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Tuesday, Nov 12, 2019

Honda ahead, by a whisker

A noisy diesel engine notwithstanding, the Honda car packs in just about enough to steal the thunder from India’s best selling sedan. Sumant Banerji reports.

autos Updated: Jul 17, 2013 11:42 IST
Sumant Banerji
Sumant Banerji
Hindustan Times

One is an established bestseller that has had an unfettered reign at the top of the segment for half a decade, a reign it seemed poised to extend when its boot turned even smaller in its last facelift. The other is the new kid on the block - but from one of the more tech-savvy automakers in the world. True to its badge, the Honda Amaze, built on the Brio platform, is the fruit of many hours of research. Which of these then, does one pick?

Do looks matter?

If they do, it is difficult to tell which is better. The novelty value of both the cars have worn off largely because their compact versions have already been on the road for some time. With the Dzire, it is even more so not only because it is the older car but also as its mid life facelift last year did precious little change to its design apart from the cropped boot.

While the Dzire has more curves and looks bigger (to some extent, it actually is), the Amaze has more sharp edges and straight lines, more in tune with modern cars. From the front the twin chrome slats in the grille differentiate it from the Brio. The lines of the boot flow smoothly, and it does not look like an after-thought. It is in some ways the more proportionate car. However, at the rear it lacks the edginess of the Brio.

The Dzire has aged well and the smaller boot actually makes it look much better than the old version, but with so many of them on the road — some even as cabs — the drool factor is clearly missing.

The inside story

The Dzire is a more inspiring story here. The waterfall design that stems from its executive sedan Kizashi, gives it a more upmarket feel. The dual-tone dashboard has a contemporary feel, the steering feels chunky, and the cabin is well put together. Fit and finish are impressive. For the Amaze, this is the weak point. The dashboard and instrument panel feel dull, as the thrust has been on functionality over largesse. Everything is there, but you might miss it due to the dull presentation. An example is the glovebox lid, which does not seem to slot well — while it actually does.

The one point where the Amaze does score is on space: be it the rear leg room or boot space, it has the goods.

Performance, ride and handling

The two cars are powered by different engines but with similar functional qualities. In its petrol avatar, the Amaze has a 1.2-litre powertrain that develops 88 horsepower and 109 Nm torque, which compares favourably with the Dzire’s similarly-sized engine that has similar specifications. Both cars feel a little underpowered and strained at high speeds, but the Amaze handles better and offers more refinement in terms of less engine noise.

The story is different in the diesel versions. The Dzire shares the 1.3-litre multijet engine of the Swift, which is smaller than Honda’s 1.5-litre iDTec. This is Honda’s maiden attempt at a diesel engine of this size. While the Dzire is no match to the Amaze on outright power and acceleration, Honda falters on the finer aspects.

For all its grunt, the diesel engine is noisy, with vibrations coming through the steering wheel and pedals even when cruising. For all its lack of power and propensity to understeer, the Dzire suffers from no such malaise.

Fuel economy

Hondas are notoriously frugal. So are Marutis. There is little to choose on the petrol variant with both offering similar economies. In diesel, the Amaze has a clear edge, with a claimed ARAI mileage of 25.8 kpl that makes it the most fuel efficient car in India. That may be an exaggeration, but it easily gives 21 kpl on the highway and 18 kpl in city, with AC on. That is a good 15% over the Dzire.

Verdict: Value for money

It has taken Honda some time to show what it can do with diesel technology. In fact, even Suzuki does not have a small diesel engine, and the one on the Swift and Dzire is sourced from Fiat. Where Honda does score is in the pricing. On a level playing field, the scales do tilt in favour of the Amaze, with more space, and outright power and fuel economy in diesel. Unless you want your car as silent as a tomb — which the diesel Amaze surely is not.