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DRIVE ME CRAZY!

Duel of the year!

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Sparks were sure to fly when the fresh, well-toned and lithe Volkswagen Vento met the supremely confident Honda City. TOI-Crest played referee in a no-holds-barred contest and came back wiser from the experience, while settling the debate once and for all.

This is just what we were all waiting for. A duel to ignite passions in the ice-cold Honda that has, for years, ruled the roost with the City. Many have tried to match it, but no one seemed to have a complete package that could come within striking distance of what everyone generally reckons to be the coolest car out there. Enter Volkswagen with the Vento, quite simply the most serious and also the most determined manufacturer - from the looks of it - ever to storm the Indian car market in recent times. In terms of making the right moves to build brand presence and awareness, Volkswagen has left no stone unturned to ensure that Indians are aware that it is not just the maker of the much loved Beetle but also one of the largest and most powerful car manufacturing companies in the world. And, that it is not shy of stating the obvious. As things have panned out, Volkswagen's Vento is the most serious challenger ever to face up to the Honda City and, as we shall see while driving both cars through this test report, also a very effective piece of kit.

STYLE QUOTIENT


Many years ago, when the second generation City appeared in view, it wasn't too difficult to fathom that the sleek, low-slung lines of the original had been dispensed with, in favour of a more mundane, please-all, feel-good look that would bring more people into the Honda fold. With time, Honda made the City sharper, sleeker and more appealing. The profile was improved, the creases on the sides added character and appeal and the front end got a clear and focused identity.

From the mystical Orient to the technotrick Teuton and what comes across is the machined look which is fairly European and rather tasty at that. Volkswagen wrote the book on platform sharing and, on this count, there is no debate because the Vento indeed begins life with a lengthened version of the Polo's floorpan. From there on, it is different and has been engineered differently. Visually, the Vento looks longer and lower than the City and this is a good thing because many Indians still value mass-for-the-price when looking out for a new car. One can see the hand of Walter de'Silva, the legendary ex-Alfa Romeo designer and now design chief of the VW Group, in the overall lines of the Vento. Barring, of course, the rear-end treatment, which is devoid of any excitement!

Both cars sit well and have a great stance, but at the end of the first round of sashaying on the catwalk, we don't see too many punches being pulled. Yet it is the Honda which traipses itself into a narrow opening lead.

>> Honda City: 9/10 >> VW Vento: 8. 5/10!



INSIDE TALK


Come to think of it, the Germans don't do the elaborate very well. And, on the other end, they do the simple even more dowdily. In the battle of the mind and the eyes, when you open the door and slide into the cabin, you see that the Vento, as against the City, has that incomplete look about it. Sure, everything is there and if it weren't for the City I would give it a high score. Let us not get into the debate on the base version because it is way too drab to comprehend, but even with the betterequipped Highline version, the Vento is hard pressed to match the cheery ambience of the City.

I didn't think I would be saying this, but after having both cars being put through their paces over three solid days of work, I could stick my neck out on this. For one, the seats could have been better and not just the rear ones! When I drove this car extensively in Rajasthan a month ago, I liked the comfort it offered, and again, in isolation without the City, the Vento would have found me lathering all over it. Actually, the City is a colossus in its class and the way its seats are configured and the driving position perfected for our typical operating conditions, it is clear that the Vento could do with an added dose of some ergonomic engineering. Sure it has its strengths, including a thoughtful front seat slider for the master to make more room to stretch his legs at the rear, but overall, even with the fine feel of good trim materials, the interior is rather dour. In comparison to its rival, that is.

Meanwhile, funky is the term which best describes Honda's ambience. You'll appreciate it in there, whether it is a short dash to the supermarket or the long haul to the hills, and overall in the subconscious this is where the City begins to turn on its charm. The seats are great and the driving position is spot on. The interplay of controls and their location is brilliant as well. However, the silvery treatment on the dashboard is too crass for my taste. Even though it drives me nuts, I don't have any qualms in calling this round as well in the City's favour, but I am sure we are going to get into an area where mind over matter could blow the Vento upfront.

>> Honda City: 8. 5/10 >> VW Vento: 7/10



DRIVE ME CRAZY!


This is where we land in the real world, dancing in the streets and waltzing up the hills. There is not much to separate the two in terms of suspension and underpinnings, but the critical element here is that the weight distribution plays a key role and in this the Honda has enough going for it to compensate - and reward - in many areas. This isn't meant to infer that the Vento has been relegated to the background, far from it, and this is where it begins to reclaim lost ground.

The Vento has very good poise and seems well settled over a wide spread of surfaces conveying a fine ride quality to the occupants. If only the seating had been perfect, it would have benefited from the excellent ride characteristics the VW product has. Overall, the car steers true, just the right speed and nothing else and you have a safe, sturdy product emerging in typical German manner. The brakes are up to the task, step on the anchors and the car doesn't snap out of line but does as ordered. Throw it into corners and it comes out of them in easy flowing form and overall the combined might of the monocoque, the suspension, the steering and the superb Apollo rubber makes the Vento hold its head high.

The City seems to have its work cut out, but it also employs a totally different way of getting the same job done in an even more involved and pleasurable manner. It has a livelier feel to it and overall is much more involving to drive. Mind you, both cars are familyoriented machines with some punch thrown in and it is only the added punch from the Honda's motor which delivers the sucker punch to the Vento - even in ride and handling. The City can be thrown into corners quicker and it gets out of them with more agility. The City is far more agile, but in a very controlled way and while the Vento acquits itself very well in this test, the City still has its nose up front for honours in this round.

>> Honda City: 9/10 >> VW Vento: 8. 5/10



ENGINE BANTER


Ah! Now we are talking and why shouldn't we? In probably the best and the fairest comparison yet between the two, on paper and bare printed facts, the Vento should have the edge over the City thanks to the slightly larger engine displacement it packs in. The Vento makes do with an all-new 16-valve, double overhead camshaft 1598 cc engine, which develops 105 PS at 5250 rpm and whips up a strong surge of torque - 153 Nm at a low 3800 rpm. The motor seems bullet-proof and, on the face of the specs, looks to have the firepower to match if not to outdo the class leader.

The Honda makes do with more from less and overshadows the Vento in this critical test of heart power. Employing an engine with a swept volume of 1497 cc, the Honda motor packs in magic with the i-VTEC gadgetry that makes the difference not just in absolute power and torque but in real world performance and actual efficiency. It just wouldn't be a Honda if it didn't have a fantastic engine and this holds true in the City as well. The i-VTEC mill punches out 118 PS at 6600 rpm and produces 146 Nm of torque at 4800 rpm, way above the Vento in power and just a shade less on the torque front.

In all aspects of the game, outright acceleration from standstill, through the gears and on to max velocity, the City whips the Vento. The zero to 60 kmph sprint is dispatched in 5. 9 seconds in the City while zero to 100 kmph is achieved in 12. 9 seconds. The Vento takes 6. 1 and 13. 3 seconds for the same acceleration runs. Where the City truly rubs it in is in the roll-on acceleration runs, the critical times when you need to overtake slickly and safely. In every run in any gear, the City trumps the Vento and this is where the Honda also begins to reward its pilot, which is appreciated where it really matters - keeping his wallet packed for longer! Overall, the City delivered 12. 42 kmpl while the Vento returned 10. 62 kmpl, a sizeable difference which is put into even greater perspective when you realise that the Vento hits a top whack of 177 kmph but the City cuts through this before hitting a wall at 184 kmph!

>> Honda City: 10/10 >> VW Vento: 8/10



CLOSING STATEMENT


This is all about living with the cars and how much they do for your ego and your well being. If you are the sane, sensible type, you will love the Vento for it is an exceedingly fine car. The trouble is that the Honda is an even better car with more feel, more pleasure and even more finesse to the way it gets things done. It is ultra refined and is yet the benchmark in its class. Sure, the Vento has the potential, but it needs to iron out the rough edges and hone its equipment even more finely if it has to make the City sweat. Right now, it is a home run for the City, especially when you factor in the contest where you compare apples to apples and in petrol sipping guise, the Vento is overshadowed. It has the measure of the City, but fails in one critical regard: it just doesn't have the soul to match!

HONDA CITY
SPECIFICATIONS

ENGINE:
1497cc, 4 Cylinders Inline, Petrol

VALVETRAIN:

16 Valve, SOHC, I-VTEC

POWER:

118 PS @ 6600 rpm

TORQUE:

146 Nm @ 4800 rpm

TRANSMISSION:

5-speed Manual / 5-speed Auto

LxWxH (mm):

4420 x 1695 x 1480

WHEELBASE:

2550 mm

KERB WEIGHT:

1100 kg / 1155 kg

FUEL TANK CAPACITY:

42 litres

PRICE:

Rs. 8. 15 lakh - 10. 96 lakh (Ex-showroom, Delhi)

PERFORMANCE FIGURES
0-100 :
12. 9 seconds

TOP-SPEED :

184 kmph

FUEL EFFICIENCY:

12. 4 kmpl

VISUALLY, THE VENTO LOOKS LONGER AND LOWER THAN THE CITY AND THIS IS A GOOD THING BECAUSE MANY INDIANS DO STILL VALUE MASS-FORTHE-PRICE WHEN LOOKING OUT FOR A NEW CAR.



VOLKSWAGEN VENTO
SPECIFICATIONS

ENGINE:
1598 cc, 4 Cylinders inline, Petrol

VALVETRAIN:

16 Valve, DOHC

POWER:

105 PS @ 5250 rpm

TORQUE:

153 Nm @ 3800 rpm

TRANSMISSION:

5-speed Manual / 6-speed Auto

LxWxH (mm):

4384 x 1699 x 1466

WHEELBASE:

2552 mm

KERB WEIGHT:

1130 kg / 1180 kg

FUEL TANK CAPACITY:

55 litres

PRICE:

Rs. 6. 99 lakh - 9. 21 lakh (Ex-showroom, Delhi)

PERFORMANCE FIGURES
0-100 :
13. 3 seconds

TOP-SPEED :

177 kmph

FUEL EFFICIENCY:

10. 6 kmpl

THE CITY IS FAR MORE AGILE BUT IN A VERY CONTROLLED WAY AND WHILE THE VENTO ACQUITS ITSELF VERY WELL IN THIS TEST, THE CITY STILL HAS ITS NOSE UPFRONT FOR HONOURS IN THIS ROUND.

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