Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Hot Hatches: Figo & Brio

This is a tale of two hot hatches of the season.

The first is the one which took the market by surprise, the response was beyond what the manufacturer expected. Yep, we’re talking about the Ford Figo. I was curious to find out the reason for this success and hence headed to the Ford dealership to check out the 1.2L petrol.

What I found out was that it was not the fastest hatch, nor is it the largest. Yet it is definitely the most balanced car I’ve driven in a while. The power is just fine, the cabin space is quite generous, it has its own lovely features, has a pleasing exterior (don’t even remind me of those hideous toad like creatures called the Ritz & the Swift) and most importantly- it is offered at a good price.
The best part is the ride quality and handling. Yes!! We get the legendary Ford hydraulic steering system which gives excellent feedback. The suspension eats up the potholes easily and the car remains stable even at extreme turns. After getting chummy with the showroom guy and getting his permission to push the car, I did an aggressive U-turn at around 30-40 kmph. Any other car, and our dear Shubham would have featured in tomorrow’s obituary column. But the Ford made it just fine. The motor provides a flattish torque and though it doesn’t break any records on the track, it serves well in the city.

The second hot hatch for the day was the Honda Brio. Here is a product that has immense potential but there are great challenges to face. For starters, Honda did not fully localize its assembly . 20% of its parts are imported. With the earthquake in Japan and recent floods in Thailand, Honda’s landed in deep trouble. They just haven’t been able to assemble enough Brios and the Jazz'.

On the greener side, you’ve finally got a Honda that’s affordable without compromising on quality or performance. The finish is superb and even the base model comes pretty well loaded (Decent interioirs, front power windows n all). The engine is what you expect from Honda: smooth; silent; yet peppy; rev-happy & frugal. It is definitely fun to drive around in the city and it felt at ease when I revved it to the redline in gear two. The economy indicator is a great buddy to help you squeeze out more miles from that drop of petrol.

This is great car for a couple: you know the newly married, carefree types.. Add to that a kid or two or parents/in laws or even visitors- and then you have a problem. For the Brio’s fundamental problem is space. The boot does not open, you have to manage with the glass lid (remember the very first Maruti 800??). Rear leg space is tight and I wonder what you would do if there were four people and two large suitcases. The thought of such occupancy levels in a Brio seems grotesque. So if you are a Brio owner who has a couple of visitors occasionally; like most Indians do, God help you.

There is no winner here for you’d own these cars for different purposes entirely. As I said, the family man would love the spacious, feature heavy & economical Figo. The mod city dweller would like to be seen alone (or with his/her spouse/ gf/ bf) in the trendy Brio. He/She can enjoy the quality, dependable Honda engineering, peppy ride and of course: the fuel economy.. 

If you were to ask me the question: Where do I recommend you to plonk your sacks of money? My answer still is: i-10. For I still crown it as the most sensible car in the segment.


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