Track day cars on a budget
With the lockdown easing and racetracks opening up too, here are some cars that’ll be a perfect fit for you
After three months of confinement-induced anxiety, just waiting for the roads to open up, the news of the MMRT and BIC throwing their doors open was a Godsent. However, not every car out there is suited for the rigours of the racetrack. So here are a few of our suggestions for used cars you could go for, without breaking the bank (well, almost).
Upto Rs 5 lakh
1. Used Maruti Swift (petrol)
Both the 2005-2011 and 2011-2018 cars are equally good down a twisty road, which means they’re that much fun around racetracks as well. The 1.3-litre naturally aspirated inline-four was good for about 87bhp and 115Nm, however considering the Swift’s extensive participation in autocross events, coming across go-faster parts isn’t particularly difficult. Besides, even a competent set of alloys and tyres from Bridgestone or Goodyear would do wonders
2. Ford Fiesta 1.6 S
‘Sports’ and Ford sedans don’t usually appear in the same sentence, and not without good reason. In its time, the Fiesta was overshadowed not just by the Honda City’s performance and handling chops, but also the brand’s lucklustre aftersales experience. Today, you can get a well-maintained example for as little as a couple of lakhs, and the performance from that 1.6-litre naturally aspirated mill, already good for about 100bhp, can be upped with a simple ECU remap and exhaust job.
3. Mitsubishi Lancer
Yes... We realise the Lancer sold in India, with its 1.5-litre engine making an anaemic 85bhp and 132Nm, may not be the first choice of those looking for a clinical corner-carver. However, there’s also the fact to consider that these engines are capable of a handling more than double the power, which was also quite easily achieved if you know what you are doing, or know a tuner who does.
4. Honda City Vtec
No discussion about affordable performance cars is complete without mentioning the OG performance car for the masses. Agreed, its 105bhp output may not be too much nowadays, but that gem of an engine is capable of a lot more. Additionally, the comfortable interiors mean not only will you be comfortable while tearing down the track, you’ll also not have to worry about any aches and pains on your daily commute.
Rs 5 lakh to Rs 10 lakh
We're now moving into the meat of the matter, and the choice here can be broadly divided into cars you can buy used, as well as those you can buy right off the dealer floor
1. Abarth Punto
You KNOW there’s no better car to charge down through apexes than a hatchback with 145bhp and 212Nm! Yes, it doesn’t have the most comfortable driving stance, and its overall meagre sales (go figure!) make it quite a rarity, consequently commanding a premium in the used market. However, there’s no other car that can get you grinning as fast and as wide as the Abarth Punto.
2. Gen 1/2 Skoda Octavia vRS
Yet another obvious choice when it comes to performance cars, the Skoda Octavia (or Laura, as the second-gen car was called) came with a cracker of a 1.8-litre turbo-petrol which made about 150bhp (160 in case of gen 2) in stock form, but held the capacity of making around twice the figure.
Skoda Rapid Rider 1.0/ Volkswagen Polo 1.0 TSI
The BS6 emissions saw quite a few cars getting watered down and a lot more disappearing altogether (yes, I’m looking at you, Baleno RS). However, the Skoda Rapid and Volkswagen Polo’s introduction to BS6 compliance came courtesy a downsized engine that in fact makes more power! Gone is the Rapid’s 1.6-litre, 103.5bhp and Polo’s 1.2-litre, 103bhp petrol mill, replaced instead by a 999cc inline triple that now makes 108bhp and 175Nm. Yes, it no longer gets that famed DSG ‘box, but given the chance to row through a manual, it’s not too big a loss, really.
While the Rapid can be had for Rs 7.49 lakh, the Polo TSI is available for Rs 7.89 lakh. Besides, all you’ll need is a grippy set of tyres, and you’re all set for many, many weekends worth of fun.
So there you have it, the perfect complement of cars you could buy on a budget. Now, if you were the kind who wouldn’t mind stretching your finances a little there are quite a few great catches out there. For instance, for around Rs 13- 15 lakh you could get a well-maintained 8-year-old Mercedes-Benz C 200 with a 2-litre petrol engine making 180bhp, or if you plonk for just a bit more, an 8-year-old Mini Cooper S with a 1.6-litre engine making 184bhp can be had for just around Rs 17-18 lakh.
However, the very idea here is flawed, as trackday cars are meant to be flogged, and excessive wear and tear on big-ticket purchases such as these also mean hefty bills, defeating the very notion of ‘affordable’ performance.
That said, the sky’s the limit to the truly performance hungry, and to get an idea of all that can be done we’ll leave you with a choice selection of modded wonders from our very own technical wizard. Enjoy!