Most boring engine today is the naturally-aspirated petrol

Was speaking to an industry analyst on Monday and he said naturally-aspirated petrols are reaching the end of the road. Sure, they will always exist because of cost reasons in entry-level cars (like the Alto to Swift) & base variants (as we’re seeing in the Hyundai Venue), but the 10+ lakh cars & more expensive variants are surely moving to turbo-petrols in a big way. God bless BS6.

From the 4 types of powertrains today (n/a petrol, turbo-petrol, turbo-diesel, electric), n/a petrols rank the lowest IMHO. Am personally signing off naturally-aspirated petrols for good because the game has moved on and I find them too B-O-R-I-N-G. I drive about 30 – 40 different cars every year & the turbo-petrols have made me a convert, as much as n/a petrols have begun putting me off. Truth is, n/a petrols feel terribly outdated today. Hell, their last big "technological change" was MPFI & catalytic converters back in the 1990s.

Of course, at one time, n/a petrols were awesome (e.g. 1st-gen City Vtec’s 1.5L) and even today, there are a few exceptions that stand out. Such as the new City’s mad rev-happy 1.5L Vtec, Ford’s triple-cylinder 1.5L Dragon and Maruti’s still competent 1.2L K-Series. But these are few and far between. The majority of the n/a petrols are completely overshadowed either by their competitors' turbo-petrols or their own parents' offerings.

Whatever the segment or whatever the car, I would pick the turbo-petrol replacement over the n/a petrol. Be it the Creta-Seltos’ fast 1.4T over the old 1.6L petrol, Skoda-VW’s enthusiastic 1.0 TSI over the 1.6L n/a (and even the competitors' engines), Hyundai’s 1.0T over the 1.2L Kappa…the list goes on. Drive these engines and you’ll have a permanent grin plastered on your face – it’s like a souped up vRS version of the car. The Triber's 1.0 n/a is so boring that it'll put you to sleep, but the turbo version (seen in the Magnite) is far superior.

Truth is, I'm simply not enjoying naturally-aspirated petrols anymore. All petrol engines have a healthy top-end, be it the n/a motors or the turbos. But where the turbo-petrols absolutely annihilate their n/a counterparts is in the mid-range. That punch once the turbocharger is singing becomes an addiction – you can literally fly past slower cars using the mid-range! This isn't the case with half the n/a petrols which have a weak / mediocre midrange. Naturally-aspirated petrol engines feel so FLAT in the mid revs - so boring - you have to wring them hard. The “punch” is missing and I end up feeling like I ate a pizza without any cheese. Access to power simply isn’t as effortless as in the turbo-petrols & the n/a engines just don’t feel as enthusiastic. In my mind, I have decided that I’m NEVER buying a naturally-aspirated petrol car again.

Of course, there are downsides to turbo-petrols. A majority of them don’t rev as high as the n/a engines. Second, a few of them suffer lag, but frankly, almost all manufacturers are handling the driveability aspect really well and just a handful of models (e.g. Duster 1.3T) will leave you complaining. There is also the price premium as turbo-petrols usually cost a whopping 1-lakh rupees more. And of course, the increased complexity which will lead to bigger maintenance bills in the long run (turbos, intercoolers, more complicated fuelling systems).

Still, for the sheer joy of driving, I’m switching loyalties to turbo-petrols. They’re coming in all segments, including the mass market (e.g. Magnite, Grand i10), mid-market (Thar, Seltos) and pretty much the entire luxury segment. The German marques have moved exclusively to turbo-charging & don't sell n/a petrols anymore. Manufacturers are also smartly pushing turbo-petrols through their variant planning:

Originally Posted by Venkatesh 

Hyundai Venue 1.0 turbo GDI proves most popular engine option and accounted for 40% of Hyundai Venue FY20 sales. Of the 93,624 Venue customers in FY2020, 44,073 opted for the turbo-petrol powertrain. Demand for turbo-petrols outpaced diesel sales of Venue in FY20.

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Poor Maruti. They had a turbo-petrol, but discontinued it (Baleno RS). They recently invested heavily in a 1.5L n/a petrol (which is good), but they're missing out on the turbo craze. They brought out a lovely BS4 diesel, then had to pull it off the market as they couldn't get it BS6-ready in time. Not to mention, the market leader is completely unprepared for the EV segment (that's why it sold stake to big daddy Toyota). Maruti doesn't have a modern torque-converter available, leave aside a dual-clutch AT. Technologically, Maruti is stuck in the 90s.

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