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I hadn’t seen my uncle this excited in quite some time. “Did you know? The Toyota Yaris is here!” he announced excitedly when he saw me at his Kolkata home. For a second I almost thought he had bought one and the car had been delivered. But no, he was only talking about the news of the Yaris being launched. Of course I knew, I told him. Would be a little strange if I didn’t, considering how I earn a living. The rest of the evening was mostly random banter until after dinner he asked me what I thought of the Toyota Yaris. From his tone it was clear that his expectations of the Yaris were high. He made no bones about the fact that he thought this brand new sedan with the Toyota badge would be a great car that would give the others a run for their money. But does it? After all, at Rs 12.85 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi) for the top-of-the-line VX manual variant that you would want to have, the Toyota Yaris is the priciest C-segment sedan you can buy. Before you pooh-pooh our claim, digest this. The range-topping Honda City VX we have here carries a sticker of Rs 11.84 lakh, the Volkswagen Vento 1.2L TSI with the excellent DSG gearbox goes for Rs 12.54 lakh and the top-of-the-line Hyundai Verna 1.6L we have here is the most affordable at Rs 11.42 lakh. So what’s the story behind that premium pricing then? Is it a case of a lot more goodies than the rest? Is it automotive snobbery?
“Does the brand new Toyota Yaris has enough nerve to give the others a run for their money?”
The more I look at them the more I’m convinced that it is the Hyundai Verna that stands out as the most stylish of this lot. The new age design suits the Korean rather well. It’s as long as the City but wider and, after the Volkswagen Vento, the lowest of the lot . The end result is a car that looks wide and squat, and quite frankly, sporty. The proportions are nice and the bling (for sure there is some!) is measured. Not over the top.
“The more I look at them the more I’m convinced that it is the Hyundai Verna that stands out as the most stylish of this lot”
Strangely, in spite of the inevitable novelty of a new product, the Yaris doesn’t attract as much attention as either the Hyundai or the Honda. It seems a little too narrow, a little too tall. Which is really strange, because it is the Yaris that really is the widest of this lot at 1730mm. Something about its proportions and stance makes it appear narrower, much narrower, than it really is. The other thing that takes away from the Yaris’ visual appeal are those 15-inchers, especially when in a crowd every other rival is wearing a shoe a size larger.
The Vento, in spite of the extended longevity of its classical form, has now begun to look a little long in the tooth. The only car that can really match up to the Verna is the City in our eyes. Looks however are entirely subjective and while you make up your own mind about that, we’ll help you out with something else.
“The only car that can really match up to the Verna is the City in our eyes, looks however are entirely subjective”
The Volkswagen feels solid. The doors shut with a reassuring thud and there is absolutely nothing in the car that feels flimsy. Clearly quality isn’t something the Germans are willing to play around with and that’s a great thing. There’s an air of robustness about the Vento that’s hard for the others to match up. And not for the lack of trying. If only there was some flair in the design.
“There’s an air of robustness about the Vento that’s hard for the others to match up”
The Yaris is also very well put together. Clearly Toyota is playing to its strength, having learnt from the mistakes made in the Etios era, and quality is one of the brand’s strongest facets. The company has done such a brilliant job of sealing the cabin that once the doors are shut you’ll be able to hear… nothing. Except the whispery whoosh of the cool air blowing out of the roof-mounted rear AC vent, which, come to think of it, works better than the floor mounted units in the other three.
There isn’t much to fault, except for that narrowness that really makes its presence felt inside the Yaris. And if I were to nitpick I’d demand a better infotainment system and more USB charging slots. This one feels more like an aftermarket fitment than a factory-fitted piece of kit. What cannot be overlooked in the case of the Yaris is Toyota’s obeisance to safety. The Yaris is the only car here to boast of seven airbags (including one for the knee), the Verna comes in second at six for the range-topper, across all variants. It is also the only other car here to get stability control in the top-of-the-line, the Vento being the other car to get it.
“Toyota has done such a brilliant job of sealing the cabin that once the doors are shut you’ll be able to hear… nothing”
In comparison to the Toyota and the Volkswagen, the City falls short of the quality benchmark. Make no mistake, there has been a huge improvement in Honda’s perceived quality and the City has benefited quite a bit from this. But the others still seem to be ahead of Honda’s game. Where the Honda hits back however is with space. Not one of the other three can boast of the kind of leg room that the City has to offer.
“Not one of the other three can boast of the kind of leg room that the City has to offer”
Certainly not the Verna, which seems to offer the least legroom in this company. Which is a shame because the Verna is exactly as long as the City and has an identical wheelbase. But where the Hyundai hits back, rather thwacks the ball out of the park, is with its list of comfort creatures. This one has every single piece of equipment that the others have to offer. Cooled seats? You got it. Sunroof? Yep. Cornering lamps? You got those too. While you can get by without some of these, there’s no denying that the fact that the Verna is the only car here with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Mirror Link hugely stacks the odds in favour of the Hyundai. The fact that quality levels in the Hyundai can rival those in the Volkswagen further pushes you towards the Verna.
Don’t go by the numbers on the spec sheets, it is the Vento that is the nicest of the lot to drive. Planted and reassuring, it just inspires oodles and oodles of confidence. Throw it into a bend with gusto and watch it hold the line you’ve chosen. That 1.2-litre direct injected turbo-petrol might be the least powerful of the lot with only 103.2bhp to show but has deep torque reserves, the deepest here in fact. Helped by that flawless 7-speed DSG, you can attack corners with enthusiasm and end up having tremendous fun going up and down a twisty road. Or on any stretch of tarmac really. There’s just that little bit of lag, but not too much, as the turbo spools up and propels the Vento with purpose. Without doubt, VW’s 1.2TSI is the most enjoyable 1.2-litre petrol engine in the country today.
“Don’t go by the numbers on the spec sheets, it is the Vento that is the nicest of the lot to drive. Planted and reassuring, it just inspires oodles and oodles of confidence”
The Verna comes in at second, not too far behind. Goes to show just how much things have improved at Hyundai since it first launched the Verna in India over a decade ago. Not only is the 1.6-litre petrol engine the most powerful on this test but also the torquiest. There’s a lovely spread of grunt over the rev range and even though the engine isn’t as rev happy as the Honda’s i-VTEC unit or even the Toyota’s 1.5-litre petrol engine, it’s certainly more tractable. As a result, the Verna will lend itself to all sorts of driving conditions. The chassis is well balanced and the suspension setup no longer soft and wallowy as it used to be. This one actually feels nearly as planted as the Volkswagen, be it on the straights or through a series of corners. Fancy that! And not at the expense of ride quality mind you.
“Where the Yaris really outstrips the competition is in braking with its all disc set up, so much so that it becomes one of the Yaris’ standout aspects”
Strangely, both the Honda City and the Toyota Yaris feel flighty when pushed hard. The front end in both cases feel lighter than they should be. The other thing that makes its presence felt by its absence in the Japanese cars is bottom end grunt. More so in the case of the Toyota Yaris, where there’s little that happens below 3000 revs, than in the case of the Honda City. Thankfully, both units are happy to rev and therefore rewarding when you keep them on song. Where the Yaris really outstrips the competition is in braking with its all disc set up. There’s plenty of bite and progression at the pedal. So much so that it becomes one of the Yaris’ standout aspects.
Each of the cars here do something or the other really well. The Volkswagen Vento is by far the best to drive. If you’re an enthusiast with nothing else to worry about don’t even bother with the others. The Volkswagen is what you need. If you enjoy sobriety and refinement there’s no question that the Toyota Yaris should be at the top of your shortlist. If it’s space you want then there’s nothing here that’s as spacious as the Honda City. But if you want the most well rounded package of the lot then it’s undoubtedly the Hyundai Verna. That it’s also the most affordable only sweetens the deal.