Best enthusiast car for an 18-year-old under Rs 4 lakh

This will be my first car and will be used mostly for a few weekend trips.

BHPian GreasyCarb55 recently shared this with other enthusiasts.

Hello there, I turn 18 in about 3 weeks and I'm looking for a first car that is also a good enthusiast car, I'm one of the emotional guys when it comes to Automobiles so driving feels / emotional connect is very important.

The original plan was to buy a brand new KTM Duke 250 or a TVS Apache RR310 but around December 2021 I had a change of heart and shifted (pun-intended) towards a used enthusiast car instead.

At first, a Honda City 1.5 VTEC was a no-brainer but I'm not so sure. We will not be purchasing the car until May-June 2022.

My Requirements:

  1. Seating/Comfort - Comfort is appreciated but not a priority I'm happy in terms of interiors and comfort as long as I have a nice speaker system and the driver's seat can accommodate my 5 foot 9-inches but the slightly chunky frame. We have a '17 Honda City for daily/city use and an '11 Toyota Innova 2.5 V (Type2 -> Type4 converted) for Highway hauls.
  2. Fun to Drive? - Oh absolutely, it should be fun to drive it's my first car, after all, I'm willing to make sacrifices (like comfort and interiors) for the fun factor. I want a manual transmission.
  3. Fuel efficiency- FE is not an issue, with the City for dad and mom preferring the Innova this car will not see much use outside of weekend trips and juvenile tomfoolery. Although a minimum mileage of 7-8 km/l in the city would help in convincing the parents. Furthermore, we are looking to get an electric scooter to replace our old '13 Vespa LX125 as an errand vehicle so I will be using that for commuting to college 90% of the time.
  4. Fuel - Not leaning towards either petrol or diesel, although most of the options that I've considered are petrol with the exception of one car (You'll see it later in the list below).
  5. Body Type - Again not leaning towards anything particular, I'm open to everything.
  6. Aftermarket Support - Odds are I will keep this car for at least 3-4 years so I would like the car to have good aftermarket support in terms of mods.
  7. Budget - I was initially given a budget of 3-3.2 Lakh (on-road Bangalore + Gear) to get my very own bike but that cash has been reallocated to the car (Hence this post). The current budget is 3.5 Lakh and is willing to extend to 3.8-4 lakh. We have 30k reserved outside the budget to get any repairs done (if needed) and get quality of life improvements like a modern head unit and speakers. Any money saved will be re-invested into the car for mods down the line and fuel.
  8. New or used? - Definitely used, the only new car I'll get in Bangalore with 4 lakh in hand would be the base model Alto, might as well get a Duke 250 at that point.

I don't have hands-on experience with most of these cars so I'm depending on Team-BHP and family input to determine the pros and cons. If it helps I'm located in Bangalore.

P.S: I know the basics of driving a car but you wouldn't want me behind the wheel any time soon, I will be taking a 21-day course from Maruti driving school before I get my car.

Down below are the cars I have shortlisted:

Gen 1 G13B/K12 Maruti Swift:

  • Good aftermarket support (as far as I know)
  • It's a Maruti so convincing the parents is gonna be easy.
  • Maruti reliability, peace of mind and cheap running costs.

Maruti Baleno G16B Sedan:

  • Same reasons as Swift, Good Aftermarket.
  • You can get these really cheap and in decent condition from what I've seen.
  • The usual peace of mind you get with a Maruti.

Maruti Baleno Alturus G16B:

  • Same reasons as the Baleno Sedan.
  • Wagon body is unique
  • I mean look at this beauty.

Honda City 1.5 VTEC

  • Fantastic aftermarket support.
  • Legendary FTD factor and the D15B VTEC is rev-happy
  • An absolutely gorgeous car + VTEC JUST KICKED IN YO (yes I'm 17 how could you tell?)

MK1 Skoda Octavia VRS:

  • Amazing Aftermarket support
  • A gorgeous car to this day
  • 1.8L engine makes 150hp and is a fire-breather.
  • VAG cars are gonna be a harder sell to my parents

Toyota Corolla/Altis:

  • Legendary Toyota reliability
  • 140hp makes this the second most powerful car on the list.
  • Added benefit of being a comfy car but not sure about aftermarket support.

Older Jetta Diesel:

  • Identical 140hp makes it the second most powerful car on the list along with the Corolla.
  • Not sure about aftermarket/maintenance
  • 2.0L Diesel should give a kick of torque
  • Again, VAG cars are gonna be a harder sell to my parents

Wildcard Entry - Maruti Gypsy Soft Top:

  • Because why not, "aaj kuch toofani karte hai".
  • Go-anywhere capability + great aftermarket
  • Can you even get Gypsy's that cheap?

Here's what GTO had to say on the matter:

Don't want to come across as a party pooper, but this is your first car and you're just turning 18.

  • Many of us are still alive because we started off on cars <100 BHP. I don't think a fast car is the ideal first car. When my kids turn 18, they will start off with a slow car.
  • You need to focus on your education, girls etc. instead of spending time repairing an old Octavia or finding parts for a Baleno sedan.

My suggestion: Buy the newest Grand i10 or Swift that you can find. If you get a WagonR 1.2L, go for it (it's a fun breadbox). Learn the basics of driving, don't go out on the highway yet and read up on our many driving advice articles.

While "enthusiast cars" are fun to drive, so are regular cars. I enjoy driving any car, even an S-Presso or an Innova. Related discussion on the topic.

Here's what BHPian ninjatalli had to say on the matter:

I feel too many ideas (enthusiast, VAG cars, VTEC etc.) picked off the forum and other conversations. Not belittling your knowledge or requirements - but at this stage you are, I'd keep it simple. Something that is reliable, cheap to maintain and decently fast.

I'd say get a used Maruti Alto K10 or a Swift (older generations). Spend some moolah on good alloys and a good music system and you'll be good to go. Over the next 1-2 years, you and your friends can run the car as much as the situation requires without worrying about it too much. Keep it for ~2 years and as you get a better understanding of what suits your preferences, spend more on a more specific car later.

That's what I did nearly 2 decades ago. A used 10-year-old M800 and one that was extremely well used over the next few years between the 4 of us roommates/friends for long holiday road trips, girlfriend (prospecting) adventures and whatnot And whatever we threw at that car, monthly expenses stayed at a bare minimum. And I shifted to a Vento diesel after that, with a full understanding of what I wanted from my "proper" first car.

Here's what BHPian Bibendum90949 had to say on the matter:

While the MK1 Octavias and Jettas understandably appeal to you, those may not be ideal first cars for someone who is just about to qualify to be behind the wheels. Same with Gypsy too, though it can give loads of fun, it's best enjoyed after you have clocked enough miles/years under your belt. As a first car, it's best avoided.

A good, fun to drive and reliable hatchback can be a good point to start with. The first-gen Figo can be added to your list too. It's a brilliant car and a driver's delight - way ahead of Swift.

Best wishes to you as you learn the ropes of driving. Don't want to be a spoilsport nor sound philosophical, but there's a long way ahead in your life and keep the adrenaline in check as GTO suggested. Live to Drive and Drive responsibly

Here's what BHPian vishy76 had to say on the matter:

I think everybody here has driven the most prominent point home. Start off on a lower-powered car (preferably under the 70-80hp mark). I am 20 now and I started off on a Chevrolet Spark. Drove it around for a year and 3-4K km (along with a Renault Kwid) and it's only now that I extensively get to drive the Jetta.

Secondly, don't go for attention hogs like the Jetta, Octavia Mk1 etc. These cars can be very demanding in terms of maintenance. Even running repairs such as suspension and a clutch overhaul will quickly see them transform into money pits like a college student for you. Even the Maruti Baleno. It might be a very reliable car, but even pristine examples are more than a decade old today and will demand some attention here and there. Some parts (SGP) aren't cheap either.

My suggestions are as follows:

  1. Toyota Etios Liva
  2. Ford Figo (1st Gen)
  3. Honda Jazz (1st Gen)

These to me represent the perfect combination of affordability, reliability, space and even safety. The Honda Jazz especially makes a strong case for itself. Quality interiors and good looks which appeal to the opposite sex too

If you still think you have the time to devote to an automobile and want to treat it as a project car, I would suggest picking up a Suzuki Zen MPFI. When you have had enough fun getting to grips with the 1.0 lump, you can go ahead and plonk a 1.3 G13B from the Esteem in it. An 85hp engine in a 700 odd kilo car. The only reason why it isn't on my primary recommendation list is safety.

Check out BHPian comments for more insights and information.

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