In the automotive field, not many cars can claim to their throne of being the number 1 for quite a long time. However there are some exceptions like the Maruti Swift, Honda Accord and Honda City. No wonder how many competitors came through, these cars have always remained the hot favorites. Out of all these cars, the Honda City has maintained its lead the most. As the title suggests, this comparison is all about the executive class of cars. Not long ago, we had crowned the Skoda Superb as the new segment king however the time has come now to pit it against its blood relation, the Volkswagen Passat. The 2011 Volkswagen Passat in India is a car which like the Superb, unanimously impressed one and all at Indiandrives. So it was prudent enough that we take the Skoda’s old competitor the Accord and the newest one to stake a claim at the throne, the Volkswagen Passat. Since the Passat is currently offered with only a diesel motor while the Honda is offered only in crude oil versions, we decided to take the top end 1.8 TSI motor of the Skoda along with the 2.0 liter TDI of the Passat and the 2.4 liter variant of the Accord.
All the three cars here wouldn’t win any beauty pageants as they all have their quirkiness in the design factor. The newest of the lot doesn’t look the newest while the oldest of the lot, the Skoda Superb doesn’t look as old. Starting off with the Skoda, it is more than evident that the Skoda has got a design theme which is far different than the approach taken by Volkswagen for its Passat. While the Skoda features some curves, the Passat is mostly devoid of them. It is more of arrow straight edges and a crisp design theme, more in the ballpark of the newly launched Vento. Personally I don’t like the new Passat that much. Its however the Honda Accord which would take the piece of cake as far as the styling is concerned. Not only does it boast of much better crisper and tauter lines, it also gets the much needed flashy styling that buyers in this segment so desperately seek for. For the more subtler ones who prefer to hide their identity, the German twins would suffice. Personally, the Indiandrives team prefers the Honda Accord in India’s styling. So on the design field, it is the Honda Accord with its low slung styling and ready to attack stance that wins the design parameter stakes. Next up would be the Volkswagen Passat and finishing at the bottom of the heap is the Skoda Superb in India.
Interiors of all the three cars is very inviting though I have reiterated that the Volkswagen’s all black interiors don’t look very cosy at the outset. But as they say, “you cannot judge a book by its cover” stands true for the Volkswagen Passat. All of the Indiandrives staffers said that the Passat’s seats are very comfortable, belying the initial notions of this not being very comfortable. The front seats may not have as much space as say the Skoda Superb but still the few thoughtful touches like the small fans besides the seats more than make up for it. The features list in this German is extensive. There is parallel parking, sunroof, reverse parking sensors, auto head lamps, fog lamps with cornering function and much more. The Skoda in the meanwhile, also on the same platform, boasts of better space utilization. I am not sure but it seems that Skoda always goes one up on the Volkswagen as far as space utilization is concerned. Not only the use of lighter upholstery makes the Skoda look more spacious, it also feels more spacious. That’s an amazing thing I would say. The Honda Accord isn’t far off the mark as far as front seat space is concerned. The Honda Accord has better cushioning as well. But then it lacks on the features front, something which Honda isn’t quite known for. But front seats usually don’t matter to people buying into this segment and its the rear ones which usually matter. All the three cars here don’t disappoint on this count. The Honda Accord sits lower than the others in this comparison. Ingress and egress is a bit of a problem in here, Especially for those wearing mini skirts. The doors don’t open as wide for the Passat as they do for the Skoda. So overall, the Skoda makes for a good chauffer driven car especially where the attention to detail is concerned. It has got AC vents in the B-pillars, something which is yet to be seen in the other two. The rear seat passenger’s armrest folds completely to reveal a passage through to the boot. Fitting in long objects in the boot like a architectural design or otherwise is now an easy task. Boot space for all the three is more or less the same and no complaints on that part. The Volkswagen Passat doesn’t break any new grounds except for the availability of the parallel parking system. The Skoda Superb still reigns supreme in this ground as far as chauffer driven cars are concerned. Now would you be really concerned of the parallel parking system if you have hired a chauffer? I don’t think so. So its the Skoda Superb followed by the Volkswagen Passat and then the Honda Accord.
A chauffer driven personality would care more about the ride quality of his car rather than the way it attacks a corner. I always feel that both of them go hand in hand or rather wheel in wheel or shock absorber in shock absorber, whichever way you take it. Not only does the car have to take its owner in supreme comfort but also has to ensure that he doesn’t throw up his breakfast while going around a corner. The Honda Accord ensures that the latter is taken care of. It is more of a corner carving car. On the ride quality front, it acquits itself well however the sharper bumps do catch it off guard and it feels a bit fidgety while crossing all those potholes. NVH in the Honda is nicely tuned and it is once past the 4500 rpm mark that this car displays a buzziness which is similar to that of angry bees bumbling along. The Skoda Superb in the meanwhile is all the more about the cosseting ride quality. It is sprung a bit more stiffly than the Accord and hence can attacks potholes in a much better fashion. The Accord suffers from the time honored problem of Honda cars looking as if they have one spring less in their rear wheels. Don’t believe me, check out any fully loaded Honda car and you would notice that it feels as if the car does lack a suspension component. Coming back to the Skoda, the ride is all taken care off and even the car feels quite at home in a corner. What it however displays a willingness to go around corners. It has to be goaded into one. The steering wheel however feels more at home on straight stretches rather than corners. It has more feedback to deliver than the light lifeless steering wheel of the Accord though. NVH however is a bit more nicely damped than the Honda. The new kid on the block, the 2011 Volkswagen Passat however manages to deliver a pliant ride quality as also stellar handling. It has got the handling prowess of the Honda and the ride quality of the Skoda. So much so that the ads running nowadays on the telly would definitely convince anyone that the car is NVH free and I can personally vouch for it. You would barely hear the horn of a car passing by. The steering wheel of the car is typical Volkswagen however since this unit is an electrical one, it dials in more feedback than the Skoda. The Passat also feels a better car to drive thanks to all the driver aids helping things to be on the better side.
Thankfully, the engines on all the three cars are different. While the Honda engine is typically Honda, making its peak power at the top of the rev range, the Skoda and Volkswagen have better driveability lower down in the rev range. While I wouldn’t be elaborating on the power rating and engine options that these cars carry (since they have been already covered in various articles on www.indiandrives.com), I would rather concentrate more on the driveability and user friendly quotient. First goes the Honda Accord. The Accord feels a bit of laggard unless enthusiastically driven. The 5 speed auto gearbox takes a bit longer to realize whats going on. It even down shifts with a bit of reluctance. However, as discussed earlier, once past the 4,500 rpm mark, the engine pulls cleanly and well upto its 7000 rpm redline. For the Skoda, its a mix of usable power that it brings into the equation. Not only is the gearbox superb (no pun intended) in its execution, it also extracts proper power from the 1.8 liter motor, which is the smallest in this test. The Volkswagen Passat in the meanwhile has got a diesel motor which has got a host of BlueMotion technologies to help it eke better fuel efficiency and at the same time keep the emissions real low. The Passat is the most easiest car to drive amongst this lot. It makes power lower down the rev range and it being a diesel feels all the more driveable. Diesels usually aren’t that free revving however this Passat engine does rev freely and is an effective highway long distance cruising machine.
What is all the speed in this world if one cannot control it and for this very reason, all these cars are equipped with powerful discs both at the front and rear. They have got ABS, EBD and many more electronic goodies which reign in all the power and bring the cars to a safe halt. While the Honda Accord takes a bit longer to come to a halt, it is the Passat which takes the shortest time and distance. Safety is also high tech in all these cars, according to Indian standards. The Passat just edges past the others with its usable safety features dragnet with the Superb coming in next and the Accord finishing at the bottom of the heap. The Accord basically has a fragile body frame than the others in this comparison, which feel build like a tank. Fuel efficiency recorded on the Passat is an impressive 15.3 kmpl overall. The Honda Accord returned about 11.2 kmpl overall while the Skoda Superb gave 12.3 kmpl. Clearly the Passat with its diesel engine has an edge over its petrol counterparts.
The 2011 Volkswagen Passat in India wins this round purely on the basis of its superior engine technology, safety features, thought for the environment and also the fuel efficiency.
Overall, out of all these cars, the Honda Accord in India would be discounted first on the reasons that it needs an upgrade badly to its engine and powertrain. Only some cosmetic changes wouldn’t cut the mustard in these days of competition. Plus the biggest disadvantage for the Honda is its lack of diesel engine. Honda has plans to bring in a diesel engine in the latter part of 2011 however we aren’t too optimistic about it considering the recent earthquakes which hit Japan. Finally the Skoda Superb seems to have been displaced from its number one perch. No longer is it the segment leader. But this is just by a small margin and that small margin happens to be with the number of safety features that the Volkswagen offers. It is much simpler car to live with as well. If the price is brought into the equation, all these cars are priced more or less similarly. The Honda Accord price in India is Rs 22.4 lakhs while the Skoda Superb price in India is Rs 22.38 lakhs. The Volkswagen Passat price in India is Rs 22.78 lakhs. All these prices are ex-show room prices, Mumbai. So the new king of the pack is the 2011 Volkswagen Passat. Go for it.