Most budget cars sold in India feel tinny, and that’s not a surprise given the tight costs they’re built to. Examples of tinny cars abound. From the Maruti Alto and the Hyundai Eon, to the Swift and the Dzire, some of India’s best sellers are also the tinniest feeling cars. On the other hand, there are some relatively slower selling cars but that feel much more solid. These cars exude strength and make you “feel” more secure within their confines. They handle the rougher roads better too. There’s a reassuring quality to them, a quality that’s rapidly going missing. If you want a car that feels tough, solid but is still very affordable, you’ve got to read on.
Mahindra Verito Vibe
One look at it may be enough to give you a bad vibe about the Mahindra Verito Vibe, but dig deeper and you’ll find a solid, no-nonsense car that can handle the rough with the smooth. This unusual looking car feel tough and has a sorted suspension set up that handles bad roads well. Known to last for years without rattling, the car is one of those budget ‘long lasters’. The 1.5 liter Renault-sourced K9K turbo diesel engine is the cherry on the cake. Super responsive and fuel efficient, this old school diesel motor also has a reputation for reliability and longevity.
The Mahindra Verito is everything that the Vibe is, except of course the unusual body style. More easy on the eyes and with a capacious boot, the Verito can make for a superb car for those whose travels involve a mix of urban and rural roads. The wide body design of the Verito makes it capacious, and the car seems well put together. Originally designed as a low cost car for Romania, this rebadged Dacia Logan has a reputation for longevity. It’s of small wonder that the taxi fleet operators love this machine.
The Bolt is officially a flop, and you can snag one with discounts of nearly a lakh rupees. While these discounts should be compelling enough for you, there’s another attribute about the Bolt that needs special mention. The car is solidly built, and is one of the best put together Tatas, ever. Spacious and with well appointed interiors, the Bolt is sheer value given the discounts it’s trading at. If you can look past the Tata brand, this is one hatchback that promises to age well.
The Zest is essentially the compact sedan variant of the Bolt. A solid build, well appointed interiors, a rich feature set and strong engines come standard. It rides and handles well, and is arguably the benchmark in its class. While the Zest has been a decent seller for Tata Motors, what with the car being one of the modest hits that the automaker has managed in recent years, increasing competition has led to discounts. The Zest can be had for about 60,000 rupees off, which means that it’s terrific value too.
Fiat Punto Evo
Saying it straight, the Punto Evo feels like a vault. Don’t take our word for it, try shutting the doors of one. This solidly built Fiat is a poor seller, and almost always there are discounts to be snagged. If you buy one, do opt for the diesel variants as the petrol powered ones are nothing to write home about. The Punto’s ride and handling strike the delicate balance, all thanks to the suspension. The steering, one of the few hydraulic units on a hatchback, is a class act. It offers great “feel”.
What do you call a Fiat Punto Evo that sits on stilts, rides on taller wheels and looks butch? Avventura. That says it all, doesn’t it?
The Linea shares the Punto Evo’s platform, and a diesel engine, and the hatchback’s solid build, reassuring handling, and then some more. You get the 1.4 liter T-Jet turbo petrol engine, a sedan body style with the accompanying “large” boot. A longer wheelbase gives this car more spacious interiors than the Punto.
Volkswagen’s been going through some very bad press lately, and deservedly so. When it comes to building solid cars, the VW group is still serious about not cutting corners. In fact, VW has been struggling to do a budget brand as it would deviate from the core ethos of the brand, which is of building solid, long lasting cars. The Polo, Volkswagen’s cheapest car in India, feels built to last. It’s got a solidity to it, inside-out, and has a suspension that can hold its own on the rougher roads. It’s a high quality car, with strong diesel engines, and a lovely turbo petrol.
The Vento is a Polo with a boot, and one with a longer wheelbase. Even the styling is very similar, understated yet contemporary enough. A more comfortable car owing to the extra space at hand, the Vento retains all the good attributes of the Polo. The turbo petrol and diesel engines, and the DSG twin clutch automatic gearbox, make it an enthusiast’s delight. As is the case with its hatchback sibling, airbags are standard.
The Rapid is the badge engineered version of the Vento, which means that the car’s essentially the Vento with a different name and tweaked looks. The suspension feels better set up, and it’s slightly cheaper too.