Hill and mountain roads are more associated with SUVs but there are a few smaller hatchbacks that are equally capable. We take a look at some of them.
India was never known for beautiful roads, smooth tarmac or flat terrain. Although the quality and design of road construction is constantly improving, many roads are still on the radar of the authorities and it will take their own time to realize the dire need of repair. Thankfully, modern cars are becoming stronger, more durable and much easier to drive than their previous iterations. With each new generation, the cars are getting bigger and bigger due to the stringent safety norms and inclusion of features. So, there are some hilly areas which still cannot accommodate a mid-sized SUV or even a sedan for that matter. The small and agile hatchback still remains a top choice for such roads. So here are the hatchbacks that can perform well in mountainous terrain.
Brand new options:
Maruti Alto- This is one of the most basic cars in India with the lowest horsepower. But, the compact dimensions and lightness make it a very agile car in the mountains. The 796cc MPFI motor that has been doing duty in 800 and Omni for more than 20 years is proven and bulletproof with an annual maintenance schedule. Although it may look small from the outside, it has solidly built mechanics that don’t fail too easily. It is the most trusted and best selling car in India right now.
- Maruti S-Presso – It is actually the same proven formula of the old Alto with a modified body style to make it stand taller in the hatchback by looks and ground clearance. The car has not really been appreciated in the styling department but if you look at it, it is not a bad looking package in the segment. In fact, it is a very practical upgrade from the Alto K10 by Maruti Suzuki. It gets higher ground clearance to tackle the hills with even more excitement and also gets the option of an automatic. You can’t go wrong with this.
- Tata Tiago NRG – Altos are really common in mountainous areas. What if you want to upgrade and don’t want to buy an Alto again? The Tiago is already a successful product with good quality and has really good build quality. It gives you more space, features, comfort and new age design which the Alto lacks. The NRG gets higher ground clearance and plastic cladding all around which will keep the car safe in harsh road conditions. It will be an easier affair to maintain cosmetically as the plastic cladding is cheaper to replace than the entire bumper.
- Ford Freestyle – Ford India has been out of India overnight which was a surprise to many. Even so, the resale value of their cars would soon drop. But the cars they made were really tough. The Figo Freestyle gets a healthy 1.5 CRDi engine making 98 Bhp and 215 Nm of torque. The engine was tractable and had excellent power delivery along with great suspension. The Freestyle was essentially a Figo with increased ground clearance and plastic cladding all around which made it similar in concept to the Tiago NRG. You get a powerful car, which is priced very low, with 6 airbags in the top trim and 190 mm of ground clearance. Ford has given up, even though spare parts won’t be a problem because the products are still new.
- VW Cross Polo 1.5 TDI – The Polo was introduced and sold with a 1.2 TDI engine producing 75 bhp. But VW introduced a new 1.5 TDI motor in the Polo that produces 90 bhp and 230 Nm of torque. What goes unnoticed is that the same motor was available for a while with the Cross Polo. This made it a very capable car. With excellent drive quality, strong suspension and a powerful engine, this is a great package in the used car market. But buying a used VW requires a lot of caution. Once that code is cracked, the car can last a lifetime on the roughest terrains and roads.
- Hyundai i20 Active – If one doesn’t want the European option and wants to play safe, this is a good Korean option. The i20 Active was available with a diesel option and was well engineered with a high degree of refinement levels. It was a well equipped and beautiful looking hatchback packed with practicality. Again, the 1.4L 89 bhp CRDi motor is a proven engine that offers a good balance between power and fuel economy. And Korean cars are popular for low speed ride quality and light driving controls which will be a boon in mountainous areas.
To conclude the same, there are many other cross-hatchbacks that have come and gone and some are still on sale. But the best of all is a balance. Whatever options we get in future, it will be tough to get a replacement for the Maruti Alto and S-Presso as the basic engineering elements are flawless and these cars are very zippy at low speeds. And that’s what you need in mountainous areas.
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