Looking for your first car? Here are 5 top options under Rs 4 lakh

A daunting task it might be, but the excitement and the pleasure that follows one’s first car purchase is second to none. We take a look at 5 top choices for you if you’re in the market for your first car under Rs 4 lakhs.

Let’s start with new cars first:

Tata Nano

2015 Tata Nano GenX AMT 1

Away from its original price of Rs 1 lakh but it still makes an awful lot of sense in the budget. The fully loaded version, complete with power steering and an automatic gearbox (okay, automated manual transmission) comes under Rs 4 lakhs..

It’s nimble, easy to drive, and doesn’t take a lot of parking space, either. The 624cc engine makes 37hp and isn’t a bad performer, unless you plan to do long distance cruising, which makes the Nano feel a bit shortchanged. It can handle highway driving but the lack of safety features don’t help its case.

As a city car, it can run circles around the competition, be it zipping through traffic or exploring by-lanes for shorter routes, the Nano does it all, happily. The driving position and the view all around inspires confidence, especially in case of first time drivers, and the AMT gearbox ensures that you don’t have to worry about shifting gears manually.

The small capacity engine ensures that overall fuel economy isn’t too bad, in fact it’s one of the few cars in India that cross the 20+ kmpl mark. Alternatively you can opt for the CNG variant, which isn’t just cheaper to run but greener, too.

Variant of choice: Tata Nano GenX XTA, priced at Rs 2.89 lakhs, ex-showroom, New Delhi

Maruti Alto K10

2015 Maruti Suzuki Alto K10 AMT Facelift 1

While the Alto still lives up to the ‘less is more’ philosophy without trying too hard, but its more powerful version, the Alto K10, makes for a better car. It sits low, not excessively so, so you won’t need to squat a lot at the gym, either.

Larger and more expensive than the Nano, the Alto K10 offers better interior and a much better ability to gobble miles than the Nano. The size difference might hamper its ability to drive in very narrow lanes, but overall light controls and a peppy engine makes up for that – take the longer route! The 998cc ‘K10’ engine makes 67hp and can also be specced with an AMT gearbox, just like the Nano.

A CNG version is also available but sadly in the LXI spec only, while the AMT is offered only on the VXI version, which is devoid of the standard driver airbag featured on the VXI(O).

Variant of choice: Skip the base versions, because they skimp on safety features (that’s a Maruti thing, isn’t it!) and get the airbag equipped Alto K10 VXI (O). It’s priced at Rs 3.66 lakh, ex-showroom, New Delhi.

Datsun Go

Datsun GO NXT

If you’re looking for a spacious car in the budget, then it has to be the Datsun Go. Sadly surrounded by the negative publicity that the brand received for failing crash tests, it must be reminded that both Nano and Alto failed the tests, too – such is the misery!

On the bright side, the vehicle offers a lot of space on the inside, is okay to drive, and doesn’t look too bad either. The fully loaded Datsun Go T or if you’re looking to buy a car before December, the Datsun Go NXT (limited edition) breach the Rs 4 lakh barrier by a mere 5k and 10k respectively.

Powered by a 1.2-litre petrol engine that makes 67hp, the Datsun Go comes with the largest engine here. It offers the largest boot at 265 litres.

Variant of choice: The fully specced Go T(O) is the one to go for. It might be a tad pricier but dealer discounts and other offers should ideally take care of that. And you get an airbag, too. The airbag-equipped Go T(O) is priced at Rs 4.2 lakhs.

Hyundai EON

Hyundai Eon

Want your first car to have the best in class cabin, then it has to be the Eon that takes the crown here. The car by no means feels built to a price, comes with either a 0.8-litre engine or a larger 1-litre unit, and is a good car to live with.

The smaller engine displaces 814cc and makes a maximum power of 55hp, while the larger 998cc engine makes 68hp. The top end version of the former is offered with a driver airbag, but ABS is still absent. As far as driving goes, the Eon has that covered well, and it might not be as enthusiastic as the Alto K10, but it does the job well. There’s also an LPG version available.

It’s not too difficult to maneuver in and around the city, and highway driving isn’t an uphill task for the car. The 0.8-litre engine isn’t the strongest here, though. Fit and finish is top notch, and that remains the car’s USP.

Variant of choice: The top-spec Hyundai Eon Sportz gets a driver airbag but is only offered with the smaller engine. Since it’s loaded with features, it feels from a segment above, and that works very well in case of the Eon. It’s priced at Rs 4.10 lakh, ex-showroom, New Delhi.

And a look at the used car market:

With various manufactures offering warranties and free services on used cars, it’s almost like buying a new one from them. For a pre-owned car, Rs 4 lakh is a very decent budget, and it can even get you a midsize (think Hyundai Verna, older Swift Dzire) sedan for that price. But the added boot makes it slightly less practical in the city, and if you’re learning to drive, a hatchback is a little easier to start with.

Maruti Suzuki Swift

1st Generation Maruti Suzuki Swift Hatchback

One of the popular hatchbacks in the used car market is the Maruti Suzuki Swift. High demand for the car means the used car prices aren’t very low, but expect to get a well maintained example of the car for about Rs 4 lakhs. Petrol cars are easier to drive than diesels because they don’t surprise the driver with a huge amount of turbo boost, but on the flip side, the lack of low-end torque makes driving a petrol in traffic slightly bothersome.

So if you decide to take the plunge and get a diesel instead, remember that the car is likely to have more mileage under its belt. With that said, Swift diesel, for instance, should be available for the same money, but not necessarily a current generation version.

As a car, the Swift is larger, so while you can stuff in more friends and their luggage inside, it isn’t as easy to place in traffic, as say the Alto. On the bright side, the highway stability, and if you’re lucky enough to get a top-spec version, the safety are a level above.

The only RWD car on the list, the Tata Nano, makes for a great city car. Driving it is easy and the utilization of space is commendable, too. We choose it above the rest, especially if the daily commute requires travelling through crowded streets. For everything else, there’s the Alto K10.