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CarWale Track Day 2016 Ford Figo TDCi Vs Fiat Punto Abarth

CarWale Track Day 2016 Ford Figo TDCi Vs Fiat Punto Abarth

4 months ago

We as Indians have this special place that brightens up when we hear terms like ‘within budget’ and ‘affordability’. I’m not saying that we are cheap but would rather like to imply that value for money holds a high regard in our existence.

Where am I going with this? Well, it’s the core of my story, which is that you don’t need to break the bank to buy yourself a set of exciting wheels that will serve well on the road as well as on the track. Our two contenders for this proclamation are the Ford Figo diesel and the Fiat Punto Abarth.

The current Figo was launched in 2015 and is one of the faster hatchbacks on sale today. It has managed to carry over the fun factor of the previous generation vehicle but in an improved package. And then there is the Abarth Punto, which is the opposite of the Figo. It’s colourful, sports the famous Scorpion moniker, runs bigger wheels, has been lowered (by 50mm) and is powered by a potent 1.4-litre T-Jet petrol engine.

We have chosen this duo because they rate high on the fun factor. By virtue of being manuals, they are very involving to drive and offer you sensations that put a smile on your face when you get behind the wheel.

The Madras Motor Race Track is a great place to push the handling envelope of cars. It’s not a track that favours horsepower; instead a car with great chassis balance is what really shines around this bumpy 3.7 kilometre flowing circuit. Speaking of which, right after the short start finish straight is the fast and bumpy C1. One must then scrub off a lot of speed for the right-hander C2. The C7, as we found out, is the most difficult corner to master as it’s a long right-hander that is ever tightening and has a double apex. Getting a great exit out of C7 is important because it leads onto the second of the two really quick sections of the MMRT.

Ford Figo TDCi

 
  • Lap Time

    2m21.90s

  • Max Speed

    138.34kmph

  • C1 Exit Speed

    107.09kmph

  • Speed at C7 Apex

    82.37kmph

We start off with the slower and less powerful car of the duo – the Ford Figo. Now getting into a car and going around the track begins with finding the right seating and viewing position for which the Figo has got the upper hand. Given its modern design, the pedals and steering are well placed.

As we get out on to the main straight to start the lap, instantly you can tell that the car is slower off the line and the engine takes more time to hit the 5000rpm red line. The presence of cyclone Nada meant most of the time out on the tarmac (with both cars) was spent in wet conditions. It resulted in a slightly slower pace for everything (except the flying laps with Aditya).

Even so, the feedback and feel from the Figo are outstanding. It might run on skinny tyres, but the front end turns into corners (aided by some trail braking) without complaint. It is nicely balanced too and then in corners like C3, C4 and C8, the Figo comes alive settling into lift-off oversteer without drama. The step out is gradual and is easy to catch thanks to the responsive and accurate steering.

Aditya speaks

"The engine is punchy and gearbox is quite nice. Thanks to good torque spread, I don’t have to shift down a lot to power out of the corners. The soft suspension setup means it is predictable and even if the tail steps out, it is easy to bring it back in line."

Fiat Punto Abarth

  • Lap Time

    2m18.14s

  • Max Speed

    141.92kmph

  • C1 Exit Speed

    108.76kmph

  • Speed at C7 Apex

    84.75kmph

Despite being the sportier of the two, we found the Punto Abarth harder to settle into then be it a good seating position or putting the power down early. The Abarth is faster in a straight-line courtesy the more powerful engine. In fact, it is the first hatchback in India to have a sub nine second 0-100kmph time.

Out on the track, with Aditya behind the wheel, the Punto Abarth clocked a 2.18.14 second lap with a top-speed of 141.92kmph as compared to the Figo's 2.21.90 seconds and a top speed of 138.34kmph. But then that's where the fun sort of stops as there is too much being sent to the front wheels resulting in large amounts understeer into the corners.

Unlike the Figo, this one gets disc brakes all around and that is a good thing as you can brake much later and deeper. There isn't much drama as you hit the apex, even in a tight corner like C8, giving you sense that it would take a lot more to unsettle the car. Also the car that we were driving was shod with Yokohama S-Drives rather than the Apollo Acelere. The former are wider than the tyres offered on the Figo making for a larger footprint and higher levels of grip.

Aditya Speaks: "The engine is quite impressive but there is too much power so the car understeers a lot. It feels a lot heavier and is not so nimble as compared to the Figo. The suspension, it is softer than you would want it to be on the track but it is still quite hard to unsettle the rear. Basically, you have to drive it the way it wants to be driven."

Conclusion

The very purpose of taking a car out on to the track is to have fun. We found that the Ford Figo is a far more involving car to drive on the track. It responds better to steering inputs and because it is lighter than the Punto, it is much more fun through the corners. What it lacks in top-end grunt is more than made up for in low down torque; a great benefit in a place like the MMRT that has majority of medium to low speed corners. The skinny 175/65 R14 tyres are always on their limit resulting in a lot of tyre noise and tail happy behaviour.

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