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Fiat Punto Evo vs Volkswagen New Polo vs Maruti Suzuki Swift vs Nissan Micra: Diesel review


We compare the new Punto Evo against the new Polo, the Micra and the Swift to find out which is the best diesel hatch

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Punto Evo vs New Polo vs Swift vs Micra

 

Meet the cars which must succeed if their respective makers have any hope of playing the numbers game in India. Of course, the Maruti Suzuki Swift isn’t one of them; it is, in fact, what every hatchback wants to be – popular, well priced, fun to drive and fuel efficient. It is the benchmark in more ways than one, and therefore its presence in this test was non-negotiable.

 

As for the others, we have the recently launched new Fiat Punto Evo and the updated Volkswagen New Polo (yes that’s what it is called). We have also brought the Nissan Micra along because the new Nissan boss for India and Asian operations is bullish about Indian operations and believes the success of the Micra is key to his ambitions. So how do they compare? And which car should you bet your money on?

 

Punto Evo vs New Polo vs Swift vs Micra

 

Exterior Design / Styling

We believe the new Punto Evo is the best looking car here. For many, the chrome highlights, the excessive detailing and the tall stance might not work, but when parked next to the other three, the Punto Evo stands out. And in a good way. This isn’t an all new model so it sits on the same wheelbase and track lengths as the older Punto, and has the ground clearance as well. So, there’s nothing new mechanically. But, it has a lot of ‘new’ otherwise. Alloy wheels, headlamps, front grille, bumpers, tail lamps, and the new Punto Evo badging. Overall, this is a handsome car with style being one of its strongest selling point.

 

The new Volkswagen Polo is a fine-looking car too and has recently been updated as well with new bezel design for the headlamps, a new bumper and like the Punto, more chrome as well. It has a slightly longer wheelbase too – or at least that’s what VW claims in its specs, and fatter tyres. More importantly, it has a new engine; and a game changing one at that. But more about the drivetrain in a bit…

 

Nissan Micra meanwhile isn’t a cutesy car anymore courtesy the mid-life facelift it received last year. But, it has more chrome (no surprises there), and overall looks more palatable. It isn’t as smartly turned out as the Polo nor is it as flamboyant as the Fiat, but it has its own special road presence that can’t be discounted. As for the Swift, well, it’s there everywhere and so we have now come to accept the styling. But, yes, standing next to the other three, it has started to look dated.

Exterior Styling / Design

Fiat Punto Evo: 4.5

Maruti Suzuki Swift: 3

Nissan Micra: 3.5

Volkswagen Polo: 4

 

Punto Evo vs New Polo interior

 

Interior & Space

The most popular car in this group is also the least spacious. The Maruti Suzuki Swift has the least shoulder and head room among the four cars here and by far the smallest boot. As for the other three, the space is more or less comparable, especially at the rear. And all three have reasonably large boots for this class of car.

 

The difference is starker when it comes to the design of the interior. The Punto has the best looking interiors; the Polo, the best built and finished insides; and the Micra, the most practical cabin. The Punto’s new layered dash along with new texture for the plastic, not to mention, better finish (like the gloss black on the central console) and the fashionable instrumentation, makes it a visual treat. But, it can still be better put together and the matte black plastic used on the doors and the lower half of the dash could be less-cheap looking. The Punto needs better stowage spaces to. And with just one odd shaped cup holder, more cup holders too. The Punto Evo is clearly more about form than function.

 

At the other end of that thread is the champion of the function-leads-form philosophy, the Nissan Micra. When it comes to convenience, the Micra’s cabin has it all. It has usable cup and bottle holders, twin gloveboxes and door pockets that can hold more than just a few toll receipts, or your wallet. Unfortunately, this love for practicality reflects in its interior design too. So, the Micra instead of feeling young and vibrant on the inside, looks boring and well…old. It also has the worst seats in this test with no real thigh support to speak of and just average side and back support.

 

The Volkswagen Polo meanwhile has the best seats in the house. These are well bolstered, well angled and well… very comfortable, both front and back. The Polo’s cabin is also the best built and even though it isn’t as practical as the Micra’s, it’s ergonomically sound. The inside of the cabin isn’t well styled though; it isn’t utilitarian, but it lacks pizzazz and cheerfulness, which surprisingly, the oldest car here still has. The Swift. Yes, the Swift’s insides are still nice to look at and are better finished than both the Micra and the Punto.

Interior & Space

Fiat Punto Evo: 3

Maruti Suzuki Swift: 3.5

Nissan Micra: 3

Volkswagen Polo: 4

 

 

Equipment & features

Swift vs Micra interior

 

All four cars here are in their top of the line trims - Sport for the Punto Evo; XV P for the Micra; Highline for the Polo; and ZDI for the Swift. And it is the ZDI that is the worst specced in terms of equipment. It has climate control, a multi-functional steering wheel, a stereo system, driver seat with height adjust, rear wash and wipe, fog lamps and alloy wheels; but then, so do the others. But the others pack in more stuff. 

 

The Polo for instance gets rear parking sensors, fog lamps with cornering function and a more comprehensive trip computer; the Punto has ambient lighting, rear AC vents and a more comprehensive trip computer; and the Micra is the only car here to get keyless entry and start, and four airbags instead of two. And, yes, it too gets a comprehensive trip computer. Lest we forget, our latter three come with Bluetooth telephony as well, which our sales champion, the Swift, again lacks. 

Equipment & features

Fiat Punto Evo: 4

Maruti Suzuki Swift: 3

Nissan Micra: 4

Volkswagen Polo: 4

 

Punto Evo vs New Polo vs Swift vs Micra

 

Engines & Performance

The Volkswagen Polo is the clear benchmark here. Its 1.5-litre, four cylinder diesel engine makes 90PS of power but more importantly, it develops a handsome 230Nm of peak torque which none of its competitors here can match. Not surprisingly, the Polo is the quickest off the line and the most driveable of the lot. Its engine is also the quietest and the most refined, and with a nicely weighted clutch and crisp gear shifts, the Polo is the most fun to drive car here.

 

New Polo Action

 

The Maruti Suzuki Swift comes in next. It has a smaller engine with lesser power and torque ratings. The only thing more the Swift’s engine offers over the Polo’s, is turbo lag! Actually, the lag on the Swift is more pronounced than any other car on test here which makes driving the Maruti a – waiting… followed by HOLD ON! – sort of experience. It doesn’t feel natural, but once you learn to keep the engine in the right rpm range, the Swift is pretty brisk. And like the Polo, the clutch and gear shifts setup make this a fun to drive car as well.

 

Punto Evo Action

 

A bigger engine doesn’t necessarily mean higher power. And a higher power output doesn’t necessarily mean a quicker drive. The Nissan Micra and the Fiat Punto Evo are examples of such duplicity. The Micra has a 1.5-litre engine but at 69PS it is the least powerful. The Punto has a 93PS, 1.3-litre engine, the most powerful here, but in the real world, it’s slower that both the Polo and the Swift and in fact feels more sluggish to drive than the Micra even. As far as noise is concerned, apart from the Polo, no other car here can be termed as quiet.

Engines & Performance

Fiat Punto Evo: 3

Maruti Suzuki Swift: 3.5

Nissan Micra: 3

Volkswagen Polo: 4.5

 

Swift Action

 

Ride & Ease of driving

The Polo and the Punto lead when it comes to comfortable ride characteristics. Both cars are well damped and handle the undulations at speed, and broken roads and bumps at slower speeds without transmitting rude shocks to the passengers. The suspension on both cars work quietly and without vibes as well. However, between the two, even though the Volkswagen has the heavier clutch, its lighter steering, better seating and pedal positioning and better rearward visibility, not to mention reverse parking sensors make the Volkswagen Polo an easier car to drive and live with overall.

 

Micra Action

 

Our pick when it comes to ease of driving in particular though, is the Nissan Micra. It has the best all round visibility, light operation for both the clutch and the steering and it rides well at slower speeds too. As for the Swift, it might not be as comfortable at slower speeds as the Micra or as settled as the Polo at higher speeds, but its overall ergonomics and the lack of effort involved in driving it, puts it above the Punto and at the same level as the Polo. 

Ride & Ease of driving

Fiat Punto Evo: 3

Maruti Suzuki Swift: 3.5

Nissan Micra: 4

Volkswagen Polo: 3.5

 

Punto Evo vs New Polo vs Swift vs Micra

 

Handling & Braking

The Volkswagen Polo was and remains a well sorted car dynamically. It steers well, doesn’t roll around much and because is handles quick direction changes so well, it’s an enjoyable car to drive enthusiastically. As was the case with the ride quality, the Punto matches the Polo step for step when it comes to handling prowess. And both cars behave well under braking too.

 

The Swift is fun to drive too; eager at turn in, light footed during direction changes, and predictable at the limit. But after the Polo and the Punto, it feels a tad nervous especially around off camber corners. It also doesn’t feel as settled on a less than perfect road and just doesn’t have the poise of the Polo in a straight line at speed. The Micra brings up the rear here. It’s an inert car to drive and is best avoided for enthusiastic driving antics. 

Handling & Braking

Fiat Punto Evo: 4

Maruti Suzuki Swift: 3.5

Nissan Micra: 3

Volkswagen Polo: 4.5

 

Punto Evo vs New Polo vs Swift vs Micra

 

Price & Fuel Efficiency

The Swift is the most affordable car at Rs 8.2 lakh on-road in Mumbai. The new Fiat Punto Evo comes in next priced at Rs 8.6 lakh. The New Polo and the Micra command the highest price both costing Rs 8.8 lakh. As far as fuel efficiency is concerned, the Micra is the most fuel efficient here followed closely by the Swift. The car’s ARAI figures stand at over 23kmpl with the Swift close on its heels at 22.9. Coming in a distant third and fourth are the Punto at 20.5 and the Polo at 20.1kmpl.

Price & Fuel Efficiency

Fiat Punto Evo: 3

Maruti Suzuki Swift: 4

Nissan Micra: 4

Volkswagen Polo: 3

 

New polo Rear Action

 

Verdict

The Volkswagen Polo might be the most expensive (along with the Micra) – and in a way the least fuel efficient (ever so slightly) – in this test but its solid build quality, its class leading dynamics and that lovely engine and gearbox combo make it THE car to have in this class. It isn’t short on comfort or equipment either and is an easy car to live with too. It is our winner and as you can tell, for good reason.

 

 

Micra Rear Action

 

 

The Micra and Punto finish a joint second. The Nissan has a lot going for it (besides price maybe) including spacious and practical interiors, and as a city car, it works very well indeed; light to drive, good visibility and easy ingress/egress. But, it’s not a fun car. And it falls short on the dynamic and emotional fronts. The Punto on the other hand has all the emotional connect a car maker can hope for. No wonder the car still draws interest even though it hasn’t rocked the sales box office, ever. It also has a lovely interior, good equipment list and sorted dynamics. 

 

 

Punto Evo Rear Action

 

 

The Swift brings up the rear even though it is fun to drive, has a good engine and gearbox combo and a nice workable steering. But, it lacks space and features; it lacks newness; and for all that the engine packs in, the noise and the turbo lag can get bothersome at times. But mostly, the fact that the Swift now fails to excel at anything, is what keeps it down in this test.

 

Swift Rear Action

 

Verdict

Fiat Punto Evo: 3.5

Maruti Suzuki Swift: 3

Nissan Micra: 3.5

Volkswagen Polo: 4

Recommended Variant : Swift Vxi (O)