Sub 4-m Comparison : Amaze vs Dzire vs Elite i20 vs Swift vs EcoSport vs Vitara Brezza vs Nexon

By Arup Das | on June 1, 2018 Follow us on Autox Google News

Once a straightforward segment has now become so versatile and overloaded that even Confucius would have a tough time choosing the ideal sub 4-metre automobile. We compare the latest entries in this class to reveal the one that trumps them all. 

If you’re in the market to buy a sub 4-metre vehicle, the most obvious and common feeling is that of bewilderment. Why? Well, because of the variety of options available in the segment. 

The sub 4-metre segment has become so versatile and crowded that choosing what’s best for you is not only overwhelming but also mentally draining. Psychologists have a term for it –overchoice, which basically means the difficulty of making a choice when overloaded with options. For instance, let’s say you want to buy a sedan, but then during your research you come across a range of SUVs and hatchbacks. Now, you’re confused and have begun to doubt your initial choice. Every time you choose something, a number of other options are there to confuse and distract you. And after days of research, all you have is more confusion and no conclusion. In 1970, a sociologist named Alvin Toffler suggested that overchoice can even lead to psychological conditions like depression and anxiety. Who’d have thought that buying a car could do that to a person? 

Honda Amaze Diesel Cvt Front Three Quarter

So, how about you take a deep breath and let us make things easier for you. Here, we pit the latest offerings in the sub 4-metre segment against one another, starting from the spanking new Honda Amaze, the bestseller: the Maruti Suzuki Dzire, the popular hatchback duo: the Maruti Suzuki Swift and Hyundai Elite i20, and the compact SUV brigade: the segment leading Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza, the facelifted Ford EcoSport and the joker in the pack, the Tata Nexon. Whew, that’s some list. Now, it’s time to roll up our sleeves and find out who makes the cut.
Battle of the Autobots

Let’s start with the new 2018 Honda Amaze, which was first showcased at the Auto Expo earlier this year. We tested the top-of-the-line diesel automatic variant, which does lack some features – but more on that later. First, a word about the diesel CVT. Initially, I was a bit sceptical about this transmission. After all, there must be a reason why other manufacturers never experimented with it. Well, the moment of truth arrived when I got into the driver’s seat. The seats are typical Honda, which translates to them being very comfortable, supportive and not spongy soft. As I fired up Honda’s tried and tested 1.5-litre engine, I was surprised to notice that the NVH (Noise Vibration Harshness) level was down to a minimum. And, this is the same all-aluminium motor that we’ve all criticized time and again for its unrefined clatter. Honda indeed deserves credit for this radical change in engine noise. I slotted the gear lever into Drive, and the Amaze pulled away effortlessly. Now, given that the diesel automatic gets 79 horses (20% less than the manual version) the sedan, unexpectedly, never struggled for power – whether while building momentum in start-stop traffic or when cruising on the highway. Traditionally, petrol CVTs struggle during initial pick up, but that wasn’t the case with the Amaze diesel since it had enough pulling power courtesy of its healthy torque of 160Nm. And the transmission is simply seamless. 

Hyundai Elite Front Three Quarter

Coming to the Dzire, it’s AMT gearbox is mated to the familiar 74bhp, 1.3-litre, common-rail diesel engine. Even though the acceleration is smooth, the transmission has the annoying habit of upshifting hastily – and before you know it, the car’s in fifth gear. The purpose of the shift is to ensure that fuel economy isn’t affected, but unlike the Amaze’s CVT, the AMT gearshifts aren’t smooth – making the whole driving experience less pleasant. But there’s a simple way around this – ease off the accelerator pedal just before each upshift. Nevertheless, the Dzire’s AMT is quite responsive in the city and negotiates traffic easily – as long you don’t have to quickly overtake another vehicle that is.

The AMT gearbox might be the Dzire’s kryptonite, but it does have other redeeming features, like the smart touchscreen infotainment system, rear AC vents and the gorgeous projector headlamps with DRLs and LED tail lamps – all of which the Amaze automatic lacks. Yes, Honda has again managed to repeat the mistakes of the BR-V. The automatic variants of the new Amaze come with an ancient looking music system, which sticks out like a sore thumb. They only get parking sensors, and even lack a rear camera. There’s hardly any doubt that the Amaze’s transmission is one of the best in the segment, but, as a complete product, it lacks some serious features that are expected as standard in all top-of-the-line vehicles. Therefore, the Maruti still remains the most desirable sedan in this range. If your disposition allows you to overlook the additional features and focus only on the driving experience, then the Amaze is the car for you. And, let me add, if that’s the case then this is the best time to buy the Amaze – for its available with introductory prices only for a limited period.

Punching above their weight

We agree that the Maruti Swift and the Hyundai i20 aren’t direct rivals, but they certainly are very popular in this segment. Maruti recently launched the third-gen Swift, and, as was expected, the new Heartect platform continues to be an enthusiast’s delight. The new Swift is 80 kilogrammes lighter, feels agile, handles well and has good body control. It actually allows you to confidently take on bends, despite the fact that the 185/65 R15 Bridgestone Ecopia tyres are more suited to efficiency than performance. We drove the ZDi+, powered by the 1.3-litre diesel motor, which has a linear power delivery that overcomes the turbo lag that plagued the previous-gen car. Being the top-of-line trim, like the Dzire, the Swift too boasts of distinctive projector headlamps and LED taillights. The infotainment system has an intuitive touchscreen that’s quite easy to use. Not only can you pair your smartphone in a jiffy, but you can also use the voice command recognition effortlessly – for it easily understands the Indian accent and responds at once. So, you can make a call or listen to your favourite track without taking your eyes off the road. A quick mention of the all-black interior is needed to complete the picture. The cabin has a clean layout that manages to cover up the fairly average plastic quality. We love the sporty flat-bottom steering wheel, which is communicative and direct to boot. Our main grouse with the Maruti is regarding the quality of the seats, as they’re are too spongy and don’t offer enough support. Consequently, you end up sinking into the seats, and if you’re driving long distances then you might want to be prepared for possible backaches.

Maruti Suzuki Swift Front Three Quarter

Even though the Swift is the latest contender in the hatchback segment, and continues to be a favourite amongst the youth, it’s the Hyundai Elite i20 that has always been the benchmark in the premium category. The Korean manufacturer recently gave the i20 a nip-and-tuck job, focusing primarily on the design. Mechanically, the car remains unchanged, and that’s a good thing, as the 89bhp, 1.4-litre diesel engine is extremely linear and offers decent poke in the mid-range. In terms of refinement levels, it’s still best in its class – the engine is barely audible. The 2014 edition’s Achilles heel was the vague steering feel, which has now been addressed and feels more direct. Even though it continues to be light, it does have its own advantages – like the ability to easily negotiate traffic or park in tight areas without any stress. The 2018 i20 received an updated nose, with aerodynamic slats in the front bumper, to further improve airflow, a busier looking rear with a new tailgate, which now houses the number plate, and newly designed alloy wheels. It also has a larger touchscreen infotainment system. What makes the i20 stand apart from the competition is its uber-premium feel in terms of quality and refinement, as well as its features and plastic quality. Also, it has comfortable seats that are very supportive, have ample space and offer a brilliant driving experience. Let’s just say that the i20 continues to give you that big-car feel.

Alter ego

Ford EcoSport Side Profile

The pioneer of the compact SUV segment, the EcoSport, has recently received a much-needed facelift, and it continues to be Ford’s steady performer in the sales charts. But, before we get into the new upgrades, let’s for a moment focus on the 99bhp, 1.5-litre diesel engine, which is one of my favourite motors. It has linear power delivery, provides a decent punch at low revs and maintains the momentum as it hits the mid-range. Earlier, the 5-speed manual transmission was slightly vague, but that’s changed now – it feels precise and accurate. Also, the previous model had a more direct steering, which provided a lot more feedback, but the current-gen model has replaced that with a lighter steering that’s more suited to city use. In terms of comfort and its ride quality, the EcoSport offers decent performance – as it manages to soak up the bumps with ease. The biggest addition to the new-gen model is the 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system – the biggest display in its segment. It is very intuitive and responds like a smartphone. The screen’s resolution is impressive and makes the colours stand out bright and crisp. It’s only issue is the voice command system, which didn’t do a great job of recognising my voice at least. We’d like to highlight the fact that EcoSport’s seats – both front and rear – are amongst the most comfortable seats in the segment, especially the seat squab, which provides decent under-thigh support. However, the legroom for rear passengers is fairly limited and so is the headroom.

Maruti Suzuki Brezza Front Three Quarter

 ‘Cometh the hour, cometh the SUV.’ It’s certainly true for the way Maruti Suzuki has managed to hit the sweet spot with regards to the Vitara Brezza’s handling. The Brezza is an apex killer, no two ways about it – it brushes aside corners without breaking a sweat. However, this makes its ride quite firm, not something that rear passengers enjoy – as the experience can be quite bumpy. What’s commendable though is the way Maruti has tuned their bread-and-butter 1.3-litre, common-rail diesel engine to become a fairly high-revving machine – you can push it to the 4,500-5,000rpm mark with ease. Honestly, it’s very hard to believe that it’s the same engine as the one in the Swift and Dzire, but then the Brezza does get 89 horses to play with. The engine can get a bit loud when it crosses the 2,000rpm mark, but, trust me, this only adds to its character. Maruti has left no stone unturned with regard to features either – as it gets automatic projector headlamps, automatic wipers and even little things like a shopping bag hook behind the driver’s seat. The infotainment system continues to be the best in the business. All-in-all, this seems like a very versatile machine that’s also great value-for-money.

Tata Nexon XZ Front Three Quarter

 We called the Nexon ‘the joker’ of the pack for the simple reason that it’s quite different from a typical Tata vehicle, which have a tendency to excel in one field and fail drastically in most others. The diesel variant that we drove is powered by a 108bhp, 1.5-litre turbocharged motor that offers refined and linear acceleration without any turbo lag – thanks to the 260Nm of torque. The power delivery is spread out well, and the gearbox is light. It’s the only vehicle in the segment that comes with three driving modes – Eco, City and Sport. Tata Motors has also managed to beautifully balance the ride and handling qualities of the Nexon. The independent McPherson struts in front, with a semi-independent twist beam at the back, soak up any pothole or stretches of broken tarmac that come its way. Overall ride quality is what you’d call plush. In terms of handling, this compact SUV hugs the tarmac while taking corners, and body roll is down to a minimum. And even though it isn’t in the league of the Brezza, the Nexon still exudes a lot of confidence around bends. Plus, the Nexon does manage to stand out with its aerodynamic coupe-like design. The Nexon also comes with many smart features, like a 6.5-inch infotainment screen, a shortcut button to directly sync your smartphone with the system, umbrella slots right above the front door pockets, and a feature that allows you to operate the music system and power windows even when the car is switched off. It truly is a very well thought out vehicle.
Drum roll, please

Usually, it’s customary to mention just one, but since this is an exhaustive comparison, we’ve decided to rate all the vehicles here – irrespective of body type. Let’s begin with the bad news first. Unfortunately, none of the SUVs made the cut. I can only imagine how unpopular this revelation could be, but the truth is that these vehicles don’t really bring any additional value to the table – apart from slightly raised ground clearance that is. And that too comes at the cost of limited boot space as compared to the sedans. Also, all the three SUVs offer limited rear leg and headroom.

The Amaze almost broke into the top three, but, as the automatic variant lacks many common comfort features and has average headlamps, it placed fourth in our list. The CVT is the best automatic transmission in the segment without a doubt, and it has a roomy cabin, comfortable seats and a boot space of 420 litres. But, unfortunately, it’s a Jack of all trades and a master of none.


 For the second runner up position, we have the enthusiast’s favourite, the Swift. Believe it or not, it offers more or less the same knee room as the i20 but compromises slightly on headroom. The evergreen 1.3-litre diesel motor continues to be very peppy and fuel efficient. And, without a doubt, it remains one of the best hatchbacks in the handling department. But it loses out because of average plastic quality, soft seats and cramped cabin space.

 It may come as a surprise to many, but the Dzire managed to pip the Swift because of better ride quality, better interiors, more comfortable and supportive seats and extra boot space – 378 litres of space as compared to the Swift’s 260 litres. What went against it was the limitations of the AMT. Other then that you can’t really go wrong with this sedan.

 Make way for the king however – the Hyundai Elite i20. Now, it may not be an enthusiast’s delight, but it’s the best there is with regards to ride, handling and refinement. And in terms of quality, the i20 easily leads the way. Yes, the i20 might be pricey as compared to the competition, but it does offer all the bells and whistles without any compromise. And, to top it off, both the cabin and boot are spacious. It’s a practical car par excellence!  

  • Honda Amaze diesel CVT
  • Maruti Suzuki Dzire ZDi+ AGS
  • Hyundai Elite i20 Asta (O)
  • Maruti Suzuki Swift DDiS 190
  • Ford EcoSport 1.5 diesel
  • Tata Nexon XZ Plus
  • Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza ZDi+

Engine: 1,498cc / 4-Cylinders / 16 Valves / Turbocharged

Fuel: Diesel

Transmission: CVT automatic / Front-Wheel Drive

Power: 79bhp @ 3,600rpm

Torque: 160Nm @ 1,750rpm

Price: ₹8.99 lakh (Ex-showroom, pan India)

X-factor: Its smooth and responsive CVT is a gem, and the best in the segment.

• Interior quality & space
• Smooth CVT
• AT trim lacks features
• Headlamps not good enough

Engine: 1,248cc / 4-Cylinders / 16 Valves / Turbocharged

Fuel: Diesel

Transmission: 5-Speed AMT / Front-Wheel Drive

Power: 74bhp @ 4,000rpm

Torque: 190Nm @ 2,000rpm

Price: ₹9.43 lakh (Ex-showroom, Delhi)

X-factor: Fully loaded with features and boasts gorgeous DRLs & projector headlamps.

• Spacious cabin
• Comfortable ride
• Could do with more rear legroom

Engine: 1,396cc 4-Cylinders / 16 Valves Turbocharged

Fuel: Diesel

Transmission: 6-Speed Manual / Front-Wheel Drive

Power: 89bhp @ 4,000rpm

Torque: 220Nm @ 1,500-2,750rpm

Price: ₹9.15 lakh (Ex-showroom, Delhi)

X-factor: Segment leader in terms refinement and quality.

• Facelift makes it look young again
• Plush ride
• Not an enthusiast’s machine
• Needs a diesel-auto variant

Engine: 1,248cc 4-Cylinders / 16 Valves Turbocharged

Fuel: Diesel

Transmission: 5-Speed Manual / Front-Wheel Drive

Power: 74bhp @ 4,000rpm

Torque: 190Nm @ 2,000rpm

Price: ₹8.29 lakh (Ex-showroom, Delhi)

X-factor: Still the best in the handling department, and the 1.3-litre engine remains very efficient.

• Easy to use infotainment system
• Diesel driveability
• Cabin plastics
• Soft seats

Engine: 1,498cc 4-Cylinders / 16 Valves Turbocharged

Fuel: Diesel

Transmission: 5-Speed Manual / Front-Wheel Drive

Power: 99bhp @ 3,750rpm

Torque: 205Nm @ 1,750-3,250rpm

Price: ₹11.04 lakh (Ex-showroom, Delhi)

X-factor: Powerful engine that offers some serious punch.

• Looks contemporary again
• 8-inch touchscreen
• Steering is a bit vague now
• Cabin quality

Engine: 1,497cc / 4-Cylinders / 16 Valves / Turbocharged

Fuel: Diesel

Transmission: 6-Speed Manual / Front-Wheel Drive

Power: 108bhp @ 3,750rpm

Torque: 260Nm @ 1,500rpm

Price: ₹11.36 lakh (Ex-showroom, Delhi)

X-factor: Great ride-and-handling balance, and looks great too.

• Fresh design
• Smooth & linear engine
• Cabin quality still below par
• Future reliability concerns

Engine: 1,248cc / 4-Cylinders / 16 Valves / Turbocharged

Fuel: Diesel

Transmission: 5-Speed Manual / Front-Wheel Drive

Power: 89bhp @ 4,000rpm

Torque: 200Nm @ 1,750rpm

Price: ₹9.77 lakh (Ex-showroom, Delhi)

X-factor: An apex killer that easily tames sharp corners.

• Handles like a dream
• Fully loaded with features
• Interior build quality
• Firm ride

Tags: Honda Amaze Maruti Suzuki DZire Hyundai Elite i20 Maruti Suzuki Swift Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza Ford EcoSport Tata Nexon XZ Plus

Write your Comment

Please tell us your city. This allows us to provide relevant content for you.