Here are a few options to comfortably drive through today's choc-a-bloc roads

The refreshed Estilo comes with the same interior design as before, the only change being the multi-tone interiors as opposed to the all-beige of the previous car. The dash is high on functionality with plenty of storage space, including a thoughtful pull-out type cup-holder. However, the dashboard plastics aren't the best quality and the switchgear doesn't have the tactile feel. The high driving position is quite good and combined with the thin A-pillars gives a good view of the surroundings. The front seats are flat and offer minimal support. But they get adjustable head restraints, which is a good thing.

The A-star doesn't have beige to brighten up its cabin. Instead, it follows a design theme similar to the Swift which makes it feel sporty. Some touches such as the rev counter on top of the dash add to the sporty nature of the cabin design. The interiors are quite well made and the plastic quality is a notch higher than the Estilo's. The seats are comfortable and have large, fixed headrests that are suitable for most people. While the driving position is low and sporty, the high centre console can obstruct visibility for shorter drivers. Even the rear view is hampered due to the thick pillars.

The generous use of beige in Hyundai i10 adds to the airy feel of the cabin, the top of the dashboard reflects on the windscreen and can easily distract drivers. The high-set driving position is good and the large windscreen offers great visibility. The steering adjusts for tilt as well, so finding an ideal driving position is relatively easy. The i10's cabin design is contemporary. It comes with lot of neat touches such as the dash-mounted gear lever, which falls to hand easily and also frees up a lot of storage space.

Interior space

The Estilo is better at providing lots of headroom rather than width or legroom. Entering the Maruti is the easiest. The front seats are quite spacious but tall drivers may find them a bit cramped due to the limited seat travel. The rear seats, like the front, lack enough bolstering but have more space than the A-star.

The Estilo's cabin abounds with storage spaces and is very practical. There is a big storage area above the glovebox and one ahead of the driver's knees. There's also a cupholder ahead of the gear lever and another that springs out from the centre console. The Estilo has reasonably sized front door pockets but very small ones on the rear doors.

The rear seats are cramped in A-star and are not supportive. The narrow width also means that the car is best only for two people in the back seat. However, the front seats are both spacious and comfortable and even the tallest of drivers will be comfortable here. The A-star does have enough storage space for odds and ends but the boot is the least useable. The i10 hasmore shoulder room and legroom. The rear can seat three passengers with relative ease. There are plenty of storage bins including thoughtfully-designed cupholders around the cabin and the centre console but the door pockets could have been bigger. Boot space at 225 litres is more than enough for everyday shopping and the weekend trip to the mall. The Estilo's 212-litre boot is quite small but well-shaped and adequate. At only 129 litres, the A-star's boot is the smallest. The biggest change to the Estilo is arrival of the K-series engine which it shares with the A-star now, making both the Marutis BS IV-compliant already. This engine produces 68bhp on the Estilo and 67bhp on the A-star. The Hyundai i10's iRDE unit produces 66bhp. .

Engine and drive

Both Marutis have some vibrations when you start the engine and there is also some degree of jerkiness when negotiating stop-and-go traffic. But things get considerably smoother once past 2000rpm on both the cars. The K-series engine impresses in other areas. It loves to be revved and happily spins to its limit without any fuss. The gearbox on the A-star offers short and precise throws and is a delight to use. This is the small car to buy if you want a rewarding driving experience. The Estilo feels quick in a straight line, but despite having the same gearbox as the A-star, the gearshift quality disappoints thanks to the longer gear stick. The i10's motor pulls cleanly and silently from very low engine speeds and acceleration. But spin the motor towards its redline and it starts feeling strained. The i10's dash-mounted gearbox is a joy to use with its precise, short throws and the light shift action is a boon in town traffic as you need minimal effort to shift gears.

In terms of straight-line acceleration, all three are closely-matched and you won't be able to tell the difference on the road. 0-100kph comes up in 15.20 seconds for the Estilo, its 15.30 seconds in the A-star and for the i10 it is 15.55 seconds.

The Zen Estilo's soft suspension is good at low speeds, but as the speed increases the ride turns bumpy and stability is hampered. The A-star has a fine combination of ride and handling. There is some stiffness to the ride at low speeds but at high speeds the ride improves considerably. The electronic power steering weights up nicely with speed but doesn't have a consistent feel. Turn into a corner and the body roll is well under control and you feel like pushing the car even harder. The ZXi variant has ABS and the brakes offer good bite and feel.

The i10 admirably handles bumps at both slow and medium speeds. But at highway speeds the rear tends to bob over bumps. The steering is light and precise at low speeds and the i10 loves to be driven around town. The brakes are up to the task and have good stopping power along with a nice pedal feel.

The Estilo VXi is available for Rs 4.24 lakh. Despite being the most inexpensive of the lot, it is well-equipped. In this fully-loaded variant you get everything including a driver airbag and ABS as options. Maruti offers a two-year warranty limited to 40,000km. This is extendable to four years or 80,000km. The Estilo won't hurt your wallet too much at the fuel station either, the car returning economy figures of 12.3kpl and 16.8kpl in the city and highway cycles respectively.

The i10 1.1 ERA can be yours for Rs. 4.36 lakh. It gets all the basic features such as power steering, front power windows and central locking. There is no ABS or airbags on this variant. The 1.1 iRDe delivers 12kpl and 16.3kpl for the city and highway respectively. Hyundai offers a standard warranty of two years and 40,000km on the i10 to give you good peace of mind.

The A-star ZXi retails at Rs 4.72 lakh and is the most expensive here. It is fully-loaded and comes with ABS and two airbags. But some things like the rear wash/wipe and anti-glare rearview mirror are missing. The car returns 12.1kpl and 17.1kpl in city and highway respectively, which makes it the most fuel efficient, but by a small margin. A standard warranty of two years and 40,000km is offered.

Both companies have good service backup but Maruti has an edge with its strong dealer network. The Hyundai i10, a good all-rounder with an efficient engine has the best resale value here.

TECHNICAL DATA

Hyundai i10

Space 225 litres

Economy 14.15kpl

Tank 35 litres

Range 495 kilometres

Engine Size 1086cc, 4 cylinders

Peak power 66bhp at 5500rpm

Peak torque 10.1kgm at 2800rpm

Maruti A-Star

Space 129 litres

Economy 14.6kpl

Tank 35 litres

Range 510 kilometres

Engine Size998cc, 3 cylinders

Peak power67bhp at 6200rpm

Peak torque 9.17kgm at 3500rpm

Zen Estilo

Space 212 litres

Economy14.55kpl

Tank 35 litres

Range 510 kilometres

Engine Size 998cc, 3 cylinders

Peak power 68bhp at 6200rpm

Peak torque 9.17kgm at 3500rpm

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