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With Honda launching the fifth-gen City in the Indian market, we look at how our favourite sedan compares to its rivals
That the Honda City has achieved legendary status in India is no overestimation. Since its launch in 1998, it has been (and still is) the model that has kept Honda Cars India chugging along as a brand; cars bigger and smaller have come and gone, but the City has been a constant. Now in its fifth generation in the country, it faces tough competition from the Skoda Rapid, Volkswagen Vento and Hyundai Verna. And right off the bat, it faces a disadvantage, which is...
The Verna, Vento and Rapid all have one little thing the City doesn’t. What is it? A turbo, of course! All three of them pack a 1-litre turbo-petrol engine under the hood, and while the one on the Vento and Rapid (the same engine, incidentally) make a slightly lower 108bhp (as compared to the City’s 119), the one in the Verna actually one-ups the City with a 120bhp figure. Big things come in small packages eh?
But it’s not really a case of an early defeat here. This is simply because the City carries forward its tried-and-tested combo of engines and transmissions, namely a 1.5-litre petrol with either a manual or an automatic transmission, and 1.5-litre diesel, with a manual. This is where the Vento and Rapid, however, fail to keep up, as they both get only have one engine option (so no diesel engines), and the Rapid doesn’t even get an auto ’box!
And coincidentally, this is where the Verna shines, as the Korean carmaker has not only given the Verna lineup a comparable-sized naturally aspirated petrol AND diesel, but also the fact its diesel mill gets the added benefit of an automatic transmission.
Seems the Verna’s checking more boxes on paper.
On the road
Agreed, most C-Segment sedan owners look for a simple, dependable daily runabout. But considering our tagline is not ‘The Thrill Of Commuting’ it’s impertinent we’d chuck the cars through a few tight corners, or go a little too fast on a slightly bumpy path, all the while trying to push out as many revs as we can from their engines, in the quest to better understand their 'soul.'
In doing so, we’ve realised both the Rapid and Vento, the ones to conventionally look out for (considering their European heritage) still very easily impress. Granted, a three-pot turbo mill will never have the refinement of a naturally aspirated in-line-four, but the miniscule loss of refinement is more than made up for by an engine and chassis combo that’s always trying to impress.
Both of them feel very surefooted at speed, and can manage both spirited driving and relaxed highway cruising with ease, though the Vento does seem to edge out the Rapid in the latter.
Alternately, the 2020 Verna, with the upgrades to its suspension, now gives a ride quality that’s a lot more planted, with improved composure around bumpy corners. Gone is the squishiness of its predecessor, replaced by a firm, though still comfortable, ride quality. The same feeling is had with the City, which though sprung better than the VW and Skoda, steers in a neutral manner in the twisties as well. That said, the 185-section tyres (as opposed to the 195-section which is largely the norm) means you might feel the City lacks that tad bit of confidence when really pushed hard.
There’s little that can be said here which may decidedly swing the balance. All four of them have some sort of infotainment system with the de rigueur pairing and Bluetooth capabilities. That said, there a few unique features which may give them a few brownie points in terms of overall convenience or safety. For instance, the Honda City activates a blind spot camera on the left wing mirror when the left indicator is switched on.
Similarly, both the Honda City and Hyundai Verna sport a sunroof (more a gimmick in our conditions, but a plus point nevertheless) and wireless charging.
Overall, no one car here packs any indispensable ‘zing’ factor over the other, leaving us to concentrate on the last, and arguably most important part of a comparo which is...
Now, buying a C-Segment sedan rarely entails penny pinching; potential buyers already have a clear idea of what they’re looking for, with quite a few of them also nurturing some brand loyalty. Therefore right off the bat, here’s a clear, variant-wise list of prices for all the cars considered today:
At a summary glance, we can see the Skoda Rapid has the lowest price for entry. At Rs 7.49 lakh for the Rider variant, it undercuts the lowest variants of the City by approximately Rs 2 lakh, and even the Vento by just over Rs 1 lakh.
However, the entry-level Rapid gets 14-inch wheels instead of alloys, misses out on interior kit like a touchscreen infotainment system, and makes do without projector headlights. All of these can be had in the Rs 9.99 lakh Ambition trim – or the identically priced mid-level Highline trim of the Volkswagen Vento – both of which are still about Rs 89,000 cheaper than the Rs 10.89 lakh sticker on the entry-level VX variant of the Honda City. In fact, it is just about Rs 50,000 less than the penultimate Style variant of the Rapid.
Meanwhile, the Verna occupies a broad spectrum of prices with its astonishing (11!) number of variants, spread across two petrol and one diesel engine option. Starting at Rs 9.31 lakh for the entry-level petrol and Rs 10.65 lakh for the entry level diesel, it goes all the way up to Rs 13.99 lakh for the fully-loaded 1-litre turbo-petrol variant.
Nevertheless, out of all the cars in this company, the City is closest in terms of price and features (except for the turbo-petrol variant) to the Hyundai Verna, and this is where you will need to make a clear distinction depending on what you’re looking for.
For those who want a simple, no-nonsense sedan that can comfortably fit four people for the daily grind and can easily accommodate their luggage for the occasional out-of-town trip, the City is the best option. Conversely, for those looking for a sedan that gives off a ‘professional’ vibe, without unnecessarily sacrificing performance for comfort, the Verna is a wise choice.