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Monday, July 16, 2018

Petrol is back: Chevrolet Sail vs Honda Amaze vs Maruti Dzire

Here are a bunch of excellent,made-for-the-city petrol saloons. But which one should you pick?

Published: June 29, 2013 3:33:50 am

As you watch the price of diesel rise and realise your 10-odd-km commute isn’t going to make up for the cost of your diesel car,why not consider this bunch of excellent,made-for-the-city petrol saloons? But which one should you pick?

What’s new?

With the gap between petrol and diesel prices narrowing,petrol cars are making more sense than ever before. And,let’s face it,the three compact saloons here are more suited to the short city hop than full-size saloons. It’s exactly the kind of environment in which the lower price tag of the petrol car has a big advantage over the diesel car. So what we have here are three cars that fit the bill. There’s the Honda Amaze,the Maruti Dzire and the Chevrolet Sail. All have 1.2-litre petrol engines,two are less than four metres in length and all are priced under R7 lakh (ex-showroom,Delhi)—making them quite a lot of car for the money. Now the Sail may not be a sub-four-metre saloon,but Chevrolet’s pricing strategy means that,at R6.41 lakh for this fully loaded LT (ABS),you get a bigger saloon for less than the other two,which makes it even more car for your money. Still,at R6.64 lakh and R6.51 lakh respectively,the Amaze VX and the Dzire ZXi are good value in their own right too.

So,on paper,these three saloons look pretty evenly matched. But what are they like in the real world? That’s what we are about to find out.

What are they like to drive?

Chevrolet Sail ***

Honda Amaze ****

Maruti Dzire ****

With just 1.2-litre engines powering them,you might expect these three saloons to be wanting for performance,but this is not the case. Take the Sail for example—the engine makes 85bhp and 11.52kgm of pulling power,which translates into decent performance in real-world conditions. The engine is pretty responsive to part-throttle inputs and feels fairly easy to drive in traffic as a result. However,the power delivery flattens out after the rather lively initial response and then it starts pulling strongly again when you reach the zone between 4000 and 6000rpm. The trouble is,when it’s revving hard,the engine gets quite buzzy,and even at moderate speeds,the sound it makes is quite intrusive. Add to this a clutch that doesn’t offer much feel and a gearshift that isn’t the best around,and you have a car that is only mediocre on the performance front—a fact backed up by its 14.5sec 0-100kph time.

Hop into the Amaze after the Sail and you’ll immediately see how much better it is. It’s amazingly refined at idle and responsive when you’re driving around in traffic. The gearshift is superb,the clutch is light and the pull of the engine gets stronger as you rev it harder. It’s not incredibly silent when it is near the redline,but it does sound a lot sportier than the Sail. Helping the Honda along is its light kerb weight of 965kg,which helps it post its rather quick 0-100kph time of 13.3sec.

If anything,the Dzire feels even better than the Amaze when you’re pulling away from low speeds in high gears. The Maruti has an almost immediate response to small throttle inputs,which makes it very easy to drive in traffic with minimal gearshifts. The Dzire is smooth and quiet at idle as well,and it feels at least as refined as the Amaze. There is some whine from the engine near the redline,and isn’t as happy to spin fast as the Honda,but that’s the only grouse we had with it. With 86bhp on tap (the Amaze has 86.8bhp,the Sail has 85bhp),performance is good,and even if it’s not as quick outright as the Amaze,it holds up well.

Ride & handling

Chevrolet Sail ***

Honda Amaze ****

Maruti Dzire ****

The Sail has the stiffest ride at low speeds. Still,it’s not stiff in a crashy,thumpy sort of way; it’s just that you can feel everything the tyres are going over. A lot of this stiffness disappears as you go faster,but then again,the car does tend to get unsettled over the bigger bumps. It’s not the most fun to drive either. The steering isn’t the most consistent and,above 100kph,the car doesn’t feel as planted as we would have liked it to be.

Both the Amaze and the Dzire have much better rides,whether at high or low speeds. Around town,the Amaze’s suspension is quiet and absorbent and there’s little of the sharp vertical movement you get in the Sail. The suspension handles bumps and craters very well and the decent 165mm of ground clearance is good as well.

The Dzire has no such problems. It’s clear from the start that it’s a quieter,more refined car. In fact,the Dzire’s low-speed ride is even better than the Honda’s,partly because it gets bigger 15-inch wheels (the other two use 14-inchers) and partly because Maruti has tuned the Dzire’s rear suspension for the comfort that saloon car owners expect. As a result,you get a nicely pliant ride at low speeds with some pitching as you go faster. The Amaze’s stiffer suspension setup gives it the slight edge in stability as the speeds rise,though. Agility is very good and it surprises you with how comfortable it is in corners.

In the hectic traffic of the city,it’s the Amaze’s lighter,more measured controls (clutch,gearbox and direct steering) that make it the easiest to drive as well.

What are they like inside?

Chevrolet Sail ***

Honda Amaze ****

Maruti Dzire ****

All three cars are based on hatchbacks—the Sail is based on the Sail U-VA,the Dzire on the Swift and the Amaze on the Brio. This is significant because the Swift and the U-VA are bigger hatchbacks than the Brio,so naturally the Amaze should have the least space,right? The truth is that the Amaze has the most space of the three,because it has the shortest nose. Honda has increased the wheelbase (the space between the front and rear axles) of the Brio in creating the Amaze,and a lot of attention has been paid to maximising passenger space in the cabin. To that extent,the front seats are slim,the dashboard is pushed forward as much as possible and the door pads have been scooped out for more width. The result is a rear seat that’s seriously spacious in relation to the Amaze’s compact exteriors.

The Dzire also has a comfortable rear seat and it even betters the Honda’s seat on thigh support. But the Dzire’s rear seats don’t offer as much knee room as the Honda’s and the small windows do make you feel quite claustrophobic.

The Sail,being the bigger saloon,naturally has quite a lot of legroom,but amazingly,the Amaze has even more. Also,the Sail’s rear seats fall a fair bit short on comfort. The seat cushions are too firm,there isn’t enough thigh support and the fabrics feel downmarket as well. Redeeming features come in the form of the raised floor under the front seats that rear passengers can use as a foot rest.

Move to the front of the Sail and again,you’ll find seats that are quite firm. The ergonomics aren’t great either—the power window switches are placed on the centre console and the gearlever is a bit too far back. The space available is good,but the hard plastics,plain design and bland colours aren’t particularly appealing. It is a simple design and buyers might be disappointed with the single-DIN audio system in a class where two-DIN is almost the norm.

The Amaze shares its dashboard with the Brio and this,as it turns out,isn’t a good thing. It’s not the quality or the fit and finish we take issue with; it’s just the very basic,functional design. Honda has taken a radical approach with the dashboard but we feel it doesn’t really work,especially in a saloon. The vents,centre console and instrument panel don’t line up in the traditional sense and there are some odd looking bits,like the shut-line of the glovebox,which stands out like an upturned lip. The instrument cluster looks a bit too plain as well,and doesn’t have the sophistication of the Dzire’s.

It’s the Dzire’s dashboard we liked the most. The V-shaped centre console,the digital displays for the audio and climate control system and the stylish steering wheel all add to the ambience. The front seats are the most comfortable in this group by far,thanks to their excellent size,cushioning and support. Still,the dashboard cowl is high and this does limit visibility to a certain extent—it’s something new drivers might not like,as it makes it tricky to judge where the car’s extremities lie.

As for in-cabin storage space,the Amaze has no less than nine cup and bottle holders spread across the cabin,and big door pockets as well as a cubbyhole ahead of the gearlever. The Dzire also has door pockets capable of holding one-litre bottles,a cubbyhole ahead of the gearlever and a unique slot on the right of the steering wheel that can hold a mobile phone. We also like the pop-out cupholders on the dashboard that sit ahead of the air-con vent. The Chevy’s storage spaces come in the form of a deep,rubber-lined cubbyhole ahead of the gearlever,space under the rear seats and big door pockets.

As for boot space,it is again the Amaze with its 400 litres of space that offers you the most. The Dzire has the smallest at just 316 litres,while the Sail,despite its extra length has just 370 litres of space. It is clear that Honda has really outdone itself on the interior packaging of the Amaze.

Buying & owning

Chevrolet Sail ****

Honda Amaze ****

Maruti Dzire ****

The Amaze VX is the most expensive car here by a small margin—but at R13,000 more than the Dzire ZXi,it’s a margin that is of little consequence to today’s aspirational car buyer. But the Honda is the most fuel-efficient car here—it gave us 12.5kpl in the city and 17kpl on the highway.

At R6.51 lakh,the Dzire ZXi is quite good value considering it has the best equipment,the best build quality and the most upmarket interiors. Its fuel efficiency is also good—we got 12.4kpl in the city and 16.8kpl on the highway. Both Honda and Maruti offer identical warranties of two years or 40,000km. Both offer equal peace of mind to their customers and both have widespread dealer and service networks.

The Sail is priced very well at R6.41 lakh,considering it is a bigger car than the other two. Going by the ARAI figures,the Sail shouldn’t be too far off from the Amaze and Dzire as far as fuel efficiency is concerned. It also comes with a fantastic three-year/ 1,00,000km warranty,pointing at how much faith Chevy has in its product. Still,it’s a relatively unknown product and Chevys generally don’t hold their resale values as well as Hondas or Marutis.

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