Yes, we are as shocked as you are, Narain Karthikeyan, India’s first F1 driver has rated the Ford Figo 1.5 Diesel as high as the Audi R8 supercar around the Sriperumbudur racetrack. Karthikeyan was testing India’s Best driver’s cars of 2016 for Autocar, after which he gave out his opinion. Karthikeyan rated the Audi R8 Supercar and the Figo 1.5 Diesel at 8 stars out of 10. He also rated the Fiat Punto Abarth and Maruti Baleno Petrol, but both cars finished much lower than the Figo.
So, what’s the Autocar India’s Best Driver’s Car 2016 all about?
They get in former F1 driver Narain Karthikeyan to do hot laps in various cars to know how they feel when being pushed to the limit on the race track. The race track outside Chennai was chosen for the same. Narain shared his expertise on the following budget cars.
Ford Figo 1.5
Rating: 8 stars, Time: 2.19.89 minutes
What Narain said: Another excellent driver’s car from Ford; Still needs a 152 hp Ecoboost though
The Figo is a very good car. In most of our stories, we have already mentioned that this car has a lot of potential and is highly under rated. The 1.5 liter diesel engine makes 99 Bhp and 215 Nm. The best part about the car is the fact that it, like all Ford’s drives really well. The steering, though not a hydraulic unit is still pretty responsive.
The steering weighs up adequately at higher speeds and is one of the best in the segment. The engine and the suspension combo make it a fun to drive vehicle. It seems Narain had so much fun that he rated the Figo as 8 stars, the same he did with the Audi R8 which says a lot about this car.
Fiat Punto Abarth
Rating: 6 stars, Time: 2.16.96 minutes
What Narain said: Brilliant engine, but the suspension is too comfort oriented to be a real Abarth.
The car that is a true hot hatch in the Indian market. The Punto is powered by a 1.4 liter turbocharged unit making 145 Bhp and 210 Nm. The vehicle has been lowered and given larger tyres to make sure it uses the power better. The car is great fun to drive. We put the Abarth against the Polo GT TSi in various states of tune and they couldn’t even come close in a straight line.
The engine is the biggest strong point of the Abarth. In the segment it is in currently, it is the most powerful by a large margin. It has a good amount of power throughout the revv range. It can certainly shame a lot of higher end cars when it comes to straight line speed. The steering is also really nice and has great amount of feedback. It is adequately weighed.
Even though the suspension has been lowered, it still is setup on the softer side which means while pushing it hard, it doesn’t feel confident enough. If only Fiat gave a stiffer setup, it would be the ultimate hot hatchback. For those. There are aftermarket suspensions available that can sort this out though.
Maruti Baleno Petrol
Rating: 5 stars, Time: 2.20.17 minutes
What Narain said: In the dynamics department, it’s not as sharp as the Swift
The Baleno is more of a premium offering from Maruti. Since they already have a sporty vehicle in their portfolio (Swift), they decided to make a larger and plusher hatch. But, the Baleno is extremely light and has a rev-happy 1.2 liter engine making 83 Bhp and 115 Nm. The engine is powerful in a straight line courtesy the light weight, however the vehicle is not as dynamically sorted as the Swift.
The Baleno is built to take on the premium end of the hatchback segment, which hardly offers a genuine ‘driver’s car’ as of now. It had to have wide appeal, which meant that it needs to be spacious, have good interiors, be comfortable and offer good mileage. Since most Indians don’t really care about steering feedback, Maruti hasn’t paid much attention to it on this product.
Source: Autocar India Magazine September 2016 issue.