A few years ago buying an entry level car meant that you had to choose between low running costs, fuel economy and cabin space. However, times are changing and people are buying these cars more for style as well as features as well. The Datsun Redigo, Renault Kwid and Maruti Alto are three of the best examples of this new buyer philosophy. But which one is the best bargain basement and which one excels in more areas than one? We find out here.
All three cars have very distinctive personalities on the outside. The Alto visibly looks the most compact. It is also the oldest of the three here and even though Maruti has tried to spruce up the styling over the years, it looks a bit old now. The Datsun is the youngest of the lot and with its quirky tall boy design manages to draw plenty of attention. It looks distinctive from any car on the road. That said, the styling is too similar to other Datsun family members like the Go and Go Plus. The Kwid with its mini-SUV looks will wow you the most. The square shaped wheel arches and big grille up ahead give it plenty of personality. It also looks bigger than both other rivals here, which for many buyers will be reason alone to buy this car.
The Alto’s cabin is the narrowest, and this shows as soon as you enter. It is also lower than the other two, which means that you have to crouch and enter the car rather than walk into it. Seat cushioning is decent on the Alto. The rear seats offer decent legroom thanks to the scooped out backrests of the front seats. Headroom is decent too inside the Alto but having three in the rear will be a tough call. The Alto is the only one here which comes with internally adjustable mirrors- a boon on a rainy day.
The Kwid offer very good cushioning for the seats, with very good support all across. The seats on the Kwid are the best here. That said, the rear lacks the same amount of legroom that the Redigo offers, especially considering that the car looks the largest from the outside. Renault has however carved out a mammoth 300-litre boot, which is not only the largest here but even larger than the Hyundai i20’s 285-litre capacity. The highlight of the cabin remains the touchscreen, which houses the GPS maps as well.
Datsun engineers have designed the RediGo more for form rather than style and it shows. There are plenty of cubbyholes inside the cabin to keep your odds and ends but the design lacks flair. Unlike the Kwid’s cabin which has a digital gauge, the RediGo uses old school gauges. The seats are flat and offer just about adequate cushioning but legroom and shoulder room is excellent in both rows. This is the roomiest car in this test.
Engine, performance and gearbox
All cars come with a 800cc engine but it’s the Alto which feels the best to drive. Not only is it a more refined unit than the other two but it also feels a lot livelier. The alto responds to throttle inputs better than the others, which means it’s a better car to drive around town. The gearbox is also a crisp unit with positive shift pattern and a very slick operation. Acceleration is brisk too.
The Kwid’s motor in comparison doesn’t have the same refinement and starts feeling very buzzy inside the cabin when the revs mount. Though vibration levels are always under control, you will always hear the buzzy engine inside. The car also needs plenty of revs before it gets going. The Kwid also has a tendency to stall when the revs are low in first gear. The gearbox is also a rubbery unit, and though the throws aren’t long it does need a heavy hand to shift.
The Datsun in comparison has a light gearbox and a super light clutch as well. That said, the engine is slightly better than the one on the Kwid(its shared with Renault) both in terms of refinement as well as overall responsiveness. The RediGo is lighter as well which means that it feels a lot more nimble around town and agility is good too.
Ride and handling
The Alto is again top class in this department as well. The steering offers good communication and a crisp feeling, which makes it a relatively engaging car to drive. Body roll is also under control and the car has good ride comfort as well. High speed stability is decent too with only very bad crevices entering the cabin.
The Kwid has good balance between high and slow speed ride. It feels comfortable for the most part even on the worst roads. That said, the steering on the Kwid is very lifeless, and devoid of much feel. It’s a good car to park into tight spaces but not a good car for anyone who calls himself a keen driver.
The Datsun’s steering wheel is the softest here and can actually be operated with one finger only. Just like the Kwid even the RediGo has a lifelessness about the steering, making it a good car to punt around traffic or park into a tight space. The soft suspension though good for the city doesn’t inspire confidence on the highway.
The Alto is the best car for anyone who enjoys driving and gives driving pleasure more importance than anything else. That said, the RediGo is the one to go for if you want the biggest cabin. Overall, it is the Kwid, which comes across as the best all-rounder offering a decent cabin, good features and a large boot as well. It feels like a bargain for the asking price.