Maruti SX4 Zdi vs Volkswagen Vento Tdi vs Fiat Linea MultiJet

With Maruti Suzuki launching the SX4 diesel and carrying out a cheesy ad campaign to support it, it is inevitable that there shouldn’t be a comparison between the current best seller the Volkswagen Vento (what you don’t believe me, it has got waiting periods of about 4 months and dealers have reported only 10 orders canceled so far) and the next best seller, the Fiat Linea and the new kid (okay, it an old car with a new heart) on the block. We have got all these three cars lined up and here follows the comparison test between them. Also it has been a very long time since we have actually compared any cars. Approximately more than a month ago. Without further ado, here is Lijo Mathai playing referee to the bout between the Maruti SX4 Zdi in India, the Volkswagen Vento Tdi in India and the Fiat Linea MultiJet in India.

Looks

Maruti SX4 Zdi: The Maruti SX4 was always a butch vehicle and more so in this category it is the only radical crossover thing happening. But then it is a car which wouldn’t win any design awards. The Maruti SX4 Zdi in India boasts of a hunky figure which would give you immense road presence with its 16 inch tyres and the flared wheel arches The rear with its high loading lip also boasts of having a presence of its own.

Volkswagen Vento Tdi: When the Volkswagen Vento Tdi in India was launched recently, it created a flutter. The Polo hatchback never took off in the same vein as its booted sibling. But then the clean crisp lines of the Vento have actually bowled me over and there are no evidences of the hatchback anywhere, if you ignore the front look. The rear also looks nicely integrated and doesn’t feel like a tacky boot job done.

Fiat Linea MultiJet: Classic Italian lines do the job well. Even after more than 2 years of its launch, this vehicle guarantees the admiration. Moreover, it doesn’t look anything like its hatchback sibling, the Fiat Punto. Those alloy wheels would have you going into a tizzy every time you see them. The front end is inspired from Maserati vehicles.

Amongst the trio, I personally would settle for the Volkswagen Vento Tdi as its lines or form don’t look to recede in the near future. Also it is the freshest design of the lot here.

Interiors

Maruti SX4 Zdi: The Maruti SX4 Zdi in India unfortunately is the same looking as its petrol sibling and therein lies the biggest disappointment. Maruti could have done well to get this car some visual differentiation in the interiors than its petrol cousin. To be specific, lots of Swift bits can be found here and there. However the quality of plastics seems a tad better than the smaller car. You get audio controls on the steering wheel. A vast expanse of somewhat cheap looking gray color fills the cabin. Seating arrangement at the front is a bit of a bother for taller occupants however for the shorter ones, there isn’t any problem. Moreover, the rear bench is also a tall one but lacks on under thigh support.

Volkswagen Vento Tdi: The Volkswagen Vento Tdi in India gets better interior quality than its hatchback sibling but personally I feel that the design is all boring and requires some serious upgrade in the way it looks. In this modern age, there are no steering mounted controls, the musci player is crap and most significantly, you don’t get that solid German build. Yes, the door pads resound with a hollow thunk like the Maruti SX4’s. Equipment wise, the Vento doesn’t bring in as much as even the SX4. A novel feature which isn’t present in the others is the push lever behind the front seat. This allows the rear seat passenger to slide the front seat. Seat cushioning is perfect in the Vento as also the head and leg room.

Fiat Linea MultiJet: The Fiat Linea MultiJet in India gets one of the most handsome cabins of this lot. It brings in a nicely contoured steering wheel which boasts of having audio as also bluetooth controls. The dials may look retro but watch them at night and you would be amazed with their clarity and crispness. The dual tone interiors here don’t exactly reek of quality but get their job done of lifting up the cabin spirit. It is the only car in this category which has rear AC vents other than the Vento. Front seats hug the occupants and make them instantly comfortable. Rear seat space is a bit low on head room but the leg room offered is terrific.

For the sheer equipment and comfort levels, it would be the Fiat Linea which wins this round.

Handling and ride quality

Maruti SX4 Zdi: The SX4 here gets the Independent McPherson struts in front with an anti roll bar whereas the rear gets a non-independent torsion beam. This setup is on the stiffer side. The car has gained weight and that too 55 kgs over its petrol counterpart. The steering wheel is an improvement over its crude oil cousin’s. It can be made to dial in last minute corrections during lane changes. Due to the high ground clearance, one doesn’t have to think twice about all those big speed breakers in the way. Handling is actually good if you take the SX4 in isolation. Even the ride quality is typical Maruti which means that some undulating surfaces would make this car make the car pitch a bit. Even though it is on the stiffer side, the suspension never intrudes too much. NVH is also low for a diesel engined car.

Volkswagen Vento Tdi: The Volkswagen Vento Tdi gets Independent Macpherson struts with stabilizer bars in front and non independent trailing arms coil spring in the rear.

The Vento is setup on the softer side and this means lots of pitching and bobbing at high speeds. The car feels very planted on a straight road but then brake suddenly and the nose is in danger of getting scraped on the road. Its steering wheel is very light for city use but the same cannot be said about for the highway usage. It doesn’t exude enough feel for the last minute corrections on the freeway. NVH, when the motor is given the cold start, is very bad. It gives that typical diesel clatter but it smoothens out when the car is warm. Ride quality at low speeds is good but as discussed earlier, the highways is where this car doesn’t feel at home in the ride and handling stakes.

Fiat Linea MultiJet: The Fiat Linea boasts of having Independent Macpherson struts with anti-roll bar in front and non independent torsion beam axle with anti roll bar at the rear. This setup is also on the stiffer side. The upside of this suspension setup is that the Linea feels far more planted on the road than the other two. It has more locks per steering but its steering provides for accurate feedback. Its handling capability is what we have actually come to expect from Fiat, very good. Like the Punto, the Linea also goes around corners very nicely. It is the most fun to drive car in this lot. Its ride quality is also class personified and it is the best balance between the ride and handling stakes. NVH however is on the higher side and a classic example of how the donor is outclassed by the recipient. Maruti has done a nice job of isolating the vibes and wish that Fiat should have done the same with the 1.3 liter MultiJet engine.

The Fiat Linea without a doubt wins this round.

Engine, performance and fuel efficiency

Maruti SX4 Zdi: The Maruti SX4 Zdi in India boasts of one more application of the very famous MultiJet engine developed by Fiat. The 1.3 liter diesel engine with variable geomtery turbocharger makes 90 Bhp of peak power at 4000 rpm whereas the torque figure reads as 20.39 kgm at 1750 rpm. It is mated to a slick 5 speed transmission. The car displays some turbo lag but its shorter gearing ensures that the transmission overtakes the job of getting over the turbo lag faster. It has got a 0-100 timing of 13.8 seconds whereas its top speed is 165 kmph. Post 4000 rpm, the MultiJet engine takes on a raspy note and something which would tire out any driver or passenger. Brakes are also good with the discs in front and drums at rear setup working nicely with ABS and EBD thrown in. Safety is tended for with the usual 2 air bags, collapsible steering column and side intrusion beams. Fuel efficiency that I achieved during this test was 13.6 kmpl in city and 17.3 kmpl on the highway.

Volkswagen Vento Tdi: The Volkswagen Vento Tdi in India has the biggest engine capacity amongst the lot. It has got a 1.6 liter common rail diesel engine which makes 105 Bhp of peak power at 4400 rpm whereas its torque figure reads as 25.4 kgm between 1500-2500 rpm. But figures on paper don’t actually transform to driving pleasure on the road. The Vento does have a good acceleration rush but those speed runs are only mild bursts in the city. It has got turbo lag but then sheer engine capacity tends to overcome it. Couple that with the fact that the Vento’s gearbox here takes the least effort to slot into gate and has short throws also. 0-100 figure came up in only 11.35 seconds whereas it registered a top speed of 184 kmph. Braking and safety setup is the same as the SX4 diesel with no new additions inspite of being a German creation. Fuel efficiency was 13.2 kmpl in city and 17.4 kmpl on the highway.

Fiat Linea MultiJet: As discussed earlier, the Fiat Linea MultiJet in India gets the same engine as the SX4 diesel. The 1.3 liter MultiJet engine makes 90 Bhp at 4000 rpm whereas its maximum torque is 20.4 kgm at 1750 rpm. Due to its high kerb weight, the car feels sluggish at start off but once the turbo is on full song, the car transforms into a diesel rocket. The 0-100 timing is dismal in this class at 15.01 seconds and the top speed registered was 168 kmph. Like the others, the brake and safety setup is the same. But the Linea’s pedals have good amount of travel and one needs to get used to them. The fuel efficiency eked by this big Fiat is 12.9 kmpl in the city and 17.6 kmpl on the highway. Fiat have tuned their engine well for the top end since unlike the SX4, this car pulls cleanly towards the upper end of its power band. Gear shifts however are a bit long but they are better than the ones experienced in the earlier Palios.

Inspite of the sluggish nature initially, it’s the Linea which won my admiration for its sportiness.

Verdict

There is a clear cut winner here and it is the Fiat Linea MultiJet in India. It has got the pace, looks, dynamic abilities and more equipment on offer than the other two in this competition. The new kid on the block, the Maruti SX4 Zdi in India is what a Maruti should be. Its cheap and can be used for everyday commute effectively. It gets better equipment levels than the Volkswagen Vento. Coming to the Vento, it loses the edge inspite of been a German and not feeling as solidly built as Germans should be. It has got the biggest engine in its category and one which promises effortless performance on road. But bare bones equipment level and its lofty price may set off some. The reason it is a good seller is because of the prestigious Volkswagen badge. But frankly speaking modern day cars are so engineered that you cannot go wrong with either of the trio. The Maruti has bragging rights with the fact that it is the first Indian car to comply with OBD norms. Now, the price factor that separates these cars are high too. The Fiat Linea MultiJet price in India for the highest variant, the Emotion Pack is Rs 8.71 lakhs. The Maruti SX4 Zdi price in India starts at Rs 8.30 lakhs. The Volkswagen Vento Tdi  price in India starts at Rs 9.23 lakhs. All these prices are ex-show room Mumbai.