'DNA' Drive: Battle of the diesel sedans

We told you all you needed to know about CNG and LPG last week. But what about those of you who want to stick with diesel?

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We told you all you needed to know about CNG and LPG last week. But what about those of you who want to stick with diesel?
Well, this week, we have just the thing for you. A shootout of some of the most fuel-efficient diesel cars on sale today.

There are a few great options here in this field. We’re sticking with sedans here, so cars like the Ford Fiesta Classic, with its extremely efficient 1.4-litre diesel mill will more or less be the star of this shootout. In the other corner, we have the Nissan Sunny.

Both these cars offer a choice of two engines, come with spacious interiors and are great all-round family cars. The only catch here is that the Sunny is a new entrant while the Fiesta has been around for a while. So how do they fare against each other? Let’s find out

The tried and true Fiesta looks sharp as ever. The mid-model cycle facelift that it got a couple of years ago changed a few of the classic lines of the Fiesta, but at the same time, saved it from looking too bland. In the right colours, the Fiesta can definitely hold its own against newer, more stylish cars easily. The only problem is that the ‘classic’ stickering at the back -- we could have done without.  If it was a nice shiny badge, then that would be a different case. But the sticker is a little cheap-looking. Now, the fact that we’re complaining about a little sticker at the back of the car shows that there’s really nothing else to fault with this machine.

With the Sunny, it’s a bit of a mixed bag. The styling is heavily influenced by the much larger Teana sedan, and that definitely helps in giving it a premium look, but the rear end is a little droopy. The front is lively and cheerful though, so you’ll feel welcomed when you walk up to the car. There’s chrome lining at all the right places to give it that edge as well. We’d still pick the more classic looking Fiesta though.

For the money, these are the cars that offer tremendous value and nowhere is that more apparent than inside the cars. It’s no secret that the Sunny is one of the roomier cars on this side of the `10 lakh mark. Most of that space is at the back, but that doesn’t mean that the front seats are completely forgotten either.

The layout of the instruments, the design of the centre console and the level of kit on offer are brilliant for a car in this class. The interior feels very light and airy, with just the right amount of chrome, again, to spruce things up a little.

As for the Fiesta, well, it’s not as roomy as the Sunny, no, but it’s still very, very comfortable for a family of five, no doubt. The interior doesn’t give away the fact that this platform is old. All the fittings look like they belong here and none of them reek of ‘old-fashionedness’. At the front, the green backlighting on the gauges is a little dated, but we’re willing to let that go because you’ll be looking at them through a nice, meaty steering wheel and holding a well-placed gear shift knob.

Performance and fuel efficiency
We tested the diesel cars this time around, because mileage is the need of the hour, or the year, rather. The Fiesta came with a 1.4-litre turbo-diesel engine that has been known to return stellar mileage. In fact, people have been known to get mileage upwards of a stunning 30 kmpl even when driven sedately. At the same time, if you needed to overtake a slow-moving vehicle on the highway, you can easily do that with a stomp of your right foot. On paper, the engine only makes 68 bhp, but in the real world, the mountain, plateau, rather, of torque sees you through just about any traffic situation with ease.

The slick, 5-speed gearbox is a joy to use as well. In our tests, when we faced heavy city traffic and a few highway jaunts, the overall mileage sat at a solid 20 kmpl. Now, that may seem a little low compared to the 30 plus kmpl advertised, but let us assure you, we were driving in a very fuel inefficient way, so it will only go up from there.

As for the Sunny, it comes with a 1.5-litre unit. The same one found in the Mahindra Verito, but with a few upgrades here and there to bring the power output up a little. It’s definitely a better performer than the Fiesta. It gets ahead of the Fiesta early and manages to stay ahead too. But that means in conditions similar to the Fiesta’s, it managed a 17 kmpl fuel efficiency figure. That, too, is not bad at all, considering the driving conditions, and we’re sure that will go up as well.

Ride and handling
In this category, the Fiesta is our pick because of its great body control and brilliant steering feel. The car also handles bumps and undulations quite well. That steering is great to hold and will not dilute the conversation between you and the wheels either.

The Sunny is much better than the Fiesta at smoothing out the bumps, but in sheer handling, it’s left behind by the Fiesta. The steering is a little too light and doesn’t tighten up enough at high speed s. It’s not so bad that you’re not confident about taking it to high speeds, but it’s also not confidence-inspiring enough to let you corner without any doubt in your mind. As a family car though, the slight edge goes to the Sunny simply because it’s a small bit more comfortable at the back.

So where do we stand, then?
For a great, fuel-efficient, fun-to-drive car that will serve you and your family well, it’d have to be the Fiesta.

If, however, you are driven sometimes and you’d rather prefer more comfort over handling prowess, then the Sunny is the one for you. Whichever you choose though, you’ll be getting one fuel-sipping car to fulfill your needs.

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