Shootout: Honda Amaze vs Hyundai Xcent vs Maruti Swift DZire
Price OTR Mumbai: Rs. 6.10 – 9.17 lakhs (Honda Amaze), Rs. 5.52 – 8.90 lakhs (Hyundai Xcent), Rs. 5.89 – 8.85 lakhs (Maruti Swift DZire)
All the three compact sedans present here have something lucrative to offer the buyer.
A quick Google search of the word ‘compact’ led to 7,85,00,000 results so it’s not just us Indians who are obsessed with compact things. The word compact itself has become popular, it’s a synonym for small but would you rather find yourself driving something small or something compact? The latter will get an affirmative and that’s the reason why manufacturers are working overtime to dole out compact vehicles, mostly in the sedan and SUV space. While we have already extensively reviewed and compared all compact SUV offerings in the market, this time around we take the best compact sedans for an outing to judge which of the three appeal the most. Three very good cars with a buyer not going wrong for purchasing either of these. The Maruti Suzuki Swift DZire – the work horse dominating the segment since time of launch; the Honda Amaze – the first diesel Honda in India and also the highest selling car locally for the Tokyo based manufacturer and the Hyundai Xcent – the latest kid on the block who has big responsibilities on his shoulders as it has to replicate the success of its spiritual ancestor, the Accent. Without much ado, let’s get to the boiling hot compact sedan battle.
Motor Quest: Maruti Suzuki launched the Swift DZire in 2008 and the current model is in its second generation. Honda launched the Amaze in 2013 while the Hyundai Xcent was launched only last month. The DZire was a replacement to the Esteem while the Xcent fills in the shoes of the Accent. The Esteem and Accent were fierce rivals in the early 2000s.
Styling – Compact sedans have to fit in the sub 4-metre length and can thus look quite ungainly. While most research says that buyers of these cars don’t prioritise on the appearance of the vehicle, we feel that the car should at least not look outright ugly. In the case of all the three cars present here, none look ugly (the old DZire was very very ugly though) but yes some do end up looking disproportionate. Finishing last in the styling department is the Maruti Swift DZire, where the boot definitely feels like an after thought. The car simply doesn’t look smooth and the front and rear don’t match at all.
With the Hyundai Xcent too, the front and rear design don’t match but this Korean car quickly grows on you, something the Swift DZire has failed to do so over the years. The Xcent has neat chrome touches which do add to the premium touch of the vehicle, like on the front grille, door handles and rear tail lights. Even the wheels of the Xcent are the most appealing but when you put it against the Honda Amaze, you quickly realise the Xcent isn’t a smooth flowing design. The Amaze simply trumps the other two when it comes to external appearance and that’s largely because it never looks like a sub 4-metre sedan from any angle, it’s just so well designed with smooth flowing lines and matching proportions.
Interiors – Step inside these cars and it’s clear the Hyundai Xcent has the most appealing cabin, followed by the Maruti Swift DZire and then the Honda Amaze. The Xcent has a dashboard which clearly looks the more modern here but the DZire also boasts of a substantial dashboard while the Amaze feels a bit paired down in front of the other two. The problem with the Amaze is the equipment or rather the lack of it. It’s the least bit equipped here, missing out on small yet significant things like a climate control system, auto door locking, multi-information display on the instrument cluster to name a few. But neither cars are perfect; the Amaze comes with fixed headrests for all seats while it’s adjustable on the Xcent (rear) and DZire (all); the rear seat arm rest has cupholders in the Amaze and Xcent but the DZire misses out on this; the Xcent lacks a pocket behind the driver’s seat which is present in the other two.
Both the DZire and Xcent measure 3995 mm in length (the Amaze is 5 mm less in length) with the DZire boasting of the biggest wheelbase at 2430 mm, followed by the Xcent at 2425 mm and the Amaze coming in last at 2405 mm. Besides what the numbers suggest, it’s actually the Amaze which comes out on top in the interior room department. Honda’s clever packaging has resulted in the Amaze having the largest cabin of the trio which gives it the best legroom and knee room here. The Xcent is a close second while the DZire lacks massively against the two. The Amaze also has the widest interiors and can thus easily seat three people at the rear without a hitch, something of a squeeze in the other two. What further tilts the space wars towards the Amaze is its large and generous glass area which not only makes rear occupants feel at ease but also makes you perceive the cabin to be bigger than it actually is.
Seats of all three cars are good but the DZire has the best seats here which have the best back support. The rear doors of the DZire are small and the glass area is so less that claustrophobia is a given for rear seat occupants. The Xcent’s rear doors are the widest opening here making ingress and egress the easiest of the three. The Xcent is the only car here to have a rear AC vent which coupled with the strong AC makes it the fastest chilling car here. The DZire’s AC is good too but the Amaze has a heat absorbing windshield (on the top trim) which keeps the car cooler than the Maruti. However it’s really the Hyundai Xcent which emerges out on top in the interior department because not only does it have the best build quality, it comes with features which are lacking on the other two including Bluetooth audio system, keyless go, push button start, internal storage for audio system and rear parking camera (the DZire and Amaze don’t even get sensors). The Xcent and Amaze also get electrically retracting rear view mirrors. The Hyundai also has the most storage spaces inside the cabin and also boasts of a marginally bigger boot than the Amaze (407-litres against the Honda’s 400-litres, the DZire is no way in contention with a 316-litre trunk).
Performance – All the three cars are offered with petrol engines (with both manual and automatic transmissions) and diesel powerplants (with 5-speed manual gearbox). Let’s start with the petrol engines. All are 1.2-litre, 4-cylinder units with output being very similar among the three. The Amaze is the most powerful with 88 PS of power and 109 Nm of torque, the DZire comes in second with 86 PS and 114 Nm with the Xcent coming third with 83 PS and 114 Nm. In spite of the minor difference in power, there is actually not much to choose from between the three cars in terms of performance as all these engines are simply fantastic.
All being good on drivability, it’s the Japanese which offer a stronger top-end punch for those who like to live near the redline. The DZire’s K-Series mill is the most alive of the three while the Xcent boasts of the best NVH levels. Both the Xcent and DZire offer a 19.1 km/l ARAI mileage figure while the Amaze returns 18 km/l. In real world though, the Xcent and DZire will be marginally more efficient than the Amaze, returning 12 km/l in the city and 15 km/l on the highway. In terms of automatic, the Amaze is the only car which has a 5-speed unit while the other two come with 4-speed ATs.
Coming to the diesel, the three cars aren’t so evenly matched like in the case of their petrol counterparts. The Hyundai Xcent has the least powerful engine which also lacks on hardware as it’s a 3-cylinder unit while the DZire and Amaze come with 4-cylinder engines. In spite of being a 3-cylinder, the Xcent has the best NVH here while the Amaze has the worst. The 1.1-litre motor (72 PS, 180 Nm) has a good mid-range and the low-end is decent once you get past the lag but top end is completely lacking. Add 0.2-litres and you arrive at the 1.3-litre engined DZire which has 75 PS and 190 Nm.
The Maruti DZire has the best top-end here with good mid-range to boot and the engine is so well geared and tuned that it feels like a petrol mill at times with its linear performance and rev happy nature (the low-end is weak and turbo lag is pronounced). Add another 0.2-litres from the DZire and you arrive at the power king of this segment. The Honda Amaze uses a 1.5-litre oil burner which belts out 100 PS of power and 200 Nm of torque. As they say there is no replacement for displacement and that’s very true because the Amaze is not only the fastest accelerating car here but also the most fun to drive due to the ample amount of grunt and almost negligible lag. It only lacks the high revving nature of the other two but revving the Xcent past 4000 RPM is pointless, it simply has no juice left in the top-end.
Where the Hyundai Xcent shines is city drivability, it feels at home ambling around town and just like the Amaze, it has good pep at the low-end of the powerband. The DZire’s turbo takes time to spool making it the least impressive in stop go traffic. All three cars have smooth shifting transmissions but the Xcent’s is the best of the three with the smoothest shifts while the clutch is light on all the three vehicles. Where the Amaze lacks is the top speed, it’s limited to 140 km/hr while the Xcent and DZire will easily nudge past 160 km/hr. The Amaze is the most frugal here with an ARAI figure of 25.8 km/l, followed closely by the Xcent at 24.4 km/l and DZire at 23.4 km/l. In the real world though, there is less than a km/l difference in the mileage of the three cars with the Amaze returning 18 km/l in the city and 20 km/l on the highway. The Amaze has the smallest tank with 35-litres of capacity (compromises on the range) while the DZire and Xcent have bigger tanks with 42 and 43-litres capacity respectively.
Driving Dynamics – All three cars are very similar in terms of hardware – they weigh almost the same (around 950 kgs for the petrol and 1080 kgs for the diesel), use McPherson Struts at the front and Torsion Beam at the rear, disc brakes at the front and drum at the rear, 14-inch wheels on all variants except the top trims (the Amaze doesn’t get 15-inch wheels on any variant). In spite of the similarities, these cars have very differently set up suspensions which gives them very different characterises. The DZire is the only car here with ventilated discs but ironically it has the worst brakes of the three, the Xcent having the best.
Handling of the Honda Amaze is the best but the Maruti DZire has more feel at the steering while the Xcent neither handles as good as the other two nor does it have a feedback rich steering wheel. To Hyundai’s credit, the Xcent is the easiest car to drive and the light steering is a boon in congested traffic as it makes turning at low speeds and parking a breeze. All three cars remain stable at speed with the Xcent having the least outside noise in the cabin. The Xcent trumps the other two when it comes to ride quality which is simply excellent, absorbing most things in its stride without a hiccup. The DZire rides well at low speeds but the Amaze betters it at high speeds but overall it’s the Xcent which is the best riding car here.
Safety – Neither of these cars have been tested by NCAP but the DZire is the closest since it’s based on the Swift which is sold in Europe where it received 5-stars. Honda offers ABS on all diesel trims of the Amaze while in the petrol variants, the SX and VX get ABS. Airbags are standard on top trims of all cars (Honda also offers it on SX variants) but Hyundai and Maruti only offer ABS on the top-end variant, they should make it available on lower trims as well.
Verdict – Buyers are a confused lot and here is why. The Amaze is the most powerful car here with the most space inside and the Honda badge is the more premium of the three (aka better resale). The Swift DZire has the best steering feedback here with involving engines and Maruti Suzuki’s dealership network easily trumps everyone else. The Xcent is feature loaded and has the biggest boot, Hyundai has also got the ride quality spot on. However there has to be only one winner and in this shootout, it’s the Hyundai Xcent which comes out on top. The Amaze lacks equipment, the DZire lacks space and while the Xcent doesn’t excel in all departments, it does the best of most. Not only does the Xcent offer a ton of features, it also has a spacious cabin, frugal engines and an excellent ride quality. The Amaze and DZire are both due for a minor facelift when the respective manufacturers will up the equipment levels to match Hyundai’s latest. Till then, the Xcent clearly emerges on top for offering buyers more for less.
The Honda Amaze is the most expensive of the three while Hyundai has gone ahead and under cut the pricing of the Maruti Swift DZire with their Xcent. Clearly the Korean car offers the most bang for the buck which most buyers in this segment sought after.
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