Cars with big diesel engines may be in the news for all the wrong reasons but the two models you see here are as far away from the controversies as can be. While it helps that they are not luxury cars by any stretch of the imagination, what will keep unwanted attention off them is that they run amongst the smallest and most efficient diesel engines in the business.

Where the Maruti Celerio, with its twin-cylinder, 0.8-litre turbo-diesel unit delivers an ARAI-tested fuel economy of 27.6kpl, the best among all small cars, Tata’s latest three-cylinder, 1.05-litre turbo-diesel engine that debuts on the new Tiago also delivers a very frugal 27.3kpl in the Indian Driving Cycle.

In essence, these are cars tailor-made for those looking at low running costs. But which one offers the more complete package?

We won’t go too deep into the subjective issue of design and styling but we think you’ll agree when we say the Tiago has the more appealing form. The well-proportioned Tata looks fresh and chic, and a whole lot more interesting than the functional looking Celerio. This holds true for their cabins as well.

Tata has outdone itself by giving the Tiago a cabin that wouldn’t seem out of place on a more expensive car. The textured finish to the smartly laid out dash, the rich seat fabrics, the roof lining and even the damped operation of the glovebox lid lend this space a premium ambience. It’s well thought out too. Outside visibility is good and there’s lots of space to store odds and ends.

Count the number of storage spaces and you’ll find the Celerio’s cabin closely matches the Tiago’s in practicality. But, it’s a level or two down on design and execution. Again, where the simple dashboard places the important controls within easy reach and even houses the high-set gear lever, it looks staid and unremarkable.

The Celerio’s front seats, with their fixed headrests, don’t appear special either but they do offer good comfort. The rear seat is comfortable and supportive too but where it makes a mark is in terms of space. Legroom is really impressive and there’s more than adequate headroom as well. The large windows further help the airy feeling inside. Suzuki designers have really made the most of the Celerio’s small footprint.

The Tiago’s cabin is roomy in its own right but it has smaller rear windows and less rear leg- and headroom. Some might find the rear seat backrest a touch too reclined too.

Power windows, electric mirror adjust, height-adjustable driver’s seats, steering-mounted audio controls, audio systems with USB, aux-in and Bluetooth for music streaming and telephone functions are some of the features you can expect on the top-spec versions of both these cars. However, the Tiago gets a more comprehensive sound system which includes four speakers plus four tweeters. The Tiago’s infotainment system can also be hooked up to your smartphone to relay sat-nav instructions. Rear parking sensors and a cooled glovebox are some of the other features exclusive to the Tiago. The Celerio does offer the versatility of a split rear seat though.