My recent job change and its unique timing requirements were taking a toll on my commute to work. There was no company transport available and a motorcycle ban by parents meant that a car became a necessity more than a luxury. Anyways, with a lot of excitement, I set out to buy my first car. Considering my history with FIATs (more on that shortly), the brand of choice was obvious. Having driven the Punto before and being a big fan of its looks, I just wanted it as my first car. Plus, it seemed to make sense to buy a hatch, as my usage is primarily in the city. Wanted a fully-loaded one for the airbags. FLASHBACK My father owned 3 Premier Padminis at different points in time (I used to hate them for their embarrassing breakdowns!). Then came a Siena TDI – one of my favourite cars till date, because I honed my driving skills on her after getting my driving license. Finally, the Linea Classic MJD, which he drives now. A SHORT DETOUR Following suggestions from my folks, I considered some other options as well. After the usual drill – car websites, forums and YouTube videos, I shortlisted these: Ford Ecosport Duratorq Ford Figo Duratorq Honda Jazz VTEC Volkswagen Polo TDI and of course, the FIAT Punto Evo MJD My requirements were: • Excellent build quality • Safety kit – Airbags, ABS and EBD • Good handling • Heavyset, communicative steering • Preferably Diesel Usage pattern: 80% city, 20% highways Dropped the idea of a Figo due to its tinfoil build quality and the not-so-Ford character, as noted by my friends and online reviewers. Honda Jazz VTEC I had test driven the Jazz VTEC earlier with a friend who is planning to buy it. Likes: Honda's refined petrol mill. Even the test drive car felt smooth Airy, spacious cabin Looks, provided the tyres are upgraded Resale value! although I wasn't planning to sell anytime around after purchase Dislikes: City-suited light steering Not-so-exciting handling Performance didn't feel very nippy for a petrol - maybe due to its weight Asymmetric dash fascia Nevertheless, I liked its all-rounder nature and it remained a strong contender in my hit-list. On a sunny Saturday afternoon in May, my uncle, cousin and I headed out for test driving the other contenders. First Stop: Ford, for the EcoSport Likes: Strong build Great driving position Decent dynamics Super-powerful AC – chilled the cabin quickly under this time’s scorching Bangalore sun Brezza-special price cuts and corporate discounts Dislikes: The too funky dash Tiny readouts on the MID Light steering for a beefy car Price tag of the Trend+ variant Verdict: Disqualified, unless I get a great raise or win the lottery Wildcard Entry: Hyundai i20 Active I know! right? It was only because my uncle loved its looks and wanted to check it out. Likes: Feature list. As long as you don’t drive it, you have bought the car! Excellent build quality. Heavy doors and bonnet, absolutely no complaints Proximity of the service center with my office Nice looking BMW-esque dash Dislikes: Lifeless, lazy steering - the stereotypical government official of all steerings! Faux crossover looks. I prefer the Elite i20s looks over this Width Weak AC Why not the Elite i20 then? I did test drive it earlier and was not very impressed with it. Verdict: Not considering. Last Stop: Volkswagen, for the Polo TDI Now, I knew a Polo would blow my mind away, but I was only about to find out how! Not sure whether it is the Dieselgate, they were the most welcoming of the lot. Had a very nice cup of coffee and a seat inside a Beetle in the showroom before I went out to test drive the Polo. Likes: Build quality - outstanding fit and finish inside-out The gorgeous flat-bottomed steering wheel, to look at and hold while idle Dollops of torque Big, classy looking instrument cluster Feature-loaded Tonnes of aftermarket customisation options Dislikes: Price tag of 10+ lakhs for a small Diesel car?! Average steering feedback Strictly limited rear space Concerns over VW Service, expensive parts Night Blue colour discontinued But in spite of the cons, I fancied the Polo. I just wanted one, and it replaced the Jazz to take top spot on my list. Extra Gear! Knowing that I’m considering a Polo TDI, a friend of mine brought his Polo 1.6 GT TDI for me to take a spin. Cranked her up and put my foot down and boy! It was pure fun! A flick of the pedal and I zoom away to 1.6 litres of TDI glory! Smashing performance all the way on the straights and it soon fizzled out when I took her to the turns. The Polo felt a little unsure, a bit jittery on the curve. May be it was the stock Apollo Alnacs or the sheer torque or the light steering – I can’t say for sure. But it sure did not inspire confidence. That raised a big question in my mind. Whether to go for the Polo at all, with all that money. Agreed, I’m not doing a rally stage or high speed circuit to work and a precise steering and sporty dynamics isn’t going to make a big difference in the crawling Bangalore traffic. But I’m going to miss an awful lot of fun on my trips outside the city. If I had the money to spare and our world did not have the Punto, then it would have been the Polo TDI for sure. Forget dieselgate, the scary service stories, the expensive maintenance and parts and the tiny size. The Polo is a car designed to make you feel Premium, make you feel good – from the classy looks, the high quality build inside-out to the oodles of torque. And with an established network, my head seemed to think that it is a wiser choice than a FIAT, followed closely by the more practical Jazz. Sadly (for the Polo and the others), our world has the Punto. Sure, it’s more than a decade old, the gearbox is 'rubbery' and not so precise, the service network scarce, resale values low. But then there’s that hydraulic power steering, planted road manners and pretty looks - all perfect ingredients to put a big grin on my face. Plus like a lot of people say, I started thinking how happy would I be when I’ll be cruising down the road on my spanking new Polo TDI and a Punto whizzes past me. That my friends, was the turning point in my search. The very moment when my Heart crushed my Head, like the Mountain did to Oberyn Martell in Game of Thrones! So there you go, Heart - 1, Head - 0! GETTING BACK ON TRACK So with the dilemma cleared, I was back on track looking for a Punto. The Punto Evo being mechanically identical to the Grande Punto, and me favouring the Grande Punto’s looks were reasons not to consider the Evo. Started calling dealers in and around Bangalore, looking for an old stock of Grande Punto lying somewhere in one of the yards. Sadly, all responses I got was that it’s all been cleared and production has ended. The only option now to get a Grande Punto was to go for a used one. I started my search online for the perfect example - a well-maintained Oceanic Blue 1.3 MJD Emotion. The next question was 76 or 90? Asked my friend @achiless and our very own @nkrishnap and the responses I got was to just go for the 90HP. Requirements clear and search intensified. To my surprise, I found around 4 cars in Bangalore (no Oceanic Blue among them ). After many calls, visits and test drives, I zeroed-in on a particular 90HP Sport. Pearl White, August 2013 manufactured, with 19K+ kilometres on the odo, well-maintained by the owner. Issues spotted were a sidewall puncture on the rear tyre, the infamous ‘Airbag failure’ warning and a few biker bruises. With some haggling, the deal was quickly sealed. I finally made the purchase of my first car, on the 1st of June - TFI Anniversary day! POST-PURCHASE UPDATES: Transfer of Ownership Issues The previous owner and myself are first-timers in the used car deal, so both of us made our fair share of mistakes in getting the paperwork completed. The fact that he had moved to the US did not help matters move forward either. Finally, after 2 months of waiting and a lot of running around, I finally got the car and insurance transferred to my name. A lot of lessons were learnt. Checkup The car had barely run 400 kms after it’s 3rd Service in January 2016, so there wasn’t a need for a full-fledged service, as per the SA at KHT FIAT, Whitefield. Here's what were done: AC cleaned as she was lying unused for a while in a basement Topped-up the fluids up Window beadings checked and fixed for wind-noise Steering setup lubricated, due to a 'clunk' noise while turning from dead-centre after a long halt Confirmed that the ‘Airbag failure’ warning was due to a weak battery Damage: Rs.1493 Battery change The battery started to show signs of giving up. Cranking took time and the instrument cluster started going mad. Replaced the stock Exide with an Amaron 50Ah, as per the good reviews here. It was like giving Sonam Kapoor a Snickers bar, all good and sane now! Damage: Rs.4400 3M Treatment The car being unused for a while caused dust and dirt to gather inside the cabin. Did a GermKleen interior treatment and Foam Wash at 3M, Marathahalli. Very impressed by the results and service. Mr. Manoj, who owns the outlet, personally supervised the work and delivered on time. I forgot to click pics before the treatment to show the difference. Damage: Rs.3078 DISLIKES & CONCERNS: The steering 'clunk' noise has returned. Got to get this checked and fixed. Cannot view other MID information when the file name of the track being played from the Media Player is being displayed. Anybody know a fix for this? Rumours of FIAT shutting shop. I'd like to be optimistic here FUEL CONSUMPTION: City: 12-13 kmpl, running on mostly bumper-to-bumper traffic Highway: got 18 kmpl with frequent bursts of speed MODS WISHLIST: Sun blinds IND number plates USB charger Linea armrest Gunmetal paint to alloys Ambient lights Remap Thanks for reading. Cheers and drive safe!