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Comparison Test: Fiat Punto Vs Skoda Fabia Vs Tata Indica Vista Vs Volkswagen Polo

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Overview

Fiat Punto Vs Skoda Fabia Vs Tata Indica Vista Vs Volkswagen Polo

In India 1.2-litre engines rule the petrol hatchback roost. But what about the odd guy who wants something other than the run of the mill? Here are four hatchbacks that the odd guy defi nitely needs to check out….

Out of sight, out of mind. It’s an old English adage that basically tells you that if you don’t see something often enough chances are you’ll forget it exists. Although it's difficult to realise how one could apply this old saying to the automotive scene, in reality nowhere is this better exemplified than in the petrol hatchback segment in India. You must be wondering what on earth is this guy jabbering about. But if you are willing to be patient then I am willing to explain.

You see whenever there is a situation where someone wants to buy a petrol hatchback one always tends to think about all the little hatches with 1.2-litre mills under their bonnets. And why not? In a world where petrol prices seem to be headed for the moon and maybe even higher, the smaller and the more efficient the engine the better it is for the pocket. It’s a simple case of mathematics, this one.

But what about the guy who wants his head to follow where his heart leads? Is there something for him as well, the guy who wants to buy something different, more enjoyable? As it turns out, he too has a choice. And not just the one other option for the odd man out.

No, it appears he can choose from between four different cars from four different manufacturers, one from Germany, one from the Czech Republic, one from Italy and one from home turf. So you have the Volkswagen Polo ’s 1.6-litre “hot” version, the Skoda Fabia 1.6, a 1.4-litre petrol engine variant of the Fiat Punto and our very own Tata Indica Vista 90PS.

But as with every other comparison of cars, the key question here again is which of these “different” options should out odd man out put his money on? Something that would serve the dual purposes of his mundane daily commute as well as bringing a grin on his face each time he decides to have some fun? To find the answer to these questions we did the only sensible thing we could think of. We brought them together and pitted them against each other to see which one makes the best buy. May the best car win!

Exterior & Interior

Fiat Punto Interior

Interiors look good but lack the feel of quality one gets in either the Polo or the Fabia.

Fiat Punto Exterior

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.

Skoda Fabia Interior

Feel of quality is at par with the Volkswagen.

Skoda Fabia Exterior

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.

Tata Indica Vista Interior

Dash design is unexciting and quality too is not on the same level as the others.

Tata Indica Vista Exterior

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.

Volkswagen Polo Interior

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.

Volkswagen Polo Exterior

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.

Engine & Gearbox

Fiat Punto Engine

Fiat Punto Punto's 1.4-litre engine is a revvy unit but doesn't feel as powerful as the ones under the other bonnets

Though the Punto and the Vista share the same engine, the Fiat seems more sluggish; while the engine revs freely it does not really translate into speed on the road. Also, the Fiat has the worst gearbox of the four; it’s vague, rubbery and has a long throw.

Skoda Fabia Engine

Skoda Fabia Under the bonnet is the same 1.6-litre unit as in the Polo, which has enough grunt for the speed freak in you

To drive, the Fabia feels quite similar to the Volkswagen. And that really is no surprise since the Czech hatch uses the same 1.6-litre engine and gearbox combo as in the Polo. Naturally, it too delivers great acceleration and is equally driveable. The gear shift operation too is as slick and precise as in the Polo.

Tata Indica Vista Engine

Tata Indica Vista Fiat sourced engine feels peppier in the Tata*

On the move, the 1.4-litre engine is a willing partner to any amount of enthusiastic driving. It revs quickly and the car goes like a shot out of a gun. The gear shift operation meanwhile is precise enough but can be hard.

Volkswagen Polo Engine

Volkswagen Polo Revvy engine offers good torque spread

On the move the 1.6-litre engine with its 105bhp and 153Nm of max torque provides lots of grunt. It’s also a very driveable engine, this. The gearbox too is short throw, precise and slick, making it a joy to operate.

Dimension

Fiat Punto (mm)

Fiat Punto Overall Dimension

 

Fiat Punto Boot Dimension

Boot gets 60:40 split, making it flexible.

Skoda Fabia (mm)

Skoda Fabia Overall Dimension
Skoda Fabia Boot Dimension

Big boot gets folding seats but they aren't split. 3

Tata Indica Vista (mm)

Tata Indica Vista Overall Dimension
Tata Indica Vista Boot Dimension

Intrusions of the wheel wells into the boot rob it of usable space but split seats aid flexibility.

Volkswagen Polo (mm)

Volkswagen Polo Overall Dimension
Volkswagen Polo Boot Dimension

Boot is large and fold flat split seats make it very usable.

Scorecard & Verdict

Skoda Fabia

ThreeSkoda Fabia - For a budget of less than Rs 7 lakh, on road, it is the Fabia that makes the most sense for its superb combination of performance, dynamics, quality, space and safety.

Volkswagen Polo

TwoVolkswagen Polo- The Polo though is not far behind with just three points separating it from the Skoda. Though it offers as good performance, dynamics and quality, it loses out on space and cost.

Fiat Punto

Rank 1Fiat Punto- The Punto has great looks matched with good ride and handling. It's also loaded but it loses out on space, quality and drive. At the end it fi nishes 16 points adrift of the Fabia.

Tata Indica Vista

ThreeTata Indica Vista - Space, drive, visibility are the Vista's strengths. It's also loaded with a lot of kit. But it just doesn't have the quality of the others. Lack of dynamic abilities also let it down badly.

Scorecard

Body: Although space up front is not as good as the Polo, Punto and Vista, it is the Fabia that offers the best combination of front and rear space. Feel of space is as good as in the Vista too. Quality levels are as high as in the Polo. Naturally, it wins under this head.

Drive: Though the Fabia and the Polo use the same engine and gearbox combination, the VW is lighter than the Fabia. This translates into better driveability. With every other score here being identical between the two, the Polo just nudges ahead under the Drive head.

Comfort: Under this head it is the German and the Italian that come out on top. While the VW boasts better front seats and operability, the Fiat offers better ride and comfort equipment. On all other counts the two score identically.

Dynamics: Both the Polo and the Fabia are equally well matched on dynamics. They have equally well balanced handling characteristics, manoeuvrability, directional stability and steering response. They deliver equally good drive feel.

Cost: It is under this head that the Vista shows its advantage. However its offer of better basic price and resale is not enough. Moreover the Fabia offers better warranty.

Verdict

At the end of the day the Skoda turns out to be the better all round product, therefore making it the better buy of the four cars here. Sure, if performance and looks are what you’re looking for then the Polo is your car. But the Fabia has more space, equally good performance, dynamics and quality levels to offer. Not to mention it is almost Rs 40,000 cheaper to buy and has the best warranty to offer. The Punto and the Vista both have their strengths but neither can match up to the Czech hatch. This, despite the fact that the Punto has the best ride comfort and a longer list of equipments to offer its buyers while the Vista 90 is signifi cantly cheaper, by nearly Rs 45,000, to buy and will also offer the best resale value of the four hatchbacks on test here.

 

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