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Maruti ups its ante technical data

Will Maruti’s new SX4 dethrone Honda’s City? Ashish Masih finds out

While the Honda city has great fuel economy, the SX4 has a lot more feature such as ABS, airbags and climate control for roughly the same money

Entering any segment that is dominated by Honda is no easy task. Maruti is well-aware of this fact and it has ensured that the SX4 will not be part of the ‘also-ran’ brigade. It looks stunning, comes fully loaded and is available at an attractive price. So, is it good enough to throw the City from its throne? Read on.

Good-looking

Any comparisons with the erstwhile Baleno – the car the SX4 replaces are futile. The SX4 sedan is a completely different car and is built on an all-new platform. Designed by Giugiaro and ITAL Design, the SX4 was actually developed as a crossover whose platform is shared by Fiat and Suzuki. For developing markets such as India and China, however, a saloon version of the same was penned too.

The SX4 looks massive standing shoulder to shoulder with the City. Slightly longer, much taller and wider, the SX4 is also built on a longer wheelbase. Intelligent Honda packaging and engineering, however, mean there is a lot more passenger room in the City. The cabin looks massive and carries on over the boot, the bonnet is steeply raked and the massive MPV-like windscreen means proportions are odd. The rear of the car also lacks cohesion and looks odd.

The SX4 shares lots of its cabin parts with the Swift, which is both good and bad. Good because the cabin looks great and bad because it doesn’t have the same quality to it that a car at this level should. The steering wheel, power window buttons, air con vents, some switchgear and the gear stick are all from the Swift and help in keeping the costs down.

Interiors

Beige and fake wood adorn the central console of the City, the steering is slender and utilitarian and there are lots of cubbyholes for storage in addition to the twin glove-boxes. The dials look nice and the plastic bits, especially large parts like the doorpads and dash, feel much tougher than those on the SX4. Seat comfort in general is also better on the Honda with better bolstering and support especially for the front seats. The City also has more legroom at the rear and the flat and a low floor that slopes upwards under the front seat which makes for a fabulously comfortable seating position. You are more comfortable three abreast in the narrower City, as the SX4’s central retractable armrest protrudes massively into the back of the third passenger. Add a high central tunnel between the third passenger’s feet and you have a compromised central seat.

The drive

Maruti has introduced the all new aluminium M-series engine (M16A). The Honda has only 77bhp to the Maruti’s 102bhp and it has more torque too. However, the gap in flat-out performance isn’t as much. When driven flat-out against the clock, the SX4 takes 12.1 seconds to 100kph, the City taking 13.1seconds in comparison. There is no variable valve timing system used in either of these and as a result, top-end performance suffers.

The SX4 just leaps forward from 2500rpm to 5000rpm, the part of the powerband used when you want to get a move on in the real world. As a result, it feels as fast as even the City V-TEC. The City has a more linear power curve. It never feels underpowered and has a crisper throttle response, the twin-spark motor pulling cleanly from low engine speeds, which is great for driving in traffic.

The SX4’s gearbox feels very similar to the Swift’s. The throw is short and crisp but you need to give a firm shove to get past those double synchro rings, especially when downshifting from fifth to fourth. The City ‘box also has a short throw and wonderfully precise feel. It’s lighter too but we would have liked a bit more spring loading.

The SX4 gave us about 9.3 kpl in the city and 14.5kpl on the highway, which is acceptable, but the City is 15 percent more fuel efficient.

Verdict

The City is a clear example why Honda is a great carmaker, the City is reliable, has a smooth and efficient engine and delivers with a comfortable cabin and a huge boot. The SX4 delivers after-sales peace of mind that is second to none, ample power for the highway (its 25bhp over the City iDSI) and a very good ride. The cabin is well-designed too and there’s ample boot space. You won’t get the City’s economy but you will get a lot more features such as ABS, airbags and climate control for roughly the same money, which simply ensures that at this price, you can’t go wrong with the SX4.

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