If you live in a crowded city, then I am sure the thought of leaving your "well-paying" job and moving to the mountains must have crossed your mind at some point or the other. But what if, once the current ordeal (Corona) is over, you conclude that you're done with city life and that it's time for you to move away from what will again become an eternal nuisance?
What if the continual introspection during the current lockdown has awakened you? What if you now understand that while a Bowler Wildcat and a Yamaha YZ250 are two of the best ways of keeping you always entertained, trekking, for life, is more peaceful? And that all the car that you'd ever need is a small hatchback?
That kind of enlightenment also means that you'd want to spend as little as possible, but without falling for a used vehicle. It's worth noting that used vehicles aren't bad; it's just that the probability of getting a lemon, and heat burn, is way higher while buying a used specimen as compared to buying a new car.
Therefore, let's talk about the cheapest cars in India—Alto, Redi-GO, and Kwid. Please also note that since I am talking about proper "cars" here, Bajaj Auto's quadricycle, Qute, has been given a miss. It's anyway not vastly cheaper to buy than the cheapest cars in this list, while there is a night and day difference between it and others in almost every other parameter!
Maruti Suzuki Alto
Not to be confused with the Alto K10 (which has a 998 cc engine), Maruti calls its Alto 800 as just the Alto (and not Alto 800 or Alto 0.8 L).
At Rs 2,94,800 (all prices mentioned in this story are ex-showroom, Delhi) for the base (STD) variant, this is the most expensive car in this list. In fact, all variants of the Alto are more expensive than the comparable variants of the competition.
This base variant doesn't get an air-conditioner, which is okay if you're planning to live in the mountains. But it doesn't even get a heater, which is not okay if you're planning to live in the mountains. It's okay though if you're immune to cold.
At Rs 3,52,900, LXi is the variant that gets you the necessary features like air-conditioning, heating, power steering, and front power windows, among a few other goodies.
At INR 3,89,600, the top-end VX+ variant brings in touchscreen infotainment, and a few more features to make you feel good about your purchase.
The Alto's 796 cc three-cylinder petrol engine produces 48 PS at 6,000 rpm, and 69 Nm of torque at 3,500 rpm. Power is sent to the front wheels by a five-speed manual gearbox. In fact, all cars on the list are FWD (front-wheel drive) and employ a five-speed manual. The Alto is the least powerful car in the segment, but it's the most refined of the lot.
It has the smallest wheels (12-inch); the least amount of ground clearance (160 mm), and the smallest boot in the segment.
However, being a Maruti Suzuki, even the aliens would know by now that it has the widest sales and service network in India. And that plays a big role in keeping your peace of mind intact.
Datsun Redi-GO 0.8 L
At Rs 2,79,650 for the base model, it's the Datsun Redi-GO that offers the cheapest entry to four-wheeler ownership in India! Also, unlike the Alto, a heater (and ventilator) comes standard in the base (D) variant of the Redi-GO. You're sorted with this variant if you live in or, as mentioned above, plan to live in the mountains.
The city-dwellers, however, will need air-conditioning, which they'll get from mid (A) variant onwards. Power steering is the only other major feature in this variant; there are no power windows to be had here. But then, at INR 3,33,419, it's around 20 thousand rupees cheaper as well than the Alto LXi.
The top-end (S) trim of the Redi-GO is priced at INR 3,62,000. It gets a few more features such as Bluetooth connectivity for music and calls, remote key, central locking, full wheel covers, etc.
The Datsun sports a three-cylinder 799 cc engine, which is more powerful (54 PS at 5,678 rpm and 72 Nm at 4,398 rpm) than the Alto. The Redi-GO has the best in segment ground clearance of 185 mm, and also offers the best in class headroom. Taller folks, please note.
The best looking car in this segment, hands down! And the good part is that beauty here isn't skin deep either.
This Kwid's ride quality is something that cars costing even twice as much find it hard to match. That said, the Redi-GO isn't far behind, and it shouldn't be since both cars share the same platform.
However, the dimensions, among a few other things, are different. The Kwid is the longest and widest car in its segment, and it has the longest wheelbase too. Naturally, it's the roomiest of the three, and is also the car with the best in class boot space of 300 liters! It also sports the biggest wheels (14-inch) in the class.
The Kwid shares its engine with the Redi-GO, with the power and torque figures being identical.
Also, like the Datsun, even this Renault comes with a heater as standard in the base (STD) variant. This least expensive Kwid's price at the moment is Rs 2,92,290, making it marginally cheaper than the base Alto, but around 12 thousand rupees dearer than the base Redi-GO.
Rs 3,62,290 will buy you the next variant (RXE), which gets you air-conditioning. You don't get power steering and power windows in this variant. But if you put in exactly 30 thousand rupees more and get the RXL variant, then you'll not only get power steering and front power windows, but remote keyless entry (and central locking, obviously), single DIN stereo with radio and MP3, USB & AUX-in ports, Bluetooth for music and calls, and a few other features.
Moving on, Rs 4,22,290 gets you the top-end RXT variant. It gets features such as Renault's Touchscreen MediaNAV, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, voice recognition, video playback via USB, roof mic, reverse parking camera with guidelines, and a lot more. One feature which might go unnoticed generally is that the HVAC system in this variant comes as a 4-speed 5-position unit. All other variants get 3-speed 3-position controls.