A person watching a TV channel would come to know that there are many cultural changes coming across in the music from India or from the West. Even the Arab nations have a different set of instruments and music theme in mind. The same trend is followed amongst the car designing companies. Some like the Koreans adopt a wait and steal attitude. Whereas the Germans are more like bringing up their own designs however with a sense of staidness. The Japanese on the other hand were earlier known for their staid designs however as of now, they have being putting out some of the best designs in the automotive business. Proof is the Maruti Swift and the SX4. One more comes in the form of the Maruti Kizashi. But are we here to discuss the design policies of the different regions or is it just that this thought crossed our minds? The answer lies in the new Hyundai Verna “Fluidic” which was launched recently in India. When the news of its arrival started pouring in as early as January 2011, people withheld their bookings, then came another news about the launch of the 2011 Ford Fiesta, so the car sales in the mid size segment slowed down all the more. However in between, came in the SX4 diesel and things started to look more rosy or even confusing. Don’t believe us, check out article of Maruti SX4 Zdi vs Volkswagen Vento Tdi vs Fiat Linea MultiJet and the related comments. So today, we have the Maruti SX4 DDiS in India competing against the Hyundai Verna “Fluidic” CRDI in India, the Fiat Linea Multijet in India and the Volkswagen Vento TDI in India. Its actually a war between the 4 distinct regions namely Italy, Japan, Germany and Korea. The battle ground is India.
Well, lets talk about the newest contender in here, the Hyundai Verna “Fluidic” CRDI in India. Yes, its not a revolution as far as design from the older Verna Transform is concerned but it still is eye catching. Hyundai have been harping about finding a new design philosophy and have named it as the Fluidic Design language. Seems that they have been inspired by a water drop. The new Verna looks like a Korean fish. The familiar family face, which first showed up in the 2011 i10 is now part of the Verna as well. The hexagonal grille frame is said to be a Hyundai original. The L shaped fog lamps however seem to have been inspired from the Volvo S60’s tail lamps. Twin tail pipes are unique in this comparison. Next up is the Fiat Linea, which is the design champ in this segment. People just fall in love with this big looking sedan from Fiat. The Maserati inspired face for both the Punto and the Linea work in their favor. The head lamps has a stance which shows that most of the bulk is concentrated in the front whereas the rear end has been nicely integrated culminating into petal shaped tail lamps with a slight LED feature in them. As for the Maruti SX4, it looks like a cross between a sedan and SUV. Its bold stance cannot be emulated by any other car in here. It actually looks a Japanese in here with its boy racer aspirations poking out from every nook and cranny. The added on body kit in the top end variant only heightens this feeling. Except for the Vento and the SX4, the other two cars come with 16 inch wheels while the former two make do with 15 inchers. The Volkswagen Vento looks very solidly hewn and more Poloish in its appearance than the Linea with its Punto snout. The Vento also has a traditional looking Volkswagen tail lamps.
Well, there is still nothing that is going to turn over the Volkswagen Vento’s clean lines. Next in comes the Fiat Linea, the Maruti SX4 and then the Hyundai Verna “Fluidic”.
Oh well, inside the story is very much different than on the outside. Some of the cars stick true to their exterior design while some make one feel as if they have entered a different car. Take the case of the SX4 diesel. It may have got lots of detailed styling in the exteriors however the interior trim is not upto the mark. In isolation, it may seem good however in this company, it has already started to show its dated nature. The steering wheel is the same one which is now being shared with half a dozen Marutis, It boasts of audio controls on the steering wheel though. There is a big speedometer and besides it, lies the tachometer and rest of the stuff. The steering is adjustable for rake however it doesn’t telescope. The music system as also the climate control are integrated and have a feel good factor to them. The interiors however aren’t as subtle as the ones in the Vento which, even though, is a new car, dates back to the time when Skoda from the Volkswagen stable first entered India. The dash materials are soft to touch however they mimic the exterior features and look too boring. Moreover, there is seriously a lack of features. It’s the only car here which comes without steering mounted controls. The steering wheel however is adjustable and a comfortable position can be achieved by the driver. The meter dials are a separate unit and have a multi information display between them which displays average fuel economy and rest of the stuff. As for the Fiat Linea, the two tone interiors are exactly the same as one would expect from this classy Italian. The steering wheel is an all black thing with leather wrapping. The meter dials however look retro but look nice when they are lit up. The fonts however are hard to read. While everything looks high quality, some fit and finish leaves a bit desired. However the Linea comes kitted with equipment and some innovative ones like the Blue & Me at that. Now, the odd ball design amongst all in this comparison, the Hyundai Verna. Well, the Verna even eclipses the Linea as far as equipment is concerned. The dashboard is one swoopy thing and falls back well in line to give it an overall waterfall effect. There is a cooled glove box, Ioniser equipped climate control system, Inner mirror rear parking camera and many other stuff. The Linea makes do without a cooled glove box as also the rear parking camera. As for the Vento, it cannot even hope to match this features while being nearly available at the same price.
Now comes the comfort factor. Shorter passengers would find that the Linea’s steering wheel comes too close to the chest. This would take some time getting used to. The SX4 with its tall proportions ensures that getting in and out of the cabin isn’t a hassle. For the Hyundai Verna, passenger would think it’s a cozy fit however once inside the cabin, people would appreciate the roominess and the use of beige to lighten up the cabin and bring about a sense of more roominess. The Vento is the only one in this comparison to bring in a lever which can be used to move the front passenger seat a bit ahead to liberate more leg room in the rear. The Verna’s rear leg room space isn’t that great and hence fitting in taller passengers would be a chore. But the Verna apart from the SX4 is the only one here which can accommodate three passengers with ease. The Verna has the flattest floor of all the 4 cars here. As for the Linea, it is a bit on the lower side and ingress egress seems to be a bit of problem. However in the rear, head room is lower than the others in its class. If you are looking for only seating comfort, then it’s the SX4 for you. Both the Linea and Vento come with rear individual AC vents, which proved to be very useful in the May end summer heat.
As for boot space, all the three cars here are equally placed with the Verna boasting the slightest edge out here. Cubby holes are aplenty in the new Verna, just like the I20. The Vento is the one which provides the least cubby holes. Build quality in the new Verna is comparable with the Vento. The Fiat and also the Maruti are similar in their build quality stakes.
The SX4 ranks third as far as goodies are concerned but has the maximum space. The Verna comes in second as far as space is concerned while on the goodies front, she ranks in number one. For the Vento, it comes in last as far as goodies are concerned but comes in first place as far as overall comfort is measured. For the Linea, it ranks in second for the goodies and last for the optimal use of space.
Handling and ride quality
All the cars here come with McPherson struts in the front with a stabilizer bar however at the rear, things shape up differently with the suspension varying here. The Verna is the softest of the lot and this means a fantastic ride quality. Bobbing and pitching action has been well controlled than the earlier version. On rough roads, the Hyundai Verna “Fluidic” CRDI in India just continues on its path without being unfazed. It also has a good ground clearance which means scrapping the nose or underpinnings on speed breakers isn’t a problem. On the highway, the equation reverses and the Verna feels slightly unstable and reluctant to change directions quickly. This may be down to the steering wheel which simply put, doesn’t have any life in it. The Verna is a mix and match since its 1.6 liter diesel is more suited for highway driving and aggressive one at that. There is lots of body roll on offer as well. Next up is the Maruti SX4 DDiS in India with its stiffly setup suspension. The ground clearance is even higher than some of the SUVs. This means that notorious speed breakers in your city would be dispatched without even a whimper. But the passengers would whimper a bit with the hard edged ride quality. On the highway, the SX4, even with its tall dimensions doesn’t seem too prone to crosswinds and holds its line very well. The steering wheel is also communicative but it takes a slot more effort than the Verna to turn it. Its gives a labored and heavier feel to it. As for the handling, it is predictable and inspite of its taller dimensions, the SX4 manages to attack corners well. Where the SX4 feels a bit reluctant to attack corners, the Volkswagen Vento seems delighted at spotting them. The steering wheel in the Vento has reasonable feedback for the driver and give him assurance that all is well. As for the ride quality, the Volkswagen Vento TDI in India absorbs all road undulations very well. However it lets in a bit of the ruts and ride quality is just a bit harder than the Verna. For the highway stability, the Vento feels extremely stable. However its front overhangs mean that scraping over speed breakers is an issue. The Fiat Linea Multijet in India is one car which has been tuned aptly for the Indian conditions. It has a suspension which is not too hard and coupled with the long wheelbase, give a stable ride quality. It does let the occupant know that there are some road imperfections however never too disconcerting to give the spinal cord a true workout. For the handling front, it is one eager beaver but the ground clearance is lowest of the lot and hence one has to be careful over speed breakers and stuff. Also visibility is a slight problem due to the sloping rear roof. However its steering wheel is the most communicative of the lot and hence lets the driver know what is going on beneath. However maneuverability in town is a bit of an issue since the Fiat has a bigger turning circle.
NVH is one of the lowest in the new Verna and after that comes the Fiat Linea followed closely by Maruti SX4 and Volkswagen Vento.
As for the best choice in the ride and handling category, it would be the Volkswagen Vento followed by the Linea, Verna and SX4.
Engine, performance and fuel efficiency
Two of the cars here share their engines and those happen to be the Fiat Linea and the Maruti SX4. The 1248 cc engine makes 93 Ps of power and 209 Nm of torque in the Linea whereas in the SX4, it is 90 Ps of power and 200 Nm of torque. Both these cars have 5 speed transmissions. The petrol SX4 had a slightly notchier shift action, which has been totally eliminated in the new diesel. Infact, the diesel shifts quite unobtrusively. The Fiat Linea also has a gearbox which is a willing one but with long throws. The 0-100 kmph figure for the Linea was 14.6 seconds whereas for the SX4, it was 13.7 seconds, a good one second difference. Both the cars have approximate top speeds in excess of 160 kmph. For the Volkswagen Vento, it is a 1.6 liter common rail turbo engine which develops 105 Ps of power and 250 Nm of torque. Turbo lag is apparent but not so much as in the Linea or SX4. This engine along with the smooth shifting 5 speed manual transmission enables the Vento to post a time of 11.6 seconds for the 0-100 kmph run whereas top speed is close to 180 kmph. As for the new member on the block, the Hyundai Verna, it boast of an all new engine for the Indian market. This 1.6 liter engine is a common rail Variable Geometry Turbo unit which pumps out 128 Ps of power and 260 Nm of torque, which are the highest figures in this comparison. It is mated with a 6 speed manual which is one of the slickest gearboxes which we have tested recently. It enables the Verna to move past the 0-100 barrier within 10.5 seconds. It also registers a top speed of 190 plus.
The Hyundai Verna Fluidic has got all wheel disc brakes which none of the others in this competition boast of. Needless to say, there is no fuss from the car whilst coming to a complete stop. However the brake pedal feel, like the earlier Verna is still wooden and it doesn’t inspire much confidence. ABS and EBD contribute to the decent stopping distances by the Verna. The Vento has got a brake pedal which communicates the most to the driver and hence is confidence inspiring. It only gets ABS as a company. For the SX4, it is EBD and ABS coupled with drums at the rear and discs in the front. The Fiat Linea also has a Verna mimicking brake pedal feel but one with a wee bit more of confidence. It also has got ABS and EBD for assisting it in retardation duties. In the safety features stakes, it is the new Verna which comes out on top with a collapsible steering column and never seen before 6 airbags. The others have 2 air bags for company along with a steering that collapses and side intrusion beams. Speaking of security features, the central locking in the Vento is actually a security hazard since only the driver can lock the door and unlock it for all the 5 passengers. This is seen in other VW group cars as well.
For the fuel efficiency stakes, if one thinks that the new Verna Fluidic has got the fuel efficiency sacrificed at the altar of the performance, then you are wrong. It has an ARAI certified fuel efficiency of 22.32 kmpl which translates to an overall 15.8 kmpl. The Fiat Linea Multijet has an ARAI certified fuel efficiency figure of 18.3 kmpl which however in the overall stakes comes down to 14.9 kmpl. The Volkswagen Vento TDI returns an overall 14.8 kmpl against the ARAI figure of 20.5 kmpl. As for the Maruti SX4 DDiS, it’s a real world figure of 14.6 stacked against the ARAI certified 21.5 kmpl.
Its easy to see here that the Hyundai Verna “Fluidic” CRDI in India has got the better engine with safety features and better fuel efficiency. It is followed by the Fiat Linea, Volkswagen Vento and the Maruti SX4.
As far as the verdict goes in this test, the Vento wins the overall comparison. However that is not the real verdict. A person buying a Rs 10 lakhs car would obviously want his car to have nice interiors, which the Vento simply doesn’t have. Don’t get us wrong here. The Vento has a good, solid cabin but one which is staid by its appearance and lack of features. The latter is the most irritating part in this car. Stack that up against Volkswagen’s weak dealer network and the prospect of owning a Vento diminishes into oblivion. So out goes the Vento out of the window. Next down is the Maruti SX4 diesel. It has the same cabin which seems Spartan as compared with the Verna. However it has Maruti dealer and service network as a good backup plus the lower cost of spares as compared with any other car in this category. Now, it’s the turn of the Fiat Linea. The Linea has its share of handsomeness thrown in along with a beautiful cabin filled with features. However in the main stakes and that is interior space, form takes over function. Its fuel efficiency is a surprise package and the Linea has the big car feel. So, this leaves the new Verna “Fluidic”. The new Verna has got its beautifully sculpted interiors as a plus point and the bomb of a CRDI engine which not only is highly energetic but also very fuel efficient. However its looks are a big no-no and its wish wash handling. However it delivers that all important feel good factor which only the Linea can match somewhat. Plus the sales and service part is almost at par with Maruti if a trifle more costly.
The price of these sedans also are different in their characteristics. The Fiat Linea Multijet price in India for the top end variant ends at Rs 906320 while the Hyundai Verna “Fluidic” CRDI price in India is Rs 10.98 lakhs. The Maruti SX4 DDiS price in India is Rs 9.98 lakhs whereas the Volkswagen Vento TDI price in India is Rs 10.61 lakhs. All these prices are ex-show room, Mumbai.
Our pick of the day is the new Verna followed by the Volkswagen Vento, Fiat Linea and the SX4.