I don’t normally need an alarm clock on Sunday morning. I’m normally awakened by the howl of supercars, the blare of Yoshimuras and the crackle and pop of Akrapovics. Then come the loud Bullets and KTMs, and by the time I’ve taken my first sip of coffee, the hogs go by, and shake the foundation. Ah, the joys of running with the pack. But where are the affordable enthusiast cars? While bikers have plenty of semi-affordable fun metal to choose from, the same can’t be said about cars. We literally have nothing. Skoda’s Octavia RS is sold out, BMW has no straight six under the hood of a 3 Series. Even the Abarth Punto is gone. Where are the fun cars that have the power to delight enthusiasts; the real ‘influencers’, the ones that take regular brands and turn them into heroes. So here’s a sort of wish list.
So who’s first? Come on up Hyundai, someone who has never given us anything sporty in the past. Today, however, Hyundai has its new sporty N (or Namyang) brand, a WRC manufacturer’s title under its belt and a burning need to spread the N word. With the new i20 around the corner and the 200hp N already teased, this is the car that could give Hyundai a big leg up when it comes to India. Hyundai is considering a lower spec 1.4 turbo model with around 140hp, but the 200hp is the right way to go.
Up next, VW’s pioneering Golf GTI. Why VW has tried almost every single import it can lay its hands on and not brought us its world champion brand-builder, I’ll never know. It won’t come this year – VW’s 2,500 car import quota is exhausted – but come 2021, this 245hp hatch is precisely the model the company needs to make car nuts go ‘wow Volkswagen’. It isn’t just the engine, it’s the whole package, the sharp go-kart like handling, the light but quick steering, the quality interior, the look of the car . . . . even love those tartan seats. And now, with the Octavia RS selling well at Rs 36 lakh, what’s the hold up?
Anyone remember the brilliant gen-one Swift with the super steering and ability to dart into just about any corner? Well, today’s Swift isn’t a patch on it. It still shines when you drive it hard and the potential for more is clearly there, so how about a 1.5 K-series unit under the hood? It makes 105hp; another 20hp, and with a stiffer Baleno RS-like suspension and Swift Sport body kit, this could morph into a fun car. Yes the small car tax sops would be gone with the 1.5 petrol and that would mean it would be a bit expensive, but it could just transform the car and the Swift brand too.
Ford is the company that arguably makes the best affordable driver’s cars. The Fiesta S was special and today’s Figo and Freestyle are still best in class in this regard. But with the Mahindra JV on, Ford needs a brand-builder, one a bit lower down from the Mustang. So how about the Focus ST, a Golf GTI rival, one with 280hp and sportscar-like trick handling from its e-LSD equipped front-wheel-drive chassis. Want to drive the Ford-equals- fun-to-drive equation into people’s heads? Then this is the import the blue oval needs.
Turbocharged petrol cars for under Rs 10 lakh