Every year, we see a new car or two that is otherwise very competent, but let down by its engine. This literally makes us go banging our heads in frustration. What was the manufacturer thinking??? All those years of effort & hundreds of crores invested in the car, but the manufacturer fell short in an area that counts the most?
Related article on why it is imperative to launch with the right engine + gearbox
Listed below are some cars whose engines were their Achilles Heel.
The original TUV300 was a competent 7-seater available at a price comparable to budget sedans. Alas, Mahindra launched it with an 84 BHP / 230 Nm engine. These figures were simply not enough for the 1,590 kg kerb weight of the body-on-frame vehicle. Loading up all seats made it grossly under-powered. Mahindra later introduced a “Plus” variant with the famous 2.2L diesel; some of us (including GTO) consider it to be superior to the Scorpio. But it was too little, too late.
Tata Altroz Petrol
The Altroz was launched earlier this year. It has almost no deal breakers. The car is good-looking, modern, spacious, well-equipped, safe and handles well. However, it is powered by the same 1.2L 3-cylinder naturally-aspirated petrol as the Tiago. The motor is quite anaemic & weak. A turbo-petrol is coming up, but Tata needs to understand that first impressions are lasting ones.
Honda CR-V Diesel
Honda had the gall to sell an (overpriced) crossover for 35-lakh rupees with a 118 BHP diesel! The SUV’s power-to-weight ratio was a dismal 68 BHP / ton. The CR-V was otherwise very desirable. It had well-appointed interiors, excellent ride and handling and a good petrol engine. However, a small diesel & the absurd price let it down. With 7 occupants on board, the 1.6L diesel sure had its work cut out.
For its time, the Maruti 1000 was a total rockstar! We were kids then and thought of it as some kind of futuristic spaceship – the design was that “wow”. If you bought a Maruti 1000, it was almost certain that the Income Tax department will raid your house. Under the hood however was a sad petrol 1.0L engine (same as the Gypsy) with a horsepower rating in the mid-40s. This motor had to be wrung hard to get any semblance of performance out of it & putting the air-con on would seriously jeopardise the driving experience. A couple of years later came the Esteem 1.3L which was the performance sedan of its time.
Fiat Punto & Linea
The Punto & Linea were very good looking cars. Additionally, they boasted solid European build and class-leading ride & handling. However, their engines – the petrols in particular – simply didn’t match the show. While both cars came with a 1.4L petrol motor & 89 BHP on tap, lower variants of the Punto got a 1.2L petrol that put out just 67 BHP. Both cars begged for more power. In typical FCA fashion, the fix (1.4L T-Jet & Abarth variants) came after the market had already yawned & moved on. Old habits die hard – the Compass Diesel AT also arrived after customers had left the showroom.
Toyota Corolla Altis Diesel
Toyota had some serious guts plonking an 87 BHP 1.4L turbo-diesel in the Corolla’s engine bay. Not only did the car suffer from serious turbo-lag, but it also lacked performance. GTO remembers vividly how he moved out to overtake a car in front on the highway, and it seemed like he had hit a wall! The Corolla 1.4L simply had no punch. Back then, the Corolla’s competitors had bigger diesels (Laura, Cruze, Jetta). The engine in the Chevrolet Cruze developed a crushing 148 BHP and 327 Nm! Enough said.
Spend some time studying the Triber and you’ll be amazed at just how intelligent the Renault is. It’s a 3-row MPV at the price of B-segment hatchbacks, and a sub-4 meter car in which adults can sit on the 3rd row! Our biggest grouse with the Triber is its boring 1.0L n/a petrol engine that lacks pep & punch, gets noisy & leads to vibrations inside the cabin. As the Team-BHP Review said, it is the weakest link in this package.
Good-looking, well-built and competent in almost every aspect, the Tiago caught the eye of every customer in the entry-level segment. It was easily the most modern hatchback from Tata Motors, with surprisingly good interiors for the price. Sadly, the car was launched with a 1.2L petrol and a 1.05L 3-cylinder diesel engine. With ordinary power delivery characteristics & a kerb weight in excess of 1,000 kg, the Tiago was no road scorcher. The petrol was not refined either. Same price Marutis & Hyundais offer far superior powerplants.
Not as bad as some others on this list, but the biggest problem with the Ciaz was its original lineup of engines. The 1.4L petrol was completely lacking in character & was the weakest in the C2 sedan segment, while the 1.3L diesel was the same one used in the Swift! Maruti did correct this eventually with the 1.5L.
Volkswagen Polo 3-cylinder
When the VW Polo was launched in 2010, it was quite a hit. The Polo had a timeless design and German build quality. All the materials used in the construction of the car had a quality feel. What was not good? The petrol and diesel were 1.2L, 3-cylinder units. The petrol was among the less powerful engines in the segment while the diesel produced the least torque. The petrol simply could not match Maruti’s K12 for refinement, and the diesel fell way short of the Figo’s amazing 1.4L oil burner (in terms of driveability). Just when we thought they couldn’t do any worse, VW later launched the Polo with a 1.0 MPI.
The C-Class was the most affordable Mercedes at its time. Back then though, Mercedes didn’t understand the value of its own brand. The C180 had variants that sold without alloy wheels, leather seats & a CD changer! As if that wasn’t disappointing enough, there was a frail petrol engine under the hood. Down on power, and down on reliability. Mercedes smartly replaced it with the supercharged C200K in 2005.
Audi launched this gen of the A4 with a 1.4L turbo-petrol! Yikes. At the same time that the car’s sibling – the Octavia – was on sale with a delicious 1.8 TSI. We understand that the Octavia is significantly cheaper, but in this case, it was also indisputably the superior.
Maruti Celerio Diesel
Save the best for the last? No, in this case, it’s the worst for the last. This is the only modern passenger car to be launched with a twin-cylinder diesel. We don’t need to utter a word. Just crank the volume up and listen.
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