toy­ota yaris v ri­vals

As au­to­matic cars take cen­tre stage, we pit the newly launched Toy­ota Yaris CVT against the best the seg­ment has to of­fer

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Toy­ota fi­nally ar­rive with a mid-size sedan and we pit it against its au­to­matic ri­vals

Toy­ota have been mulling over it for years and have fi­nally de­cided to take the plunge and en­ter the mid-sized sedan seg­ment. With this they are aim­ing to com­pete head on with the car that kick-started the seg­ment — and still draws im­mense pop­u­lar­ity — the Honda City. And this is ex­actly why we got both the cars for a comparo, along with the other hot-sell­ers, the Volk­swa­gen Vento and the Hyundai Verna. All of them are petrol au­to­matic vari­ants, as AT s have be­come a ne­ces­sity in our con­gested ur­ban en­vi­ron­ment.

Since de­sign is sub­jec­tive, I asked my col­leagues to put in their votes. The re­sults were not too far off from my per­sonal choice. What works for the Toy­ota Yaris is the fact that it is the new­est de­sign on In­dian roads and it def­i­nitely stands out. Be­ing unique and fresh does add to its ap­peal, as does the Corolla Altis-in­spired front de­sign. It is a smart de­sign, but clearly isn’t the most ex­cit­ing one. For that we have to shift our fo­cus to the Honda City. The City has been given a styling up­date last year and it looks the sharpest in this line-up. Its bold front de­sign with a chunky grille, prom­i­nent crease on the side pro­file that meets the split tail-lamps, and boot-lid spoiler make it re­ally aes­thetic and ap­peal­ing.

The other ap­peal­ing de­sign is most def­i­nitely the Hyundai Verna. Its sim­ple but stylish lines are a far cry from older Korean de­signs, and now ap­peal to a wider au­di­ence. It’s def­i­nitely one of the show­stop­pers of this seg­ment. The coupé-like pro­file along with the ex­tended bon­net that swoops down to­wards the hexag­o­nal grille give it a rather Euro­pean face, and we like it. That brings us to the only Euro­pean in this fight, the Volk­swa­gen Vento. It is classy,

sim­ple, sub­tle and very ef­fec­tive. The VW might not have the vis­ual flair of the oth­ers, but it’s a de­sign that won’t fade away in the fastchang­ing world of vis­ual trends, and even after years will con­tinue to have that old-school charm. The same can be said about the cabin lay­out which is sim­ple but well-crafted. The plas­tic parts of the beige-and-black dash­board are built to last and the uni­form panel gaps are im­pres­sive. The all-beige cabin gives an im­pres­sion of a larger car. There’s enough space for rear seat pas­sen­gers and the seats are well cush­ioned and firm. The over­all build qual­ity is pretty solid, like most things Ger­man. But what’s most sur­pris­ing is that al­though it seems to be com­pact from the out­side, it ac­tu­ally is the sec­ond most spa­cious in this shootout. For the most roomy cabin though, we’ll have to turn our at­ten­tion to­wards the City. For those who seek a chauf­feur-driven car, the Honda has to be your pick. There’s gen­er­ous space to fit three adults com­fort­ably on the rear bench, and the car also comes with rear air-con vents. But the neg­a­tive is that the seats are low and can be a wee bit un­com­fort­able for el­derly peo­ple. The plas­tic qual­ity is strictly okay, and the cabin has some

er­gonomic chal­lenges. The rear cen­tre arm­rest doesn’t come with a han­dle and once you man­age to pull it out, it flops down all the way to rest on the seat bench. Sur­pris­ing over­sight in a pre­mium model like the City.

In mat­ters of at­ten­tion to de­tail, the Verna does man­age to get few ex­tra brownie points. Though the gen­eral lay­out might look mun­dane and sim­i­lar to that of smaller cars from the com­pany’s line-up, the qual­ity of ma­te­ri­als, along with the fit and fin­ish is the best of this lot. The de­sign is rather straight­for­ward, but ev­ery but­ton you touch and dial you ro­tate feels sturdy and falls within the reach of the driver. In fact, the Verna’s at­ten­tion to de­tail has reached a level where it can now be con­sid­ered on par with the qual­ity pro­duced by a Euro­pean pow­er­house like Volk­swa­gen, which in it­self is quite a feat. The only thing that it lacks is not enough room to stretch, es­pe­cially on the back seat. There’s just about enough knee room, but the steep roofline in­trudes into the head­room space as well. The all-black theme of the cabin doesn’t help mat­ters ei­ther.

That’s where the Toy­ota Yaris scores. It uses light, beige-coloured uphol­stery which gives an im­pres­sion of it be­ing roomier than it ac­tu­ally is. But we were in for a sur­prise as we mea­sured the Yaris. It has the most com­pact cabin among these cars, and the sharp rake of the roofline gives it the least amount of head­room. After ad­just­ing the driver’s seat to my usual driv­ing po­si­tion, I hopped on to the rear seat to find even less room than what the Verna had to of­fer.

The Vento and Yaris have the best sound in­su­la­tion and en­sure most of the road noise is kept out of the cabin. And be­cause of this, sit­ting in ei­ther of the two make the ex­pe­ri­ence more pre­mium and com­fort­ing. Cars in this seg­ment come with a host of standard fea­tures, es­pe­cially in this top-end au­to­matic vari­ant. So all the four cars boast of au­to­matic cli­mate con­trol, mul­ti­func­tional steer­ing wheel, cruise con­trol, colour dis­play and rear cam­era. All of them also fea­ture a-c vents for rear pas­sen­gers, in the Yaris though these vents are places on the roof. And apart from the Yaris, all the oth­ers get auto-dim­ming rear view mir­rors. The City and the Verna get larger 16-inch al­loy wheels and a sun roof, fea­tures that still man­age to at­tract many car buy­ers. The deal maker for me are pad­dle shifters, which are miss­ing in the Verna and Vento.

Com­ing to some more in­tri­cate car-spe­cific fea­tures, in the Vento, rear seat pas­sen­gers can use the Space­max lever to adjust the front pas­sen­ger seat. But the TSI misses out on push but­ton start/stop, which the rest of the cars get. The VW, along with the Toy­ota and Hyundai comes equipped with rear park­ing sen­sors which the City misses. The high­light of the Honda’s cabin has to be the touch panel for the air-con sys­tem and the eight-speaker mu­sic sys­tem. Whereas the Yaris gets its own unique fea­tures such as an elec­tri­cally pow­ered driver’s seat, front park­ing sen­sors, and a TFT driver’s in­stru­ment clus­ter.

The Verna boasts of a long list of fea­tures which in­cludes ven­ti­lated seats, hands-free tail-gate re­lease, and pro­jec­tor fog lamps. While rev­ers­ing the car, the Hyundai not just dis­plays the rear sur­round­ings but also gives dy­namic guide lines based on the steer­ing in­puts. In com­par­i­son the Yaris doesn’t of­fer any guide­lines, and the Vento and City dis­play static lines. But it’s not just the fea­tures, but the ex­e­cu­tion too which make the Verna so ap­peal­ing. The user in­ter­face of the in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem is the most in­tu­itive and quick to re­sponse.

Plus it of­fers An­droid Auto and Ap­ple CarPlay apart from Mir­ror Link which makes the sys­tem leap far ahead of the one in the Yaris and City. In terms of the in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem, the Vento comes a close sec­ond as it is com­par­a­tively sim­ple and easy to op­er­ate. We are hope­ful that the City will soon get the up­dated DigiPad which the new Amaze has, which is a big im­prove­ment over the cur­rent one. Toy­ota need to bet­ter the 7.0-inch in­fo­tain­ment, as it feels slow and the dis­play qual­ity isn’t bril­liant ei­ther.

The Yaris does man­age to im­press through the sheer re­fine­ment of the 1.5-litre petrol en­gine and the silky na­ture of the CVT. The pow­er­train is so quiet that it al­most feels like you’re driv­ing a hybrid. It’s the best car here to drive at a re­laxed pace, as it fer­ries you around in com­fort that matches more pre­mium cars. You can hardly hear the en­gine or

feel the trans­mis­sion work. The trans­mis­sion can sense even the slight­est of throt­tle in­puts and re­acts in­stantly. Usu­ally, to get a CVT work­ing, one has to step on the ac­cel­er­a­tor and set the alarm clock be­fore the trans­mis­sion ac­tu­ally re­sponds. But not in the Yaris. It gath­ers pace seam­lessly and the whole ex­pe­ri­ence is smooth and tranquil, as long as you drive it with­out strain­ing the en­gine. It was the slow­est car dur­ing our per­for­mance tests. The Toy­ota makes for an ex­cel­lent au­to­matic com­muter to take you around town for your daily chores at a leisurely pace.

The other car with a CVT is the City, but this one likes to be pushed hard. Honda’s 1.5-litre i-VTEC has been tuned to please the en­thu­si­asts and even has a ded­i­cated ‘Sport’ mode purely for that. No sur­prise that it feels the quick­est off the line and was the fastest to reach the 100 km/h mark. This makes it one of the most ex­cit­ing cars to drive in this shootout. Sur­pris­ingly, Honda have traded re­fine­ment in or­der to de­liver ex­cite­ment. As you up the pace, the en­gine clat­ter can be heard in the cabin. More­over, the CVT doesn’t match the fi­nesse of that on the Yaris and at times takes a tad longer to re­spond to throt­tle in­puts.

This brings us to the most spon­ta­neous trans­mis­sion of the lot, the Vento’s DSG. The Volk­swa­gen’s 1.2-litre is the small­est en­gine here but it’s turbo-charged. Though it makes the least power, be­ing rated at 105 PS, it pro­duces 175 Nm of torque which is the high­est in this com­par­i­son. The seven-speed du­al­clutcher is also the most ad­vanced of the lot, and you can feel it as soon as you start to drive. The gear-shifts are ex­tremely lin­ear and al­most tele­pathic. De­pend­ing on the

throt­tle in­put or the need, the Vento TSI shifts up or sheds a gear in­stan­ta­neously. There’s no lag or con­fu­sion, and the car keeps de­liv­er­ing pre­cise per­for­mance mile-after-mile in a pure Ger­man, sys­tem­atic man­ner. It’s about halfa-sec­ond slower than the City from 0-100 km/h but man­ages it with­out much drama and with sur­gi­cal pre­ci­sion.

The Vento’s taut ride and a com­mu­nica­tive steer­ing give it the best driv­ing dy­nam­ics. If you like go­ing fast then you should be be­hind the wheel of the TSI, as it slays fast sweep­ing roads like a pro. The Euro­pean set-up might not be well ap­pre­ci­ated by pas­sen­gers if driven over long stretches of bro­ken road, but is mostly com­fort­able in the ur­ban en­vi­ron­ment. It’s a wor­thy com­pro­mise if you en­joy driv­ing. The Honda City is also firmly set up but isn’t as for­giv­ing as the Vento, as you can hear the sus­pen­sion ward off-road un­du­la­tions. Most of the road joints man­age to fil­ter through to the cabin and the ride can get un­com­fort­able for pas­sen­gers, es­pe­cially while driv­ing fast. The sil­ver lin­ing is that the City is en­joy­able through a set of twisties and re­mains com­posed even at three-digit speeds. In con­trast, the Yaris has the most pli­ant ride and does a fab­u­lous job of soak­ing in all the bumps and pot holes. It’s the most com­fort­able mid-sized sedan for your city run­abouts. But driv­ing it fast and to the limit isn’t its forte, as the soft set-up in­duces body-roll and the light steer­ing doesn’t im­prove things much ei­ther.

The car that im­presses us the most is the Hyundai Verna which has the best en­gine-gear­box com­bi­na­tion along with good ride qual­ity and han­dling. It comes with the largest, and might we add, most po­tent, 1.6-litre en­gine that churns out 123 PS and 151 Nm of torque mated to a six-speed au­to­matic trans­mis­sion. The power de­liv­ery is smooth and just a frac­tion of a sec­ond slower to hit the ton than the Honda City. The gear­box is quick and doesn’t shy away from hold­ing on to gears or shed a cou­ple of cogs if need be. I just wish it came with pad­dle shifters, just like its com­peti­tors. And it’s sporty to drive too. When the new Verna was launched we were all taken aback by its tremen­dously im­proved ride qual­ity. It just feels so much more ma­ture now, as it re­mains com­fort­able in the city and is im­pres­sively com­posed on the high­way too. The han­dling prow­ess has also gone up by a cou­ple of notches, though at high speeds, doesn’t match up to the

sporty char­ac­ter of the Vento. Among the four cars here, it’s the Verna that strikes the best balance be­tween a planted ride and fairly sporty han­dling.

When it comes to mak­ing the buy­ing de­ci­sion, which one should you pick? The Honda City has proven it­self as an ac­com­plished fam­ily sedan over the years. The great ex­te­rior de­sign, gen­er­ous size of the cabin, and in­clu­sion of all the nec­es­sary tech make it an at­trac­tive pack­age. It also has the best fuel econ­omy of 14.2 km/l on an av­er­age. It could have been a per­fect mid-sized sedan had the en­gine been more re­fined, the cabin bet­ter in­su­lated, and the ride a bit more for­giv­ing. With a price tag of Rs 13.96 lakh (ex-show­room, Pune) for the City ZX CVT petrol, it still of­fers good value, and re­mains a car you can rely on. The Toy­ota Yaris scores high with its su­per quiet cabin, ride qual­ity, and a seam­less CVT. The cabin isn’t as roomy as some of the oth­ers and is more apt to seat four adults. The Yaris VX CVT has a sticker of Rs 14.07 lakh (ex-show­room, Pune) which makes it the most ex­pen­sive here. It also is the least ef­fi­cient, re­turn­ing 9.9 km/l. This pre­mium sedan is a great al­ter­na­tive for those who de­sire the Corolla Altis but have a smaller bud­get.

The en­thu­si­ast in me is the most at­tracted to the Volk­swa­gen Vento TSI. With such com­posed road be­hav­iour, it also feels the most se­cure and safest to drive. The DSG is a gem of a trans­mis­sion which makes driv­ing it in the city or on the high­way even more en­joy­able, and even of­fers a de­cent 12.5 km/l ef­fi­ciency on an av­er­age. The TSI High­line Plus vari­ant is ag­gres­sively priced at Rs 12.54 lakh (ex-show­room, Pune), mak­ing it the most af­ford­able in this shootout. Buy it if you’re willing to trade off some flash for the joy of driv­ing.

But the prag­ma­tist in me is pulled to­ward the Hyundai. It man­ages to bring the best of both worlds — ride and han­dling. The mo­tors is re­fined, ef­fi­cient, and pow­er­ful and the au­to­matic keeps the drive en­gag­ing. It is pretty ef­fi­cient too — de­liv­er­ing 12.5 km/l on av­er­age — and comes with all the use­ful equip­ments that one could de­sire. The only draw­back is the lim­ited knee-room on the back seat. For Rs 12.55 lakh (ex-show­room, Pune) the Verna petrol six-speed au­to­matic SX (O) is ex­cel­lent value for the goods it de­liv­ers.

( 1) City gets an a-c touch panel and an eight-speaker sys­tem ( 2) Top-class ma­te­ri­als used in the Vento are built to last ( 3) Verna has a sim­ple cabin, with best-in-class fin­ish ( 4) Beige cabin makes the Yaris ap­pear roomier than it is ( 5) Yaris’ in­fo­tain­ment feels slow and needs a bet­ter dis­play ( 6) Roof-mounted a-c vent on the Yaris are a thought­ful touch

( 1) City sounds coarse but is the quick­est from 0-100 km/h ( 2) Vento’s smaller but tur­bocharged en­gine of­fers brisk per­for­mance ( 3) Yaris im­presses with its en­gine re­fine­ment and smooth CVT au­to­matic ( 4) Verna has the largest en­gine, which is both po­tent as well as ef­fi­cient

( 1) City of­fers the most gen­er­ous knee-room ( 2) Volk­swa­gen have tweaked the seats to im­prove cabin room ( 3) The head- and knee-room aren’t a lux­ury in the Toy­ota ( 4) Dark uphol­stery doesn’t help the Hyundai’s cramped rear seats

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