Hatchbacks are quite popular among people due to their compact size and affordable price. This makes them very attractive as first cars and also as city cars due to their compactness. In India, hatchbacks have been seen as budget buys and usually miss out on key features because of this perception. This has been changing recently as manufacturers look to offer a more premium experience in the same compact dimensions and a slightly higher, but still affordable price. This is the Premium Hatchback or B-Segment.
Maruti Suzuki Swift:
The Swift is Maruti’s most popular model in the B-Segment and even as the manufacturer launches the Baleno and the S-Cross in this segment, the Swift still manages to trump them. Maruti Suzuki launched the first generation of Swift in 2005 and the car has gone through revisions through the 11 years of its life. In 2014, the facelifted Swift arrived, updating Maruti’s B-Segment challenger to take on the new competition.
Exterior and Interior:
The Maruti Suzuki Swift has retained its general style and design but has become more sportier with the facelift. The sharp contours of the Swift make the car a lot more edgier and look a little less boxy than its predecessor. The Swift’s sporty presence is amplified with its black tinted headlights, sweeping head and tail lights, and sporty alloy wheels.
Maruti has kept the Swift’s interiors simple with the all-black dashboard and upholstery which looks a little blunt but is quite sporty nonetheless. The latest variants come with integrated entertainment systems as standard, while the higher variants receive features such as Start-Stop button, SRS Airbags, and automatic climate control.
Under the hood is the revised four cylinder 1.2 litre petrol engine which gives it a marginally lower power output than the previous Swift, 83.1 brake-horsepower. The diesel variant of the Maruti Suzuki Swift gets the same 1.3 Fiat sourced engine and gives a substantial, 10 percent boost in the fuel economy (25.2 kmpl). The petrol variant of the car also sees a significant jump in the fuel efficiency, which gives it a mileage of 20.5 kmpl. Maruti Suzuki Swift has always been a tough cookie and has been a treat to driving enthusiasts and it still remains to do so with its easy and low maintenance cost, which in turn is hassle free. The spare parts of this car are readily available and since it comes with the reliability of being a Maruti, one can obviously count on it. The Swift definitely performs well as a daily driver.
One thing Maruti knows well, is the price positioning of their products. The Swift, brand new, starts at a reasonable 5.10 lakhs on-road for the petrol LXi variant and goes up to 7.04 lakhs for the feature rich petrol ZXi variant. The demand for the Swift in the used car market is quite high and so is the supply, so the average price of Maruti Suzuki Swifts, especially on Spinny, is about 4.50 lakhs for the VXi variant with the previous gen Swift available from 2.50 lakhs.
Volkswagen started its operations in India by launching the Passat and Jetta, both part of the higher D-Segment. While bring great cars, Volkswagen couldn’t make an impact on the market. However, in 2009, Volkswagen finally cracked the Indian market with the launch of the Polo, a car of great repute, class, and history. The German manufacturer offered the Indian consumer exceptional build quality, respectable fuel economy, and practical style. The Indian consumer loved it and Volkswagen has commanded a respectable market share in the crowded B-Segment.
Exterior and Interior:
German cars have always been keen on giving the driver the complete credibility and to a great extent, luxury and assurance. Polo belongs to this same breed. The car is rock solid and sports a very firm stance that can be felt both inside and outside the car. Volkswagen has gone for understated aggression with the Polo. The front features sharp edges on the bumper and the headlights exude a confident look for the car.
The Polo, like any German car, doesn’t go for extravagance on the interiors and keeps things clutter-free and well placed. The materials used for the upholstery are top notch and are solid which means that you don’t get that creaking sound while driving the car. Polo is entitled as the safest hatchback which is available in India with a 4 star NCAP rating coupled with safety airbags and ABS. Polo has been one of the top contenders in this market and in spite of coming to India at such a late stage it has managed to create its own dominance, Polo is truly what Germans like to say, ein Spiel-Wechsler.
The Volkswagen Polo comes with a capable 1.2 litre engine which produces 75 bhp, but good guy Volkswagen went a bit further for petrosexuals and offers a variant powered by a turbocharged 1.2 TSI engine under the hood which pumps out 105 bhp and 175 Nm of torque with such sheer power being harnessed by the 7-speed DSG gearbox. The diesel variant comes in two trims, one with the base specs which produces a power output of 90 bhp and 230 Nm of torque while the second, top GT TDI trim which produces a whooping 105 bhp and 250 Nm of torque. The mileage of Polo is not overwhelming but it does cut you some slack when it comes to visiting the petrol pumps. The 1.2 litre variant gives an Automotive Research Association of India rated mileage of 16.47 kmpl, the 1.2 GT TSI dons a badge for giving a mileage of 17.21 kmpl, the GT TDI giving a 19.91 kmpl and the 1.5 litre diesel variant giving a mileage of 20.14 kmpl.
As a new car, the Volkswagen Polo is a more expensive purchase than the Swift. The base variant petrol Trendline variant comes in at 5.87 lakhs while the loaded Highline variant available for 7.73 lakhs and the high performance GT TSI for 9.97 lakhs. The new prices encroach into the prices for sedans but in the used car market as well as on Spinny, the Polo starts from 2.5 lakhs and the GT TSI variant comes in at 5.50 lakhs, making hot hatch performance affordable.
Honda’s Jazz was the first to define the ‘premium’ tag when they launched their premium hatchback. However, people weren’t very receptive to rather premium price tag they were asking for it. Nonetheless, people who committed to the Jazz were treated to a host of features that they wouldn’t have normally got in the mainstream hatchbacks.
Exterior and Interior:
The Jazz has all the characteristic traits that you would expect from a Honda: great looks, unparalleled performance, spacious interiors and the dependability of a Honda. Honda has sculpted the Jazz in a manner that makes no attempts to hide its rather spacious interior dimension. The car is adorned with large windows all around, that further accentuates the Jazz’s roomy cabin.
From the inside the Jazz looks unconventional with a plethora of asymmetrical cuts that make it unique but aren’t up to the fit and finish of the Hyundai’s. Having said that, Jazz is very well equipped, the central console of the top VX trim is an infotainment system and the overall skeleton of the console is pleasing to the eyes. The car is robust and it is pretty solid from the inside. The leg space in the Jazz seems to be more than adequate and is brilliantly spaced. Overall, the car is well constructed to have immense space and give the passengers a whole lot of comfort. When it comes to safety, Jazz comes with ABS with EBD and two safety airbags as well as rear parking sensors.
The diesel variant of this car borrows the same 1.5 litre i-DTEC engine from the City, completely made out of aluminium which makes it much lighter than its competitors. The petrol variant retains the same 1.2 litre i-VTEC engine with five speed manual. The Jazz’s relatively light weight has a big role to play on its fuel consumption. In city driving, the petrol delivers 12.3 kmpl and on the highway the Jazz manages to provide an impressive 16.9 kmpl. The diesel variant gives a mileage of 14.4 kmpl in the city and 19.8 kmpl on the highway. The diesel 1.5 litre engine delivers a power output of 100 BHP and the petrol variant providing 90 BHP. The Jazz is worthy of that extra chunk of money and stands out of the league and creates its own.
The Honda Jazz surely jazzes up consumers with its price. Buying the hatchback new would cost 5.97 lakhs for the base variant and goes up to 8.34 lakhs. This puts the Jazz into a similar situation as the Polo. As a used car, the Jazz becomes extremely attractive with prices starting at 2.50 lakhs and going no higher than 3.50-3.70 lakhs on Spinny.
Hyundai i20 Elite:
Hyundai’s dark horse, now with a sophisticated suffix, is the cream of the crop in the premium hatchback segment and it definitely justifies its namesake. The i20 Elite has proven to be quite successful for Hyundai for a number of reasons. First, Hyundai’s reliability is matched only by Maruti and the car, to is a match for Maruti’s popular Swift. The i20 Elite is also new from the ground up. The platform is a newly developed chassis that is significantly different from the previous i20 and barely shares anything with the car that it replaces other than the same 1.2 litre petrol and 1.4 diesel engines.
Exterior and Interior:
As usual, the i20 Elite follows the fluidic design language, with the car getting Hyundai’s ‘Fluidic Design 2.0’ and the honeycomb styled grille makes it look much more firm, and European. Hyundai has shifted the i20’s design towards a more aggressive stance. Boot space has always been i20’s domain is down by 10 litres from its predecessor but still remains ample.
Greeting the driver are carefully laid out buttons with the display at its epicenter with plush dual tone interiors. Usage of silver trims is prominent but doesn’t breach the saturation level and the car’s interiors get a very soothing appeal to it. The rear seat scores well in legroom and also provide adequate thigh support and don’t give the passengers the sense of being cramped.
Under the hood are the same engines from the previous generation i20 with some subtle tweaks. The 1.4 diesel variant produces 89 bhp which is channelized by the six-speed manual gearbox. The car is easily the most refined specimen in the segment. Meanwhile, the 1.2 litre petrol engine belts out 82 bhp and is very responsive at lower speeds. Efficiency is something that can either make or break a car in a country like India. Luckily for the i20, it doesn’t have to worry about that since both the engines manage to squeeze out some respectable numbers. The petrol variant gives a mileage of 11.5 and 15.2 kmpl in the city and on the highway respectively. The diesel variant has a fuel efficiency of 13.8 kmpl in the city and 19.5 kmpl on the highway. Hyundai also has a well-established after-sales network and genuine spare parts are readily available. Hyundai Elite i20 is built to match up with the test of time and is capable enough to endure the consequences of long term usage, if provided meticulous care and timely servicing.
The Elite i20 does command an elite price, being the most expensive of the lot, when bought new. The base Era variant costs 6.02 lakhs and climbs to 8.41 lakhs for the top Asta (Optional) variant. Used Hyundai Elite i20s are priced much better but due to the model being fairly new, on Spinny, prices start from 5.40 lakh.
These leading premium segment hatchbacks do command a hefty premium as new cars, competing directly with similarly specced sedans. However, these cars have a high demand on the used car market and their prices become equivalent to new budget hatchbacks. In our books, that is a deal too good to ignore.