VW Ameo vs Maruti DZire vs Ford Aspire vs Honda Amaze vs Hyundai i20 vs Maruti Baleno: Comparison

By Jared Solomon | on October 6, 2016

You’ve got Rs 7 lakhs burning a hole in your pocket. You think you want a sub 4-metre sedan. What do you do?

If there’s one thing in this world that I truly detest, it’s taxes. The whole principle of taxation, and the supposed checks and balances put into place in the name of social welfare and government policy, is absurd to say the least. Even as children we were introduced to heroes like Robin Hood, who would steal from the rich and give to the poor, because the interim King of England had placed an unfair tax on the peasants. Although the validity of Robin Hood’s existence is somewhat fictional, we need only to look at our history books to see just how many revolutions were started because of unfair taxation policies.

Either way, taxation is still commonplace and the laws are so very complex that I dare not touch upon the subject in detail. If you aren’t already aware, the Indian automotive industry has a web of taxation laws within itself that affects car manufacturers in many ways. One of them is a higher tax levied on vehicles longer than 4-metres in length, which in turn leads car manufacturers to design cars under 4-metres to make them more affordable.

VW Ameo vs Maruti DZire

But the Indian car market is also highly complex, and in recent years we’ve seen how crossovers and compact SUVs have picked up very strong demand – but compact sedans still seem to demand their own share of attention. Almost every premium hatchback in the country has a sedan version, because there still seems to be a bit more novelty in owning a sedan over a hatchback. Which is why the Swift has the DZire, the Brio has the Amaze, the Figo has the Aspire, and on-and-on. More recently, the Volkswagen Polo has gotten its own sedan version – which is known as the Ameo. These are now the four best sub 4-metre sedans available in India, and they’re all more-or-less priced around Rs.7 lakhs.

But if you’re in the market for a compact sedan, which one would you choose? That is what we aim to find out over the next few pages. The Ameo might be a little late to this sub 4-metre party, but does it have enough German engineering and technology to make it the most popular party guest? Before we get into that debate let’s just take a quick look at the numbers. The DZire is the oldest of these sedans, but it still continues to outsell the rest by the thousands. In July 2016, the DZire sold 19,229 units, whereas the Aspire sold just 748. The Amaze managed to do a bit better with 2,309 units, and the Ameo in its first month of being launched sold 2,200 units.

ford figo aspire dashboard

Looking at those numbers, it would be very easy to say that the DZire is the best and conclude this piece. Well, while the DZire certainly has the might of Maruti behind it – that works both for and against it. You see, as a result of the all-pervasive Maruti service network, it’s also very popular as a fleet car – and so you may be a bit hesitant to put the same machine in your driveway as the one that’s most likely to be your radio taxi on the airport run. So, let’s get into these sub 4-metre sedans and really find out which one offers the best overall package. And, just to mix things up a bit, we also threw in the top two premium hatchbacks – the i20 and the Baleno – which don’t have sedan versions, but fall within the same price bracket.

Because all of these cars are under 4 metres in length, they all have a very definitive and compact design. If you look at these cars side-by-side, each one has its own character and individuality. But, if you ask me, in terms of how the shapes and contours are seamlessly squeezed into that the four-metre restriction, I think that the Ford Figo Aspire is the most convincing of the compact sedans. The Ford just seems to have its dimensions measured out correctly and everything seems to be proportionate. It’s got a nice chunky front end, and the boot doesn’t look like it’s been chopped off at the back. The Ford family front grille makes the car stand out from the rest, and definitely gives it that American character of ‘bigger is better.’ Nothing looks overdone, and it’s got a great stance on the road.

Honda amaze back seat space

The Honda Amaze comes in a close second, but it seems like Honda placed too much emphasis on maximising cabin space – which made the mid-section of the car look bloated relative to its short and low slung hood, not to mention the pressed in boot. The proportions don’t quite match up, but it does look cute – if you don’t mind me using that phrase. The Maruti Suzuki DZire is definitely the least attractive of the four sedans, as it clearly has the most simplistic and out-dated design. Its boxy shape really doesn’t appeal to me at all – but, as we’ve seen already, that doesn’t seem to be hurting it in the sales charts one bit!

Although the Polo is a great looking hatch, it has to be said that the Ameo takes some getting used to. From certain angles, the car looks really good – in fact it looks better than the others. But when you look at it in profile, you’ll immediately understand what I’m getting at. The engineers at VW took a long time to develop the Ameo, and that’s because it wasn’t easy to take a hatch that was already 3.97 metres long and convert it into a sub 4-metre sedan. What they did was reduce rear seat space and bring in the C pillars – thus leaving very little space for the boot. The end result is that, frankly, it looks a bit disproportionate. The rear looks like it was pressed up against a wall, and all the innovative design tricks like additional creases and lines can’t really hide its boxy rear end – which is in stark contrast to the front, which looks sharp, edgy, and modern. It almost looks like two different cars combined into one.

maruti suzuki baleno hyundai i20

But if we throw the hatches into the mix, these compact sedans don’t stand a chance. The i20 looks simply fantastic – it’s sporty, sharp and modern. The Baleno as well looks good – in fact, it looks the most unique of the lot. Maruti Suzuki tends to be more conservative and traditionalist, but the Baleno seems to have stepped out of its shadow and it looks very good on the road.

But when you step inside the cabin of these cars, it’s the Ameo that wins hands down in terms of ergonomics, design, and overall quality. The dashboard is clean, and so is the instrument cluster. The steering wheel feels good in your hands, and the seats are comfortable. The only other car that comes close to the Ameo in terms of interior quality and design is the i20, which also shares great ergonomics and a cohesive modern dashboard. However, the one thing the Ameo lacks is rear seat space. There’s hardly any legroom, or even headroom for that matter, and the boot is quite shallow as well. The DZire, with the most practical and uninventive interior setup, does offer plenty of space for all passengers and it also has decent boot space. But, when it comes to both design and comfort, the Aspire wins again as it’s got good ergonomics and plenty of space for all passengers. The dashboard is just like the EcoSport, and although the materials could be better, it’ll do the job just fine. The Amaze also has plenty of space and a comfortable cabin, but nothing about the interior really grabs your attention.

volkswagen ameo dash board

When it comes to performance, again the Aspire shines. Fitted with a highly refined 1.2-litre petrol engine, the Aspire drives beautifully. With 87bhp and 112Nm of torque, the engine is adequate. The steering is perfectly weighted for urban use, as it’s comfortable and responsive at the same time. The suspension setup also offers a pliant ride in most conditions. The Aspire was fun to drive too, but not as stable on the highway as the Volkswagen.

Having said that, the VW wasn’t the most exciting to drive. What surprised me about the Ameo was the way the 1.2-litre petrol engine sounded. It was rather loud, even inside the cabin. Other than that the engine also lacks outright grunt. With a modest output of 74bhp, it’ll never push you back in your seat. You need to be high up in the rev range to get this car moving quickly, which is why I was always in a lower gear and in the vicinity of the redline. At times, it is enjoyable yes – but perhaps not the best for the daily commute. That being said, it does offer the most comfortable ride. And that’s quite something because the Ameo manages to combine very long suspension travel – which allows it to soak up gargantuan bumps – while also remaining very sharp and stable at speed. Moreover, the steering is the best in the segment. Driving this car certainly gives you a crash course in German engineering.

The Amaze isn’t quite as engaging a drive as the Aspire, or as comfortable as the Ameo, but it does have a very refined 1.2-litre petrol engine – as you’d expect from Honda – with a decent power output of 89bhp and 110Nm of torque. The steering, however feels very light, and the suspension a tad too soft.

Maruti suzuki dezire dashboard

The DZire, as always, offers a beautiful driving experience – it’s actually a lot of fun to drive. The steering is direct, the suspension is great, and the familiar 1.2-litre petrol engine is extremely refined. With 82bhp and 115Nm of torque, the DZire does struggle to pick up speed – but once you do, it’s a highly appealing driving experience. The Baleno also gets the same 1.2-litre petrol engine with the same output, and therefore needs to be revved as well – but it offers great road manners and a very good ride and handling balance.

The i20, though, is perhaps the best all-rounder in this bunch – as it combines performance with refinement and comfort. The i20 gets a 1.2-litre petrol engine with 82bhp and 115Nm of torque. The engine is very refined and the car is buttery smooth – right from the drivetrain to the super smooth ride. The suspension setup is perfect for the city, as well as the highway. Of course, it could use more power and feel from the steering, but on the whole it offers a very pleasing driving experience. It also has some of the best features available. It comes stacked with safety features and a touch-screen infotainment system packed with the works. The only other car that can compete with it in terms of features is the Ameo.

maruti suzuki baleno dashboard

The Ameo gets cruise control, rain sensing wipers, a touch screen infotainment system, and airbags and ABS come as standard. The Baleno is the only other car to get a touchscreen infotainment system, whereas the Amaze, Aspire and DZire miss out on this.

The main question here, though, is this – if a hatchback drives just as well, if not better, and offers the same amount of space and comfort, has all the features, and looks better, then why would anyone still choose a compact sedan? Well, if you look at the sales charts you’ll see that many more people are opting for premium hatches than for compact sedans (again, if you take the DZire out of the equation). The i20 and the Baleno both sold more than 9,000 units each in July 2016, which is significantly higher than the Amaze, Aspire and Ameo combined. So it seems that these new compact sedans are competing not only with themselves but also with hatchbacks, and are losing badly! Of course, the DZire still manages to remain one of the best selling cars in the country.

But, getting back to those dreaded taxes, once the GST Bill comes into effect – which it’s likely to do – many of the restrictions due to the current tax regime may be lifted. And so manufacturers may no longer have a need to create sub 4-metre sedans. Of course, this is mere speculation at present as we have no clarity on what the final tax structure will look like.

So, getting back to our point. If you had Rs.7 lakhs in your pocket, and you wanted a sub 4-metre sedan, which one should you go for? While all these cars have their own strengths and weaknesses, I would have to say that the Aspire offers the best overall package – while the Ameo comes in a close second. But if I had to choose between all of these cars, hatchbacks and sedans combined, I would choose the i20. It’s the most refined, feels the most premium – and it just looks right!

maruti vs honda vs hyundai vs vw

  • Maruti Suzuki Dzire
  • Honda Amaze
  • Ford Figo Aspire
  • Volkswagen Ameo
  • Hyundai i20
  • Maruti Suzuki Baleno

Engine: 1,197cc / 4-Cylinders / DOHC / VVT

Fuel: Petrol

Transmission: 5-Speed Manual / Front-Wheel Drive

Power: 82bhp @ 6,000rpm

Torque: 115Nm @ 4,000rpm

Price: Rs.5.27 - 7.02 Lakhs (Ex-showroom, Delhi)

X-FACTOR: The best-selling sedan in India – why? Well, it’s a Maruti. But it is very comfortable and fun to drive.

Engine: 1,198cc / 4-Cylinders / SOHC / i-VTEC

Fuel: Petrol

Transmission: 5-Speed Manual / Front-Wheel Drive

Power: 87bhp @ 6,000rpm

Torque: 109Nm @ 4,500rpm

Price: Rs.5.41 - 7.31 Lakhs (Ex-showroom, Delhi)

X-FACTOR: A comfortable cabin and Honda practicality mated to a racy engine.

Engine:1,196cc / 4-Cylinders / DOHC

Fuel: Petrol

Transmission: 5-Speed Manual / Front-Wheel Drive

Power: 87bhp @ 6,300rpm

Torque:112Nm @ 4,000rpm

Price: Rs.5.28 - 6.80 Lakhs (Ex-showroom, Delhi)

X-FACTOR: Of all the sub 4-metre sedans, the Aspire looks the best and offers the best driving dynamics in the segment.

Engine:1,198cc / 3-Cylinder/ 12 Valves/ DOHC

Fuel: Petrol

Transmission: 5-Speed Manual/ Front Wheel Drive

Power: 74bhp @ 5,400rpm

Torque: 110Nm @ 3,750rpm

Price: Rs.5.24 - 7.05 Lakhs (Ex-showroom, Delhi)

X-FACTOR: German engineering and quality, now in a sub 4-metre sedan.

Engine: 1,197cc / 4-Cylinders / DOHC / VTVT

Fuel: Petrol

Transmission: 5-Speed Manual / Front-Wheel Drive

Power: 82bhp @ 6,000rpm

Torque: 115Nm @ 4,000rpm

Price: Rs.5.59 - 7.75 Lakhs (Ex-showroom, Delhi)

X-FACTOR: The most refined machine here, and one that makes for an excellent overall package.

Engine: 1,197cc / 4-Cylinders / DOHC / VVT

Fuel: Petrol

Transmission: 5-Speed Manual / Front-Wheel Drive

Power: 82bhp @ 6,000rpm

Torque: 115Nm @ 4,000rpm

Price: Rs.5.25 - 7.21 Lakhs (Ex-showroom, Delhi)

X-FACTOR: Great style and road presence, as well as a packed feature list and the Maruti brand means that the Baleno is a no-brainer.


Also read: Toyota Innova Crysta vs Ford Endeavour vs Mahindra XUV500 vs Honda BR-V: Comparison

Tags: Car Comparison

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