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Old 14th August 2020, 16:05   #1
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Default Good cars in India that were let down by lacklustre engines

Every year, we see a new car or two that is otherwise very competent, but let down by its engine. This literally makes us go . What was the manufacturer thinking??? All those years of effort & hundreds of crores invested in the car, but the manufacturer fell short in an area that counts the most?

Related article on why it is imperative to launch with the right engine + gearbox

Listed below are some cars whose engines were their Achilles Heel.

Mahindra TUV300
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The original TUV300 was a competent 7-seater available at a price comparable to budget sedans. Alas, Mahindra launched it with an 84 BHP / 230 Nm engine. These figures were simply not enough for the 1,590 kg kerb weight of the body-on-frame vehicle. Loading up all seats made it grossly under-powered. Mahindra later introduced a "Plus" variant with the famous 2.2L diesel; some of us (including GTO) consider it to be superior to the Scorpio. But it was too little, too late.

Tata Altroz Petrol
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The Altroz was launched earlier this year. It has almost no deal breakers. The car is good-looking, modern, spacious, well-equipped, safe and handles well. However, it is powered by the same 1.2L 3-cylinder naturally-aspirated petrol as the Tiago. The motor is quite anaemic & weak. A turbo-petrol is coming up, but Tata needs to understand that first impressions are lasting ones.

Honda CR-V Diesel
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Honda had the gall to sell an (overpriced) crossover for 35-lakh rupees with a 118 BHP diesel! The SUV's power-to-weight ratio was a dismal 68 BHP / ton. The CR-V was otherwise very desirable. It had well-appointed interiors, excellent ride and handling and a good petrol engine. However, a small diesel & the absurd price let it down. With 7 occupants on board, the 1.6L diesel sure had its work cut out.

Maruti 1000
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For its time, the Maruti 1000 was a total rockstar! We were kids then and thought of it as some kind of futuristic spaceship - the design was that "wow". If you bought a Maruti 1000, it was almost certain that the Income Tax department will raid your house. Under the hood however was a sad petrol 1.0L engine (same as the Gypsy) with a horsepower rating in the mid-40s. This motor had to be wrung hard to get any semblance of performance out of it & putting the air-con on would seriously jeopardise the driving experience. A couple of years later came the Esteem 1.3L which was the performance sedan of its time.

Fiat Punto & Linea
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The Punto & Linea were very good looking cars. Additionally, they boasted solid European build and class-leading ride & handling. However, their engines – the petrols in particular - simply didn't match the show. While both cars came with a 1.4L petrol motor & 89 BHP on tap, lower variants of the Punto got a 1.2L petrol that put out just 67 BHP. Both cars begged for more power. In typical FCA fashion, the fix (1.4L T-Jet & Abarth variants) came after the market had already yawned & moved on. Old habits die hard - the Compass Diesel AT also arrived after customers had left the showroom.

Toyota Corolla Altis Diesel
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Toyota had some serious guts plonking an 87 BHP 1.4L turbo-diesel in the Corolla's engine bay. Not only did the car suffer from serious turbo-lag, but it also lacked performance. GTO remembers vividly how he moved out to overtake a car in front on the highway, and it seemed like he had hit a wall! The Corolla 1.4L simply had no punch. Back then, the Corolla’s competitors had bigger diesels (Laura, Cruze, Jetta). The engine in the Chevrolet Cruze developed a crushing 148 BHP and 327 Nm! Enough said.

Renault Triber
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Spend some time studying the Triber and you'll be amazed at just how intelligent the Renault is. It's a 3-row MPV at the price of B-segment hatchbacks, and a sub-4 meter car in which adults can sit on the 3rd row! Our biggest grouse with the Triber is its boring 1.0L n/a petrol engine that lacks pep & punch, gets noisy & leads to vibrations inside the cabin. As the Team-BHP Review said, it is the weakest link in this package.

Tata Tiago
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Good-looking, well-built and competent in almost every aspect, the Tiago caught the eye of every customer in the entry-level segment. It was easily the most modern hatchback from Tata Motors, with surprisingly good interiors for the price. Sadly, the car was launched with a 1.2L petrol and a 1.05L 3-cylinder diesel engine. With ordinary power delivery characteristics & a kerb weight in excess of 1,000 kg, the Tiago was no road scorcher. The petrol was not refined either. Same price Marutis & Hyundais offer far superior powerplants.

Maruti Ciaz
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Not as bad as some others on this list, but the biggest problem with the Ciaz was its original lineup of engines. The 1.4L petrol was completely lacking in character & was the weakest in the C2 sedan segment, while the 1.3L diesel was the same one used in the Swift! Maruti did correct this eventually with the 1.5L.

Volkswagen Polo 3-cylinder
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When the VW Polo was launched in 2010, it was quite a hit. The Polo had a timeless design and German build quality. All the materials used in the construction of the car had a quality feel. What was not good? The petrol and diesel were 1.2L, 3-cylinder units. The petrol was among the less powerful engines in the segment while the diesel produced the least torque. The petrol simply could not match Maruti’s K12 for refinement, and the diesel fell way short of the Figo’s amazing 1.4L oil burner (in terms of driveability). Just when we thought they couldn't do any worse, VW later launched the Polo with a 1.0 MPI .

Mercedes-Benz C180
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The C-Class was the most affordable Mercedes at its time. Back then though, Mercedes didn't understand the value of its own brand. The C180 had variants that sold without alloy wheels, leather seats & a CD changer! As if that wasn't disappointing enough, there was a frail petrol engine under the hood. Down on power, and down on reliability. Mercedes smartly replaced it with the supercharged C200K in 2005.

Audi A4
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Audi launched this gen of the A4 with a 1.4L turbo-petrol! Yikes. At the same time that the car's sibling - the Octavia - was on sale with a delicious 1.8 TSI. We understand that the Octavia is significantly cheaper, but in this case, it was also indisputably the superior.

Maruti Celerio Diesel
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Save the best for the last? No, in this case, it's the worst for the last. This is the only modern passenger car to be launched with a twin-cylinder diesel. We don't need to utter a word. Just crank the volume up and listen:
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Old 14th August 2020, 16:13   #2
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Default Re: Good cars in India that were let down by lacklustre engines

Thread moved from the Assembly Line to the Indian Car Scene. Thanks for sharing!

Here's one more from my end - Jeep Compass Petrol AT. Although fast, the 1.4L turbo-petrol & 7-speed dual clutch AT made for a dimwitted combination. With aggressive driving & varying throttle input, the gearbox could end up terribly confused as well. Manual mode? Too conservatively tuned for a petrol. The more impressive Diesel AT came later, but it was grossly overpriced.

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Old 14th August 2020, 16:18   #3
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Default Re: Good cars in India that were let down by lacklustre engines

I would say Petrol Lot of Premium Hatchbacks! Be it I20, Altroz, or Jazz, all suffer from lackluster Petrol Engines.
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Old 14th August 2020, 16:30   #4
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Default Re: Good cars in India that were let down by lacklustre engines

Do you guys think that the Creta Petrol 1.6 VTVT also falls under the same category of a lousy Petrol unit which should be included in this list?

I own one but based on my driving style I am satisfied with it.

I wanted to hear from the forum as to what do they think?
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Old 14th August 2020, 16:31   #5
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Default Re: Good cars in India that were let down by lacklustre engines

Ah.. three cars come to my mind

Facelifted S-cross: With a small 1.3 Mjd instead of the 1.6Mjd
Harrier: Though not very bad but it deserved 170 BHP for the segment and ask price
Jazz: The car begged for the 1.5 Ivtec but nope, never bothered to try
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Old 14th August 2020, 16:31   #6
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Default Re: Good cars in India that were let down by lacklustre engines

What a beautiful (yet sad) thread! I was just thinking about this fact for quite many months now. It's outright sad to see good vehicles with a bad powertrain. The only reason I don't think abut many of the hatchbacks in their petrol form would be due to the sad engines. But it's also interesting to see how even the upmarket vehicles resort to the same.

Fun fact is in the small cars, the downsizing generally doesn't result in any increase in Fuel Efficiency in real life. These puny engines always deliver slightly lesser than an engine that is adequately powered (atleast that's my experience). Neither do they offer good refinement and performance nor stellar fuel efficiency.

Tata esp needs to find a good small petrol unit. All cars of theirs are worth much more than the 1.2 L powertrain they are shod with.

About Toyota and Honda, Audi, etc. - less said the better.
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Old 14th August 2020, 16:37   #7
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Default Re: Good cars in India that were let down by lacklustre engines

Originally Posted by Artyom View Post
Do you guys think that the Creta Petrol 1.6 VTVT also falls under the same category of a lousy Petrol unit which should be included in this list?

I own one but based on my driving style I am satisfied with it.

I wanted to hear from the forum as to what do they think?
I completely agree the automatic gearbox is extremely slow to respond and driving pedal to metal the gearbox gets very confused, starts behaving like a CVT. More noise(engine gets very boomy) than speed is generated in the process. It reacts best at part throttle responses or in manual mode! The manual gearbox is still better than the automatic.

Last edited by CEF_Beasts : 14th August 2020 at 16:39.
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Old 14th August 2020, 16:44   #8
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Default Re: Good cars in India that were let down by lacklustre engines

Tata Nano comes to mind.
The car was fine for the price, but had the engine been slightly more powerful, almost every aspect where it fell ever-so-slightly short, would've been forgiven.

Fiat Linea
Had FCA brought the 1.6L and downsized it to 1.5 (for excise duty benefits), their India story would've been SO VERY different.

Toyota Corolla Diesel
It was an exceptionally reliable car, but that 1.4L unit belting just 90bhp was a serious let down for the segment.

After anyone owns a car for 5 years, it's not as much the features, but the power & performance of the car that pulls oneself to the car. This is why the 2.8L engine in the Crysta will be sorely missed.

Last edited by WorkingGuru : 14th August 2020 at 16:54.
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Old 14th August 2020, 16:59   #9
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Default Re: Good cars in India that were let down by lacklustre engines

The Toyota Yaris!

Trust me! That car has a great ride and reasonably good handling, which is better than the 4th Gen Honda City. Yes, the rear headroom is cramped but widthwise, it wasn't bad at all!

That car has amazing safety features including the often ignored middle seat headrest and shoulder type seat belts. Toyota after sales also makes it a strong contender.

But that engine was one lazy animal! Even the Ciaz 1.5 petrol was better!
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Old 14th August 2020, 17:01   #10
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Default Re: Good cars in India that were let down by lacklustre engines

I think the 10th gen Honda Civic deserves a place here. The current Civic is a looker and has top notch quality, however comes with strictly average engines. The Civic has always been loved by enthusiasts but Honda gave it over a decade old 1.8L petrol that too with CVT. No option of petrol MT and diesel AT is another downer.
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Old 14th August 2020, 17:02   #11
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Default Re: Good cars in India that were let down by lacklustre engines

Whenever I think of under powered engines, cars that immediately come to my mind are: Tata Sierra 1st generation naturally aspirated engine with 1948 cc and just 63 bhp!
Tata Estate with same engine as Sierra NA
Tata Safari 1st Generation (Same Engine as Tata Sierra Turbo) just 87 bhp for such a huge car!
Nissan Micra Diesel - this 63 bhp motor felt grossly under powered during a test drive when I was in the market for a diesel hatch.
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Old 14th August 2020, 17:06   #12
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Default Re: Good cars in India that were let down by lacklustre engines

This list actually makes me sad. Some cars listed are my favourite, for example VW Polo. I had the pleasure (pain?) to have driven four of the eight(?) engines plonked into the 5th gen Polo, except for the GTI, 1.5 TDI, 1.6 TDI.

Of all, I absolutely hated the 1.0 MPI to the most. No power whatsoever with the heavy build of the car. When I was taking a test drive, the guy from the showroom assured me that it will do north of 120 kmph very easily, as I was disappointed in the pickup it had, may be a sales pitch?
The 1.2 TDI made so much noise that people said "It sounds like a tractor", although it had the pull, NVH department made no favors to this spec.
Even the 1.2 MPI was a sad engine, just making noise but no speed.

Only the 1.2 TSI excited me the best, partly because of the fast shifting DSG & the refinement of a 4-cylinder engine.
I am sure I will absolutely love the 1.0 TSI just as much as the 1.2 TSI.
Wow! So many engines in a single gen car. Just like the Hyundais now.

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Old 14th August 2020, 17:10   #13
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Default Re: Good cars in India that were let down by lacklustre engines

Sad to see my TUV 300 topping the list here List of errors and goof ups by Mahindra listed below for TUV
  • First Mahindra launched 3-Cylinder 84 BHP variant, too puny engine for a 1.5 tonner
  • Then mated it with a pathetic, sluggish and problematic AMT
  • Too many rough edges
  • Many basic misses, like rear AC vents for 7 seater missing is a crime, no touchscreen even for a top end variant when launched in 2015
  • Wheel spin issues evident till face lift launched
  • Bumpy ride and body roll is next level
  • Too many software patches for AMT
  • No 4X4 for such a butch vehicle

They later tried to fix it, but too less and too late. It is still selling 1000+ per month, hopefully BSVI version comes with better equipment list.
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Old 14th August 2020, 17:18   #14
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Default Re: Good cars in India that were let down by lacklustre engines

My contribution to this list: The 1st gen Ford Figo petrol. All quotes here are from the official T-BHP review: (Review: 1st-gen Ford Figo (2010))

I think GTO was being rather polite when he stated, in the review:
The less impressive engine is the 1.2L 16V DOHC petrol.
Expectedly, outright performance is strictly average.
And then, he made an appeal to Ford (which fell on deaf ears )
• Request to Ford : Dump the 1.6L Fiesta 100 BHP into the Figo's engine bay for the enthusiasts. They intentionally won’t at the moment as 1.6 L powerful petrols can give the hatch a reputation of a fuel guzzler (just ask Mr.Palio). It will come eventually. Even the speedometer is 1.6S ready (marked optimistically to 220 kph).
For the kind of chassis the car had, the ride & handling, steering, gearbox, and overall feedback the car gave to the driver, it most certainly deserved double the power and torque. It can all be summed up in this statement
...making the Figo one of the rare cars that you can have fun driving at <80 kph speeds. This Ford feels extremely agile. Body roll is well controlled too & the tight chassis a genius.
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Old 14th August 2020, 17:23   #15
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Default Re: Good cars in India that were let down by lacklustre engines

I guess one of the cars on the top or close to the top should have been MG Hector Petrol DCT.

It is otherwise a great car, well built. It introduced new vocabulary in the indian car buyer’s dictionary like connected car, panoramic sunroof etc.

But the petrol engine is too underpowered for the large SUV specially the automatic even with the DCT gearbox. The response is super slow at low speeds, if you smash the throttle while starting you are in for a disappointment. The car just doesn’t move forward.
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