Cartrade Comparison Test
It’s fair to say that compact crossovers are slowly emerging as family sedan alternatives; however, there is still a massive chunk of buyers who are after the underlying looks and that deep sense of pride that comes from owning a sedan. This is where compact sedans like Volkswagen Ameoand Honda Amazecome into play. Both these cars hit the sweet spot in practicality and pricing – they are not only large enough to be used as a family sedan but also affordable enough to make the budget cut.
Whereas the Amaze is fresh off a thorough makeover, it’s the newer Ameo that ought to show its mettle. Nonetheless, both vehicles offer compelling arguments in this space. We hit the road to figure out which one deserves your hard-earned money.
Starting off with the looks, as we have established in all our previous comparisons, the compact sedan segment is one that is defined by a rather rigid set of rules. The sub-4 metre excise benefits basically delineate the look of these vehicles and the Ameo is no different. It is precisely what one would picture when they image the Polo with a boot. If you are a fan of the crisp and clear lines of the Polo, you will appreciate what VW has done to the Ameo. The latter looks pretty much the same as the Polo right from the front till the rear doors. It's only when you move past the rear doors that you recognise the three-box form.
Besides shaving 35mm off the front bumper to make room for the rear overhang, VW has also altered the roofline for better design flow into the rear glass. But despite all these measures, the Ameo still looks a little uneven when viewed in profile. This is all down to the lack of muscle on the rear bumper that’s wedged onto the car and in sync with the boot-lid and taillights. In comparison, Honda has done a much better job of merging the Brio’s extended platform with a three-box design. Thanks to its short hood length and an extended boot-lid, the Amaze squeezes under the crucial 4-metre length without raising eyebrows. It may only have received a minor nip and tuck (read: updated grille, front bumper and taillights) for its midlife makeover, but the Amaze certainly has the more balanced design and is more sedan than notchback in proportion.
Both the Ameo and the Amaze inherit their basic dashboard layout and material from more expensive models from their respective brands, which is good for buyers of these relatively budget models. Take the Ameo for instance. The interior is nearly the same as the Vento which means everything works in a rather precise manner. All the buttons and dials on the dash have a tactile feel and the leather-wrapped flat-bottom steering wheel feels great in your hands.
The Amaze’s cabin, on the other hand, has a much better ambience than before, thanks to the all-new dashboard from the City. The big windows let in plenty of light and the higher roofline adds to the overall sense of space as well. That said, the overall quality and finish of materials like the door pads and the centre console switches, isn’t as high as in the Ameo.
When it comes to comfort and features, splitting these two, despite all their differences, is a real task. You’re seated reasonably high up in both these vehicles and the visibility outside is good too thanks to the thin A-pillars. In terms of comfort, things are really even upfront with adequate thigh and back support. Its only when you move onto the rear seat that you will find some stark differences. The stretched wheelbase from the Brio has certainly worked in favour of Honda as the Amaze has a lot more legroom. What’s more, the backrest is set at a near perfect angle and the cushioning is great too.
VW, on the other hand, kept the wheelbase unchanged while developing the Ameo. As a result, what we have here is a compact sedan with the least amount of legroom in this segment. The seat itself is decently supportive but with less legroom and thigh support, the Ameo feels much tighter overall than its rival. Similarly, the 330-litre boot is reasonably spacious for most occasions but it simply cannot beat the Amaze and its 400-litre boot. The Ameo though strikes back big time on equipment. Besides covering the basics, the top-spec model gets quite a few segment first features such as cornering lights, rain sensing wipers and cruise control as standard. Besides these, it also gets alloy wheels, rear parking camera with sensors, rear AC vents and a touchscreen audio system with steering mounted controls. Now, the Amaze, despite the facelift, is nowhere as generous and doesn’t even get rear parking sensors or a touchscreen unit.
Both vehicles are powered by 1.2-litre naturally aspirated petrol engines, although each has its own way of putting that power down to the road. The Ameo teams a rather old 3-cylinder 74bhp/110Nm engine with a 5-speed manual gearbox, while the Amaze has an extra cylinder in its 1.2-litre unit which makes 88bhp and 109Nm.
Around town, there isn’t much in the way of difference in power delivery between the two. The low-end response in either of these cars is adequate and the clutch action is equally light as well, adding to the ease of navigating through traffic. That said, it’s the Amaze that’s more eager to get going, not to mention a lot more refined. At idle, the Honda is smooth as silk though the motor tends to get buzzy at the top-end. The Ameo, meanwhile, has that typical three-cylinder thrum through most of the rev range and the overall refinement levels aren’t too nice either. Also less convincing is the highway performance; while both are a little hesitant when it comes to overtaking at a higher pace, it’s the Amaze that pulls stronger in the mid-range, especially post 4,500rpm. The Ameo, at the same time, exhibits lesser pulling power and because of the inherently imbalanced motor, sounds coarse as well. Comparing the test results, the Amaze is clearly quicker both in terms of outright and in-gear acceleration. Whereas it takes 13.17 seconds to reach from 0-100kmph, the Ameo does it in a leisurely 17.5 seconds. Even 20 to 80kmph in-gear times in third are significantly different, with the Amaze taking 13.98 seconds compared to 15.1 seconds in the Amaze.
As you would expect, the suspension set up on both these cars has been oriented towards comfort. The low speed ride in the Ameo is a little firm compared to the Amaze however, the suspension is impressively quiet. In comparison, the Amaze is a little clunky and like most Japanese cars, feels less solid over sharp bumps and pot holes. As for the steering and brake feel, the Amaze offers limited amount of feel and can be vague around straight-ahead position. While the light steering is perfectly fine in the city, it can be a little troubling on a twisty road. The brakes, like the steering, could do with more pedal feel. They feel spongy and do not communicate well as to what is going on with the tyres despite the lightness of the Amaze which tips the scale at 950kg. The heavier Ameo (1060kg) not only stops quicker but also feels better under brakes. Its steering is heavier than the Amaze though it’s just as lifeless.
This has been a close battle between two compact sedans, one that will ultimately come down to what’s more important to the buyer. If it’s solid build quality, features and road presence that you’re after, the new VW Ameo cannot be missed. And at Rs 7.23 lakh ex-showroom for the top-spec trim, its good value too.
But if you can make do with a simple design and less attractive interiors, the Honda Amaze is the better choice. It’s easier to drive around town, gutsier on the highway and a lot more comfortable in the back. It’s also backed by one of the most reliable after-sales service network in the country, potentially sealing the deal for many prospective buyers in this segment.
Pictures: Kapil Angane