Premium hatchback comparo: Hyundai Elite i20 vs Honda Jazz
Superbly practical and somewhat unique to look at in the hatchback space, the Jazz should have done well. Besides, it was a Honda, a brand that had always been perceived as premium. What then was the Jazz’s undoing? There were many reasons in fact but all that is water under the bridge. Honda has a new Jazz for 2018 and to find out if it makes the cut we decided to pit it against the current hatchback benchmark and the winner of our last hatchback comparo, the Hyundai Elite i20.
Inside out – Honda Jazz and Hyundai Elite i20
Honestly, I can’t decide between the Japanese and the Korean. Both look equally good to me. They are both youthful. Where the Elite i20 looks sporty, the Jazz looks snazzy. With styling being as subjective as it is, I’ll leave it to you to decide and quickly move inside.
“The Elite i20 has never given people the opportunity to complain about its interiors”
There is remarkable improvement inside the Jazz’s airy cabin. The plastics used in here no longer give off the impression of being built to a cost. The touchscreen infotainment system has improved too. The image from the rear view camera is sharper and clearer than what I have seen previously and the screen itself is more responsive to touch. Hell, even the climate control functions are now operated via a cool touchscreen. Very youthful. Very nice. Unfortunately, navigating through that infotainment system is still quite cumbersome and not particularly user friendly.
The Elite i20 has never given people the opportunity to complain about its interiors. The new one continues in the same vein. The touchscreen infotainment system is even nicer than what you get in the Jazz. Not only because the display is clearer but also because it is so much easier to navigate. And while, Honda’s cabin quality has improved several notches, the Hyundai is still ahead. But, there’s no arguing with the Honda’s space. There’s just too much of it and the Elite i20, though spacious in its own right, can’t match up. So here, it’s a tie.
Can the driving experiences break the tie?
While the Jazz’s short bonnet hides Honda’s 1498cc i-DTEC turbo-4, the Hyundai gets the 1396cc CRDi straight four turbo diesel. On paper, the Jazz’s 98bhp overshadows the Elite i20’s 89, but the same paper also shows that the Hyundai has 20Nm of twist over the Honda. More critically, the Elite i20’s 220Nm kicks in at 1500rpm, which is 250rpm before the Jazz’s 200 come into play. The Hyundai engine is also happier to rev.
So no surprise that the Hyundai, in spite of the power deficit, feels peppier straight off the block. There is the telltale lag of a turbocharged unit but once you get past that, there’s fun to be had. You’ll have to work that slick shifting gearbox a fair bit when you’re pottering around in the city though. The Jazz on the other hand doesn’t share the Elite i20’s youthful manners. The delivery is linear and there’s no exciting jump in performance once the turbo has spooled up. Although the Honda engine offers more power, almost all of it has been spread through the bottom and a bit of the middle.
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So you end up working less when the going is slow to moderate but show it an open highway and she’ll excite you as much as a history lesson. There’s no point giving it too much stick either, for not much seems to happen beyond 3500rpm and by 4000 she has nothing more to give. The biggest difference between the two however continues to be in the refinement department. The i-DTEC continues to be loud compared to the CRDi’s soft spoken manners. Honda seems to have addressed some of the NVH issues with better sound damping than before, but it is still the Elite i20 that is quieter.
“Chuck them around a bend with some enthusiasm and the Hyundai feels more composed and reassuring. The Honda feels slightly flighty and unsure of itself”
Quite frankly, neither of the two will get your pulses racing. Front-wheel driven as they are, both the Hyundai and the Honda are prone to understeer and neither has a steering unit that is overly communicative. Yet, there are differences. Chuck them around a bend with some enthusiasm and the Hyundai feels more composed and reassuring. The Honda feels slightly flighty and unsure of itself. The Elite i20 also likes to power out of bends, unlike the Jazz, which is happier to maintain a constant stable turn of pace through everywhere. Given that the suspension set up is similarly soft on both, with the Hyundai being just that wee bit firmer, I would think that the Honda’s flightiness could be the result of the skinny, fuel saving Bridgestone Ecopia tyres that the Jazz’s wheels are shod with. Brilliant though their ability to save fuel is, it comes at the cost of outright grip.
On the ride quality front too it is the Hyundai that edges past the Honda. Over rough roads while the Jazz feels equally plush at slow and moderate speeds, the Elite i20 continues to offer a comfortable ride even when it is being driven fairly quickly. Where the Honda does hit back however is in braking, with the Jazz showing a much quicker response when you drop the anchors.
“If you’re also looking for a bit of fun on the side and give in to the occasional desire to let your hair down, then it has got to be the Elite i20”
When all is said and done
It’s up to you really. There isn’t much of a difference in pricing with the Honda being priced just a tad bit more. It is much improved and offers a cabin that is genuinely enjoyable to be in. And there isn’t another hatchback in this segment that will give you a more spacious cabin. But if you’re also looking for a bit of fun on the side and give in to the occasional desire to let your hair down, then it has got to be the Elite i20. The Hyundai isn’t too far behind on the offer of practicality and functionality and is certainly a couple of notches ahead when it comes to playfulness. Besides, it is the more affordable of the two. So I’m in no doubt where my money would go. All things said and done, a paisa saved is a paise earned.