Since its launch in April 2013, the Honda Amaze has been working wonders for its manufacturer. It was segment which was the brainchild of Tata Motors with the launch Indigo CS, which later Maruti Suzuki turned into its own playground with the successful Swift Dzire raking in the numbers. Then came along the Amaze and began to threaten Dzire’s supremacy in this segment. And now with the new kid in the block – Hyundai Xcent, the whole equation is about to change.
Bear in mind that Hyundai is no newbie in India and have been known for its aggressive product strategy, especially of lately. They wear the mantle of having a diversified and quality product portfolio in India and have often threatened Maruti in its own backyard. And now with the launch of the new Xcent, the Korean carmaker is all set to battle it out in the compact sedan segment. So we thought of pitting the new Hyundai Xcent against the Honda Amaze to discover who fares better. Read on to find out.
Design & Engineering
Let’s first take a look at the Honda Amaze. After all, it would only be fair to begin with the one which arrived first. For starters, the Honda Amaze is basically based on a stretched version of the Brio platform. As is the standard practice of the sub 4-metre compact sedan segment, the Japanese carmaker has ensured that the Amaze measures less than 4-metre (3990mm) in length which qualifies the Honda Amaze for the government’s excise benefit on small cars. Coupled with localization of parts used in this car, the excise relief further enables Honda to offer the Amaze at a competitive price.
Honda has also stretched Amaze’s wheelbase by 60mm in comparison to the Brio hatchback which translates into a roomier passenger cabin. However, at 2425mm, the Hyundai Xcent has a slightly bigger wheelbase that the Honda Amaze (2405mm).
Viewed from the front, the Amaze looks exactly the same as the Brio barring a few subtle changes and tweaks here and there like the new twin-slat chrome grille (Brio has a single bold chrome bar) and body-coloured bumper. Take a walk along its side and you will notice well defined wheel arches and three prominent character lines running at different angles along the side which lends a macho look to the car.
Move to the rear of the Honda Amaze and you would notice that the boot has been very neatly integrated and doesn’t appear abrupt. The designers have given the same arrow shot design treatment to the tail lamps as one would find in the Honda City. The wraparound angular unit looks very similar to current Honda models and gives the car a family look. Overall, the rear looks very stylish, smart, well integrated and adds character to the appearance of the car. As a result, the Amaze ends up looking like a proper three-box sedan, rather than a tacky add-on, which is a real triumph in this segment.
Build quality and paintwork is excellent which is expected from a world-class car manufacturer of Honda’s repute. The 14-inch alloys in the Honda Amaze are different from the ones found on the Brio, and there are separate alloy wheel designs for petrol and diesel models.
Similar to the Hyundai Xcent, the suspension set up of the Honda Amaze comprises of McPherson Struts on the front and torsion beam axle at the rear.
On the other hand, the Hyundai Xcent is based on the Grand i10 platform, which has a longer wheelbase than the new i10 sold internationally. Similar to Honda, the designers at Hyundai also deserve accolade for neatly fitting the boot in the car and successfully making the Xcent look a nicely proportioned compact sedan. The Hyundai Xcent also just makes it under the 4-metre excise limit, measuring 3,995 mm in length (5mm longer than the Amaze) qualifying it for the excise relief.
Viewed from the front, it will be difficult to distinguish between the Xcent and the Grand i10 with the Xcent featuring the same headlights and fog lamps as the Grand i10. The only styling element which perhaps helps to make a slight distinction between the two stable mates is the chrome piping on the inner side of the hexagonal grille on the Hyundai Xcent, which one will not find on the Grand i10.
Walk along the side and one cannot really deny that the Hyundai Xcent does have well-balanced proportions and a good stance. However, the rear of the Xcent featuring simple square-shaped tail lamps and a slightly boxy appearance doesn’t do enough to threaten the visual appeal of the Amaze.
Even though looks are subjective, however, with the Amaze, the designers at Honda have delivered a product which in my opinion, not just looks visually stylish but better looking than the competition.
Kudos, however, to Hyundai for doing a fantastic job with the NVH levels of the Xcent providing an almost near perfect refined and silent passenger cabin with very little external noise filtering inside. Amaze’s NVH levels on the petrol variant (diesel is another story) don’t attract much criticism either, but between the two, I have got to give it to Hyundai for outdoing Honda in this department.
Interiors and Comfort
As you step inside the Honda Amaze, you will be greeted by the same Brio dashboard. The same black and beige colour theme with dark brown inserts has been retained. And though the three tone colour combination looks smart, however, we expected to witness a somewhat more upmarket finish or texture considering that Amaze is costlier that the Brio and its general psyche that a buyer would expect more from a compact sedan in comparison to a hatchback. But barring this there isn’t much to complain about as the overall fit and finish is decent.
The front seats are comfortable and offer good support. The driver’s seat is height adjustable (except base E and EX trims) and there is decent headroom up front as well. The space in the rear seat is quite generous for a sub-4-metre car with the increased wheelbase having resulted in more rear seat leg space.
Honda has adhered by their 'man maximum machine minimum' concept. This approach has led the engineers and designers at Honda to maximise the space available for passengers and minimised the space required for mechanical components. The overall space management is good with Honda also squeezing in five cup holders and four bottle holders.
The air conditioning is efficient and cools the passenger cabin in no time. The factory fitted 2 DIN integrated audio system with MP3, USB, auxiliary input and steering mounted audio control, which are all available from the S trim upwards, boasts of good sound quality. However, the Amaze does not have a CD player.
The mid-range S variant that we tested came with electric power steering, front and rear power windows, day/night inside rear view mirror, height adjustable driver’s seat, power adjustable ORVMs and rear centre seat armrest with cup holder in addition to all the factory fitted standard features.
Now take a sneak peek inside the Hyundai Xcent and one would be welcomed by the same black and beige dual colour interior colour theme that is present in the Grand i10. A difference which is likely to catch your attention is the inclusion of a black cover for the cubby hole positioned just ahead of the gear lever, which is absent in the Grand i10. Just press the cover and it opens to give access to the ports for auxiliary input and the USB for the music system. It also houses a 12V socket.
The Xcent SX petrol that we tested came equipped with Bluetooth connectivity and steering-mounted audio controls along with the integrated music system which are offered as standard on the S and SX trims. However, I must mention that the music system in the Amaze is superior in quality than the one in the Xcent. The air-conditioning worked fine with the passenger cabin cooling well even in the cruel April heat.
The front seats in the Hyundai Xcent are nice and supportive. The driver’s seat is height adjustable and the SX trim that we tested comes with tilt-adjust steering which makes it more convenient to find a comfortable driving position. In comparison to the Grand i10, the rear seat in the Xcent has been slightly reclined to increase the rear leg room and provide more comfortable backrest. Under-thigh support however, has room for improvement.
Boot space has always been an important consideration for car buyers at large, and the Hyundai Xcent with 407 litres of luggage capacity marginally outshines the Honda Amaze’s 400 litres boot space which in itself is not bad by compact sedan standards. However, where the Xcent really scores brownie points is that its boot is almost rectangular in shape with no intrusions into the boot area which makes loading and unloading of luggage really effortless.
The Hyundai Xcent SX petrol that we drove came with standard 14-inch ‘clean silver’ alloy wheels, however, Hyundai’s much hyped ‘diamond cut’ alloy wheels in a 15-inch size are also available on the SX trim, and the spare wheel was of the same size, but on a humble steel rim.
Rear parking sensors comes as standard on the S and SX trims of the Hyundai Xcent compact sedan, with the top-of-the-line SX variant also benefitting from a reverse camera with a display in rear view mirror - a segment first. The SX trim also has auto-dimming function on the inside rear view mirror.
And that’s not all. Another segment first is the rear AC vents which is likely to attract customers, especially those who prefer to be driven around. Plus there is the cooled glove box (another segment first) which will help to keep eatables and beverages fresh and cool.
The quality of plastic and other materials are of good quality and the overall look and feel of the passenger cabin, dashboard and centre console definitely scores more the Honda Amaze.
Performance & Handling
The Honda Amaze petrol is powered by a 4-cylinder, i-VTEC engine displacing 1198cc mated to a 5-speed manual gear box. Automatic transmission is also available on the S and VX petrol variants only. The petrol engine produces 88 PS of maximum power at 6000 rpm and 109 Nm of peak torque at 4500 rpm.
The petrol engine is quite responsive and makes the Amaze a fun car to drive. The transmission is precise and the throws are short making it a pleasure to operate. On the move the petrol engine exhibits almost no lag and the power delivery is smooth and available throughout rev range.
The Honda Amaze handles quite well and remains poised at high speed. Traction is good and there isn’t much body roll even in the corners. A similar MacPherson strut front and torsion beam rear suspension setup to the Hyundai Xcent also underpins the Honda Amaze. The suspension is slightly stiff as some amount of jerks is transported inside the passenger compartment while cruising over broken and uneven patches. The relatively small 14-inch wheels don’t help either.
Overall, the compromise between ride and handling has been evenly judged, and the longer wheelbase and weight aft of the rear axle means it rides much better than its smaller hatch sibling, the Brio.
In comparison, the Hyundai Xcent is powered by 4-cylinder, 1.2-litre Kappa Dual VVT petrol motor that displaces 1197cc and is mated to a 5-speed manual transmission. A 4-speed automatic transmission is also available with the S and SX petrol variants only. The engine produces 83 PS of maximum power at 6,000 rpm and churns out 114 Nm of peak torque at 4,000 rpm (5Nm more than the Honda Amaze).
One has to acknowledge that while the Hyundai Xcent petrol may not feel as exciting to drive as the Amaze, however, handling and ride quality is brilliant and outshines the Amaze which tends to fish tail on certain occasions. The Xcent also boasts of good grip levels and remains firmly grounded even during quick corners.
The low-rpm engine response in the petrol Xcent is quite impressive and one would most likely enjoy the punchy feel especially while driving in city traffic. But the petrol motor does display a flat mid-range and a weak top-end, and here is where the i-VTEC in the petrol Amaze takes the cake.
The suspension set up is the Hyundai Xcent is well tuned and it absorbs the uneven stretches of road and sails over the bumpers with effortless ease.
Honda Amaze's 1.2-Litre i-VTEC (left) and Hyundai Xcent's 1.2-Litre Kappa engines
The Honda Amaze i-VTEC claims an ARAI-ratified mileage of 18 kmpl, while the Hyundai Xcent 1.2 Kappa boasts of an ARAI-certified fuel efficiency of 19.1kmpl. Although we didn’t get an opportunity to conduct a proper fuel efficiency test for either of the vehicles, however, Hyundai Xcent does claim to offer slightly better fuel efficiency than the Honda Amaze.
The Honda Amaze comes equipped with standard safety features like engine immobilizer, driver seat belt reminder alarm, central locking across model range. The top-of-the-line VX trim also gets front dual airbags and rear defogger. ABS is offered as standard on the diesel variants, however, the petrol trims don’t get ABS even as a cost option.
In comparison, the Hyundai Xcent is available with front dual airbags as standard on the SX trim variant. ABS is offered as a cost option on S and SX trims and will set you back by Rs 25,000. A rear defogger and fog lamps too are standard on the S and SX trims. Engine immobilizer and central locking comes as standard across model range. Both cars only have airbags on their top trim levels.
With the Amaze, Honda has managed to deliver a car which appears like a good package. The car looks very stylish, smart and well integrated. The interior is spacious and comes with a decently sized boot. The fit and finish of the interiors are also good, although we expected better and finer quality of interior than the Brio. The 1.2-litre i-DTEC petrol engine is both responsive and fuel efficient.
In comparison, the new Hyundai Xcent is a brilliantly packaged cars and does most things right. Also, undeniable is Hyundai’s strategy of offering maximum features at the best price - an attitude which will go a long way in wooing customer into the showroom. Especially, in a price sensitive country like India, where the customers want value for every rupee spent, Hyundai seems to have hit the nail on the head. The Hyundai Xcent boasts of best interiors in the class, offers the most boot space and comes equipped quite a few segment first features like cooled glove box, rear AC vents and rear parking sensors all of which adds value to the product and would mean something to the customer.
Yes, if you talk about the quality of the music system, the responsiveness of the petrol motor, and the external design and styling, the Honda Amaze does have a clear upper hand.
So at a point when both the cars seem to be pretty evenly matched, the judgment does boil down to pricing. And when you talk about pricing, the Hyundai Xcent seems to have a clear domination over it rival. At Rs 50,000 less than the Honda Amaze, variant to variant, the Xcent just became a much lucrative proposition. After all, each rupee saved it each rupee earned. Add to that Hyundai’s widely spread service network and mass brand loyalty (only second to Maruti) in the country and any confusion between the Xcent and Amaze that existed before can now be put to rest. One also needs to bear in mind that traditionally, Hyundai cars have proven a little inexpensive to service and repair in comparison to Honda cars.
Everything said and done, it seems like Hyundai has got a real winner in the hand, although the Amaze which has done wonders for Honda isn’t the one to go down without putting up a strong fight.
Hyundai Xcent Petrol
Honda Amaze Petrol
Base – Rs 4,66,000
E – Rs 5,30,178
S – Rs 5,32,000
EX – Rs 5,58,398
S (O) – Rs 5,57,000
S – Rs 5,98,176
SX – Rs 6,22,000
SX – Rs 6,22,640
SX (O) – Rs 6,47,000
VX – Rs 6,96,030
S (O) Automatic – Rs 6,28,000
S (AT) – Rs 6,99,601
SX (O) Automatic – Rs 7,19,000
VX (AT) – Rs 7,90,798
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