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.

Volkswagen Vento Tdi test drive

')">Volkswagen group have a lofty ambition of becoming the  number1 car manufacturer across the world by 2016. This might seem a bit too ambitious for the rest of the world however people at Ingolstadt are more than determined to make it happen. Topmost on their list is the fact that they have to capture at least 16% of the burgeoning and second to China, the Indian market. Now, any manufacturer worth its salt would bet that making a brand image is a pre-requisite and thereafter the road is somewhat smooth towards the road to progress. Volkswagen Group did just that by sending their sister concern, Skoda Auto to India first. After Skoda Auto established base, it was the turn of the more up market Volkswagen Auto dubbed Volkswagen India to make their entry. Apart from the launch of the luxurious Volkswagen Jetta, they launched several other models. However they plan on capturing the upper C segment which is currently dominated by Honda City and for this, they have launched the booted version of the Polo called, the Volkswagen Vento Tdi.

Looks

Now, for the world, the Volkswagen Vento Tdi may be just a Polo slapped on with a boot however Volkswagen India claims that the Vento is an all-new grounds up car and introduced for the first time across the world in India. Looking heads on, the Volkswagen India group’s claims are entirely wrong. You would be hard pressed to notice the difference between its donor cousin and the Volkswagen Vento Tdi. The eagle eyed would notice that the bigger Volkswagen has a different fog lamp arrangement as well as a lower air dam. Volkswagen India has stuck to the adage that “if it ain’t broken, why fix it”.


The Teutonic looks of the VW Vento Tdi reminds one of the something solid as well as long lasting. The sides show the extended length of the Volkswagen Vento Tdi and riding on 15 inch alloy wheels, the topmost variant, the Highline looks quite stately. To distinguish it from the Polo, they could have tapped on the side indicators into the ORVMs. The wheel base of the Polo has been stretched to 96mm to accommodate the length of the Vento.

The rear end looks typically German and especially one from the Volkswagen India group. The tail lamps have been re-arranged a bit from those on the Polo’s. A first for Volkswagen India, the Volkswagen Vento Tdi features the entire Volkswagen name as a badge. The shut lines are even and you cannot tell that this is a Polo with a boot. The boot is spacious at 485 liters and loading or unloading heavy articles isn’t a problem. There is minimum suspension strut intrusion. The inside of the boot area is lined evenly with velvet and such small touches makes the Volkswagen Vento Tdi a special car than the others in its competition. However there are some gray areas noticeably that there is no remote boot release and one has to open the boot hatch with a key. I sorely missed the Polo’s feature where you can easily depress the big Volkswagen logo and the boot opens. This quirk becomes all the more apparent when you are hands are full of shopping bags and you have to fish for the keys somewhere deep down. A tad inconvenient.

Interiors

Open the doors{they have those tank like shut sound} and you would notice a cabin made of beige and one similar to the Polo’s. Gosh!how many times do I have to mention the word Polo? Did you notice it? Obviously, you must have. The reason for it is because the Volkswagen Vento Tdi is a built for price car and thus has to share many of its components with the smaller car{no, I am not taking any more of the Polo’s name}.The dashboard materials are made of the same durable materials as found in other Volkswagen India cars. As with any other Volkswagen group cars, fit and finish is top notch. A special variety of cloth called as Livon has been used to design the Volkswagen Vento Tdi’s seats. The purposefulness of this is that it makes one comfortable and doesn’t give you a sore bump over long rides. The front seats are very supportive and adjust to the contours of the body well.

The steering wheel is the same unit as from its smaller sibling{see, I am not taking any more of that name}. However Volkswagen India could have done well to give the Volkswagen Vento Tdi steering mounted audio controls. Speaking of audio controls reminds me that the lower specced Volkswagen Vento Trendline makes do without one. The Volkswagen Vento Highline is the one that gets all the bells and whistles. There is a arm rest for the driver which doubles up as a storage space, should you not feel the need for resting your arm.The glove box in the Volkswagen Vento Tdi was one of the biggest that we noticed. It has double compartments and should store many of your things in it. One thing, I noticed was that the aircon at full blow is very noisy much like the ones on an Indigo Manza.

There is no central locking in the Volkswagen Vento Tdi nor do the doors automatically lock once the car is in excess of speeds above 20 kmph. The driver or the chauffer is left to do the chores of locking the car through a rotary knob on his side. Conspicuous by its absence is the door open warning. The Multi Information Display {MID} has a variety of information like the usual odometer reading, distance traveled, instant mileage, time and outside temperature and a gear shift indicator. The gear shifter unit is a straight lift from the smaller car and now has chrome inserts in it. There are cup holders as well as many storage spaces all around.

The rear seats have more space than the platform car and this shows. 6 footers would be quite comfortable in the Volkswagen Vento Tdi’s rear seats. A convenient feature is that the front seats can be pushed ahead by the rear passenger with the help of a lever. The Volkswagen Vento Tdi offers rear AC vents{the Fiat Linea is the other one in this segment to offer those}. The rear seats could do more with a bit of a recline though. Overall, the cabin is a good place to be, airy because of the big windows etc.

Handling and ride quality

The Volkswagen Vento Tdi uses the traditional set up found in Volkswagen cars. The front has McPherson strut layout whereas the rear uses semi-independent trailing arm. The ride is slightly on the firmer side but not entirely sports car like. The Volkswagen Vento Tdi exhibits the same poise as its smaller brethren. It means that you don’t slow down for pot holes or speed breakers. You just glide over them. It can be safely said that the suspension takes every obstacle in its stride. The 185/60 – R15 tyres section tyres also contribute immensely for the road grip of the Volkswagen.

The handling is where the Volkswagen Vento Tdi excels in. It grips and then grips some more on those chunky wheels. The Vento likes curvy roads. You are informed of its limits well in advance and there are no tail sliding antics that would unsettle you. The steering is a hydraulic power assisted one. However it is the only let down in this excellent ride and handling package. It feels overservoed. In the city, it is good news because there is not much effort required to navigate through traffic. On the highway, the steering feels vague and intent on doing its own jig. That saying, the Volkswagen Vento Tdi is quite stable at speeds of over 150 kmph. The maximum, I could whip this car was upto a speedometer claimed 185 kmp before we ran out of road. Even at this high speeds, there was next to none road or wind noise.

Engine,Performance and fuel efficiency

Volkswagen India have nicely weighed their options before launching the Volkswagen Vento car in India. They have both a petrol as well as diesel unit on offer. Plus both automatic as well as manual gear box options. Since I have driven the Volkswagen Vento Tdi, I would concentrate more on the diesel motor and leave the petrol for some other day. Now, this is a grounds up new motor from the Volkswagen India group. The 1.6 liter motor makes 104 BHP (@ 4,300 rpm and makes 250 NM of torque between 1,500 – 2,600 rpm. This figures mated with a slick shifting 5 speed unit{you know where it came from} allows the Volkswagen Vento Tdi to race from 0-100 in a scant 11.3 seconds. This means that it eats both the Fiat Line multijet as well as Hyundai Verna Crdi motor for lunch. Wheel spinning antics in first gear are quite common on the Volkswagen Vento Tdi. Who says that you cannot have fun with diesels, need to sample modern day diesel cars.

Heavy use of sound deadening materials means that the Volkswagen Vento Tdi is quite silent in its operation. The well spaced out gear ratios ensure optimum torque throughout the rev range. This is one eager diesel motor and revs quite smoothly to its rev limiter. The MID informs you when to shift gears to be in the correct rev range and to eke maximum fuel efficiency as well as performance from the motor. Alas, there is no automatic transmission on offer for the diesel motor. The 6 speed automatic is only for the petrol engine. Volkswagen India may bring the automatic tranny into the diesel later on depending on the demand for the same.

Reversing chores are pretty much hard with the high set head rests{they are non adjustable} and unavailability of auto dimming inside rear view mirror. Volkswagen group could have done well to offer reverse camera as an option. The electrically adjustable outside rear view mirrors do help in the reversing chores immensely. Disc brakes at the front and drums for the rear do duties on the braking front. This work perfect on the Volkswagen Vento Tdi and bring the car to a halt safely. Pedal modulation is also good however I did notice some nose diving from the heavy diesel motor upfront during hard braking manouevers. The brakes are assisted by 4 channel ABS and EBD. These are only available in the VW Vento Tdi highline that I tested.

Safety is another important aspect that Volkswagen India Group seem to have left out on in the name of cost cutting.There are 3 point ELR seat belts for all 5 passengers, a collapsible steering wheel and two air bags on our Highline variant. The Trendline makes do with 3 point ELR seat belts for all 5 passengers and a collapsible steering wheel.

Fuel efficiency of the Volkswagen Vento Tdi was paramount for Volkswagen India if they were to compete in this segment. The new Volkswagen Vento Tdi Highline gives 14.48 kmpl in the city and a highish 20.4 kmpl on the highway. An overall figure of 17.44 kmpl is astonishing in this segment and couple this with the low running cost for the diesel and you would be a happy person at the fuel filling station.

Verdict

Volkswagen Vento Tdi is good actually the best competition for the upper C segment diesel cars. It has good traditional German looks, sturdy body and chassis, nice interiors as well as good choice of engine and fuel efficiency to boot for. It is a hoot to drive as well. There are some quirks present like the missing steering mounted audio controls, absence of 60:40 split rear seats, some essential safety features and transmission tunnel intrusion for the rear seat passenger in middle.However these are some things which can be over looked looking at the qualities of the Volkswagen Vento Tdi. Couple this with its starting price of Rs.7.99 lakhs {ex-Delhi showroom} for the VW Vento Tdi Trendline and going upto Rs 9.23 lakhs (ex-showroom Delhi) for the Volkswagen Vento Tdi Highline and you have a pretty value for money car with the VW badge.

Technical Specifications of the Volkswagen Vento Tdi Highline

  • Engine Description: 1.6L CR TDI In-line
  • Engine Type: In-Line Engine 4 cylinder
  • Engine Displacement: 1,598 cc
  • Valves per Cylinder: 4
  • Valve Configuration: DOHC
  • Fuel Supply System: CRDI
  • Maximum Power: 105 Bhp @ 4,300 rpm
  • Maximum Torque: 25@ 1,500-2,500 (kgm@rpm)
  • Transmission Type: Manual
  • Gearbox: 5 Speed
  • Front Suspension: McPherson strut with stabiliser bar
  • Rear Suspension: Stabiliser bar with Semi-independent trailing arm
  • SteeringType: Hydraulic Power
  • Steering Column: Rack and pinion, Tilt & Telescopic
  • Turning Radius (wheel base): 5.3 m
  • Front Brake Type: Disc
  • Rear Brake Type: Drum
  • Top Speed: 185 kmph
  • Fuel Type: Diesel
  • Fuel Tank Capacity: 57 litres
  • Tyre Size: 185/60 R 15
  • Alloy Wheel Size
  • Tyre Type: Tubeless Radial
  • Length: 4,384 mm
  • Width: 1,698 mm
  • Height: 1,467 mm
  • Ground Clearance: 168 mm
  • Wheelbase: 2,553 mm
  • Kerb Weight: 1,230 kg