8 Seriously Cool Variants Of Regular Cars
The Indian car market is full of mundane, economy-minded cars built to deliver maximum kilometres to a litre and be reliable in the long run. And as one would expect, these vehicles can hardly be deemed as collectibles and, in fact, are bought to serve basic transportation needs. That being said, there have been a handful of interesting and seriously cool variants that often redefine the way we look at regular cars.
Fortunately or unfortunately, limited exposure at the time of the launch and low production meant that some of these cars are quite unassuming and as a result, carry relatively affordable price tags for their actual worth.
While none of these eight variants are particularly efficient family cars, each has its own set of traits that make it a whole lot more desirable than the regular car it’s based on.
Skoda Octavia vRS
The old Octavia was Skoda’s maiden offering for the Indian market and while it served its due well as an entry-level premium sedan, it was the hot vRS variant that turned the car in to a tuner’s wet dream. Available as a sedan or in the highly desirable station wagon form, the Octavia vRS gained instant recognition all thanks its 1.8-litre, 20-valve petrol engine. Backed by a cheeky little turbocharger, this four cylinder unit produced 150bhp of power and gave the vRS the ability to annihilate cars costing twice as much.
Rather thankfully, the Octavia vRS also came with a tastefully done body kit including a sportier bumper, gorgeous looking 16-inch alloys, a different tail pipe and a neat boot spoiler.
Engine: 1.8-litre, four-cylinder turbocharged petrol
Price (used): Rs 1.8 lakh - Rs 4 lakh
Image source: Tuner's Edge
Maruti Suzuki Zen Carbon /Steel
If there was one thing the original Maruti Suzuki Zen had going for it, it's how cheerful it looked. The bulging headlights and tail lamps and a curvy design overall were far from intimidating. Contrary to its cutesy appeal, however, the Zen became a major hit in the Indian motorsport scene, with extensively modified examples producing in excess of 100bhp – pretty amazing feat considering that the stock 993cc G10B engine made around 60bhp.
All in all, the Zen was a pretty sorted product, so much so that Maruti hardly made any changes to the original model in 10 years of its existence. Be that as it may, the brand committed the ultimate sin by bringing out the Zen Classic that appeared as if it had rear-ended a late 90s Chinese car before rolling off the assembly line.
Maruti eventually made up for the Classic debacle by introducing the two-door variant in June 2003, a decade after the launch of the original MH410 model. Available in two different forms based on the colour - Zen Carbon (black) and Zen Steel (silver), this two-door variant redefined the way small hatchbacks looked back in the day, with its dinky and yet striking appearance. Of all the cars listed here, the Zen Carbon/Steel is least likely to show up on the classifieds and it’s worth noting that the owners tend to drive a hard bargain simply because of the unicorn status of the car.
Engine: 993cc, four-cylinder
Price: Rs 1.3 lakh - Rs 2.4 lakh
Hyundai Getz 1.5 diesel
It’s pretty certain you may not have foreseen a diesel powered Hyundai in this list at all, but bear with me on this. The whole point of a seriously cool car, as we know, revolves around its looks and the way it’s perceived in the minds of the enthusiasts. However, the problem with cars that are usually born out of respect and admiration from enthusiasts is that nearly everybody expects them to be fast and loud.
This is exactly why some prefer a sleeper: a genuinely quick factory-spec car that looks so unassuming you could be forgiven for losing it in a parking lot. And what better way to experience the sleeper life than in a fast diesel-powered hatchback – enter the Hyundai Getz 1.5 diesel.
Built by a manufacturer unashamedly famous for making mediocre handling cars and based on an equally mediocre platform, it seems the diesel-powered Getz hasn’t got much going for it. However, all of these unnerving thoughts fade away the moment you go hard on the accelerator and the car, riding on a high wave of torque, scrambles for grip in the first two gears before settling down and making the most of 110bhp and 235Nm on tap. Yes, this mundane looking 8-year-old diesel-powered car is still quicker than most premium hatchbacks on sale today and for that reason alone it’s seriously cool.
Engine: 1.5-litre, four-cylinder
Price (used): Rs 1.8 - Rs 2.8 lakh
Ford Fiesta 1.6S
By mid-2008, the old Ford Fiesta had gotten a bit too long in the tooth, especially in the advent of bigger, more superior rivals. Naturally, a facelift was in order. Ford India, however, didn’t stop there. Besides launching a mid-life facelift, the brand also introduced us all to the frankly brilliant Fiesta 1.6S. While it borrowed the standard model’s 1.6-litre petrol engine without any power upgrades whatsoever, the 1.6S did come with a lowered ride height and stiffer dampers for more smiles per miles on twisty roads. All in all, the upgraded suspension made the already fun-to-drive Fiesta even better.
The Fiesta 1.6S left a good impression even when standing still, thanks to those flared wheel arches and a nice boot spoiler. Ford even made a few subtle additions in the form of the red ‘S’ badge and the chrome-tipped tailpipe.
Engine: 1.6-litre, four-cylinder
Price (used): Rs 2 lakh - Rs 3.5 lakh
Image source: MyFiatWorld
Fiat Palio 1.6 S10
Fiat India sold a range of cars based on the Palio platform. There was the Weekend station wagon and its jacked-up sibling – the Adventure. Besides these, the brand also had the Petra and the Siena sedan, all based on the same platform although what stood out (especially for us enthusiasts) was the Palio 1.6 GTX – a car duly noted for being India’s first hot hatch.
The 1.6 GTX, in essence, was introduced as a special variant of the regular Palio. However, Fiat India did one better by having yet another limited run car in the form of the Sachin Tendulkar-inspired Palio S10.
Finished in bright-as-sun Canary Yellow paint and decked up with a racy spoiler, side skirts and the Master Blaster’s signature and logo, the Palio S10 was quite a looker. Although what made it really desirable was the GTX-derived 1.6-litre 16-valve motor producing 100bhp and shorter gearing (for quicker acceleration) compared to the former.
Engine: 1.6-litre, four-cylinder
Price: Rs 1 lakh - Rs 1.5 lakh
Honda City VTEC
You may have come across Honda’s VTEC (variable valve timing) technology more in car memes than anywhere else, but there is no denying the fact that VTEC is the foundation for Honda’s global success since the early 90s, with cars like the second-gen Integra and the CRX.
Honda India, meanwhile, introduced VTEC in late 2000 with the launch of the Type 2 City VTEC – a variant that cost nearly Rs 10 lakh back in the day. The highlight of the car indeed was the B15C2 1.5-litre, four cylinder engine with a single overhead cam VTEC head. With 105bhp on tap and weighing less than a tonne, the City VTEC guaranteed cracking straight line performance with 0-100kmph coming up in under 10 seconds. To differentiate the VTEC from the rest of the Type 2 City range, Honda added a chunky rear spoiler, Enkei alloys, silver trim for the centre console and different front seat headrests.
All in all, the City VTEC is still among the most sought-after Hondas of all time here in India. The car, however, had a few rough edges in the form of uninspiring high speed stability and jerky low-end throttle response in pre-2002 cars.
Engine: 1.5-litre, four-cylinder
Price (used): Rs 1 lakh - Rs 2.5 lakh
Toyota Etios Liva Sportivo 1.5
The Etios Liva is a pretty good deal if basic A to B transportation is all you want. Its spacious, efficient and being a Toyota, boringly reliable as well although the latter trait is not of much use here. You see the Liva is probably the dullest hatchback there ever has been and Toyota couldn’t do any better in terms of sales even after introducing the Liva Sportivo you see here.
The Liva Sportivo, then, is a sales disaster. But, and there’s a big but. It’s a lot more fun to drive than you think. The Etios sedan-derived 1.5-litre, four cylinder engine makes 90bhp and 132Nm, figures that do not really belong in an engine this big, however, the Liva is a lightweight at 925kg and the weight advantage over the other hatchbacks is apparent on the move.
Despite its lack of outright grunt, the Liva Sportivo feels lively and eager to get going thanks to the 1.5-litre unit’s torquey and rev-happy nature.
Engine: 1.5-litre, four-cylinder
Price (new): Rs 8.1 lakh on-road
Volkswagen Polo GT TSI
Premium hatchbacks in India aren't known for being particularly good to drive (Read: Hyundai i20, Honda Jazz). They are predominantly designed for comfort and to offer that big car feel which is basically antithetical to driving pleasure. There is one premium hatchback, however, that behaves its absolute best when driven spiritedly. It’s German, turbocharged and chic – it is the Volkswagen Polo GT TSI.
Launched in early 2013 and updated last year, the Polo GT TSI’s 105bhp 1.2-litre turbocharged petrol engine was never overwhelming but its super quick 7-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox, good brakes and a balanced chassis made it one heck of a handler.
The way I see it, the only downer here is that the GT TSI variant looks disappointingly similar to the regular Polo. Perhaps a GTI-like grille with red inserts and a different set of alloys should do the trick.
Engine: 1.2-litre, turbocharged four-cylinder
Price (new): Rs 9.8 lakh on-road