Which small hatchback should I buy?

Today buyers are very confused with all the choices they have and I am constantly told, “Cut out the details… just tell me what is the best car I should buy”. It is a tough question because all new cars are pretty good and are offered at competitive prices. The engines have improved so much during the past few years that all of them are very reliable. They have also become so fuel efficient that fuel consumption is seldom a question that buyers ask. So buyers are basically concerned with the acceleration, performance, ride and handling of the car, its styling and the space and the features for comfort, entertainment and convenience. Safety should be important, but buyers seldom think of safety when they buy a car.

The cheapest hatchback is the Tata Nano but most buyers now want something more sophisticated. Other good choices among the smallest cars are the Renault Kwid, Maruti Suzuki Alto, Celerio and Wagon R, Hyundai Eon, Honda Brio and Tata Tiago.

The 1000 cc petrol-powered Renault Kwid offers smart pseudo-SUV styling and has surprising inner space and boot space for such a small car. It also offers touchscreen with navigation and decent ride quality. On the downside however is its rather dull interior.

The 1000 cc petrol Maruti Suzuki Alto K10 is slightly more expensive, with a peppy engine that is easy to drive.

Despite a dated design and slightly cramped inner space, it offers an automatic AMT gearbox for ease of driving. There is a cheaper 800 cc model too but it is rather underpowered. All Maruti cars however have good resale value.

Maruti Suzuki also offers a very cute and funky 1200 cc petrol Ignis that looks a bit like a toy from a Noddy book and also sports an automatic AMT version. It is quite spacious, fun to drive and very distinctive looking.

The 1000 cc petrol Hyundai Eon has stylish exteriors, good space and a feeling of quality. It is however a bit expensive and sluggish on the roads.

The 1200 cc Honda Brio has a cute and rather quirky styling, good interiors and a peppy engine. It offers limited accessories and has a firm ride that is good for cornering but not so comfortable. The boot with a huge rear glass cover is also rather small.

In the 1200 cc range is the stylish new Tata Tiago that offers many very good features at the most competitive price. The interiors are excellent as is the ride and handling.

There is also the old 1000 cc Maruti Suzuki Wagon R that is actually a utility vehicle with many qualities of a hatchback. It may score badly in styling but is a very practical vehicle with unbeatable inner space.

Overall the latest is usually the best and as Tata Motors are determined to refurbish a rather dented image they have

ensured that the Tiago comes with good engines, ride and comfort and is packed with the most features at a very competitive price. It also scores very well on styling. Don’t make the mistake of buying cheap. Pay a bit more than you can afford so that your car keeps up with your growing aspirations.

The Tiago is my car of choice but you must choose for yourself. After making a short list of your preferences, test drive them to decide which car suits you best.

The author is the region’s most celebrated automobile columnist.