Need suggestions for a fun, analog car under Rs. 15 lakh

I recently test drove a Volkswagen Taigun with the 1.5 engine and DSG. The car was fine, the power was good, but I did not enjoy driving it at all. In comparison, a while ago I had rented a manual Maruti Swift in Goa which I drove around for 4 days on South Goa roads and had a blast.

BHPian karanddd recently shared this with other enthusiasts.

I have to replace a 10 year old petrol SX4. My budget is Rs. 15 lakhs. I don't have a job that requires commuting, nor do I intend to use the car as my primary means of transportation (for which I prefer to use my motorcycle). I also will be abroad a lot in the next 2-3 years, and will only use the car occasionally. My primary criterion for the new car is that it be fun to drive.

Things that help (but may not all be achievable): 3 pedal manual transmission, hydraulic power steering, small size.

(Almost) deal-breakers: Automatic transmission, bad electronic power steering, heavy SUV like driving manners.

Before anyone suggests a brand new Polo, I want to say that, from a medium length test drive, I felt the steering in the car to be very unresponsive and the stick shift to be a level below Suzuki or Honda cars (in feel and slickness).

I recently test drove a Volkswagen Taigun with the 1.5 engine and DSG. The car was fine, the power was good, but I did not enjoy driving it at all. In comparison, a while ago I had rented a manual Swift in Goa which I drove around for 4 days on South Goa roads and had a blast. The engine was definitely low on grunt, but the car felt so light and responsive. To be fair, the steering in that is also crap, and the suspension is so soft that the body rolls a lot. But the combination of the light weight, the light clutch, slick shifting stick, and the compact dimensions gave it such a point and shoot character that it brought a smile to my face every time I drove it.

Is there something like that I can buy, but with more power and better suspension and hydraulic steering? I am open to new and used options. I am wary of 10 year old Beemers that'll cost me lakhs and lakhs to repair, so I can only pray that they're not my only option.

I need to be abroad 8-9 months of the year and during that time the car will be driven by other family members but only for upkeep. There is no need for the car to be practical in the sense of having space or refinement, but I don't want to be scared of breakdowns and the like either.

Here's what BHPian SmartCat had to say on the matter

When it comes to steering these days, you options are LIGHT, LIGHTER & LIGHTEST. I think all sub-4.5m vehicles have EPS nowadays. Harrier is the only car with hydraulic steering.

Since your new purchase will be sparingly used, avoid cars with too many 'features', especially push button start and keyless entry. They suck up battery when idle.

Rather than spend 15L on a new car, I think you should just exchange your SX4 with a pre-owned well maintained Honda Civic. 0 to 100 kmph in 9 secs, sharp weighty hydraulic steering, reliable and fun to drive. But before buying, check its history and make sure both the airbags have been replaced. Another option is a pre-owned Punto Abarth/Linea T-Jet, but they are quite rare in the used car market.

The Hyundai i20 N-Line is worth a look too. Steering is supposed to be weightier than the vanilla i20.

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

  • Civic: Slightly longer but has everything else that you need.
  • XUV300: Fun to drive turbo petrol, the steering although not hydraulic has options of changing the feel on the fly by 3 levels. Do take a TD, even if you don't buy it at least would be good to try it out.

Rumours of a more powerful XUV300 with 130+ bhp have been going around but no real ETA.

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

You will have to make some compromises, I don't think there is a car with "point-and-shoot" dimensions, hydraulic (or heavier EPS) steering and other things you mentioned. You have not mentioned where you are going to drive (city or highways) - I assume it will be mainly within city.

If you consider fun per rupee, I don't think anything will come even remotely close to Polo GT DSG once you add paddles to the steering wheel. Yes VW steering is ultra light but they are not vague - unfortunately heavy steerings are available only in old Fiats and BMWs. Fiat lacks overall finesse and support, BMW is not exactly a point-and-shoot car and also comes with big bills.

If you don't care about the badge of BMW/Mini, I suggest you approach Polo GT DSG with an open mind. If you add paddles, you can't NOT enjoy the car. You can always get stuff like suspension, brakes etc easily tweaked. That engine+gearbox with paddles is the stuff that has no business to be in sub-10L car.

Once you drive DSG (VW DQ200) or BMW ZF8 or Porsche PDK transmissions the way they are meant to be (spots manual with paddle shifts), you will not miss manual transmission. This DQ200 in a Polo makes all rich owners of BMWs and Porsches sulk - it is phenomenal on Indian streets.

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

Any MT car other than a Honda/Suzuki would have a worse gearbox than what you have and won't be fun enough. Especially true in a car like the T jet.

Drive the new Honda city if you are dead set on a manual.

DSG cars though are the best combination of driving fun and practicality. Honestly, What I've found is that I'm more likely to drive an AT car harder and have more fun than a MT because it's easier and I'll do it more often. For gunning an MT you need to be on it all the time.

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