If you are an up and coming Indian with a good stable job, there’s very high possibility of a car purchase around the Rs 5 lakh mark. Things like practicality, efficiency, features, space and joy of driving are prime on your mind but you’d notice that if you weigh a car with one criterion heavily, it falls short in another. And the number of options available in the market are so varied that there is a very good chance you are pulling your hair by the time you sign the dotted line. So we’ve done some thorough research on the best cars right to the variant in our top ten list for cars priced between Rs 5 lakh and Rs 5.99 lakh, ex-showroom Delhi. Read this to save your trip to the trichologist.
Since there are so many alternatives in this price bracket, we’ve split this list by fuel type. Next week, we will bring out the top diesel cars for Rs 5 lakh so stay tuned.
If you have read our top 5 cars for Rs 10 lakh and Rs 15 lakh, you will know the parameters by now. We’ve added one more parameter to this list – Interior Space and Boot space as this is essential in this price bracket. Here are the parameters again –
All cars were rated on a scale on 1-5 with 1 being poor and 5 being outstanding.
Engine and Gearbox:
We considered everything from driveability to refinement to NVH before deciding on the rating for the engine, while for the gearbox, things like shift quality and ease and progression of clutch actuation was looked into.
Ride and Handling:
In a market like India, wherein good roads are hard to come by, ride quality – at both low speed and high – is extremely important. But, just a plush ride isn’t enough; the ride shouldn’t be noisy or coupled with vibrations either. As for handling, we considered both ease of driving in the city and the car’s stability in a straight line, under braking, and around a corner.
The more the features, the better. Well, for most part. We also looked into the ease of using these features and not all features were given equal weightages. Features that are more useful, naturally, got a higher rating.
Easily the most important buying criteria, we simply took ARAI quoted fuel economy figures to arrive at a score. The higher the kmpl figure, the higher the score.
Interior and Boot Space:
Cars in the Rs 5 lakh range aren’t big on space, both on the inside and in the boot. But you want to carry five adults and two large bags on some days during your ownership so where would they go? Hence it makes for an important criterion in this price bracket. Less scores less, more scores more.
Fun to Drive:
Fun to drive is the most subjective parameter here. But, also a crucial one. And for a car to be fun to drive everything from the engine and gearbox performance, to the steering feel and response, to the tyre grip and the overall handling prowess of the car were rated on. The cars that managed to put bigger smiles on our faces, scored higher.
Rank 1: Hyundai Xcent 1.2 MT S (O)
The Xcent has emerged as the best car to put your money on. Hyundai has a knack for making good all-rounders and when we drove the Grand i10, we knew its sedan version is going to be a good car. But car for price, it has turned out to be the best car in our list, which we didn’t fathom at the time. The Xcent is the best Hyundai we have driven in the budget segment, and in many ways, it’s more fun to drive than the Verna, its elder sibling. The Kappa engine under its hood is quite and eager unit and gives the impression of a lot more power on tap than it actually has. In S with the optional safety package, it is feature rich and has the biggest boot in this top 10 list at 407 litres. Where the Xcent aces is in the fuel efficiency department. It’s the most economical with an ARAI certified figure of 19.1kmpl and that takes it first across the finish line.
Rank 2: Honda Brio VX MT
It’s hard to not like the Brio. The tiny hatchback is worth a test drive at least. Because until you get into one and drive it, you will not appreciate the package Honda has managed to come up with. It may look small but on the inside, there is ample space to comfortably seat four adults. The 1.2-litre i-VTEC engine under the hood is refined and the slick shifting gearbox delivers all the 89PS of power when required making the Brio a hoot to drive. The Brio rides well and handles with almost cart-like precision. It’s efficient as well returning an ARAI certified figure of 18.4kmpl. The only drawback it has is a small boot. It’s the most fun city car to buy at this price point.
Rank 3: Hyundai Grand i10 1.2 MT Asta (O)
The Grand i10 was our car of the year for 2013. It’s an impressive hatchback from the Hyundai stable, inside, out and to drive. The Grand is thoroughly well engineered and gets the same smooth Kappa engine as in the Xcent. It rides better than it handles and that’s mostly to do with the inert steering wheel that’s devoid of any feel. As we’ve known of Hyundais, this one is no different on the features front. It comes kitted to the gills with features, is very efficient at 18.9kmpl (ARAI figure) and offers good amounts of interior space and decent boot space. This Hyundai scores same as the Brio but comes in third simply because we love driving and the Honda thrills us more in that aspect.
Rank 4: Maruti Suzuki Swift Dzire VXi
There’s a lot to like about the Dzire besides its oddball styling. It’s hard to find fault with the refined 1.2-litre K-series engine under the hood or the quick short-throws gearbox. The Dzire gets beige interiors that atleast give a sense of more space than what the Swift offers and it sips fuel on par with other cars in this class at 18.6kmpl. What’s disappointing is the lack of safety features like ABS and airbags in VXi trim and a boot that’s not too larger than the hatchback. It’s the Maruti service network giving the Dzire a major boost. For peace of mind, affordable spares and accessibility of workshops, there’s no better car/company combination.
Rank 5: Maruti Swift ZXi
What stands true for the Dzire stands true for the Swift. If the Swift loses on the space front, it gains in the features and it’s a better car to look at. But Indians love space, even if it’s a little bit more and that’s where the Swift loses out to the Dzire despite scoring the same. If you rate features high on your list, the Swift is a better option as it comes in the top-of-the-line ZXi trim. You get an entertainment system, ABS and front airbags and this trim also gets climate control and alloy wheels. The dark interiors feel a bit claustrophobic but the wide comfortable front seats are a good place to be in.
Rank 6: Toyota Etios Liva V SP
Toyota’s first and only hatchback for India turned out to be a bit of a dampener. The looks aren’t quite right unless you opt for the pricier TRD Sportivo variants and the car is built to a price and that’s clearly evident once you sit in one. Yet it is the costliest car in this list at Rs 5.91 lakh ex-showroom Delhi for the top-spec variant. It’s why the Liva scores the same as the Dzire and Swift but is rated lower. What works for the Liva is its space and easy driving nature. For all its size, it is lighter than a Brio and has good low-end grunt making it a very agile city car. It’s also very efficient returning 18.6kmpl. The Liva is unexciting but practical, as most Toyotas are, and in India, there’s a market for that.
Rank 7: Ford Figo 1.2 Titanium
If there’s a value for money petrol car you are looking for, there’s no better one than the Figo. The Figo is Titanium trim costs just Rs 5.09 lakh ex-showroom. This Ford is quite old though despite its facelift and its age will weigh into your buying decision. But drive one and you will realize how much fun the car is. Underpowered engine aside, the Figo’s very direct mechanical steering delivers ample feedback and its planted ride and solid built will put a smile to your face. The updated Figo gets a lot more features but it’s still not on par with likes of the Grand i10. Biggest drawback of the Figo is its fuel economy which at 15.6kmpl is the lowest in this list.
Rank 8: Nissan Micra XL Comfort
It’s a hard fought battle towards the bottom of this list. The cars aren’t far apart and if they lose in one criterion, they gain in another. The Micra scores same as the Figo and again, we’ve rated the better driving car higher. The Micra petrol loses out on the features front as the XL is a mid-spec variant. Yet, it’s about Rs 35 thousand costlier than the Ford. Nissan has done a good job with the facelift making the Micra less feminine than before. It’s got a lot of space on the inside and its light steering makes maneuverability in the city a breeze.
Rank 9: Renault Pulse RxZ
The Pulse is a badge engineering Micra and so gets the same score. The Pulse scores more on the features front in this top RxZ trim but is also costlier than the Micra. Light steering, aggressive styling, efficient engine (ARAI certified 18.44kmpl) and greater acceptance to the Renault brand than when it was launched are attributes working in favour of the Pulse.
Rank 10: Hyundai i20 1.2 MT Sportz
It’s the least fun to drive car in this list and it’s due for a generation change in a few months. So buying an i20 doesn’t make too much logic right now. It’s got a refined 1.2-litre engine and a smooth shifting gearbox. The soft suspension doesn’t compliment it though and coupled with the inert steering, makes the i20 a very boring car to drive. It doesn’t inspire confidence at high speeds and crashes into potholes without resistance. But you’ve got plush interiors made of high quality materials for its class and a lot of space on the inside. It’s best to use it as a city car only but we suggest you wait for the next generation model instead of investing in this one.
Note: Cars like the Toyota Etios, Volkswagen Polo and Honda Amaze failed to make the cut by a very small margin. Either the price or other parameters worked against them but the three score close to the cars in the bottom of this list. Other cars failing to make the cut are the Maruti Ritz, Tata Manza, Ford Fiesta Classic, Chevrolet Sail, U-Va, Beat and Enjoy and the Fiat Punto. The Enjoy despite scoring highest in terms of space, scored overall the lowest with a total of 15/30.
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