How to extract maximum performance from popular premium hatchbacks

If you are looking for a premium hatchback that drives well, you would most often be recommended a Maruti Swift, Ford Figo, Hyundai i20, Honda Jazz or Fiat Punto by the CarToq community and others. However, it’s not as if these cars drive like high-performance cars the moment you step into them. You need to adapt your driving style to the car.

CarToq takes you through the quirks and unique driving style adaptations required to really get your premium hatchback to perform like you want it to, in stock condition.

Maruti Swift: Get more fun out of the petrol and diesel variants!

The Maruti Swift is what many in the community call a driver’s car. And there’s a reason for that. The steering feel is precise (it is light, but let’s you know where your wheels are at all times). In the petrol Swift, the clutch is very light and the 1.2 litre petrol engine likes being revved a little. The Swift makes peak torque of 114 Nm at 4,000 rpm and peak power of 86 bhp at 6000 rpm. To get your car moving fast, you need to watch that torque figure. Rev in each gear till 4,000 rpm, and shift to the next gear. In the petrol Swift torque builds up quite fast from 1500 rpm onward. But for maximum acceleration shift up at 4000 rpm and downshift at 2,000 rpm to quickly build up the revs.

The diesel Swift is powered by a 1.3 litre multijet diesel engine that puts out 74 bhp of power at 4,000 rpm and peak torque of 190 Nm at 2,000 rpm. Theoretically, the diesel should be quicker right, with more torque? But no, the torque takes time to build up in a diesel engine because of “turbo lag” – the time it takes the turbocharger to build up enough boost pressure. Read: How to deal with turbo lag?

In the diesel Swift you will need to shift up gears at just about 2,000 rpm, but also downshift at about  1800 rpm. Revving beyond 2,500 rpm in a diesel Swift will only burn more fuel.

Hyundai i20: Shift at 4000 rpm with petrol, 2200 rpm with diesel!

The Hyundai i20 has a pretty refined petrol engine, but it also feels slightly sluggish. It is powered by a 1.2 litre Kappa2 petrol engine that puts out 84 bhp of power at 6000 rpm and 116 Nm of torque at 4,000 rpm. The i20 has a very light steering that is good for city driving, but does not give you a feel of the road. To get the Hyundai i20 petrol to perform at its best, you need to rev beyond 4,000 rpm in each gear and downshift at 2,200 rpm, as the i20 petrol builds torque quite linearly.

The diesel Hyundai i20 is powered by a 1.4 litre common-rail diesel engine that puts out 90 bhp of power at 4,000 rpm and 220 Nm of torque between 1750-2750rpm, with a six-speed manual transmission. The car suffers from quite a bit of “turbo lag”. To get the car to move, it is advisable to keep the rpm above 1800 rpm and rev till about 2,500 rpm before shifting up to the next gear. When you need to downshift, don’t let the rpm drop below 1800 rpm if you want to make quick progress.

Honda Jazz – Pedal to metal!

new honda jazz

The Honda Jazz is available only in petrol with a “rev-happy” 1.2 litre petrol engine that puts out 89 bhp of power at 6,200 rpm and 110 Nm of torque at 4,800 rpm with a slick shifting 5-speed manual transmission. The Jazz is a peppy car, but only if you really flex your right foot, as its torque is slightly low and comes quite high in the rev range. In fact, if you are too gentle with it, it can stall on you (at too low rpm). The light-weight engine builds up revs quickly, but to get the car to really move, you need to rev beyond 5,000 rpm and upshift. Downshift at 2,500 rpm to keep the car moving quickly. However, this style of driving will be bad for fuel economy (but this is about performance right?)

Fiat Punto – Shift gears like an extra in Fast & Furious!

fiat punto sports front black

The Fiat Punto is another car that is popular with enthusiasts, but that’s mainly the diesel Punto. The petrol Fiat Punto (the lower variants) comes with a 1.2 litre petrol engine that puts out 67 bhp of power at 6000 rpm and 96 Nm of torque at 2,500 rpm. This engine is quite smooth, but it requires frequent gear changes to keep the car moving fast. Since peak torque builds up quite early at 2,500 rpm one needn’t rev it too high, but just get beyond this. Shift gears at 3,000 rpm and downshift at 2000 rpm on the Punto petrol and the car will glide effortlessly. Also read: Fiat Punto road test and review

However, the diesel Punto requires a completely different driving style. The 1.3-litre diesel Punto comes in two engine power specs – the standard one being 75 bhp at 4000 rpm and 197 Nm of torque at 2000 rpm, while the 90HP puts out 90 bhp of power at 4000 rpm and 213 Nm of torque at 2000 rpm. The diesel Punto (75 hp variant) suffers from some turbo lag and requires to be revved to 2,200 rpm before shifting up. Stay above 1800 rpm and the car will glide. The 90HP has a variable geometry turbocharger and behaves differently, with the torque beginning to come in quickly from 1800 rpm onward. This feels much faster. Staying between 2000-2200 rpm will keep the car moving really fast.

Ford Figo: No turbo lag in the diesel, so have fun!

ford figo green

The Figo is a good car to drive because of the way it handles. It has good steering feedback (the steering is slightly heavy) and a slick shifting gearbox. However, the 1.2-litre petrol engine that powers the petrol Figo is quite sluggish. It puts out 70 bhp of power at 6250 rpm and 102 Nm of torque at 4000 rpm, with a 5-speed manual transmission. This torque builds up quite gradually. Revving a Figo beyond 4,000 rpm is quite pointless for normal driving, unless you are in a tearing hurry. Shift up at 4,000 rpm and downshift at 1500 rpm for the petrol Figo – it’s a sedate car.

The diesel Figo packs a bit more punch and is more fun to drive. The Figo diesel is powered by a 1.4 litre engine that puts out 68 bhp of power at 4000 rpm and 160 Nm of torque at 2000 rpm. The best part of the Figo diesel is that it has hardly any turbo lag and the torque begins to build up linearly from 1500 rpm onward. Drive it between 1800 and 2000 rpm and you’ll get good fuel economy. But if you want to extract some punch, rev till 2200 and shift up and downshift to a lower gear at 1800 rpm. Also read: Performance modifications for your car under Rs. 50,000

Share any driving characteristics of other premium hatchbacks and hatchbacks you’ve experienced with the CarToq community, pointing out how you can get the maximum pick up and also the best rpm range for best fuel-efficiency.