Hyundai Verna Volkswagen Vento Honda City
Last month our cover story was the new Hyundai Verna first drive and it raised a pertinent question that the nation wanted to know: was it truly the best in this segment? So in our latest edition, we try to get you a definitive answer and, in addition, highlight facts about the best cars in the C-segment. We understand that this surely must have piqued your interest. Read on to know more...
For our comparison, we took the recently updated Honda City, which, over the years, has made the segment popular in India; the built-like-a-tank European offering, Volkswagen Vento; and, of course, the 2017 Hyundai Verna. Sadly, the Maruti Suzuki Ciaz wasn’t available during our comparison dates, but I feel it has similar characteristics as the City. So let’s kick off the battle among the holy trinity of this segment: South Korea, Japan, and Germany.
As you know, the Verna is the latest car in this segment and is based on the company’s new K2 platform which also underpins the larger Hyundai Elantra. It’s interesting how the company has used a platform from a segment above, since usually it’s the other way around to reduce cost. As compared to the older version of the Verna, the new one has more structural rigidity and comes with the largest and most powerful engine in its class.
The Hyundai receives a 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder diesel engine mated to a six-speed manual gearbox and it churns out best-in-class 128 PS and 260 Nm. The Vento has been the enthusiast’s pick in the segment and comes with a spirited 1.5-litre turbocharged unit producing 110 PS and 250 Nm. The City is at the bottom of the performance pyramid with its 1.5-litre i-DTEC, making a modest 100 PS and torque of 200 Nm. Having said that, it is the most fuel-efficient here, returning 19.5 km/l (overall) which is two km/l more than the others.
The Honda City, like the Verna, comes mated with a six-speed manual, while the Vento has a five-speed gearbox. Both the Vento and Verna have diesel-automatic variants — an option which the City doesn’t offer yet. The Vento and Verna have effortless gear-shift action; in comparison, the Honda needs a bit more effort while slotting the lever through the gears.
Like most Volkswagen models, the Vento has a great combo of sportiness and comfort, and is engaging to drive. The 1.5 TDI offers strong initial drive and torque flows in early at 1,500 rpm. During idling, the diesel clatter does creep into the cabin but it evens out into a raspy note as it gathers revs. Talking about engine noise, the City sounds coarse among these three and runs out of steam the fastest. It’s better suited for sauntering leisurely in town. In comparison, the new Verna has totally transformed its driveability. It’s a far cry from the older version’s spiky power delivery and soggy handling. Although Hyundai have retained the 1.6-litre common-rail diesel in the new car, it has been tuned beautifully to produce ample thrust at the bottom end and, with the turbo kicking in seamlessly, offers strong performance. The strongest in this comparison, if I may add.
We tested the manual diesel versions of all the three cars, in similar conditions, to see which one is the quickest to reach the quarter mile, and the final results were full of surprises. The Honda i-DTEC is the smallest in capacity and produces the least power here. But it is important to add that it is lightweight, tipping the scale at just 1,165 kg, giving it decent power-to-weight advantage. However, in this comparison, it took the longest to hit 0-100 km/h (15.44 seconds) and managed to reach the quarter-mile in 20.23 seconds, both of which are about a second and a half slower than the Vento. The Verna stunned us, and the competition, by sprinting to 100 km/h from standstill in just 10.97 seconds. That’s over four seconds faster than the City and over 2.5 seconds quicker than the Vento. The Hyundai was also the quickest to reach the quarter-mile in just 17.78 seconds. The next test was driving dynamics, and it was a close contest. The City proved to be an ideal ‘city’ car, tuned for comfort, managing most road undulations rather well. Its light steering is a boon in the city, along with the softer suspension setup that makes the handling less aggressive than its rivals. It’s best for those who prefer to be seated at the back cosily as they are chauffeured around.
To me, it seem as if the Verna is trying to be a complete contrast to this. It is being projected as a sporty car to attract enthusiasts. Apart from the spirited engine, the suspension and steering have been further tweaked to aid this cause. It’s neither too soft nor firm, and takes on ditches and potholes with surprising ease. Since there’s little body movement, passengers feel comfortable even when driven enthusiastically. The most impressive aspect of the Hyundai is its improved handling and steering feel. Although it’s still on the lighter side, it feels fairly accurate and offers good feedback even at higher speeds. The older version felt floaty and very uninspiring when driven above three-digit speeds, but the 2017 version is impressive and fun to drive. It really has transformed into a much better car. This brings us to the reigning champion of driveability in this segment. The Vento still holds its ground and feels rock-solid to drive. It’s tough to flaw German engineering in terms of driving dynamics and the Vento is a great example. Ironing out most bumps and ditches and with the best body composure in this shootout, it feels the most secure car to drive. You’re always sure that the Vento won’t throw any surprises. The steering feedback and
precision along with the firmer ride aid in maintaining the lines during fast-paced cornering. Those of you who enjoy being seated behind the steering wheel, you can’t go wrong with the Volkswagen. It also has the best brake feel, followed by the Honda, while the Verna lags behind with inconsistent feedback on the pedal.
And for those who like to be driven around, let’s do some number crunching to compare the dimensions of the three cars. The Vento is about 10 mm shorter in overall length and has a 50-mm shorter wheelbase than the City and Verna which have identical figures. Being taller and wider than the others, the Vento has decent cabin space and excellent front leg-room. The rear passenger gets a-c vents, while the seats are supportive and spacious. There’s a lever to move the front passenger seat from the back to increase the rear seat knee-room.
The Honda City has dedicated more space for the rear seat passenger and feels even more spacious as compared to the Vento. The rear seat backrest is more inclined to make the seating position relaxed. Like the Vento, there are a-c vents at the back as well and there’s even a centre arm-rest with cup-holders.
The Hyundai Verna is of the same size as the City but the space utilisation isn’t as good. Front seat passengers won’t be complaining about leg-room but the space at the back is just about adequate for an average built Indian. With taller drivers the rear knee-room gets further compromised. But the car is packed to the brim with features. There’s rear sunshade and ventilated front seats, both a first in this segment. Then, like the City, the top-end variants get sunroof — a feature not offered by the Vento.
Both the cars get daytime running lights, with the Verna equipped with projector headlamps and the City LED headlamps. The Vento comes with conventional halogen lights. The City and Verna come with LED tail-lamps with the latter offering a smarter looking lighting pattern. Both get a set of 16-inch alloy wheels on the top of the line version, whereas the Vento gets 15-inch wheels. Where the Honda and the Hyundai get diamond cut alloy wheels that look smart, the VW gets an equally smart set of silver wheels.
The Verna and Vento employ two-tone interior package in grey and beige with a brushed grey finished centre console; the City employs an all-black
treatment. The quality of plastics used and the attention to detail in the Volkswagen is the best. Surprisingly, the Hyundai isn’t too far behind, while we feel Honda need to up their game in this department.
The Verna gets the most comprehensive infotainment system — a large seven-inch touchscreen with inbuilt navigation and smartphone connectivity options, including Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and MirrorLink. The City’s DIGIPAD infotainment system also comes with a seven-inch touchscreen, while the Vento gets a smaller touchscreen where both offer smartphone MirrorLink. In terms of safety, the top-end Verna and City offer front and side curtain airbags, while the Vento gets just the dual front airbags for now.
Now let’s get to the design section. It’s a personal choice, so you take your pick. The Vento is the most contemporary looking cars here, with simple lines that will continue to appeal even when it ages. The City has been given a mild makeover recently and now offers some more chrome and subtle design changes to make it appealing. And it has succeeded well, retaining the tag of being one of the most popular Honda cars in our country. Being a new generation model, Verna’s design is refreshing and looks more understated and almost European now.
Finally, the price. The VW Vento TDI Highline is aggressively priced at Rs 11.59 lakh and should be the car to opt for if you really enjoy driving. It only lags behind in terms of new features and weak after-sales support as compared to the string back-up that Honda and Hyundai offer across India.
The City ZX MT Diesel costs Rs 13.89 lakh, making it the most expensive car in this comparison. In spite of that, it remains one of the top-sellers here, which speaks a lot about the brand’s goodwill. It has plenty of equipment, offers good comfort for urban use and is an extremely reliable product. With new competition coming in, Honda have to improve the cabin quality and attention to detail to justify the premium pricing and continue selling as much.
In this shootout, the Verna emerges as a surprise package striking a great balance between sporty dynamics and a comfortable cabin. With its strength being top-notch cabin quality and a long list of features, the top-end SX(O) variant undercuts the City and is priced at Rs 12.69 lakh. If I had to pick a car which felt as comfortable in the city as on the highway, then it would be the versatile Verna.
( Left) The City sounds coarse among the three, and runs out of steam the fastest ( Below) The Verna is the most refined and the quickest here ( Left) The Vento is the enthusiast’s pick and comes with a spirited 1.5-litre unit
( Below) Verna’s features and quality is its strengths
( Left) City’s fit-andfinish doesn’t match its price
( Left) Vento has a simple layout with parts built to last
( Left) Vento seats are comfortable but there’s intrusion from the transmission tunnel ( Left) You get the best rear seat comfort in the City ( Below) Verna’s rear knee-room isn’t the most generous