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Battle of Hatchback Crossovers: Hyundai i20 Active Vs Honda WR-V

With hardly any difference in their prices, Honda WR-V and Hyundai i20 are often up for comparison when it comes to buying a crossover or as they are lovingly called ‘compact SUVs’. Ecardlr looks at the differences between the two to help you make a choice.


Hyundai i20 Active Vs Honda WR-V

With the buyers’ preferences shifting towards SUVs and SUVs upgraded from hatchbacks, all major carmakers started coming up with their customised offerings. While some of these new vehicles were hatchbacks modified with claddings and bigger tyres to imbibe an SUV-like character, there were some others that were built from grounds up. Maruti Suzuki’s Vitara Brezza may be ascribed to the second category – it is more of a compact SUV that came in the market to compete with Ford Eco Sport and Renault Duster.
          New i20 Active
Our models for this comparison however are the bolstered up formats of hatchbacks that Honda and Hyundai gave to car buyers in India. The Jazz and Elite i20 are pretty popular but to fulfil the rising expectations for SUV-like vehicles in the B segment, their makers decided to create the crossover versions. That gave us the WR-V and the i20 Active.
        Honda WR-V
So who made a better car than the other? Here’s our comparison:

At First Glance  

Instead of simply strapping some plastic cladding on the Jazz, Honda worked harder to customise the WR-V. It has a more upright stance with modified headlamps, high set hood and redesigned front bumper. Also, a lot of chrome has been splashed on the grille. And it is bigger than the Jazz with a difference of 44 mm in length, 40 mm width and 57 mm in height. Honda has also altered the suspension which made room for extra 25 mm on wheelbase.
            Honda WR-V Split Type Rear Combilamp
The ground clearance has been raised to 188 mm. And standing on 16 inch wheels it has a distinct profile that looks very different from an MUV like Jazz’s side look. Some bits have been replicated such as the doors, the angles of the pillars and the slope of the roofline but with its beefed up silhouette, the WR-V does resemble an SUV more than its sibling.
          Reflector with Reverse Lamp
From the rear the WR-V has its own identity.  In particular, its L shaped tail lamps make it look different from the Jazz that has tail- lamp ‘extensions’ in the form of reflectors on sides of rear windscreen.

Compare this car to the Hyundai i20 Active and its clear which one looks more like a compact SUV. The WR-V is taller than i20 Active by 46 mm but the i20 Active excels in width by 26 mm. Looking at the fact that the i20 already had huge acceptance in the market, Hyundai did not bother to make significant changes in the sheet metal too for the i20 Active. That is why where the WR-V manages to appear different from its sibling Jazz, the i20 Active does not seem quite unique.  It does have its share of black plastic claddings, roof rails and even the ground clearance has been raised to 190 mm but it still looks only like a beefed up i20.
            Active i20 7 Front and Rear Seats
The cosmetic changes for i20 Active in the front include a nee bumper design with round fog lamps instead of trapezoidal ones as in the regular i20. Instead of the honeycomb grille pattern that the i20 has, the Active version gets a grille with horizontal black slats. Another feature added to give it the SUV feel is a faux bull bar and skid plate. There is no change in the size of the wheels. Like the i20, the sporty i20 Active has 16 inch rims with 195/55 R16 tyres.
           Honda WR-V Wow to be in
Both standing side by side the WR-V does seem to be a bigger SUV than the i20Active. But the latter has a larger wheelbase. Does that translate into more cabin space? Not necessarily. We’ll tell you why.

The Interiors

A big selling point of SUVs is their high seating position and the consequent better visibility they offer. Which one of these fares higher in this part of comparison? Those who have been inside the Jazz will immediately feel sitting tad higher in the WR-V - this results in a more commanding driving position but those thick A pillars do cause some obstruction. While the WR-V may not have as high set seats as in bigger SUVs, it does sit high than other hatchbacks customised as crossovers.
            Active i20 Dashboard
The cabin of i20 Active is not much different from the regular version and there is no difference in seating position. It is just a different pattern for the blue upholstery of the seat.

While the i20 Active offers a dead pedal, there is none in the WR-V. It merely has a piece of rubber stuck on the carpet where it could have provided a dead pedal.

At the rear seat the knee room is better in the Honda. Actually the maximum room that the i20 offers for the bench seat occupants is less than the least area that the WR-V lets its passengers use. Jazz was already appreciated for its cabin space and now 25 mm of added wheelbase has only made the things better for the WR-V.

That said, when we look at the shoulder room and headroom, the i20 Active easily takes the first place. Also the seatback angle and under-thigh support are better in the i20 Active than WR-V. The bench seat in WR-V is more upright and people with big frames may not feel very comfortable here.

If we compare the knee room, head room and shoulder room for both the cars, the numbers are:

Car

Knee Room

Head Room

Shoulder Room

Hyundai i20 Active

585-820 mm

970 mm

1325 mm

Honda WR-V

925-1055 mm

940 mm

1270 mm

 

Coming to the boot space, the Honda can swallow a lot more than the Hyundai. The 285 litre space behind the tailgate of i20 Active is no match for WR-V’s 363 litres of cargo space. But the rear seat of i20 Active can be split 60:40 making room for more luggage. The WR-V did not get ‘magic seats’ that were given in the hatchback Jazz. 

Cabin features and other highlights

Both these crossovers have automatic climate control but the system in i20 Active’s is more effective than the WR-V’s. There are no rear AC vents in the Honda unlike the Hyundai. The larger glass area of WR-V also causes more heat to creep into the cabin of the WR- V than i20 Active. If you leave both the cars out in a parking lot in summer Honda’s cabin gets hotter.
            Honda WR-V 4 Dual Airbags
Looking again at the air conditioning, the WR-V has a touchpad interface and while it may feel richer in quality, it is not easy to use on the go. At the other side the Hyundai i20 Active gets a simpler 2-knob control for its AC fan speed and temperature settings. These can be handled easily. And they have an audible click to let you know you changed the setting.
         Active i20 Dual Front Airbags
Other features common for the two cars are keyless entry and go, electrically folding outside rear view mirrors (ORVMs), steering mounted audio controls and rake + reach adjustable steering. WR-V has a cruise control with its diesel variant and also a sunroof but the i20 Active has skimped on these. Conversely, it has 6 airbags as compared to only 2 in the WR-V.

Infotainment set up

Both i20 Active and WR-V have a touchscreen based infotainment system. But Honda only offers MirrorLink while Hyundai also provides Apple Car Play and Android Auto. What’s more, the Digipad set up in Honda does not have a very user friendly interface. Owners have reported some lag when they want to quickly skip a song and also adjusting the equalizer is quite a job.

The i20 Active’s touchscreen is the same as in the Grand i10 and Xcent. It has a user-friendly interface. There are 6 speakers in both the cars and not much difference the sound quality emitted through them. 

All about the Performance

Although both WR-V and i20 Active have petrol models too, we tested their performance with the oil burner as that is the most preferred fuel option for SUV like crossovers.

Let us look at the engines and their specs side to side. Both are mated to 6 speed manual gearboxes.

Diesel Engine

Honda WR-V

Hyundai i20 Active

Size

1.5 litre

1.4 litre

Power

99 bhp at 3600 rpm

89 bhp at 4000 rpm

Torque

200 Nm at 1750 rpm

220 Nm at 1500 -2750 rpm

 

In the city

The 1.5 litre i-DTEC engine is not new for WR-V. Five other Honda cars also have it. Known for its clatter but also for its driveability, this diesel motor is responsive from the word go and there is no turbo lag. With linear power delivery and good amount of torque, it gives the feeling of a naturally aspirated petrol engine. The gear ratios are also well spaced. Honda WR-V can build up speed effortlessly and there is no sudden spike in power. With light throttle inputs you can move around the city. The gearshifts with the 6 speed manual gearbox are smooth. Clutch is neither too light nor heavy but is par with competition.

The real concern is the engine noise. Honda has been progressively trying to reduce the clatter but it has still not reached the desired level.

Hyundai plonked the 2nd generation U2 1.4 litre CRDI engine in the i20 Active. The ECU was tweaked for better driveability and the gear ratios in 3rd and 6th gear are shorter than what the older i20’s engine had. The changes introduced here have indeed improved the drive. Power delivery is linear and it is easy to drive in city. But the i20 Active’s motor does not offer as good a drive as the WR-V at low revs. This is because after the changes in this unit even though the turbo lag reduced (which means lesser gear shifts in keeping up with traffic), the turbo push has also been adversely affected. The 6 speed manual gearbox here too is smooth to operate (and smoother than WR-V). It has a light shift action with shorter throws and slots are well-defined. Clutch is not super light but feels lighter than in the WR-V.

In terms of engine noise the Hyundai clearly has a better refinement level than the WR-V.

On the open roads

The WR-V picks up pace after 2000 rpm. It has brisk straight line acceleration and there is ample torque to keep the car going. Overtaking does not always call for downshifting. On the highways this engine performs as expected but it is not very rev friendly. It maxes out around 4400 rpm. It is actually good to keep things going only up till 4000 rpm. Beyond this point the engine will start sounding very coarse and there will not be much progress.

Hyundai i20 Active also has a lot of energy for the open roads. Its 220 Nm of torque makes overtaking easy. Just a gentle tap on the accelerator helps in passing ahead of slow moving vehicles. This crossover can easily reach triple digit speed and is a mile muncher. It has more enthusiasm for the highways than the WR-V. What’s more, the 6 speed manual gearbox has a nice spread of power with well chosen gear ratios. It can reach 100 km/hour at 2100 rpm and the engine can be revved up to 4500 rpm. In terms of sheer power delivery i20 Active’s engine scores better than the WR-V’s motor.

Ride and Handling

The WR-V’s ride quality at low speeds is pleasing. It can go over potholes on city roads easily.  But it feels unsettled at about 80 km/hour where the i20 Active’s ride fares better. The raised car height and soft springs in WR-V together result in bounciness that can make you feel uneasy on longer trips. The ride quality was better in Jazz and we wonder why Honda made such modifications just to give the WR-V its SUV feel.

With a stiffer suspension (than Elite i20), the i20 Active has a better ride quality on the open roads. There are no jerks in the cabin and the bounciness which Hyundai cars were once notorious for is missing here. The suspension works quietly in both the cars.

The light steering of WR-V helps in city driving. But when you drive on the expressways, you will prefer a heavier feel. The steering does not feel very connected here and leaves you wondering about the direction of the front wheels. While going around corners, more attention must be paid to the steering action. The Hyundai i20 Active has a comparatively heavier steering. Coupled with the planted ride experience it offers, highway cruising feels better in this car. The only fly in the ointment is that Active’s steering does not read the surface very well. It feels too assisted at times.

As per the segment norms the WR-V has discs in front and drums for rear braking hardware. These help the car to stop from high speeds without drama and in a straight line. They do have an over-servoed feel and a sharp bite at slow speed and this will take some time getting used to. ABS & EBD are standard across all variants.

The i20 Active too has disc brakes for the front and drum for the rear. Older versions of i20 used to have discs for both front and rear. But the stopping power is still admirable. The hardware can shed speed quickly in emergency braking conditions.  There are just two concerns here – firstly, the pedal feels spongy to use and secondly, it does not have a bite as sharp as the WR-V’s brake. So you need to press it down more firmly and this will come with practice.

Verdict – Which one to choose between WR-V or i20 Active?

The price for Honda WR-V diesel starts at Rs. 8.71 lakh and that of Hyundai i20 Active diesel at Rs. 8.83 lakh which brings them in the same segment. The raised ground clearance to Jazz to create the WR-V did not help much because it affected the ride quality adversely. But the space this Honda offers to passengers on back seat is good. Other reasons to buy the WR-V are pliant city ride, bigger boot and for the style-conscious – the sunroof. In other departments, the Hyundai i20 Active scores better. It has a more refined engine, carried more of safety gear and its build quality is higher than the WR-V’s. Overall, the i20 Active may be a better value for money proposition. Hyundai’s sales and support network is also a notch netter than Honda’s.

Honda WR-V

6/10

Hyundai i20 Active

7/10

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