Hot hatches are meant to deliver sporty performance on the hatchback body with not much compromise on city riding and comfort. There are not many options available in India, today we are seeing the petrol hot hatches that are designed to swish through traffic and take a good stance on the highway too.
Hatches are meant to be the entry-level option for the car buyers, but the compactness has an advantage in control and less weight compared to sedan and SUV which gives an edge when it comes to racing. Hence manufacturers throw in the powerful engine into a hatch making it a powerful daily rider for the city and highway which has gathered a limited customer base of enthusiast car drivers.
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Maruti Suzuki Baleno RS
The sportier looking and supposed to be sportier running Maruti Suzuki Baleno is differentiated with an â€œRSâ€ moniker which means Racing Sport. Well, it deserves the name when compared to the regular petrol version. There is a little cosmetic difference with more chrome to the front, smoked headlamps, black alloys and an RS badge to the rear.
Maruti Suzuki Baleno RS is driven by a 1 litre 12v booster jet Petrol engine which puts out 100 bhp max power at 5500 RPM. The maximum torque of 150 NM is attained throughout 1700 to 4500 RPM range. It is mated with the 5-speed gearbox as in the regular Baleno.
The engine is refined but not the best which is because of the makers keeping in mind the mileage of the car. Rev above 2000 RPM and the power delivery gushes till the 6000 RPM. The power delivery feels smooth and offers an engaging ride. Steering does lack a connection to the road which is evident while pushing the vehicle more. Running through the corners at high-speed offer a bit body roll and the tyres start to squeak reminding you to stay within limits. 0 to 100 km/l takes 10.25s which is good enough and the gear shifts are seamless and quick.
Handling at low speed is agile and easy and that is why city rides are the best in this. The Maruti Suzuki Baleno RS happens to be the newest of the three and the feature-rich too. It gets all the rational new features like auto headlamps, Android Auto and Apple car play, Push button engine start and a lot more. The seating position is comfortable and spacious with a good view. Maruti Suzuki Baleno RS is the best spacious car for passengers and load carry of the three.
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Fiat Abarth Punto
Fiat Abarth Punto reached the Indian market way early than most other hatches of today reached India. It is the Fiat Punto with a better engine, styling, and tuning in partnership with Abarth. Abarth Punto has a beast of 1.4-litre Turbojet 16v Petrol engine that makes the best in class 145 bhp of power and a 200 Nm of torque at 2000 to 4000 RPM. The engine makes up for the whole story and was the only feature difference than the regular Fiat Punto. A decade after launch the Punto has seen only very smaller feature update which makes it weak in features.
The punto looks the best in the Abarth styling, Red decals on black or you can opt for the white base with the same red decals. The design is curvy and bulky. The car has Front airbags and ABS, climate control AC with rear vents, touchscreen and some nifty little features to boast about.
The seats are little high which offers better view and command over the road while making the riding position little awkward and less comfortable. The steering too is more top facing and does a great job in the handling aspect for a sportier car. The steering is rigid and offers good maneuverability to take it over twists and turns.
Whatever the car lacks at the interior is forgettable and forgivable when you start riding the Fiat Abarth Punto. The time it takes to reach the 100 km/l mark from rest is just 9.3 seconds which is amazing. The car throws in a lot of torque all through its delivery line. In fact, you end up starting with a wheel spin most of the time. You feel the heft of the gearbox with hard clutch and rubbery gear shifts when riding under 2000 RPM. The gear range feels short which favours highway rides doesnâ€™t feel the easiest for city rides.
Volkswagen Polo GT TSi
Volkswagen Polo was a slow hit in India and to follow that came the GT line-up both in diesel and petrol options. Volkswagen Polo GT also had great performance and handling with the same ageless design. On the aesthetic point no big difference like the others. Black side mirror cups, black spoiler on the rear, and GT badge on the front grill and rear are the noticeable changes.
GT badge brings a 1.2 litre 16v TSI Petrol engine instead of the standard petrol engine. Though they remain the same in terms of displacement the power and torque figures show the difference on paper. 103.5 bhp power is achieved at 5000 RPM and the torque of 175 Nm is delivered between 1500 to 4100 RPM. To bring in more action Volkswagen gave it a DSG gearbox which blows the competitors out of water in the gear shifts and single gear performance tests.
DSG gearbox has both positives and negatives. Though the Volkswagen Polo GT TSi is the slowest to reach 100 km/l from rest at 11secs it takes over the other two largely in the in-gear acceleration. For comparison Volkswagen Polo GT TSi takes 6.48 secs to go from 20 â€“ 80 km/l in third gear while the Baleno and Punto take 9.48secs and 10.44secs respectively. The power delivery is instant and comes with a punch whenever the throttle is pressed, thanks to the DSG gearbox which puts in the right gear that is needed.
The steering offers a good amount of feedback and the car feels well planted hence a good riding quality. However, cornering at higher speeds yield a little bit of squeak. The driving position is the best of the three offering the best view, seat position, comfort, and control.
Here we saw all the Petrol Hot Hatches available in India and each serves the purpose. If you are wondering what suits you let me put them into boxes. If you like to be sporty all the time offering the best in class performance not bothering the less comfortable rides and frequent mushy gear shifts that you need to undergo while riding in the city, Fiat Abarth Punto is yours. you want a peppy ride with all the features, spacious cabin, easy city rideability also offering an edge in the mileage then go for the Maruti Suzuki Baleno RS. Volkswagen Polo GT TSi is for the sportive ride lovers with the best riding comforts and ride quality without the hassle of gear shifts with a compromise on rear seat space and some features. By our standards, the Volkswagen Polo GT TSi offers the best balance of both with the best safety and build quality.