Hyundai Eon 814cc, 3cyl, 55bhp vs Maruti Alto 800 796, 3cyl, 47bhp vs Renault Kwid 799cc, 3cyl, 53bhp vs Tata Nano 624cc, 2cyl, 38bhpThe quintessential small hatchback is the car which dominates the Indian car market. No matter how many large cars are launched, they truly cannot matchup with the sheer volume of small hatchbacks on Indian roads.The car which actually started it all was the Maruti Suzuki 800. From that time on, the smallest Maruti Suzuki has been commanding top trumps. A few years back though the mantle was taken up by Alto and now it is the Alto 800.Hyundai tried to take on the best seller by launching the Eon. A snazzy looking hatch fit for any urban junkie.Then came the master stroke from Tata in form of the Nano. While the Nano was a rage initially, it gradually settled down. To get the excitement back, Tata has given it some major rejuvenation and here is the Gen X Nano. But we are not here to compare just the Nano, Alto 800 and the Eon!There is a new kid on the block, the Renault Kwid. Renault say that the Kwid is purpose built for the Indian market with many best in class features.We therefore pitch it against its arch rivals to find out if it can truly set a new benchmark.Maruti Suzuki Alto 800Model VXi (airbag) | (Rs 3.74 lakh, New Delhi)Airbags One | ABS No | AC/Climate control AC | Power Windows Front | Audio system No | Standard Warranty 2 years/40,000 kmadvertisementThe Alto brand took over the mantle of being the countrys bestseller. There is reason why we love this little hatch. (Photo: Pawan Dagia) The Alto 800 got a spruce up recently and as a result looks smarter. There is a hexagonal grille up front and a large pair of headlamps. Surprisingly the Alto 800 comes devoid of recesses for the fog lamps up front. In profile the car looks much like any other hatch. Nothing special but built for duty.While the exteriors of the Alto 800 are all new as compared to the old Alto, under the skin much has remained the same. This includes the floor pan, the overall wheelbase and even the suspension mounting points.The Alto 800 comes with a functional dash with storage space tucked in here and there. There is also a slot provided for a single din audio system and the speaker slots are built into the front doors. The instrument panel is a mix of analogue and digital displays. However the Alto 800 does not offer a comprehensive trip computer which is available in the competition.When it comes to space, the Alto 800 is not the best of the lot again. The seating is low and getting in and out is not that easy. The limited shoulder room at the back coupled to the high window line gives rear occupants a claustrophobic feel. Sitting three abreast is also tough and this is thanks to the limited legroom. The boot space too is just 177 litres which makes it slightly larger than the one the Nano offers. In all the Alto 800 is the smallest of the lot when it comes to space.This tried and tested engine has been significantly revamped before being deployed in this Alto 800. (Photo: Pawan Dagia)The Alto 800 still relies on the tried and tested 796cc triple pot engine which has been serving the company since a very long time. The compression ratio has been revised, which also improves performance. Although increase in power over the earlier engine is marginal at 47bhp, torque is a significant 11 per cent better.Other changes made to this engine include the connecting rods and crankshaft which have been lightened. New low-friction piston rings have been used, which in turn increase engine life. There’s also a faster 32-bit ECU processor and this engine complies to BS5 norms too. Apart from that Maruti Suzuki claim that in its new avatar, this 800cc engine is even more reliable than before.Simple IP devoid of features. (Photo: Pawan Dagia) The Alto 800 is not exactly a pocket rocket. The engine feels smooth and acceleration is brisk. However once you rev up the engine, it feels noisy within the cabin. Cruising speed is best described at 80kmph which is respectable. Beyond that the Alto 800 feels floaty.Being a Maruti Suzuki, the Alto 800 is bound to excel when it comes to fuel economy. Our tests revealed that the Alto 800 can traverse up to 24.3km on a single litre of petrol. So no surprises here.advertisementThe Alto 800 is also strong when it comes to the ride quality. It absorbs when and suspension noise is also on the lower side. So put the Alto 800 in on a rutted track and occupants will remain comfortable. This trait has made this little hatchback shine in India. Ground clearance is also plenty but not as much as the others.Odd position of power window switches behind gearstick. (Photo: Pawan Dagia)The steering of the Alto 800 feels artificially weighed and it feels like it all through the speed range. At higher speeds though it becomes lifeless and one has to be slightly careful.Last but not the least in terms of braking, none of these cars including the Alto 800 come with ABS. While the Alto 800 comes to a standstill at low speeds with relative ease, pump that pedal hard and the wheels lock up. However the tyres do try to hold on to the tarmac.Hyundai EonModel Sportz | (Rs 4.50 lakh, New Delhi)Airbags One | ABS No | AC/Climate control AC | Power Windows Front | Audio system with USB, Mp3, Aux | Standard Warranty 2 years/unlimited kmThe Eon on the other hand looks a bit more special thanks to the swoopy lines. It has a design inclined towards being a tall boy. The front end with the hexagonal grille, large headlamps give the Eon a distinctive look.The Eon is one of the best looking hatchbacks in this segment. It breaks free from the monotonous and brings something fresh to the masses. (Photo: Pawan Dagia)In profile one can also spot the flared wheel arches which look cute. At the back the tail lamps remind one of the devil’s horn.In all the Eon looks much suited for the urban dweller. Ground clearance stands at 170mm which is 10mm more than the Alto 800.Continuing the ‘fluidic’ theme, the dash of the Eon is a well integrated one. The audio system fits flush onto the centre console and it also is ready to connect to a USB and aux input.The three pot motor is derived from the same 1.1-litre engine which served the Santro and the i10. (Photo: Pawan Dagia) The instrument panel also looks good and comes with a gear shift indicator. The fuel and temperature gauges are digital while the speedo is analogue.The Eon is also better in terms of space when compared to the Alto 800. But it is still less when compared to the Kwid and the Nano. The front seats are also tad smaller and feel rather tight for larger frames and this is especially the case when it comes to side support. The seating is also lower and older gentry might find it tad tougher to haul oneself out of the car.However there is no complaining about the visibility factor. Thanks to the skinny pillars, the driver has a clear view all around. At the back, the space crunch is further aggravated thanks to the high window line. The seat squabs are also narrow and do not offer much comfort and this is especially the case when it comes to longer drives.advertisementThe Eon offers a 215-litre boot which is only second to the Kwid.Clocks are a mix of analogue and digital dials. (Photo: Pawan Dagia) The Eon gets the largest engine here. A triple pot again, the Eon’s engine churns out 56bhp making it the most powerful of the lot here. This motor is actually the same 1.1-litre iRDE which is employed in the Hyundai i10, but with one cylinder less. It comes with a three-valve-per-cylinder SOHC setup in the Eon.The Eon is also as noisy as the others. But the NVH package is slightly better. The engine feels powerful and there is ample torque to pull it through lower gears. However, there are a lot of vibes creeping in and especially on the gear lever. At idle the gear stick shivers and remains so even when the car is on the move.Glovebox is deep and useful. (Photo: Pawan Dagia)The Eon is also not the best when it comes to ride quality. It is not as pliant and the car tends to bounce when encountering a big pothole at higher speeds. But when speeds are kept low, the Eon absorbs well. Slow down for a pothole is the mantra while driving the Eon.Owing to its light weight, the Eon is also affected by strong gusts on the highway. It tends to nudge the car. But in all honesty most of the other cars in this test demonstrate the same trait.Space is not the Eons forte. (Photo: Pawan Dagia)Much like its competition, the Eon’s steering is setup light, perfect for city drives. Turning it from lock to lock is easy and this makes it easy for the driver to park in tight city parking lots. However there is not much feedback at higher speeds.Tata NanoModel XT | (Rs 2.77 lakh, New Delhi)Airbags None | ABS No | AC/Climate control AC | Power Windows Front | Audio system with USB, Mp3, Aux, Bluetooth | Standard Warranty 4 years/60,000kmThe Nano in its GenX avatar looks much better. The smoked headlamps and the big black air dam intend to infuse aggression in the other cute face. In profile things remain the same. However the change comes in form of the rear where there is an additional handle to open the boot.The Nano is the smallest of the lot. But it offers plenty of in cabin space. Engine is the smallest but is efficient. Where it does score is the features list. (Photo: Pawan Dagia)Yes, the Nano is now a proper hatch. Ground clearance of the Nano stands at 180mm and that makes it same as the Kwid thus ensuring that the Nano will rarely scrape anything which Indian roads can throw at it.The Nano dash now looks much better thanks to the integration of the speakers and the glove compartments on the dash. The twin boxes are spacious and come with a rubber mat laid in which restricts things from making noise inside the compartment.The instrument panel sits atop on the centre and is easy to read. It also comes with a host of features which include a gear shift indicator, instant fuel consumption, distance to empty and so on.The Nanos tiny 2-cylinder engine dispaces only 624cc which makes 38bhp but is quie apt fo the city. (Photo: Pawan Dagia)The Nano comes with a four speaker factory fitted audio system which also allows Bluetooth connectivity like the Kwid. Visibility is great and getting into the car is easy thanks to the tall roof line.When it comes to space, Tata has done a splendid job and passengers both up front and at the back remain comfortable. On the downside, the Nano is rated as a four seater as compared to rest which are all five seaters.The new Nano also comes with a boot! Yes a boot! Nothing substantial at 110 litres but at least you get one now which is easily accessible. On the downside, the loading lip height is high and hinders usability.The instrument panel is well speced and easy to read. (Photo: Pawan Dagia) Not just that, the engine still has to be accessed from the boot and this means all the stuff you have stored has to come out first. The Nano is also the only one here which comes devoid of a driver’s side airbag. Time to upgrade again Tata.The Nano continues with its rear engine layout and the 624cc engine. Power output for this twin cylinder engine lies at 38bhp, making it the least powerful engine. The Nano is the only car here to come with a 4-speed transmission. The Nano is no highway scorcher. With the smallest engine, the Nano is also the slowest to 100kmph which is very close to the top speed of the car.Not to forget that the Nano also is restricted to a top speed of 105kmph whereas the other cars can go well past that. This also means that those long highway trips are surely going to take longer than you expected. The gears though feel slick and slot in with ease. The clutch is light and thanks to the overtly assisted steering the Nano is a breeze in city. Making a U-turn is also rather easy and rarely does it need a three point turn. Deep glovebox operates via click mechanism. (Photo: Pawan Dagia) However if you do, the steering is set up ultra light and there should be no reason for any complaint. The ride is also very comfortable and amongst the best of the lot. Be it ruts, potholes or that odd speed hump you missed to spot, things remain comfortable inside the Nano. However on the highway the Nano is surely not the right tool.Renault KwidModel RXT (Opt) | (Rs 3.85 lakh, New Delhi)Airbags One | ABS No | AC/Climate control AC | Power Windows Front | Audio system with USB, Mp3, Aux, Bluetooth | Standard Warranty 2 years/50,000 kmThe Kwid brings a very fresh approach to the table. First and foremost it looks damn smart. Much like a compact SUV, the Kwid features boxy lines and a face which instantly reminds one of the Renault Duster.If bringing something fresh to the table is important, Renault has surely done it. (Photo: Pawan Dagia)The bold grille gives it a sporty hue and adding to the appeal are the headlamps. In profile the SUV intentions are clear and more so thanks to the plastic cladding. The Kwid also comes with a substantial ground clearance of 180mm which is the best in class. The only oddity in the design comes in form of the small wheels.At the back, the logo take centre stage on the hatch and the lamps are slightly wrapped around. From the rear the skinny tyres are all the more evident and the best way to go about is to deploy mud flaps. Overall we loved the design of the Kwid.The 799cc engine comes with dual overhead camshafts and 4 valves per cylinder set up. (Photo: Pawan Dagia) Dimensions reveal that the Kwid is also the longest and the widest of the lot. It also sports the longest wheelbase at 2,422mm.Much like the exteriors, the Kwid also offers something new within the cabin. The dash looks smart and comes with a large touch screen infotainment device. The system not only plays music, but also serves the purpose of navigation. It is also the same system which is deployed in the Duster and the Lodgy. So the Kwid is the only car to offer this feature.The IP is also unique and is a digital unit. It displays speed, fuel level along with other data like distance to empty, range etc. While it does look funky, it does suffer from readability issues during the day. The seats are large and comfortable perches and there is ample space both up front and at the back. In all the Kwid is one of the most spacious compact cars.The infotainment system comes with sat nav. (Photo: Pawan Dagia)This is also the case when it comes to the boot. The Kwid can swallow a wholesome 300 litres which is the largest in the class. So in all we would rate highly when it comes to the interiors of the Kwid.The Kwid comes with a brand new engine. A three pot motor displacing 799cc and churning out 53bhp. Renault is also claiming rather high fuel economy figures for the Kwid and it does not come as a surprise considering it weighs just 660kg which makes it the lightest.The all digital IP does have readability issues during the day. But it is loaded. (Photo: Pawan Dagia)The Kwid does feel a bit rough on start-up and this is also the case in other three pot motor powered hatchbacks. The gears shift with a positive click and the Kwid takes off with a lot of enthusiasm and noise. Somehow the NVH package of the Kwid could have been bettered. It feels noisy within the cabin and especially when the AC is on.However the Kwid gets to 100kmph with relative ease and getting to a top speed of an indicated 132kmph. However at that speed, the car feels very floaty. The ride quality too is good and the Kwid absorbs bumps well. Put it through a rough track and the only thing one gets to hear is gravel hitting the wheel wells.Space is of the least worry in the Kwid. (Photo: Pawan Dagia)Ground clearance is not a cause of concern at all. The steering is tuned for the city and is ultra light. Turning the wheel lock to lock is a doddle and achievable by a finger’s effort.However once the Kwid reaches high speeds, the unit feels overtly light and with literally no feedback.VerdictIf you look at the compact entry level hatchback segment, things were not exactly exciting. But that was until very recently when Hyundai launched the Eon. Sweeping lines, smart interiors and a powerful engine summed up the Eon.Maruti Suzuki followed it up with the new Alto 800 which too was much evolved. Then came the new generation Nano which Tata is hailing to be the Gen X Nano.The Kwid is clearly the segment benchmark now. It brings something new and fresh. (Photo: Pawan Dagia)For the first time, the Nano has held fort thanks to the numerous improvements packed into the car. First and foremost, the Nano remains spacious. It now offers a boot which is accessible. So in all the Nano scores extremely well thanks to its features, space and not to forget the price.But the hatch which turns tables upside down is the Renault Kwid. Sporting the looks of a SUV, high ground clearance, tonnes of features and space, a very efficient engine and all that packed into a rather inviting on the road price.Renault sure has a winner on its hands after the much acclaimed Duster.