 TSI
It’s the smaller details that come together to make an outstanding car, well, outstanding. Independent suspension at the rear has been overlooked on all variants of the current, MQB platform underpinned Skoda Octavia, except for the top-of-the-line, 1.8 liter TSI engined petrol variant. This makes all the difference when it comes to “driving delight”. Then there’s the 7 speed twin clutch DSG twin clutch automatic gearbox that outdoes you in terms of keeping the turbo petrol motor spinning in the right band for maximum thrust. Talking thrust, the 1.8 liter TSI turbocharged petrol motor makes 177 Bhp-250 Nm, making this variant of the Octavia the fastest in its segment. Enthusiast choice? Check!