Interiors look good but lack the feel of quality one gets in either the Polo or the Fabia.
Whichever angle you view it from the Punto is an absolute head turner
As far as looks go, it’s a really tough call between the Punto and the Polo. Designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro, the Punto is a sheer display of typical Italian flair. Its character lines are bold and give it a muscular stance.
The insides too are quite pleasant to look at. The dash is well sculpted, the instrument panel stylish yet legible and the steering wheel nice and meaty. Where the Fiat falters is on the question of quality. They don’t have the same feel of quality as either the Volkswagen or the Skoda. Space and feel of space too seem compromised, especially at the rear. The seats though are comfortable and supportive. An odd bit about the Punto is the dead pedal, the only car here to get one other than the Fabia. It’s slightly high, which means the left leg rests at an odd angle.
Where the Punto does compensate is with its ride and handling package. Like the other three competitors, the Fiat’s ride quality is very good and helps it absorb virtually everything with only the deepest of potholes catching it out. The Punto also feels planted in a straight line at speeds and around bends. Steering response is fairly quick too with decent levels of feedback, even though it is heavy.
Braking abilities too are fairly good, with the car tracking straight under hard braking. The brakes offer good bite too while braking action is progressive.
Feel of quality is at par with the Volkswagen.
Fabia may not be a head turner at standstill but in 1.6 guise, has enough performance to have you grinning every time
Externally, the Fabia's design isn’t anything to write home about. Inside, the Fabia feels as well built as the Polo but the lack of the chrome accents (as in the latter) makes the cabin less cheery. However the Skoda feels roomier, courtesy the larger glass area and higher seating. The seats, like on the Polo, are comfortable and provide good support all round. The design of the instrument panel meanwhile feels a little dated, especially when compared to the Polo and the Punto.
Again, like VW, Skoda has managed to tune its suspension to a point where it offers just the right blend of ride quality and handling finesse. So drive the Fabia over broken surfaces, potholes, bumps and undulations and the car absorbs it all leaving the occupants undisturbed. It’s only the large square bumps and really deep potholes that get jarring.
Driving dynamics again are great. Point it into a bend and it will hold that line as steady as a rock, no matter the speed. Rapid changes in direction aren't a problem either. The fact that there’s minimal body roll again boosts confidence. The steering feel again is similar to that in the Polo – quick to turn in and precise. It’s also light, and hence easy to manoeuvre in tight spaces. Feedback, though good, is not great.
Like the Polo, the Fabia’s brakes too are superb. They bite quite hard and are very progressive.
Dash design is unexciting and quality too is not on the same level as the others.
The Vista is a Plain Jane design but the large glass area endows it with top class all round visibility
The Vista 90 is a decent shape alright but it fails to excite. Inside, the centrally placed instrument panel too is quite uninspired. Also, on the issue of quality there’s a lot that Tata Motors could work on. They just don’t have that feel of quality that will make you feel nice about your car. The seats are comfortable but aren’t too supportive and one sits high, despite seat height adjustment. To its credit though the Tata is the only car here to offer lumbar support. Also, the steering, though adjustable for rake, still feels slightly odd. Indeed it is difficult to get a good driving position in the Vista. Where the Vista bounces back is on the question of space. Feel of space is pretty good too, courtesy a fairly large glass area.
As far as ride is concerned the Vista absorbs most of the bumps and potholes at slow and medium speeds, but as the velocity rises the car begins to wallow. Handlingwise, the Vista falls behind the competition. There is a good amount of body roll through cornersand the steering too is odd; it’s vague at dead centre but overly sensitive at the edges. While at slow city speeds this just feels light, at high speeds one feels cut off from what the wheels are really doing.
This numbness is further highlighted under braking with the car registering significant dive and doesn’t really display stability under hard braking. As far as progression goes, the Vista’s braking just about makes the cut.
Feel of quality is top notch. Steering is adjustable for both rake and reach unlike the Punto and the Vista which only offer rake adjustment.
The Polo's lean looks work well and give it a racy stance. The rear though is somewhat bland
The Polo's looks are lean, low and sporty. Inside, it feels rich, courtesy good quality of materials used and the high class of fit and finish. The twin round dials for the speedo and the tacho look nice while the chrome accents give the dash and the interiors definition. One sits low in the Polo and this only helps enhance the sporty feel of the car. The seats meanwhile are comfortable, offering good all round support. Of the four on test the three-spoke steering wheel design of the Polo feels the sportiest.
The car has the right balance between ride and handling and feels planted at all times while passengers are kept well isolated from the usual plethora of potholes, bumps, undulations, etc. Only the large squarish bumps or the deepest of potholes are an issue really.
On the dynamic abilities front, the Polo is a joy. Around bends, at speeds, you do get a dose of understeer but the Polo will hold its line no matter what. Quick direction changes are also managed without drama with minimal body roll around corners. The steering meanwhile is light, which is very good for in-city use, but very precise. However, for a precise and quick steering wheel it's exactly not a chatterbox when it comes to feedback.
Braking though is fantastic. Though the car has ABS, like the others, the braking is so progressive that on most occasions the system won’t be called into action. There is plenty of bite too from the front disc and rear drum setup.