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Better Between Honda Amaze and Swift Dzire

The hatchback-based sub-four-metre saloon formula has worked extremely well for the Maruti Dzire. Can Honda’s new Amaze take on and beat the best in the business

 

Honda Amaze vs Maruti Swift Dzire Comparison

BOOTED UP


They say first impressions are very important, and by that yardstick, the Honda Amaze has a big advantage. Squeezing a three-box design into a good-looking sub-four-metre footprint isn’t easy, but Honda’s designers have, quite obviously, got their sense of proportions right. Unlike the Maruti Dzire, which looks like a boot has been slapped onto an unwilling Swift, the Amaze looks like it’s been designed to be a saloon from the beginning. Which it has.

Still, if Dzire sales are anything to go by, its chopped rear hasn’t stopped it from becoming a bestseller – Maruti sells an incredible 14,000 Dzires a month and some variants, before the car market tanked, had a waiting list stretching all the way to Japan.

Now, if you’re thinking that it’s the Dzire’s success that spurred Honda into coming up with its own sub-four-metre saloon, know that work on the Amaze started way back when Maruti was still selling the old, fat-bottomed Dzire.

Nonetheless, both saloons are designed to take full advantage of the Indian government’s small car tax benefits and we pit them against each other to see which one will benefit you the most.

At Rs 7.6 lakh, this top-end Amaze VX-iDTEC costs Rs 9000 more than the Dzire ZDi’s Rs. 7.51 lakh, which to today’s aspirational car buyers is of little consequence. The question is whether the new Honda saloon is amazing enough to topple the leader.

IT’S A STRETCH

Like the Dzire, the Amaze is based on a hatchback, and to really get to know both these cars you have to know where they come from. The Amaze is based on the Brio and the Dzire on the Swift. This has implications, because the Swift is half a class above the Brio (although Honda has extended the Brio’s wheelbase for the Amaze) and crucially, it has the better interiors. The letter is an important point because both the Amaze and the Dzire share their dashboards with their hatchback siblings.

It is quite evident from the moment you step into them that the Swift’s stylishly upmarket dashboards is more suited to the higher expectations of saloon owners than the Brio’s rather Spartan interiors. It’s not that the quality of the Amaze’s interiors is lacking (though the Dzire’s feel better built) and there’s no issue with functionality either (there are no less than seven bottle holders); it’s just the design that’s a bit basic. The vents, centre console and instrument panel don’t line up’ in the traditional sense and then there are some odd-looking bits like the joint of the glovebox, which stands out like an upturned lip. Even the instrumentation, though easy to read, doesn’t look as classy or as sophisticated as the Dzire’s Jewel-effect dials.

But overlook these small issues and you’ll find a driving position that is, in typical Honda fashion, near perfect. The dashboard cowl is low, so there’s great visibility forward, the controls (gearshift, clutch, throttle steering) need less effort to use than the Dzire, and the seats are nicely contoured. Still, we did find them lacking slightly on shoulder support.

The Dzire’s front seats are better – you instinctively know how good they are the instant you slip into them. The cushioning is simply superb, the bolstering is snug and the driving position is good too. However, the dashboard is a touch too close and the dark insides don’t give you the airy ambience of the Amaze.

Coming back to the Dzire’s dashboard, it really feels a cut above the Amaze’s. We really like the V shaped centre console which houses the electronic climate control (on the ‘Z’ version) and the two-DIN integrated audio system. Even small details like the smart-looking air-con vents have real appeal to them.

Move to the back, however, and the Dzire falls a bit flat. Sure, the seat is comfortable, but there isn’t as much legroom as in the Amaze. The small windows and the all-black cabin also add to the feeling of claustrophobia.

The Amaze’s wheelbase is, incredibly, 25mm shorter than the Dzire’s, but there’s more space inside thanks to Honda’s clever packaging coup. The dashboard, for example, has been pushed forward as much as possible to maximize cabin space and the front seats are slim, making for more rear passenger legroom. The chauffeur-driven will appreciate the legroom, headroom and the sense of space you get thanks to the beige fabrics and big windows. The rear seats themselves are very comfortable, with superb cushioning and great support.

If you pack cleverly, you can stuff quite a bit in both cars. However, it’s the Amaze with its well-shaped 400-litre boot that will let you squeeze in a bit more. Both cars come with two airbags, USB connectivity, alloy wheels and remote locking, But the Dzire offers a bit more – it’s got climate control and a CD player. The only feature that the Amaze has over the Dzire is electric folding mirrors.

And not that either feels like a tank, but the heftier door shut of the Dzire points to a car that feels the more solidly built of the two.

COMMON GRAIL

The big news here of course is Honda’s new diesel engine. All of 1498cc and making a 98.6bhp and 20.4kgm of torque, the Amaze’s all-aluminium, twin-cam, common-rail diesel motor has the guts on paper. But what these figures don’t point out is how responsive this engine is. It pulls cleanly from 1200rpm, has a strong mid-range and has grunt all the way to 3800 rpm. Honda tuned this engine specifically for low-rev alertness and immediate and linear part-throttle response. It’s clear that this engine uses a small turbo that spools up quickly and lends linearity to throttle inputs, something that’s missing in the Dzire. Still, the Honda engine, even by diesel standards, doesn’t rev much – the redline is a relatively low 4200 rpm.

The Dzire’s 1248cc multijet  diesel has noticeably more turbo lag, and you have to wait till about 1800rpm before the turbo boost kicks in with a full 19.3kgm of torque. This surge of power can be exciting and actually makes the Dzire feel quick, despite its 25 bhp disadvantage. It also revs a lot more (5200 rpm redline) than the Amaze’s Earth Dreams engine, but power tails off over the last 1000 rpm, so there’s no point wringing it out.

In normal traffic the Multijet’s (or DDiS as Maruti calls this engine) biggest weakness is its lethargy at low revs. You have to work the gear lever a lot and keep the engine well above 2000rpm to get it to perform best. The Amaze, on the other hand, shoots ahead smartly with just a flex of your foot, its bigger displacement also giving it that slight edge in bottom-end torque. The gear ratios are well-matched and allow you to surf a nice wave of torque through all the gears. Though the Dzire posted better in gear acceleration times in our standard tests, thanks to its shorter gearing, in the real world, where you need an incremental increase of pace, the Amaze does the job better. Take for instance short bursts, like from 40-60 kph in third gear, which is what you might typically do in the city, or 80-100 kph in fourth for a quick overtaking move on the highway – for both these increments, the Amaze is noticeably quicker.

In out flat-out acceleration tests, the Amaze, as expected, was quickest, hitting 100 kph in 12.97 sec, which is half a second quicker than the Dzire. It would have been faster if it wasn’t for the 2000 rpm rev lock (it the car is stationary) that Honda has imposed in the interests of protecting the engine. The revlock makes it difficult to get a good launch of the line – which is a big disadvantage to acceleration times. Press on to 140 kph and the Amaze extends the gap with the Dzire, arriving at this mark a good 3.2 seconds later.

The biggest disappointment with the Amaze’s diesel engine, however, is the noise it makes. There’s a noticeable diesel drone that doesn’t settle down even when you’re cruising, and is always present. This can get irritating after a point, and the engine gets especially vocal when you accelerate hard. It’s also not the smoothest engine around and you can feel slight vibrations through the pedal and the steering wheel. The Dzire’s engine is much smoother and quieter right through its rev range.

THE MAGIC NUMBER

Honda claims that the Amaze diesel is the most efficient car in the country, and our tests have confirmed that – it returned 15.2kpl in the city and 20.8kpl on the highway. These figures are incredible when you consider that the 1.5-litre motor produces a very healthy 98.6 bhp. But the Dzire is not that far behind, and returned an impressive 14.6 kpl and returned an impressive 14.6 kpl and 19.8 kpl for the saem cycles. But it has a much bigger 42-litre fuel tank than the Amaze’s 35 litres. So the Maruti will travel nearly a 100km more than the Honda  on a full tank of fuel.

RIDE CONTROL

Both cars use the traditional independent MacPherson struts up front and a torsion beam rear axle. The driving experience of the Amaze is characterized by good body control, well-weighted electric steering and rather impressive cornering manners. It handles predictably and there is a nicely planted feel to it when you’re driving fast. If anything, the suspension is a tad stiffer than the Dzire’s, resulting in slightly sharper vertical movements over bumps, but this is a minor issue. The long-travel suspension absorbs even bigger bumps nicely and the suspension is refined as well.

Over the same piece of road, you’ll find that the Dzire, with its slightly softer suspension, has the better low-speed ride. Its 15-inch wheels (the Amaze has 14-inchers) marginally improve the ride as well. Still, it doesn’t have the planted feel the Amaze has at higher speeds. And the steering isn’t as consistent off-centre either. These differences are marginal, mind you, and are real-world speeds, both cars are pretty evenly matched.

If anything the Amaze’s cabin feels less insulated than the Dzire’s and lets more ambient noise in, especially on coarse surfaces. There’s noticeably more tyre and wind roar.

VERDICT

This is a closer-fought battle than we thought. The Dzire has huge strengths, which has made it so successful. It’s better equipped, feels more solid than the Amaze and has a richer cabin too. The low-speed ride is a bit better than the Amaze’s and it’s not that far behind in a drag race.

However, the Amaze hits back with its incredibly practical and user-friendly nature. Its responsive engine, sweet handling and spot-on driving position make it much nicer to drive. It is overall a far more comfortable car which can pack a lot more luggage too. It may be a tad more expensive to buy, but the incredible fuel efficiency more than makes up for it.

The Dzire beats the Amaze in some key areas, but as an overall package, the Amaze best fits the brief of what a compact saloon should be to take this crown. 

 

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