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Abarth Punto vs Volkswagen Polo GT TSI vs Ford Figo 1.5 TI-VCT comparison review


Three India-made hatchbacks with 100PS+ under the hood… If you are a petrolhead on a budget, here’s your fix

 

 

Abarth Punto vs Volkswagen Polo GT TSI vs Ford Figo 1.5

 

 

 

We’ve been starved. Cars on a budget haven’t stirred much soul lately and we can’t blame manufacturers for that. A majority of Indians don’t make enough money to foot petrol bills and even among those who can, there’s the annoyingly stingy need to save every rupee at the pump. For the few blessed petrolheads around, the Volkswagen Polo GT TSI was the only car to buy. In a matter of a few months though, how things have changed!

 

We have three hot hatchbacks here in varied degrees of hotness, three price points and three crucial traits in common – petrol, an eager throttle pedal and cornering finesse. You will not necessarily want to choose one among the three cars here because price is a major differentiating factor, but pick either one of these and you will be rewarded by cheap thrills and the enthusiasm to take the long way back home. 

 

 

Abarth Punto vs Volkswagen Polo GT TSI vs Ford Figo 1.5 static

 

 

 

Design and Styling

Abarth Punto rating_4.0_rating

Volkswagen Polo TSI rating_3.5_rating

Ford Figo 1.5 rating_3.0_rating

 

Before we speak about the design of the three cars, a quick understanding of their positioning is important. The Ford Figo is a car on a budget. It will cost you not more that Rs 7.75 lakh on-road Delhi. The Polo GT TSI is dearer by almost Rs 2 lakh while the Abarth Punto costs about Rs 11.15 lakh on-road Delhi. So the Punto with its large 16 inch wheels, loud stickers and shiny lips needs to look the part of the priciest hottie. It does and is a stark contrast from the understated Figo with its tiny 14 inch wheels. The Figo is a pleasant car to look at but it looks the price so if you had to pick the Figo for the money you save, a fair bit would need to be spent to spruce up its appearance. 

 

 

Abarth Punto vs Volkswagen Polo GT TSI vs Ford Figo 1.5 rear static

 

 

 

I really like the Polo. It’s been around for a while now, yet looks contemporary without any embellishments. The class of the Polo is hard to match and the new GT TSI’s black paint on the mirrors and roof spoiler as a subtle differentiation from the standard Polo works for me. The Punto shrieks Abarths all over the car. Fiat logos are replaced by Abarth Scorpions and there’s even a massive Scorpion sticker on the roof. A dangling chrome tipped exhaust raises hopes of a sweet exhaust note but neither car sounds as nice as they go and the most pleasing one of the three is the Polo. The Fiesta S and the Palio 1.6 still beat these cars hollow when you make them sing. 

 

 

Abarth Punto interior

 

 

 

Interior and Space

Abarth Punto rating_3.0_rating

Volkswagen Polo TSI rating_4.0_rating

Ford Figo 1.5 rating_3.5_rating

 

From an enthusiast’s point of view, what you see around matters as much as the way your car goes. You want a sporty steering wheel, racy dials, metal pedals and a nice shifter to palm at least. With the Punto you get that to an extent. Most work done on the inside is in the Punto be it the Abarth colour topstitching for the seat fabric, the brightly coloured instrument cluster or the beautifully contoured steering wheel. It’s there but the execution could have been better. The Abarth Punto looks different from the stock car but doesn’t look richer in any way and that’s a letdown.

 

 

Volkswagen Polo GT TSI interior

 

 

 

But that seems to be the case with all cars here. They don’t feel as special to the stock top-trim variants in their lineup. The Polo GT TSI is still the best car to live with due to the higher quality of materials and the ergonomically designed cabin. Volkswagen knows how to build a car that fits like a glove. It’s the only car with a steering that adjusts for rake and reach, all the buttons fall in place and no aspect about driving or travelling in it will feel much of an effort. The Figo is almost there. It’s a better car to live with than the Punto, has a comfortable rear seat but has the smallest boot and the most compact cabin. It is the newest car here while the Punto is a decade old.

 

 

Ford Figo 1.5 TI-VCT interior

 

 

 

Features and equipment

Abarth Punto rating_3.0_rating

Volkswagen Polo TSI rating_4.0_rating

Ford Figo 1.5 rating_3.5_rating


In this day and age of Korean and Japanese hatchbacks spoiling you silly with their long list of features, this trio isn’t as well equipped but if you had to pick the best kitted car among these, it is the Polo. One touch up/down windows all round, steering adjustable for rake and reach and rear parking sensors are features offered in the Polo over the other two. The Figo comes in Titanium trim and not the Plus so it doesn’t get the six airbags as on the top model. Like the Polo it comes with Traction control, a feature most needed in the Punto. The Punto doesn’t get TC. The only extra feature over its competition is the rear AC vent. You get alloy wheels in all, ABS and two airbags, a music system with USB, Bluetooth and Aux-in connectivity, climate control and height adjustment for the driver’s seat in all three. 

 

 

Abarth Punto vs Volkswagen Polo GT TSI vs Ford Figo 1.5 engine shot

 

 

 

Engines and performance

Abarth Punto rating_4.5_rating

Volkswagen Polo TSI rating_4.0_rating

Ford Figo 1.5 rating_3.5_rating

 

The Abarth Punto has the sting its badges promise. It just had to impress here as the most ‘proper’ hot hatchback and it does in spades. 145PS dished out of the 1.4-litre T-Jet mill places it in a league above the Polo TSI and the Figo, but more than the power, it’s the torque that makes this hot hatch a little playful monster you’d want to mess around with. Bury your right foot and the front wheels get into a frenzy to find grip, robbing the Punto of more manic acceleration off the block.

 

The Apollo Alnacs on the Punto are 195 section 16 inchers, an inch larger and 10mm wider than the Polo yet the ones in the Polo offer better grip and lesser drama. I like the drama though a gripper set of shoes will possibly shave a tenth or two off the 0-100kmph sprint. It’s claimed at 8.8 seconds, a second faster than the Polo. The Figo is the slowest of the lot by at least a second, and that is because it is naturally aspirated. No turbo equals less torque. 

 

 

Abarth Punto vs Volkswagen Polo GT TSI vs Ford Figo 1.5 action shot

 

 

 

112PS and 136Nm off the 1.5-litre 4-pot gives the Figo enough legs to be a fast car on an open road. It’s enough to entertain when driven hard but the 6-speed DCT box is a bit of a letdown. In drive mode, it performs commuter duties with aplomb but get it in sports mode and the gearbox seems to miss a trick that the DSG unit in the Polo does so well. A higher gear is held for too long even off throttle and gearshifts aren’t seamless as well. 

 

The Polo is smarter and seven speeds are well spread to keep the Polo eager for a fast run yet happy enough to maintain momentum. Shifts are quick and the tiptronic unit feels more natural shifting gears manually than the silly switch on the Figo. The Polo feels sporty on a brisk run where the Figo is strained. But for the true petrolhead, it’s always got to be the car with the manual ’box. And herein comes the Punto. 

 

 

Abarth Punto in action

 

 

 

Sadly, it disappoints. Rubbery shifts and a long travel clutch pedal saps a lot of fun out of what could potentially have been the car us auto journos would wax lyrical about. That rabid dog of an engine needed a good leash, and here lies a scope for improvement. Fiat needs to focus on its gearboxes for India to truly appeal to the enthusiast. It’s a drawback one can make peace with though as it’s the most thrilling car to drive otherwise.

 

 

Volkswagen Polo GT TSI in action

 

 

 

Ride and ease of driving

Abarth Punto rating_3.5_rating

Volkswagen Polo TSI rating_4.0_rating

Ford Figo 1.5 rating_3.0_rating

 

The Abarth Punto’s suspension is stiffer than the stock car and the ground clearance has been lowered as well to 155mm yet it doesn’t crash or thud through potholes and evens out undulations with poise. The Polo rides as well if not slightly better. It’s more of a city car than the Punto and set up on the softer side as a result. The Figo with its tiny wheels can’t handle high frequency bumps well enough. It’s gets skittish at speed but not to the extent of robbing confidence at the wheel.

 

 

Ford Figo 1.5 TI-VCT in action

 

 

 

Electric steering in the Figo and Polo give them excellent maneuverability in town. I’d pick the hydraulic unit in the Punto though for truer feedback. The Polo rack weighs up but feels a bit unnaturally heavy while hard cornering. It’s still better than the lifeless Figo wheel, and the more I drove it the more I wanted Ford to have stuck to the hydraulic steering from the previous generation Figo. 

 

 

Abarth Punto in action

 

 

 

Handling and braking

Abarth Punto rating_4.5_rating

Volkswagen Polo TSI rating_4.0_rating

Ford Figo 1.5 rating_3.5_rating

 

The Punto has always cornered well. It feels so much tighter now though, and has the punch and the in-gear range to power through bends like no India-made hatchback can. There’s some body roll although that little softness is necessary for an everyday car. You won’t mind it and will enjoy the sense of speed when you chuck the Punto into a corner. It doesn’t feel like a heavy car with a weak heart anymore. The Polo GT TSI is about 90kg lighter than the Punto and the weight saving is much needed to try keeping pace with the Abarth. It can just about but the relative lack of power and seven gears will demand of a upshift mid-corner. 

 

 

Ford Figo 1.5 TI-VCT in action

 

 

 

The Figo’s 1.5 gets shouty high up the range and shifts are slower, the chassis has more flex and the puny wheels are anti-hot hatchback. You get the feeling that with the badges covered, the Figo would feel more like a nimble yet flexing Jap car than the solid surefootedness of a European hatchback. There’s a lot more roll in the Figo too. It’s got its drawbacks here yet the light weight (easily about 150kg lighter than the Punto) Ford takes some doing to feel on edge. 

 

 

Volkswagen Polo GT TSI in action

 

 

 

The brakes of the Figo impressed me. They are discs up front and drums at the rear, same as the Polo but since it is a lighter car, shedding speeds quickly is easier. Both cars feel like they have adequate stopping power, and then you step into the Punto. With disc brakes all round, the Abarth Punto eats into the tarmac under heavy braking. You can drive the Punto faster because you know you can brake later and harder than the other two, again and again over prolonged periods without much fade. 

 

 

Abarth Punto vs Volkswagen Polo GT TSI vs Ford Figo 1.5 rear static

 

 

 

Fuel Economy and price

Abarth Punto rating_3.5_rating

Volkswagen Polo TSI rating_4.0_rating

Ford Figo 1.5 rating_4.5_rating

 

On paper and in the real world, these three cars aren’t too far apart on the mileage front. ARAI certified figures stand at 17kmpl, 16.47kmpl and 16.3kmpl for the Figo, Polo and Punto respectively but drive them hard enough and this will drop to the 7-8kmpl mark on each. Averaging 10-11kmpl is realistic though. Prices as I’ve mentioned earlier draw a thicker competitive divide between the three.

 

At ex-showroom Delhi, the  Figo costs just Rs 6.92 lakh, the Polo is priced at Rs 8.58 lakh while the Punto pinches the most with its Rs 9.95 lakh tag. 

 

 

Abarth Punto in action

 

 

 

Verdict

Abarth Punto rating_4.0_rating

Volkswagen Polo TSI rating_4.0_rating

Ford Figo 1.5 rating_3.5_rating

 

You will not be confused in your buying decision here. On a tight budget with the need of an easy commuter that lets you have your fun every once in a while, the Figo has got to be your pick. The Polo GT TSI stretches it for a more rounded car. It’s the best car to live with, be it for easy driving or a fast run down a country road. It’s the most comfortable and desirable car here by a fair margin. The Abarth Punto is a commitment. It asks as much as it gives – the tolerance to live with the bad ergonomics, cheap interior and the rubbery gearbox will anger you for the price you pay. But give it that open winding road and you will feel alive and in love with motoring again, because it’s the truest hot hatchback here. The Abarth Punto wants to be driven fast and hard all the time. It connects with the driver in you. 

 

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