A need for a new car:
Let's rewind the time to Jun-2016.
I needed a car once I relocate to Bangalore. Do I really need a diesel? I thought. Hmm.. The car will be used only for short weekend trips within the city and for occasional highway runs. Average mileage would be around 1000 km per month or sometimes even less than that. So, a petrol hatchback makes more sense.
Having owned a Punto at my home town for 5 years made me think that going for entry level hatchbacks would be a bit of a downgrade. So I was keen on considering premium hatchbacks. After all, there are various choices to spoil you if you are out to buy a hatchback. Elite I20
was the first on my list. I have always admired the way the Elite I20 has been designed. Sleek front grill, sweeping tail lights, floating C pillar, it sure is a looker. Though it has been some time since Elite I20 has been in the market, I still couldn't resist the temptation. Checked out the car in the showroom and found that it still hasn't lost it's charm. The rear legroom is sufficient though not class leading. The interiors were well put together with nice soft touch plastics. I did not like the light chocolate color interiors compared to the all back that is present in the Active I20, but I can live with that. Took it for a test drive. Oh man.. the car struggled to pull with just 3 people on board. The engine was very refined, the gearshift was very smooth, the steering weighted well as the speed built up. I knew that many people claim the steering feedback to be unnerving at high speeds. But still I was ready to overlook that since I am a sedate driver and would not be doing speeds more than 120 often. But when I came to know that the Magna variant lacked ABS
and airbags, I was in for a shock. What kind of value does it hold for such a price tag without these safety features? Had it not been for the weak engine and lack of ABS
and airbags, I would have definitely gone with the Elite I20. Baleno
grabbed my attention next to I20. Good looks, very good set of features for each variant, ABS
and airbag as standard across all variants, decent interiors, comfortable front seats, good rear legroom, decent boot space. Hmm.. The positive points on paper were too convincing. Took a test drive to feel how it drives. Wow! Excellent power to weight ratio. The engine was silent and refined with very good torque. After driving my diesel Punto for 5 years, I was thinking that all 1.2 litre petrol motors will not have enough torque. But, I was proved wrong by Baleno's 1.2 mill. I fell in love with the way the engine responded. The gearbox was slick and the clutch feel was good. The steering feel was not very good. It was too light at parking speeds. May be I was comparing it with my Punto's HPS. The suspension was a bit firm, but what else can I expect in such a lightweight car. The delta variant ticked all the right boxes for me. But I still wanted to test drive other cars as well before finalizing the Baleno. Jazz
is one car that has been praised by many for the sheer space it offers in it's class. Yes, the car had very spacious interiors, a big boot, a refined engine and of course the brand name of a Honda. But somehow Jazz did not appeal to me. I felt the design to be more in line with a mini van rather than that of a hatchback (no offense Jazz lovers). But I still wanted to give Jazz it's fair chance in my decision making process. I loved the black interiors of the top end Jazz but sadly I was looking out for the S variant which offered only beige interiors and also lacked ABS
. The interior design was a definite betterment over the previous gen Jazz but somehow it did not feel premium enough. The plastic quality was acceptable but not was not in the leagues of a Hyundai or a Volkswagen. The test drive showed the engine's refinement. The gearbox was smooth and the steering was precise. But somehow it did not pull any strings in my heart. Moreover, the price tag for the S variant against the set of features it offered and the running costs of a Honda (remember? Honda has a 6 month service interval) made me think twice. Polo
was next on my list. I have always liked the way the Polo is designed - simple and elegant. The low stance gave it a sporty look. The build quality was excellent. Though the boot was of sufficient size, the rear legroom was cramped and the interiors of comfortline variant didn't quite match up with the elegance of the highline variant. The test drive showed that the 3 cylinder engine note was loud and the refinement was not in the league of other 4 cylinder petrol engines in the market. The engine noise became more evident when the RPM climbed further. The gearbox was a delight to use and the suspension was excellent. Overall the car that bowled me over by it's elegant appearance and the build quality, did not intrigue me to buy one.
I striked out the below hatchbacks from my list without even a test drive. Punto
- A petrol Punto simply doesn't make sense. Moreover, Fiat selling only the mid-variant (Dynamic) with petrol engines simply did not inspire confidence in me regarding the lifecycle of it. Etios Liva
- Bland exteriors and interiors. Looks dated. Swift
- Looks dated and is due for a facelift next year, cramped rear leg room and limited boot space. Bolt, Micra, Pulse
- The design simply did not impress me. Figo
- Limited boot space in comparison.
I haven't liked compact sedans in the past. I thought that I would rather buy a premium hatchback over a compact sedan any day. But suddenly, bringing them in to the picture made some sense. I wanted to see if any of them can actually change my perspective on the compact sedans. Dzire
was not on my list. I liked the swift better. Amaze
- I would rather buy a Jazz for the same amount of money. Cost cutting was evident on the Amaze. The interior was looking a bit cheaper than that of a Jazz. Ameo
's boot did not look quite good. IMHO, a Polo is any day a looker compared to the Ameo. The extra 30 litres of boot space compared to the Polo was not compelling enough. The only feature that was really tempting as opposed to the Polo was the Cruise control. Ameo gets cruise control even in the Comfortline but the Polo gets it only in it's highline avatar. Test drove Ameo to see how the cruise control works. I really liked that feature. But, for me cruise control alone was not enough for the Ameo to dethrone Polo. Xcent
- I was not very keen on this since it did not appeal to me as the Elite I20 did. Zest
was one car that I wanted to check since I saw many people praise the leap in the quality improvement. Visited the showroom to check one. The front of the car is not bad but the side profile reminded me of the Vista/Manza. However the rear LED tail lights was good looking. I stepped inside and wondered if it is a Tata product. I really liked the interior design very much. The steering wheel was nice to hold although it was a bit bigger in size. The instrument console was neatly laid out and the Harman music system sounded decent. I went for a test drive to see how it behaves on road. The engine was silent and the NVH levels were very well contained. The turbo engine performed rather well on the short test drive. The gear shift was smooth. I tried using different driving modes (eco, city and sport) of the Revotron engine, but I couldn't find any noticeable difference. But I cannot complain about that since the engine pulled cleanly in traffic without any issues. So, I did not care about the modes. But the let down was the ergonomics and driving position. I was considering the second variant which lacked the seat height adjustment. So, in the test car I set the seat height to the mid position to see if I can live without seat height adjustment. Somehow, I couldn't find a comfortable driving position. another grouse was the lack of space for my left leg. There is no dead pedal and there is hardly any space left to keep the left leg while cruising on highways. Though the car was making a good sense as an overall package considering the cheaper price tag and the amount of features we get for that, the poor ergonomics simply made me drop this option off my list. Aspire
is a looker, at least from the front 3 quarters. The large front grill made the exterior look beefy even though it is not. The boot, if not beautiful, looks decent for a compact sedan. The interior design looked good and the rear legroom was sufficient. But the moment I sat in the car and closed the doors, it felt heartbreaking. Why did Ford give such a flimsy feel to the door and the door pads? Aspire's doors were no where near the solid doors of my Punto. Even the lighter Baleno had a better feel when I closed the doors. Then when I operated the power windows, I could see the door pads flexing. That's again not a good sign for a Ford. The earlier Ford models were heavier and well built. Despite all these, I went for a test drive. It was a very silent cabin. The gearbox was smooth, the ergonomics were good, the suspension was excellent, the steering was precise but the initial torque is nothing to boast of. Everyone in the internet forums were going gaga over the diesel Figo/Aspire but I really did not have a monthly running requirement to justify a diesel, whatsoever. So, I stuck with the petrol aspire in my list. Purchase decision:
On completing the test drives of the cars in my list, I set my mind on Baleno Delta Petrol. It made a very good proposition which I simply could not resist. I booked the car even before relocating to Bangalore since I can save a few weeks of waiting period. I was also told by the dealer that Maruti had increased the production and so the waiting period might come down. After waiting for more than one month I called the dealer to ask about the status and still they were not sure about the status. Hmm.. Is it worth waiting for 8 months to buy a car? I thought.
I started revisiting the websites to see how other options fared against Baleno. I was very much attracted towards the Aspire from the beginning sans my doubt on the build quality. Started searching on forums about the same. Then came to know that there is some sound engineering involved in closing of the doors. I came to know that even a tinny door can be engineered to sound with a mild thud instead of an unconvincing clink. Oh, is it why the doors on a Baleno sound better while closing despite it's lightweight? This made me think. Then I came to know that Aspire's doors miss out on the rubber beading (I don't know why Ford has skimped on this) that is the culprit behind the clunky sound on closing the doors.
Suddenly everything started falling in place. I thought it would be a sensible decision to reconsider Aspire. After all, I like the way Ford cars drive. The refined engine, good driving dynamics, plush ride quality, comfortable interiors, would satisfy me more than the shortcomings the Aspire posed. The slash in price of almost 91K for titanium variant by Ford came handy. I would be able to get my hand on a Titanium variant with most of the bells and whistles that I would get on the Zeta variant of Baleno for just the price of Delta variant or even lesser. The extreme value for money offering from Ford was simply irresistible. I would have also enjoyed the car for almost 6 months whereas if it was for the Baleno it would have just been allotted to me then.
Finally I made up my mind and cancelled the booking of Baleno and booked the Aspire petrol titanium.