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Four wheeled wonders

Rub elbows with the Figo, Swift, Ritz and Vista as they battle it out for the top spot in a clash of the hatches.

autos Updated: Apr 14, 2010 14:40 IST

Rub elbows with the Figo, Swift, Ritz and Vista as they battle it out for the top spot in a clash of the hatches.

The Figo’s dashboard design is very similar in looks to the bigger Fiesta saloon. There is loads of legroom up front, even for six-footers. The front seats with their good under-thigh support are comfortable and visibility is excellent. In fact, thanks to the generous glass area and low window sills, the outside view is the best of the lot.

Interiors
The plastics, while not of the best quality, are hard-wearing and the switchgear has a built-to-last feel. The seat height adjust is only partial and only the back of the seat base moves up and down. The Figo comes with optional two-tone peach/ black colours on the dashboard, which is not to everyone’s tastes.

The Maruti Ritz has easily got the cheeriest cabin here. The single-pod instrument cluster looks smart and the rev counter sitting separately on the dashboard adds to the cool look; however, the tiny digital fuel gauge is difficult to read. The driving position is good and the high-set seats ensure good front visibility. All controls fall to hand easily and you’ll like the positioning of the gearshift high on the centre console. There aren’t height-adjustable seats and tilt steering either but most drivers won’t find reason to complain. The seats are comfortable and driving this hatch in the city is easy thanks to the compact dimensions and high-set seats. The plastic quality is the best of this group and a step ahead of its sibling, the Swift.

If you like a sporty seating position, then move over to the Swift which has the most encompassing front seats here. Most drivers will easily appreciate the position. Sadly, you don’t get tilt steering or a height-adjustable seat to improve on this further.The general quality of materials used is only bettered by sibling Ritz, though the Swift’s dark interiors can get a bit dreary after a long drive. All controls fall easily to hand but rear visibility is an issue due to the thick rear pillars and reversing into tight slots is a pain.

The Tata Indica Vista has a clear edge over its rivals when it comes to interior space. The seats are supremely comfortable and you even get lumbar adjust along with height adjust for the front seats. The Vista is also the only one with beige interiors, which go a long way in making the cabin feel more airy than it is. But it still has its problems. Though the quality levels are a major improvement on earlier Indicas, they aren’t very consistent in the cabin and the Vista still cannot match rivals for overall quality. The dashboard layout with a centre-mounted instrument cluster is unique but takes getting used to. The Vista’s driving position is good except for the very small pedal area which leaves little place to rest your left foot.

Space
Front seat space isn’t a worry for any of these cars as all four provide ample leg- and headroom and even the tallest of passengers will not feel hemmed in.

The Figo, though not great on rear legroom, is fairly spacious. The rear seats are well shaped and the long seat base gives loads of under-thigh support. The backrest is at a good angle and, despite the sloping roofline, headroom is decent. This car has a very practical cabin with ample storage space and cupholders. The only downside is that the rear passengers don’t get much storage space and also do without basic features like power windows, which is a serious oversight. The Figo has an exceptional 284-litre boot which is exceptional compared to its rivals specially the bigger-looking Vista. The Figo’s lower loading lip means it is easy to load luggage too. There’s no split rear seat though.

Like the older Indica, the Vista builds on its virtues of providing class-leading space. The airy cabin has generous amounts of legroom, headroom and shoulder-room. The wide-opening doors and high-placed seats mean it is easy to get in and out, even for older people. You’ll appreciate the comfortable seats, especially on long drives, and the car is a genuine five-seater. You get decent storage space as well but in the interest of maximising passenger space, Tata has limited boot space to only 232 litres, the same as the Swift’s, which is a major disappointment for such a large hatch.

The Swift has the least comfortable rear bench of this lot. Rear legroom is limited and with a tall person in the front, you will feel cramped. This is in no way aided by the small glass windows, which make you claustrophobic even after a short drive. The 232-litre boot isn’t that large either.

The Ritz is a clever hatch. The tall stance helps it maximise interior space. There is surplus headroom inside but legroom is limited. The high seating position doesn’t have your knees pressing into the back of the front seats. The car’s tall stance also means that it is easy to get in and out of. There are lots of useful cubbyholes that have been carved out to make it very practical. However, the 236-litre boot is oddly shaped and can’t handle much luggage. Thankfully, the rear seats split to aid practicality.

Features
In its bid to cut costs, Ford has skimped on some basic equipment on the Figo. What’s missing is steering adjust and steering-mounted audio controls but the biggest oversight is the absence of rear power windows.The Figo’s top-end Titanium variant gets safety essentials like ABS and airbags. You also get electric power mirrors, an audio system with MP3 and Bluetooth connectivity.

The Ritz and the Swift are similar. You get power windows, power steering, AC, central locking and fog lamps. ABS brakes are optional extras. The Ritz lacks a day/ night rearview mirror, which is a glaring omission. Airbags are not even an option on the car.
The Vista comes decently equipped in the Aura variant. You get the basic features and rear wash/ wipe/ defogger, tilt steering and lumbar adjust among other things on the front seats. However, there is no option of airbags.

Engine
If you liked the Fiesta TDCi, then chances are you’ll love driving the Figo diesel, because it gets the same engine. It’s the only car here that does not come with Fiat’s 1.3 Multijet diesel motor. The smooth and responsive Duratorq diesel engine sets the benchmark here for responsiveness from low engine revs, something diesels aren’t known for. Though it produces only 68 bhp of power and 16.3 kgm of torque (the least in the group), it responds to inputs from as little as 1200 rpm, which is a big boon in the city. But there is a lack of top-end performance compared to the Fiat-sourced engines. The Figo goes from zero to 100 kph in 16.3 seconds and reaches a top speed of 147 kph.

The other three cars share the same 1.3-litre Multijet engine. However, compared to the Vista, the Marutis are in a different state of tune. The Ritz engine feels very responsive and sprightly, but that’s only after you’ve pushed it above the 2000 rpm mark. Zero to 100 kph takes 15.18 seconds. Overtaking at highway speeds is easy and doesn’t often require gear changes. The Ritz’s gearbox is slick and lighter than the Swift.

Driving the Swift is similar to the Ritz but the lag below 2000 rpm isn’t as bad. However, you do have to change gears to get the best out of the engine, which limits it somewhat in heavy traffic. The slick-shifting gearbox is a joy to use. As in the Ritz, cross 2000 rpm and acceleration is strong till the redline. Zero to 100 kph comes up in 13.87 seconds and the Swift will happily hit a top speed of 160 kph.



Weighing in at 1140 kg, the Indica Vista isn’t as lightweight as the Marutis. As a result, it isn’t as quick off the block like the Swift or the Ritz. Zero to 100 kph takes 16.36 seconds and top speed is 151 kph. But it isn’t as slow as you would think. In fact, the Indica is the most driveable of the lot after the Figo and, thanks to smart gearing, it responds better than the Marutis at low speeds, a boon while driving in the city.



Even out on the highway, the Indica impresses with its overtaking ability. Gearchanges are kept to a minimum but we wish that the gearshift quality was better.

Handling
The Figo easily has the best balance between ride and handling. The suspension has the right amount of suppleness to absorb bumps without getting unsettled, and it functions silently most of the time. It feels planted at all speeds and only sharp bumps filter into the cabin. The steering is light at parking speeds but weights up nicely as speeds increase, offering good communication from the front wheels. Body control is outstanding. The Figo simply loves to be driven hard. The brakes are effective but need an extra effort on the pedal to reduce speed quickly.

The Ritz is based on the Swift platform and drives well. The suspension is on the softer side and, as a result, ride is good at slow and medium speeds. But at higher speeds, the rear does tend to bob up and down and this doesn’t inspire confidence at high speeds. The tall stance also means that body roll is evident though it is never a cause for concern. The brakes work well but the factory-fitted tyres are a bit narrow and lose grip easily. The electric steering gives decent feedback.

The Swift has always been an enjoyable car to drive. Now with its retuned and softer suspension it has lost some of its driver involvement. But ride has improved. The harsh ride of the earlier car is gone and in its place comes a suspension that’s more pliant and absorbent. But it still cannot match the ride of the Vista or the Figo. The Swift remains impressively stable around corners and steers precisely. And the brakes offer good bite.

Tata Motors has focussed on providing the Indica Vista with a comfortable ride rather than outright driver appeal, and the effort shows. Ride quality is the best of the lot. Most road undulations are taken care of with minimum disturbance to the cabin, but the soft suspension means that the handling isn’t the best.

The Indica feels nose-heavy and sloppy when cornered hard; there is visible body roll too. The steering is a bit vague around the centre position but provides decent feedback as you turn into a corner. In a nutshell, the Indica is ideal for family use with its comfortable ride over most surfaces. Those seeking driving thrills need to look elsewhere.

Refinement levels
The Figo’s 1.4-litre TDCi engine is perhaps the most refined in this group. The idle is pretty silent and the engine gets audible only when worked hard. Vibrations too are kept to a minimum. The suspension works silently for the most part. It is only over sharp bumps that you get a thudding noise and some vibrations enter the cabin.

The other cars are not that adrift as far as engine refinement is concerned. All three are relatively hushed around town and settle into a background murmur at cruising speeds on the highway. However, the Ritz suffers from wind and tyre noise as speeds increase. Body rattle is common on both Marutis.

The Indica Vista offers good refinement. The engine is quiet around town and only turns intrusive when pushed to the limit. The suspension also works quietly and the Indica is perhaps the quietest car in this lot.


Verdict

The Figo Titanium retails for a very competitive Rs 5.55 lakh. You get all the essential equipment here, including a stereo and even airbags. Fuel economy is respectable too with the TDCi motor delivering 15.4 kpl and 18.5 kpl for the city and highway cycles respectively. A standard warranty of two years or 1,00,000 km is offered. This can be extended to a total of one year and 20,000 km for Rs 5,158.

The Ritz VDi ABS can be yours for Rs 5.44 lakh. You get basic features but not much else. However, fuel economy at 15.0 kpl and 19.7 kpl for city and highway respectively is the best of the lot, which promises low-running costs. The standard warranty is limited to two years and 40,000 km and you can extend this to four years and 80,000 km by paying Rs 4,995.

The Swift VDi ABS, at Rs 5.53 lakh, is only slightly more expensive. Equipment levels are similar to the Ritz and the fuel efficiency is 14.4 kpl and 19.1 kpl. The warranty package is exactly the same as that of the Ritz.

The Indica Vista Aura is well priced at Rs 5.59 lakh. Its fuel efficiency at 13.6 kpl (city) and 16.7 kpl (highway) is quite comparable to the competition. Tata offers a standard warranty of two years or unlimited kilometres, which can be extended up to two years or 75,000 km by paying Rs 4,750. However, Tata cars aren’t the best when it comes to resale values.

Courtsey: Autocar India