Blame it to the population or the congestion or the economic standing if you like, but there is no shying away from the fact that the Indian automotive market thrives on small cars and hatchbacks. So even after starting off with a mid size sedan in the City and luxury sedans like the Accord and the Civic, Honda finally got a hatchback in its Indian portfolio – the Jazz. It was been a popular model in Honda home country as well as other established markets like Europe and America. In India the Jazz made a disguised appearance by spawning a sedan offering – the second generation Honda City. Having tasted the Indian waters already, the Jazz in its hatchback form finally made its debut in 2009.
Design and Features
For an average car enthusiast, the Jazz will look like a new version of the yesteryear Civic hatchback that was a major hit in Europe and an illegal import in India. But that said, the Jazz looks Japanese right form the word go with its ’manga’ style headlights, a big Honda logo up front and oval fog lamps. Like a typical hatch, the Jazz boasts of a small bonnet, but unlike the rest of its competitors, the Honda sports a large windshield – much similar to its bigger siblings, the City and the Civic. In fact it’s so large and swept back that with the Jazz’s cab-forward form, the combination makes the car appear like an MPV from its side profile – a baby-Innova at that. The inclusion of a high mounted rear quarter-glass further underscores the fact. The taillights are not too intuitive and look a tad old fashioned after being exposed to the units on the Civic and the City. However, they gel well with the high quality paint on the Jazz – making the whole package look premium.
Ironically, the interiors of the Jazz feel more up-market than its immediate sibling, the City. The quality and finish of the plastics in top notch and utterly Japanese. If you are looking for something subtle though, you would be better off in the cabin of a Polo or a Fabia. The instrumentation in the Jazz follows a three-pot design similar to the 2nd generation Honda City, albeit with more spacing between the clocks. The steering wheel comes from the current Honda City and the inclusion of the steering mounted audio controls adds to the up-market feel. Thanks to the large windshield, the car feels roomier than what it actually is. But what’s roomier for sure is the boot. It’s one of the best in the class in terms of space utilization. Add to that the fold ability of the seats and you have a lot of space for your weekend travels. Overall, the Jazz offer decent amount of space advantage over its rivals and feels more like a sedan than a hatch.
Drivability and Comfort
Considering the Jazz is going to do most of its duties with the city limits, there are some issues. The large windshield looks good, but the base of the windshield being far away, makes it difficult for average drives to judge the corners of the car. Further, the grey coloured dashboard that is extended to the far base of the windshield makes its reflection prominent on the glass while driving in the day, thus affecting visibility to an extent. The dashboard’s flow into the centre console tend to dig into your left knee every now and then, specially if you are a tall driver. Apart from these small knick-knacks, the Jazz’s seats are up amongst the best in its class. Rear set comfort too is noteworthy and can seat three average sized adults comfortably.
Like all other Hondas in India, the Jazz too is a victim of body roll under spirited driving. It’s mainly because of the soft suspension. However, this coupled with the skinny tyres, can lead to unnerving maneuvers when you decide to go a tad too hot into the twisties. Further, the rear of the car tends to bounce around when even when laden with two people in the back seat. But restrict the car to the city confines and its light steering will amaze you. She is at ease in the city, once you get used to the dimensions of the car.
The Jazz employs a 1.2-litre i-VTEC engine which puts out 90 horses. This mill takes advantage of the reduced taxes on cars below the 1200cc mark, but sadly the price of the car still remains too high for many. The engine is good for extracting up to 13 kilometers from a litre of petrol depending on your driving style.
Form factor wise and features, the Jazz competes with the Fabia, Polo and the i20. However, at a price tag in the range of C-segment sedans, the Jazz is one car that is hard for the market to digest and it is clearly reflected in its low sales.
The Honda Civic has been one of the longest selling Japanese cars in the world. However, Honda Seil chose to bring the Civic to India only after it had established its brand image with the City and the Accord. So what we have here is the eighth generation model that came here in 2006 with a facelift treatment in 2009. Ever since its launch, the car has been one of the best sellers in its segment, thanks to the proven Honda reliability.
Design and Features
The Civic, though four years old now, still looks fresh, futuristic and aggressive. The aerodynamic shape has lent the car, a lot of curves, right from the bonnet to the shoulder line and the boot. While the first iteration of the Civic get curvy, eye shaped headlights, the facelift model is fitted with a more angular unit. The car sports an astonishingly thin radiator grille which incorporates a chrome lining and the Honda ’H’ logo. Depending on the variant, you get oval fog lamps on the new model; whereas the older model housed larger, trapezoidal units. The aerodynamic shape has also given the car a huge windshield which, coupled with the slim A-pillar contributes towards better visibility. The inclusion of wipers which are unconventional mounted on either ends on the windshield are a welcome change and one of the radical and defining design elements of the Civic. The tail end of the Civic gets a high boot lid, with chrome garnish coming in the form of the ’H’, ’Civic’ and applicable variant lettering emblems. While the older model had large round taillights, the newer version has hexagonal units albeit in the similar arrangement.
The interiors of the Civic set it apart from the rest of the cars in its segment. The large swooping dashboard and a blue-black combination backlit digital instrumentation give the car a futuristic feel. The three spoke steering wheel feels sporty and the inclusion of paddle shifters on the AT variant add to the sportiness of the car. The same steering wheel has made it onto the Honda City as well, but unlike the City, the Civic’s unit misses out on audio controls, which is a disappointment for a car that costs over 10-lakh rupees. The dashboard is finished in a steel-grey and beige two-tone combination and houses within it a CD/MP3 player with USB support. The older model on the other hand came with a 6-CD changer. The backlit tachometer and a digital speedometer, unconventionally mounted atop the dashboard, remain same in both, the old and the new models. Other features include a dead paddle for AT variant, ABS, airbags etc. which are standard on most cars in this segment.
Drivability and Comfort
The Civic is known to be a driver’s car. However, in a bid to make the car comfortable on India roads, the Civic has met the same fate as most of the other Hondas like the City and the Accord. Most Honda cars in India come fitted with a soft suspension to tackle the Indian road condition and this takes a toll on the handling. Yes, being a Honda the Civic will stay focused to the line you intend to take, but the soft suspension setup leads to unnerving body roll while making enthusiastic steering maneuvers. Furthermore, the rear suspension of the car is so soft that it is often claimed to bottom out under heavy steering or heavy load. The newer version isn’t any better in this regard. The low ground clearance coupled with the soft suspension poses to be a threat to the underbody if you encounter the ridiculously miscalculated speed-breakers in our country. However, take the Civic onto a well laid highway and the car feels at home. It’s extremely stable even at high speeds, thanks to its aerodynamic shape. The soft suspension offers a plush ride even on the uneven concrete highways that are becoming popular in India.
Seating-wise, the Civic can comfortably seat five adults without a hassle. The flat floor imparts equal comfort even to the centre passenger for the backseat, thanks to the absence of a protruding transmission tunnel. However the low seating of the car can make life difficult while getting in and out of the car. Inclusion of audio control for the rear bench is an added advantage, should you decide to hire a chauffer. Overall, the Civic offers a plush ride for back benchers, but if you are buying the car for some enthusiastic driving, we recommend a suspension upgrade.
The Civic employs a 1.8-litre i-VTEC powerplant which puts out 131 bhp of power and 172 Nm torque. Thanks to the VTEC gadgetry, the Civic can sprint from a naught to 100 km/h in a little under 10 seconds and a capable top speed of 220 km/h. And for the weight and performance figures the Civic boats of, it returns commendable fuel efficiency figures between 9-10 kmpl.
The Civic competes with the Toyota Corolla, Chevrolet Cruze, Skoda Laura and the VW Jetta in terms of price, features and creature comforts. And though it poses well against all its competitors, the lack of a diesel option is starting to work against it in the long run.Honda City
Honda’s bread and butter model, the City has gone through three generations of upgrades now – but while it was at it, the City went through a lot of ups and downs as far as enthusiast following was concerned. When the second generation City (commonly known as the ’Dolphin shape’) came along a lot of people turned their heads with disgust, as the new car was a disaster of a design when compared to its predecessor. But a compact, fuel-efficient engine saw it rule the roost in terms of sale. So, learning from these two generations, the third gen Honda City decided to have a futuristic design while incorporating a powerful yet fuel-efficient engine that would rewrite the rules of the games.
Design and Features
Talking about the design then, the new Honda City isn’t a complete departure from the Dolphin shape. It still uses a similar stubby-tail-long-nose form, but at the same time invests enough design elements like the Civic Type-R inspired headlights, short floating grille, Beemer 3-series style taillights and low slung stance to give it an aggressive look as compared to its yesteryear counterpart.
The interiors however aren’t all that great – especially after we know what Honda did inside the Civic. The City’s interiors feel cheap with a very plasticy feel to them. The steering wheel from the Civic and a few chisels here and there are a saving grace but lacks the up-market feel you would expect from a 10-lakh-rupee car.
Irrespective of the variant, the City comes with ABS and airbags fitted as standard equipment. The top end model gets Honda’s new digital entertainment system, which is nothing but a cheap radio and a USB compatible MP3 player that does not support any sort of discs whatsoever. You are better off buying the low or mid-range model and installing a better aftermarket system with the money saved.
Driving and comfort
The new City has a more rigid chassis than its predecessor giving it better handling characteristics. Unlike any of the Citys launched in India, the 3rd generation City has minimal body roll unless you decide to get a little too enthusiastic in the twisties. For tackling the Indian road conditions, the City runs on a taller suspension setup as compared to its international counterparts. This not only translates into better comfort but brilliant handling over broken roads as well.
However, all these efforts have been marred by the insufficient 175/65-section tyres. This tiny rubber hardly gives the car any grip when you push the car hard and what’s even worse is their wobbly feeling when the needle starts climbing over 130 km/h even on a straight!
The City can seat four adults and a kid without much ado and the large 506 litre boot space makes it an ideal weekend getaway car for the entire family.
The new 1.5-litre VTEC engine produces 116PS now, which has brought back the smile on a lot of faces. The engine is capable of catapulting the car from naught to 100 in under 11 seconds. This is revelation especially after knowing the face that the new City is a heavier car as compared to its predecessors. But the experience isn’t all that pleasurable after 130 km/h as we mentioned earlier.
Furthermore, the new engine produces its max power at 6600 rpm as opposed to the predecessors 5800 rpm, which means the car needs to rev more to give you some juice. What this has resulted in is a flat mid-range, which means it needs more gearshifts – thus making overtaking an irritating affair. Thankfully though the engine has been tuned for a good low end torque, which gives the car phenomenal response when driving in the city.
All the tuning and the extra horses and weight hasn’t taken a toll on the fuel efficiency though. The 3rd generation City still manages to extract 11-13 kilometers out of a litre of petrol in the city while the tuning is good for at least 16 kmpl on the highway.
The Honda City fights against a very tough competition. While it has the highly spirited and performance oriented Ford Fiesta variants on one end, its has the stunningly beautiful Linea and value-for-money Optra to tackle on the other. While these cars have been creeping their way into the City’s market share, the City still holds its head high, thanks to the Honda brand image and proven Japanese reliability. But if brand value is not something you are after, then the City’s competitors have some serious goodies on offer!