The all new Honda City 2014 has finally been launched but now that it has entered the fiercely competitive upper midsize segment, the new City has to face some tough battles namely the silver car that you see here, yup the Volkswagen Vento TSI.
The Honda City in its first generation was an enthusiasts delight and as anyone will tell you its tough to get these as owners just love them for their performance and its now part of enthusiast folklore. However that is all past as Honda then launched the second gen and it was a complete shock with its futuristic styling and spacious high quality cabin. Here was a car that had lifeless steering and was a disappointment to the enthusiast but it was a bestseller thanks to reliability, efficiency and space.
Then with the third gen the City got its mojo back with sporty styling and being more fun to drive along with having all the positives of the earlier City. Now in the new fourth generation model Honda has simply taken the successful recipe and honed it. So its better than before and while the diesel with its magical 26 kmpl is hogging all the limelight, we wanted to see whether the petrol model can successfully compete with our current favourite petrol midsizer which is the Volkswagen Vento TSI.
These cars have to look good and exude presence. Buyers migrating from hatches or compact midsizers want a more premium look and these two offer them in spades. Lets start with the new City and immediately in the flesh it impresses with its styling. Suddenly the once very sporty and futuristic third gen City now looks dated compared to this. While obviously it is not a radical departure from the earlier model, it looks sharper and more premium.
There are more curves now and it looks much bigger than the earlier model though it is not. The new Honda City measures 4440 mm in length which is same as the earlier City and so is the 1695 mm width which is the same as before. However its height now is at 1495 mm which is 10 mm more.
The sharp styling features the 'H' design philosophy plus the oversized grille dripping with chrome adds to the more up-market look. The side is also more sculpted but the rear in my option is a huge step forward in terms of looks paying homage to some of the earlier Honda cars.
The Vento on the other hand has a simpler look devoid of slahes or curves but it has its own appeal. The silver colour suits the car well and despite being available for many years the Vento looks classy no doubt helped by those smoked headlamps, alloys and some chrome at the rear. While looks are subjective the new Honda City is the extrovert and more up market looking of the two but the Vento with its fabulous build has its own band of followers.
Step inside and the same design philosophy is carried over. The Vento TSI is simple but high quality while the new City is a lot more futuristic. The interiors actually are a bigger step forward compared to the exteriors as it eliminates the issues with the earlier City which was a lack of features.
The new City equipment list includes 5" LCD screen, touchscreen AC controls, steering-mounted controls for audio, cruise control, rear camera, bluetooth and iPod connectivity, handsfree phone facility, rear AC vents, integrated audio system with 8 speakers, sunroof, cruise control, start/stop button with Honda Smart Key System, sunroof and four 12V power outlets. And oh the CD player has also made a comeback here!
The Vento TSI has features like two din music system with 4 speakers and Bluetooth, steering mounted controls, 12V outlet at the front, rear ac vents but clearly the City has more features. The Vento however has class best build quality and everything feels solid.
The new City has a more premium look inside and feels more expensive than the earlier version with quality also being improved. The Vento rear seats are comfy but the space king has always been the new City and it continues with the new version as the City has an extended wheelbase of 2600 mm (50 mm more).
There is no question that petrol cars are back in the limelight and these two both have excellent petrol engines. I mean how can you go wrong with a 1.5 i-VTEC engine delivering 118 bhp and 145 Nm of torque and a 1.2 TSI engine delivering 104 bhp and 175 Nm of torque.
The Vento TSI just as the Polo TSI is fun to drive and the 7-speed DSG gearbox is a delight to use. As you can see it has more torque than the new City which results in a more smoother performance delivery plus the gearbox also scores brownie points for being responsive.
We would have liked paddle shifts though and the Vento TSI does not come with a manual. The new City has paddle shifts but this is a CVT gearbox, mind you though, it is a massive leap over the earlier automatic City. It feels quite responsive and the shift paddles engage you more in the process. The manual version features a 5-speed manual instead of the 6-speed found on the diesel. The manual gearbox just as always is slick and great to use.
Both lack the steering feel that you need from proper enthusiast cars with being quite light but the new City's steering is an improvement over its predecessor. Praise needs to be lavished on the excellent high-speed stability on both cars. When it comes to ride the Vento TSI has an excellent low speed ride with the softer suspension while the new City improves at high speeds.
The Vento TSI has an ARAI figure of 16.93 kmpl while the new City petrol in manual guise returns 17.8 kmpl with the CVT being more efficient at 18 kmpl!
The Volkswagen Vento TSI comes in top-end trim level along with the autobox and is priced at Rs 9.99 lakh ex-showroom. The new Honda City CVT is available in two variants- SV and VX with prices starting at Rs 9.49 lakh for SV and Rs 10.98 lakh for VX. The Honda City manual variant starts at Rs 7.42 lakh. Overall we feel both of these cars will appeal to different kinds of buyers. The TSI engine and DSG gearbox has transformed the Vento and has made it competitive with the new City and others. The Vento is a classy, well build sedan that has simple ethos while lacking the pizzazz of the City.
The new Honda City as said earlier looks great, features a long equipment list and drives well. It also continues to build on the key areas that made the earlier City so good. It really boils down to your priorities and what you want though it is quite clear that the petrol midsize sedan buyer never had it so good with new and better technology giving a much better driving experience than before.
Check our New Honda City 2014 review