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
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