Almost sixteen years ago, Japanese automaker Honda forayed into the Indian market with the City as their flagship model in the country. Soon, the City caught everyone’s attention and went on to become the segment leader. For well over a decade, the City maintained its domination selling more than 4.3 lakh units in India. Many came and went, but the City’s popularity remained unaffected. Clearly it was India’s favourite mid-sized sedan. But the fairytale hit a speed-breaker when the petrol prices starting going through the roof and a petrol-only model meant, that the City’s sales witnessed a huge dent. But it’s all in the past, as the country’s favourite sedan now gets a diesel heart – 1.5-litre i-DTEC.
And taking on the much-awaited Honda City Diesel is another formidable car from Skoda’s stable – the Rapid Diesel. Powered by a 1.6-litre TDI CR motor, the Rapid has proved to be quite a success, contributing substantially to Skoda’s kitty in India. The Rapid boasts of a responsive engine, good drivability and sober looks. But does the Rapid have enough to give the Diesel City a run for its money? Team autojunction.in got behind the wheels of these two cars. Here is what we discovered.
Design and Engineering
The design of the 2014 Honda City is evolutionary and builds on the styling elements of the outgoing model. Viewed from the front the fourth generation Honda City retains the outgoing model’s ‘Arrow Shot’ silhouette but features a more prominent chromed grille, sharper looking restyled front bumper, new bonnet lines and stylish looking headlamps.
Take a walk along the side and you will find two lines running along the side - one that stretches between the front and rear wheel arch and the other which starts just beside the front wheel arch and runs till the rear tail light. Both the design lines are clean and simple and lend a smart look to the new Honda City.
At the rear the 2014 Honda City sports restyled bumpers and new, wider and stylish tail lights that extend into the boot lid and help highlight the 1,695mm width of the car lending it a premium look at the same time.
The new City uses conventional McPherson struts up front (commonly used on front wheel drive vehicles) and a twist beam axle at the rear. Braking relies on discs doing duty on the front and drum brakes on the rear. In its quest for better mileage, Honda has stuck with narrow 175/65 R15 tyres, which might disappoint enthusiasts, however, the Japanese carmakers priority for better fuel efficiency takes precedence over all other driving attributes. The 2014 Honda City measures 4,440mm in length (25mm longer than the outgoing model) and the wheelbase too has been stretched by 50mm now measuring 2,600mm. NVH insulation level is definitely impressive with very little engine clatter and negligible external noise filtering into the passenger compartment.
Moving on to the Skoda Rapid, one cannot but deny that the Rapid is basically a marginally tweaked Volkswagen Vento. The Rapid has similar external dimensions as the VW Vento, which means the same long 2552mm wheelbase and the same 1699mm width. The bonnet of the Rapid looks similar to that of the Fabia, albeit much longer and very well integrated with the rest of the body. The grille is unmistakably Skoda, with the badge sitting on the snout of the bonnet. The headlamps and fog lamps too have been borrowed from the Fabia.
The side profile and rear is identical to the Vento and you’ll be forgiven for not being able to tell one from the other. The Ambition trim that we drove came with chrome trim and surround on radiator grille, body colour ORVMs and door handles, front and rear fog lamps, 14-inch steel wheels with Comoros full wheel cover, tinted window and windscreen. The ‘Elegance’ variant gets sporty 5-spoke 15-inch 'Antares' alloys with 185/60 R15 tyres. Overall, the Skoda Rapid is a sober and elegant looking car. NVH insulation levels leave room for improvement as substantial engine clatter at high rev ranges filters into the passenger cabin and feel quite annoying.
Although, looks are subjective, however, I’ll vote for the Honda City over the Skoda Rapid.
Interior and Comfort
Love it or loathe it, the new Honda City's interiors divide opinion.
The new Honda City features an all-new cabin, with more premium feel and use of better quality materials. The newly designed dashboard with piano black finish around the music system, auto AC with touchscreen control panel, stylish instrument cluster with neon lights all look very chic and refreshing. However, the piano black surface scratches very easily and may not look as pleasing and shiny after a few months if not maintained very diligently. Additionally, some of our road test team found the black plastic a little tacky.
City has ample rear legroom. The seats feel more plush compared to the Rapid as well.
The passenger cabin is spacious and offers ample head, shoulder and leg room for both front and rear passengers. The wheelbase has been stretched by 50mm translating into slightly more cabin space. The front seats are comfortable and provide very good all-round support. The back seat is good for three people and offers decent under thigh support and backrest resulting into comfortable seating with a centre arm rest for added comfort. The air conditioning is efficient and cools the passenger cabin in no time. The rear passengers now get their own AC vents too. At 510 litre, the boot is indeed very spacious and is capable of accommodating enough luggage for your longer road trips.
The integrated music system with 8 speakers and 5-inch screen on the VX trim (lower trims get a 3.5-inch screen) boasts of impressive sound production quality and is sure to please music enthusiasts. The top-of-the-line Honda City Diesel VX trim that we tested came with engine start/stop button with smart key system, steering mounted controls, audio and hands-free control, rear A/C vents and rear parking camera with multiple views.
Rapid interiors staid, almost boring. Upright backrest for rear seat not as comfortable as City
Step inside the Skoda Rapid and you will notice that the interior similar to the exterior is heavily inspired by the Volkswagen Vento. While the basic dashboard layout is the same, however, the Rapid gets doused in loads of Skoda overtones. A combination of beige and brown dash and trims makes the already spacious interiors appear even roomier. The front seats are extremely comfortable. The front centre armrest also proves to be very comfortable especially during long drives. The rear seat is wide, has decent legroom and will comfortably accommodate three. At 450 litres, Rapid luggage compartment’s is 60 litres smaller than that of the City.
In comparison to the Honda City, the plastics that have been used in the Rapid leave much to be desired and lack the premium feel. The four-spoke Skoda steering wheel in the Rapid is similar to the one in the Fabia and is comfortable to hold, although it doesn’t come with leather wrapping even on the fully-loaded ‘Elegance’ variant. Air conditioning proved effective to quickly cool the cabin, although no rear AC vents, unlike the City.
Similar to the Honda City VX, the Rapid Ambition trim that we tested also came with the rear centre armrest and height adjustable driver seat which helps to achieve a good driving position. However, not even the top ‘Elegance’ trim in the Rapid model range gets steering-mounted controls as oppose to the City. Also City’s interior definitely looks more refreshing and chic in comparison to the Rapid’s less premium interior.
Performance and Handling
The Diesel City that we tested is powered by the 1.5-litre i-DTEC diesel engine that also does duty in the Honda Amaze. The motor delivers 100 PS of maximum power at 3600 rpm and 200 Nm of peak torque at 1750 rpm (identical to the Honda Amaze). However, the engine has been mated to a newly developed 6-speed manual transmission. The Diesel Rapid is powered by a 1.6-litre diesel motor (similar to the Volkswagen Vento) mated to a 5-speed manual transmission. The engine puts out 105 PS of power and 250Nm of peak torque.
The Diesel City comes to life with a slight clatter but cruises smoothly and quietly till about 1,500 rpm beyond which the engine starts getting noisy. The gruffness increases as you start revving at higher rpm. The steering feedback is nothing much to talk about and at high speeds, you do wish it were a bit weighty for greater confidence.
There is a noticeable turbo lag as the car begins to roll till about the 1,500 rom mark after which power is available at your disposal in a linear fashion. However, while overtaking and on open stretches you will find that the new Honda City lacks the punch much to the disappointment of an enthusiast. However, the new 6-speed gearbox is smooth and the gear slots in with precision. In the interest of better mileage, Honda has opted for 6 gear ratios, with both 5th and 6th gear being very tall.
Suspension tuning is conducive for city driving and the 2014 Honda City remains composed even while traversing over rough stretches of road resulting in minimum jerks being felt in the passenger cabin. Handling is good with the City remaining poised even while negotiating quick corners. Braking is reassuring as well. However, the City is not a car for enthusiasts, with the handling set-up for safe and predictable understeer. The skinny tyres don’t help much with overall grip levels either.
The Rapid is the nicer of the two cars to drive.
In comparison, the Diesel Rapid too produces substantial clatter when the engine is fired and goes on to become noisier as the rev range increases. In fact, the engine clatters filters into the passenger cabin and can prove to be annoying for some.
The steering felt very light at slow speed and weighed up as the speed of the car increases. Acceleration was impressive with linear power delivery and excellent torque available throughout rev range with good in-gear experience. What also makes the Rapid fun to drive is the suspension setup which although on the stiffer side, but at the same time can take bad roads very easily. At low speeds, the stiffness is felt when going over bumps and uneven surfaces when the jitters are sent through to the cabin. But as the speeds pick up, the Rapid shows its true potential. High speed stability is praise-worthy and body roll is well-controlled. The braking is confident inspiring as the Rapid stops without any hassles. The Rapid boasts of a more responsive and punchier engine than the City and is definitely more fun to drive.
The Diesel City claims an ARAI-ratified fuel efficiency of 26kmpl while the ARAI-approved mileage for the Diesel Rapid stands at 20.54kmpl. And although we didn’t get an opportunity to conduct a proper mileage test for either of the cars, however, nevertheless Honda engines have always been champions of efficiency, setting the benchmark, and we expect the Diesel City to be no different. Also, if my interactions with Rapid users are anything to go by, then the mileage rarely drops below 14.5 kmpl within the city and with the AC on. When driving on the highway, expect nothing less than 18 kmpl which is a fairly satisfying figure and should put a smile on your face. However, I just have a feeling that the City will leave the Rapid behind in the mileage race.
The fourth-generation Honda City comes equipped with a host of safety features with the engine immobilizer, driver side airbag, driver seat belt reminder and ABS with EBD being offered as standard across all diesel and petrol variants. Additionally, features such as front passenger side airbag, rear windshield defogger and auto door lock by speed is available on higher trims.
In comparison, Skoda Rapid comes equipped with safety features like rear windscreen defogger with timer, engine immobilser and central locking comes as standard features across all trim levels. Additionally, higher trims also get an audio player which comes with a code-based security system, dual rate brake assist, ABS and front and rear fog lamps.
The Honda City Diesel and the Skoda Rapid Diesel are individually both very formidable cars which have been raking in the numbers for their respective manufacturers. However, when pitted against one another, I feel that the Honda City Diesel does have an edge over the Skoda Rapid and here is why.
For starters, the Honda City boasts of more stylish and attractive exterior in comparison to a more sober and simpler looking Rapid which isn’t likely to turn heads on the road. Moving inside, one cannot help but agree that the same sentiments are echoed in terms of the interiors too. The new Honda City all-new cabin has a more premium feel and use of better quality materials. The newly designed dashboard with piano black finish around the music system, auto AC with touchscreen control panel, stylish instrument cluster with neon lights all look very chic and refreshing. In comparison, the Rapid’s interiors are too Plain Jane. It’s all too straightforward and clear, almost bordering on boring. Even the dials, steering wheels and gearlever could use a bit more style and flair.
I do admit that in terms of performance, the Skoda Rapid does have a more responsive and punchy engine which makes it exciting and fun to drive. However, one parameter alone cannot be a deal breaker. Also, let’s not forget the all-important question that is a crucial factor for every car buyer, “kitna deti hain?” Here too Honda City has an upper hand over the Skoda Rapid with an ARAI-ratified mileage of 26 kmpl in comparison to Rapid’s 20.54 kmpl. Clearly there is a substantial difference in fuel efficiency figures. And although, we can safely assume that it will be close to impossible to achieve these numbers for either of the cars, however, the City Diesel is likely to prove more frugal that the Rapid Diesel. Yes, the Rapid (Rs 8.29 lakh base diesel) is slightly less expensive than the City (Rs 8.60 lakh base diesel), but the price difference is justified given the aforementioned arguments.
Last but not the least, Honda’s brand name in the Indian market is definitely bigger and more reliable than Skoda. Also, the Honda City is a successful model with 4.3 lakh units sold in India alone and has been a segment leader for over a decade. Skoda unfortunately, yet haven’t garnered that mass loyalty and recognition, and doesn’t have the armory to challenge Honda’s might. No doubt, the Skoda Rapid is a good car, but perhaps not good enough to outshine the City.
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