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Rs 10 lakh: A smart manual car to replace my Volkswagen Vento

With 135k click on the odo and increasing maintenance cost, it makes sense to swap my 11-year-old Vento for a new car.

BHPian noopster recently shared this with other enthusiasts.

Background:

We have been a 2-car family for a while now since both my wife and I drive regularly. Our Seltos GTX diesel AT is barely a year old but the Vento is growing long in the tooth now and we've started to think that replacing it makes a lot of sense. So the hunt has just started to find a replacement that, as the thread title indicates, needs to be a compact, smart, MT vehicle.

Why now?

I got the VW Vento 1.6 MFI AT a few months after it was launched and it's been a sheer joy to own. The combination of NA petrol engine and torque convertor gearbox plus the fact that the early Ventos had a lot of stuff imported from Germany and South Africa meant that we've had to do very little to keep it going and going. No dieselgate or DSG woes for this happy customer! But it's close to 11 years of ownership now, 135k clicks on the odo, and the costs of routine maintenance and an impending tyre change are weighing heavily, so this may just be the right time to swap it out for a new car.

Why manual transmission?

In just a couple of years, our eldest will start driving and I want her to learn her chops on a standard H. Call it soppy sentimentality about an era that has bypassed us but I still think "Can you handle a stick?" needs to be answered with a confident "Yes!"

Am still not sold on electric cars in their current avatar and am willing to wait 5 years or more to head down that rabbit hole. Indifferent to diesel or petrol but the engine needs to be nice and peppy.

Why compact?

Practical reasons: my allocated second parking at home is narrow and has a weird pillar on the left rear side that threatens to graze the car if you park carelessly. My Vento fits there with only inches to spare so getting something bigger is out of the question. This time we will go sub-4m.

Why ~10L?

Don't want to take on any additional loan burden, so will just buy this one outright.

I suppose "why smart?" is a redundant question but I'll give it a shot: it's to be driven primarily by a teenager and her equally discerning mom. So it's going to be a new car, nothing pre-worshipped. Our Seltos is a looker outside and in with its all-black interiors, a 10" head unit, Bose speakers and whatnot. Gonna be a hard sell if I try and stick 'em with anything too primitive! It has to pass the smartness test, which eliminates most Marutis and Hyundais. Or does it?

What's In and What's Out:

Once we knew what we wanted, it was time to delve into the options for sub-4m cars: hatchback or crossover? I'm OK with either but don't want a near-identical vehicle to the Seltos, only shorter, so that rules out the Kia Sonet and its sibling, the Hyundai Venue.

While researching options, the newly launched turbo petrol hatchbacks caught my attention. So that added some attractive options to the shortlist:

Hyundai i20 N Line

The i20 N Line seems an obvious choice, except... and I don't know how quite to say this... it does not offer a manual transmission option. Ridiculous! (yes, I am echoing the official team BHP review here). There is a silly iMT (clutchless manual) that offers nowhere close to the fun of an actual manual, even if it is arguably more comfortable than one. And even if I'm persuaded to get the automatic, this once comes with a DCT transmission that I will steer miles clear of (one of the reasons we opted for the 115 ps diesel Seltos rather than the 140 ps petrol was that it came with a torque converter rather than a dual-clutch unit which brings its own set of goblins).

Pity, 'cuz this one is such a perfect fit otherwise. Someone at Hyundai needs to get their variant mix right! If Hyundai offered this with the MT option, it would definitely be on top of the list!

In happier news, another Hyundai and the Altroz with the "engine it deserved at launch" made the grade.

Hyundai Grand i10 NIOS turbo

I never thought I'd see the day when an i10 would actually be desirable but Hyundai's interiors have moved ahead by leaps and bounds (as a former 2000 Accent GLS owner I can testify to that!) The idea of plonking a 3-pot 1.0L turbo petrol and offering this as a hot hatch was an inspired one. Plus it is easy on the wallet. The red and black two-tone on offer comes very close to tugging at the heartstrings.

Tata Altroz iTurbo

A close friend owns the non-turbo variant and is quite pleased with the way it handles in dense city traffic. By all accounts, the steering is very sorted and the interior fit and finish are comparable with the best. The recently launched i-turbo variant (same engine with a turbo boost adding 24 horses) is definitely something that would sit well with the family.

What next? Toyed with the Renault Kiger and its sibling the Nissan Magnite. Eliminated the latter because I have seen so few on the road and their service in Pune is a big question mark. The Kiger started looking very attractive till I saw this on the Team-BHP driving observations news item.

My last manual was a Swift Vxi that I only sold last year because it was almost 15 years old. It was a joy to drive till the moment we handed the keys over: slick, perfectly slotting gearbox and a decent clutch. Somehow cannot imagine driving a poor shifter now. We may still go ahead and TD it before ruling it out completely, though.

I felt a pang of guilt at not shortlisting a single Maruti because I've always enjoyed the buttery smoothness of their engines and gearboxes and was persuaded by friendly moderator Vid6639 to add the Ignis Alpha 1.2 MT to the consideration set. I personally find the design with the Adidas stripes way OTT and cheesy but then, looks are always subjective. The front view is nice enough:

I thought that was it but Viddy threw another spanner in the works by informing me that the VW Polo TSI now came with a 6-speed manual! This car probably holds the record for most combinations of engines and gearboxes launched in India, so that was an understandable slip. But it added one more contender!

In October I was travelling to Bangalore, my first flight in 18 months, and saw the Tata Punch displayed at Mumbai airport. The interiors really seemed to be designed with young people at heart, an impression later confirmed when I saw the TV advert that followed. So in went the Tata Punch 1.2 Creative to the mix!

There are two things that make me a little wary of getting this mini-Harrier: that it comes only with the NA 1.2 engine and that any new Tata model is best bought after a year or so. In this case, if I do wait a year, I may actually get the Punch with the iTurbo that the Altroz now gets!

Sorting Through the Options:

Like any self-respecting professional these days, once I had my shortlist I started filling out an Excel sheet comparing what each model offers. I threw in price (OTR Pune) as another factor, not wanting to spend more than 10L this time around (the Vento should fetch around 2L in resale).

It took about 3 weekends to fill in all the rows but having done it, no one car stands out as particularly a clear winner. Let me summarise:

Looks & presence: As I said, these are subjective. The Ignis is at the bottom of the heap but each of the others looks classy and modern. Surprisingly even the Polo holds its own thanks to those classic and timeless (read "ancient") looks!

Interiors: No real deal-breakers but Punch and NIOS lead the field. Even the 12-year old Polo interior isn't too bad, though it is clearly the lowest on the ladder considering we are replacing the Vento, which is almost identical inside.

Performance: Polo TSI with its 109 ps/175Nm power/torque rating is clearly the winner, with the Altroz at 109 ps/142 Nm coming in close. But given its much lighter weight than these two, the Grand i10 NIOS at 99ps/172Nm is quite the pocket rocket as well! The Kiger does well for itself with its 99ps/160Nm rating while the laggards are the 1.2 NA engines on the Punch (85ps/113Nm) and Ignis (82ps/113Nm).

Wheel size (stock): All offer 16" rims except the Ignis and the NIOS. In the latter, an upgrade by 20 mm on the stock 175/60 tread is mandatory to do justice to its engine.

ICE: Polo and NIOS seem outdated in this department but are adequate. The rest are more or less at the same level offering large touchscreens with 7 or 8 speakers each.

Auto-dim IRVM: Only available on the Polo! What a miss on the others of a much-needed feature even on a lower segment car, it's inexplicable!

Auto headlights and auto-wipers: Surprisingly only available on the Tatas, though the Polo gets automatic wipers. Not really a deal breaker though.

Glovebox: Ignis and NIOS are the most basic with most of the others getting cooled, illuminated gloveboxes. Again not really a deal-breaker.

Boot space: Now we're talking! The Kiger gets a segment-best 405-litre boot but with no illumination and a high loading lip. The Punch gets 366L while the Altroz is not far behind at 345L. The others (Polo, NIOS and Ignis) are tiny (sub 300L). While this isn't really one of the listed criteria, it would really make the difference for those DMart shopping trips or in case someone has to be dropped at the airport.

Safety: This will be the first car my kid drives and safety is paramount. The Grand i10 NIOS is at the absolute bottom with a 2* GNCAP rating. The Ignis rates marginally better with 3*. Clear winners here are the Altroz and Punch with a perfect 5* score, with the Polo TSI a close contender with 4*. The Kiger also gets 4 airbags to the others' 2, which is a nice surprise.

Ride quality, handling & ground clearance: Nothing in it. The Polo probably is the best package in this department but the others should all work fine since this is primarily going to be a city runabout.

Price OTR Pune: The variants we're considering (petrol, manual, top-end) of all the options lie in the 8-11L range. Obviously, the Ignis is the cheapest at just over 8L while the Altroz is almost touching 11L. If the i20N line offered an MT, it would probably slot in just around the 11L mark as well. Note that these are ready-reckoner online prices and I haven't factored discounts in. I must confess, the Polo TSI at just over 10L (almost the same price I paid for my Vento in 2011) is too tempting a proposition! But am unsure how the family will feel since it's essentially the same car. Pretty much all of them feel VFM and I doubt this will be a deal-breaker.

Obviously, the first bit of advice I am going to receive on this thread is: do a TD with the family and go with whatever appeals to the heart the most! Which I will probably start doing from next weekend.

Just wondering though...have I left any worthy contenders out? Or are there are any lacunae in my magnificent Excel sheet analysis that eagle-eyed Team BHPians can spot?

Let's hear it, people!

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

Go for AT only. MT is an outdated concept now, except in some purposeful machines (sporty cars, offroaders) or budget cars (which either don't offer an AT or have lousy AMTs).

Your eldest can visit a driving school and learn MT, but no need to make her suffer every day in traffic with a technology that's fast becoming irrelevant.

In AT: i20 DCT. Just last week, I drove a friend's i20 DCT and loved it. Get the extended warranty (I recently bought a DSG too).

In MT: Keep the Altroz as a top choice. It is one heck of a hatchback = great looking, solid build, space, 5-star safety, mature suspension, big-car-like behaviour at 120 km/h. Personal preference would be the diesel, although the turbo-petrol will do the job too (avoid the lame 1.2L NA motor). Also consider i10 & i20 turbo-petrol.

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

i10 Nios fits the bill perfectly. Given your other car is a Korean, the in-cabin instrumentation and feel would be familiar too. Asta(O) if you want top spec and don't mind the smooth-but-no-cracker 1.2 NA, Sportz Turbo if you want the christ-on-a-cracker 1-litre TGDi.

If you don't mind an old but classy VAG, a Polo TSi MT (or wait for the replacement).

Here's what BHPian asit.kulkarni93 had to say on the matter:

Hey Noopster!

So finally the Vento is getting replaced. Although you have a Seltos, I would still say stay away from Hyundais for this purchase. Long term upkeep is a headache and won't be as smooth as your swift or vento.

  • Get the Ignis for now. It's relatively well built and fun to drive. The K12 engine feels good. In case you decide to replace this car in the near future with an AT then you won't take a major depreciation hit either.
  • Polo TSi with the 1.0 is a gem. You already have a comfortable 5 seater, the polo should be perfect. Fast, safe and frugal too.
  • If you are looking at comfort and ease of driving, do consider the Honda Jazz. A pre-owned MT jazz is an amazing proposition too.

Good luck!

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