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The best engines ever sold in India

A lot of enthusiasts believe that "the engine makes the car". What's under the hood can be the deciding factor for many of us. The upcoming BS6 norms are changing the landscape too, with some brands improving their offerings (e.g. Tata), while others are taking a step back (e.g. Ford).

Which engines, according to you, are the best ever sold in India? Please only include engines from the mainstream segments (<25-lakh rupee cars) as they are most relevant to the Indian car scene. My personal list is as follows:

Maruti's 1.2L K-Series

The familiar 1.2-litre K12 engine has been around since eleven years now, but it’s still a gem of a motor. Maruti has also continually been tweaking it. The K12 is refined, rev-happy, has good driveability and offers respectable FE. It feels at home pottering around in the city, and you can enjoy its performance on the highway. On a related note, I must add that the BS6 iteration of the K10 is among the best 1.0s we've driven.

The Mahindra & Tata 2.2L diesels

Mahindra & Tata both took AVL Austria's help for their 2.2L engines (more info). These are easily among the best turbo-diesel workhorses in the price range. Excellent torque delivery, very robust & reliable, fast (the latest tune does 155 horses in the XUV500) and acceptably efficient. These 2.2s have powered a wide range of UVs, from the Sumo Grande & Scorpio to the Hexa & XUV500. The engine's versatility is impressive.

Honda City's 1.5L Vtec

The 1.5-litre "Hyper Vtec" of the first-generation Type-2 Honda City is a mad, mad, mad engine, making that City Vtec among the most iconic cars sold in India. The Vtec revved like crazy and the car itself felt like a high-powered go-kart. It shot up to ~7,100 rpm like most other petrols do 3,000! Listen to the sweet, melodious tune in this video. Must say, even the current City's 1.5L remains one of the best naturally-aspirated petrols in the country.

Hyundai's 1.6L diesel

Hyundai's 1.6L diesel is a jewel. Its refinement is astonishing, and the power / torque delivery the best in the segment. This talented 1.6 CRDI covers a wide range of cars / price-points, from the Verna to the Elantra, and the Creta in between. Sadly, we expect the beautiful 1.6L to move away in favour of the 1.5L eventually (Hyundai will get excise duty benefits from the switchover).

Skoda Octavia vRS' 1.8L turbo

The current Octavia's 1.8 TSI is enjoyable, yet the 1st-gen vRS is among the best & purest driving machines you can get your hands on...that 1.8L under its hood is one of the reasons why. Simply put, it was way ahead of its time. 148 BHP wasn't exactly commonplace in the early 2000s. It packed a punch in stock form itself, and many enthusiasts further modded it to 200 - 300 BHP tunes. Yes, there was lag and reliability was below-average in the long run. Still, it remains one of our absolute favourites.

Ford's 1.5L diesel

In a 2019 poll, BHPians rated this as the best 1.5L diesel in India (link). It uses honest old-school mechanicals (8-valve SOHC); turbo-lag is superbly controlled & the mid-range packs a punch. An engine that appeals to the head as well as the heart.

Fiat's 1.3L MJD

How can we miss the MJD? Indisputably the national engine of India, this 1.3L diesel was so loved that it powered not just different cars, but also brands (Maruti, Tata, Fiat, GM & more have used this one). It wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that the little 1.3L saved Maruti from disaster in the mid-2000s, when the market swiftly moved to diesels and Suzuki had no oil-burner of its own. This is THE small diesel of India and no other will ever outsell it. Read BHPian tributes to the 1.3L MJD here.

VW's 1.2L TSI

This 4-cylinder 1.2L turbo petrol is deadly; what makes it better is that VW paired it to an equally deadly DSG transmission! The Polo TSI brought direct-injection hardware & dual-clutch tech for the first time to the mass market segment. Quite telling that, a full 7-years since its introduction, no other car in the hatchback segment can match the combination. Fast, revv-happy (like a Honda) & punchy, this engine is the reason enthusiasts bought the Polo TSI, despite its obvious age + high price. Will soon be replaced by a 1.0-litre turbocharged petrol though.

Maruti's 1.6L diesel

Let me share one number with you = 320 Nm of torque! It was the primary reason that enthusiasts looked past the S-Cross' UGLY looks. There's a wild surge of power once in the turbo zone, with the S-Cross 1.6 literally "flying" on the open road. Sadly, Maruti overpriced the 1.6L variant and then complained that no one bought it, so it was discontinued (when the S-Cross facelift arrived).

Abarth Punto's 1.4L turbo-petrol

The 145 horses gave the Abarth Punto absolutely explosive performance! The Punto finally got an engine to match its splendid chassis, and there are many 30-lakh rupee car owners who have been left embarrassed by the hatchback. A true wolf-in-sheep's-clothing if you remove the garish red stickers. Experience its insane turbo-kick & power delivery to know what we're talking about. The engine is durable too = BHPian Blackwasp has covered 70,000 km on his Abarth Punto & the motor hasn't given him any trouble at all. Too bad about the terrible gearshift quality though.

 
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