If you think that it’s only Indian parliament where opposite camps are indulging in fisticuffs then you had better take a look at sedan section of Indian automobile industry. Same fistfight phenomenon is apparent here as two major auto manufacturers Hyundai and Honda have locked horns to finally settle thesaloon segment supremacy debate that has been on boil for some time. Hyundai has so far ruled this C-section of Indian market with its all-rounder proposition Verna though after the advent of new Honda City in its first-ever diesel avatar, dominance of Hyundai has come under grave threat. With prospective buyers flocking to Honda’s showroom to check-out very first diesel iteration of Honda City, tensions are nothing but only escalating between these two global auto giants. In fact history seems to be on repeating side as Honda City seems all set to reclaim its lost leadership position back from Hyundai’s Verna that it surrendered to its Korean rival few years ago. Back then owing to crucial absence of diesel munition City was left humbled by Vernathough this time Honda seems to have turned the tables back on Hyundai. Now with new generation Honda City proudly wearing the tag of Honda’s world class diesel technology; i-DTEC Honda has finally plugged the most critical oil-burner hole in City’s proposition. With heavily touted best-in-class mileage and luxury claims, Honda has blown City’s trumpet quite loudly resulting in panic situation in the rival Hyundai’s camp. In fact Hyundai’s testosterone level has been running so high that within days of new City launch Hyundai came up with a new Verna variant; Verna CX to strengthen the overall security of its sedan fortress. Now whether this updated security measure of Hyundai will able to fend off Japanese attack successfully or throne of sedan category shift hands with City reclaiming its pride and glory once again is core issue that we have decided to take head-on this weekthrough lens of our exclusive road test comparison. Buckle up as we at eacrdlr clear the air about the winner of this ongoing brawl that has crucial saloon crown of Indian market at stake.
Both of the cars in comparison is nothing but beautiful. No design is offensive and in fact both the cars are beautifully executed in terms of their overall aesthetic and design. Fluidic design language has indeed transformed the fate of Hyundai’s model as each and every new offering of company is winning accolades for its stunning design aspect. In fact Verna owes much to its strikingly beautiful design for its overall market success. Swoopy silhouette with nicely swelled out body and well-balanced proportions make Verna an absolute eye candy. Hexagonal grill, swept back angular headlamps and sleek character lines lend an air of sophistication to Verna that is simply too hard to resist. Sloping roof line gives Verna a coup-ish look and muscular rear adds a bit might to Verna’s sleek design.
Honda City, in its fourth generation, too looks like a gorgeous woman wearing light though graceful makeup. New City looks considerable bigger than its predecessor especially in profile view. Frontage of City now wears a heavily polished chrome slat grille that is quite subjective in its appeal. However headlamps and fog lamps work in seamless coherence to put the front house of City in order. Side view of City is marked by back to back character lines with shoulder line extending all the way back to tail lamps. Wrap around tail lamps at the rear that are quite reminiscent to ones on Civic look simply fabulous. BMW like roof mounted shark-fin antenna feels unique and so is the design of alloy wheels. Top variant of City has got sunroof with added facility of power foldable ORVMs. Overall City design is evolution of the arrow-design language that debuted in 3rd Generation City with getting even sharper and sleeker in this 4th generation of Honda sedan.
Overall both saloons in question are quite modern and contemporary in their design and styling. Honda City now feels quite grown up proposition now though we feel that Hyundai’s Verna has still some edge over the City in design department. Verna design is more balanced and its overall dimensions are far more proportioned that City. Verna also trounces City on design sophistication and subtleness as Hyundai has managed to get the things simple and uncluttered to get away with final design honour.
VERNA: *****CITY: **
Being in saloon category, both these cars are required to have good quality, space and equipment combination to woo the buyers. Hyundai’s Verna has got a long list of equipment and flawless quality with impeccable fit-finish. Like outside, inside too this Hyundai seems to have treaded less-is-more philosophy. There is no clutter as all the necessary controls are laid-out in perfect harmony with ergonomics science. Centre console feature minimalistic controls that in turn gives the passenger to enjoy their ride without being fiddling theirs mind unnecessarily. Curvy two-tone dash board feels rich in its grain quality and so are the well-cushioned front seats. Faux wood on centre console and door armrests is delightful touch. Leather wrapped steering wheel with mounted controls gives enough freedom to driver to flip-flop choices without taking eyes off the road. Instrument cluster is practical and nice as it features large dials along with plethora of crucial information that is just one touch away to get revealed.
Honda City has also got equally well equipped cabin with similar quality feel though it lacks heavily on the coherence aspect. Unlike Verna where everything feels to be in place, City’s interior design simply feels inconsistent. There is severe lack of design coherence something that we have already witnessed in other Honda cars like Amaze and Brio. The layout of City’s centre console has tilted towards the driver side and that makes the things quite asymmetric to look at. That said the quality and material used by Honda has a class of their own. New steering of City feels chunky and has got the controls mounted on it. Instrument rings have got unique design and colour flair that make them quite breeze to read. Touch screen AC controls and ECO assist with ambient rings on dials are welcome changes from the mundane standard settings customers’ of this segment are now used to.
Honda’s phenomenal room Hyundai’s average space
Now coming to another crucial aspect i.e. space that this saloon segment is particularly interested in. And here Honda City wins hands down Hyundai Verna. Although Verna is nowhere a cramped car though in head-on comparison with City, it indeed feels so. Honda has used every trick in its book to liberate maximum space inside City and the efforts really paid off with City emerging as roomiest car in its class. Even we think that City can easily give even the segment higher cars run for their money on space front. With wider and longer dimensions City is definitely a more comfortable chauffeur driven car that Verna. Rear AC vents in City with additional power points further augments the rear passengers’ comfort and convenience.
VERNA: *****CITY: *****
STEAM TO SAIL
Honda’s first-ever diesel iteration of City comes with 1.5-litre i-DTEC motor with bragging of India’s most efficient car having ARAI certified mileage of 26km/l. This motor from Earths Dream portfolio of Honda makes 100 PS of power along with 200 Nm of torque. In comparison to these performance figures, Hyundai’s Verna with 1.6-litre oil burner puts out class leading 128 PS and 260 Nm of power and torque respectively. Both the motors use modern 16-valve twin cam shaft arrangement to minimize loses and maximize efficiency. On paper, Verna seems to have an easy edge over City especially with its extra 60 Nm of rotating force however this difference is not perceived in town crawling. Within commotions and heavy traffic in fact it is Honda City that feels more eager and willing than the more powerful Verna. Partial foot reflexes will yield more precise response in City than in Verna as Hyundai seems to be a bit on side of turbo lag. Honda City feels absolutely at home in town and the drivability of this sedan is sure to paste smiles on face of its owners.
However once out in open storey starts to change its direction. When given a chance to unwind, Hyundai Verna speeds past Honda City with an impressive lead. CRDI motor of Verna is more willing to rev harder and its refinement becomes even more impressive at higher revolutions. On highway Verna has more performance to deliver and its engine has better reaction to your every crack of whip.
Honda City though feels quite comfortable in town; out on highway it lacks the alacrity of Hyundai’s motor. Small 1.5-litre motor that has been tuned for maximizing efficiency has its own limitations as Honda quickly seems to be run out of steam after triple digit speed mark. Even if the motor takes the load, we are sure that you put yourself on hold as the unwinding motor of City has very obtrusive sound seeping right into cabin. Honda claims to have worked upon the NVH level of this engine in City but results are far from impressive as stumbling block of engine noise remains intact in new City like its younger cousin Amaze.
Both cars use 6-speed manual transmission in their diesel vehicles to channelize the power to front wheels of their respective machines. Honda teeth feel more precise in their clogging operation than Hyundai though the leather stitched gear lever in Honda feels a bit on the cheaper side. Hyundai’s lever feels more up market but then its mechanical prowess in terms of precise and accurate shift is not as good as of Honda. Brake bite too feels more secure and plentiful in Honda than a bit initial shaky reaction of Verna.
VERNA: *****CITY: *****
TWIRL & WHIRL
Hyundai’s dynamic prowess has already received much flak from customers and critics alike as the suspension of almost all Hyundai’s is horribly soft. Although this softly sprung set up is good for low speed cushioning, it becomes extremely distressing as whack rises. With powerful motor having strong mid and top-end performance, Verna should have in fact come with exactly opposite suspension setting than it unfortunately currently comes with. McPherson strut and torsion couple beam set up at front and rear of Verna is ultra-soft making it prone to extreme nose-diving and pitching at the high speed. No doubt at low speed Verna cushions passengers quite well but once speed rises the stability and pitching doubts begin to haunt the driver in uninterrupted way. Cornering the Verna at high speed is alike taking a calculated amount of risk as Verna has a tendency to roll generously. Even the advanced brake mechanism doesn’t take away nervous feel that high speed brings to Verna. Aiding to this devoid feel is the total lifeless electric power steering of Hyundai that feels completely out of synch with the car.
In stark contrast to Verna’s lifeless steering and poor dynamics, Honda City feels quite a competent and accomplished sedan. It may not be as powerful as Verna but then whatever amount of might it has got, it handles that with sophistication. With same mechanical hardware as of Verna doing duty at front and rear, City strikes a very cordial deal with both ride and handling department. It feels a bit nervous at the start especially while taking potholes but then quickly gets transformed to skilled performer over the most of the driving range. Body roll is well under control and at high speed it feels completely at home. Steering too is communicative and enhances the overall involvement feel of driver
VERNA: *****CITY: *****
Honda City price ranges from Rs 7.19 lakh to Rs 10.89 lakh while Verna’s models are retailed between Rs 7.17 lakh to Rs 11.42 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi). On Value-for-money front both these competitors are almost equally matched with no advantage acceded to anyone on this crucial aspect. Hyundai’s Verna has dominated the C-segment of market with good reasons. It has got striking design, cunningly executed interiors and powerful performance though it comes with its own share of critical demerits that has got unnoticed till now with no commendable alternative in sight. But now Honda City has come and opened a full frontage direct assault on Verna’s weak links like average rear space and poor dynamics. With its spacious cabin and far better dynamic capabilities, City has emerged as potential alternative to Verna though its own loophole of high engine noise has got the tendency to backfire. Still if we cast aside the notion of low NVH on Honda City than we think there is no other grey area where this Japanese feels edgy and insecure. City may lack the coherence of Hyundai’s design but it has got all the basics right that matter most for sedan buyers of Indian automobile market.
VERNA: *****CITY: *****