Honda City is Honda’s volume leader in the non-national B-segment market, having sold a total of 31,357 units last year. The popularity is attributed to a well-rounded package and specification that people have come to expect from the H brand.
These figures prove that the Japanese are still strong at their game – good quality products, reliable for the long term and able to satisfy the majority of drivers. But what if you wanted something non-Japanese and comes with forced-induction?
Enter the Volkswagen Vento 1.2 TSI. Launched in 2016 as a CKD model, it’s the only B-segment sedan that comes with a turbocharger and Europe’s only B-segment sedan still on sale here. With that being said, does the Vento still have what it takes against the like of Honda City 1.5 V and the Toyota Vios 1.5 G? Let’s find out.
At first glance, the Volkswagen Vento is lacking in terms of power figures but do not let the number fool you. Thanks to the addition of a turbocharger and slick dry-type 7-speed dual-clutch transmission, the Vento has a class-leading torque, and all of 175 Nm is available from as low as 1,550 rpm, making acceleration and overtaking a breeze.
Being a Volkswagen however, there's still a negative stigma attached to their dual-clutch transmission being unreliable, but as of recent times there is less report of these coming from owners, so that's good news.
However, the Vento is also the heaviest car here, hence the power-to-weight ratio is not as impressive as compared to the City. In 0-100 km/h sprint, the Vento is 1 second actually slower than the City 1.5 V (10.8 seconds), taking 10.9 seconds to complete the 0-100 km/h sprint. However, both car is quicker than the Toyota Vios 1.5 G which only manages 12.6 seconds.
Despite being an entry-level product in the Volkswagen lineup, the ride comfort and handling surpassed our expectations. It's not to say that both its Japanese rivals are bad, but the Vento rides like a bigger German luxury sedan. When you hit a bump or pothole, you get a solid "thud". The rear passenger would be pleased to know that the Vento comes with rear air-con vents, although there are no charging ports. Leather seats are comfortable, feel premium and looks tasteful.
Meanwhile, the Honda City has a softer suspension setting, yet still compliant and absorb bumps in a way you expect it to be - subtle and gentle. Gone are the previous floaty feeling while driving at highway speed, which makes the City feel nervous. Like the Vento, the City comes with rear air-con vents, but it is even better equipped with the addition of two power socket and rear armrest. Compared to the Vento, there is nothing to shout about with the leather seat design, although it is comfortable to sit on.
Over at the Toyota camp, the improvement on the Vios over its predecessor is largely huge, thanks to a revised chassis tuning and sound-proofing work that is evident all around making the Vios a quieter car. The Vios rides a little softer than the City, giving you a much more supple ride. Some might complain about the slightly floaty feeling at highway speed, but it is not at a pre-facelift City level. Unfortunately, the rear air-con vents are absent, but Toyota compensated the Vios with a rear armrest and one charging socket. Seats are a carryover from its predecessor but with improved material, which is not a bad thing.
Driving Performance & Handling
This is where the Vento shine. All three cars are nippy to throw around the corner thanks to their short wheelbase and lightweight chassis, but in terms of feel and response, the Vento is a winner. The steering is nicely weighted and the chassis reacts positively to your input. Driving enthusiasts will enjoy the crisp dual-clutch transmission compared to the CVT, although it is nowhere near as smooth as the regular Honda City and Toyota Vios' CVT-type automatic.
On the City, the steering is lightly weighted yet it does not feel vague, however, it does not respond as sharp nor as fast as the Vento. This is acceptable, seeing that the City is meant for those who want to go from point A to point B in a comfortable manner. Transmission wise, I personally feel that the CVT in City is way more efficient and operates smoothly compared to the Vios as power delivery is much more linear and consistent throughout the RPM.
Similar to the City, the Vios steering is lightly weighted, however, compared to the City there are certain times you feel ‘disconnected’ while taking a corner. This can be attributed to the softer suspension setting and possibly Toyota reaching its limitation with the chassis, as the base dates back to the 1st generation Vios, although it is heavily revised. The CVT is the Vios works smoothly without any hesitation, although it is nowhere near Toyota's acclaimed Direct-Shift CVT found in Lexus UX.
On highways, the Vento’s trip computer readout an average of about 6.0-litre/100 km, while crawling in slow-moving traffic brought that figure up to about 8.5-litre/100 km.
When we tested the Vios on a combined urban-highway drive, it returned 6.8 litre/100 km. However, the trip computer indicated an average of 16.9 km/litre which is about 5.9 litre/100 km.
Similarly, the Honda City is on par or if not better than the Vios, averaging 5.4 to 5.7 litre/100km on a combined urban-highway drive.
If space and practicality are what you're looking after, Honda still reigns supreme in this segment. With 536 litre of space in the City, it makes the Vios 506 litre looks puny.
Oh, what about the Vento then? Sadly, it is the smallest among the bunch, with only 454 litre available. Good news is, all model has 60:40 split function to allow more space behind, that's not so bad after all.
Infotainment & Safety
The Volkswagen Vento may have the smallest screen size at 6.5-inch, but it has the best head unit on offer as it comes with Android Auto & Apple CarPlay, both of which neither the Honda City nor Toyota Vios has. That alone is a worthy consideration. Plus, the sound quality is on par with the Vios, despite having only 4-speakers around. Sometimes, less is more.
The next runner up goes to Toyota Vios, where its 6.8-inch touchscreen is crisp and smooth to navigate, plus it features Mirrorlink function, channeled through 6-speakers. Moving on to the speakers, the Vios pack a meaty low-end and mids with decent imaging from the repositioned tweeters. Highs or treble is a little reserved when all sound effects are disabled and the equalizer flattened, but slight tweaks on the equalizer will make it sound better.
Despite coming in strong with 8-speakers onboard, the sound on Honda City isn't that great overall. Plus, the touchscreen looks like a lower-tier model that you can buy cheap off accessories shop, mostly because of the glaring display that makes it hard to read. Why Honda, why?
Safety-wise, this is where the Toyota Vios comes on top, offering a plethora of safety equipment. The Toyota Vios went from one of the most scarcely equipped cars in its segment to, presently, the most well-equipped one. 7 airbags are standard across all variants, along with blind-spot detection with rear-cross traffic alert.
The Honda City is one number down with 6 airbags count, but those considering the Vento will have to make do with 4 airbags, although it comes with a unique system called Intelligent Crash Response System (ICRS) where it will unlock all doors, cuts off the fuel pump, and turn on hazard lights for you in case of accident.
Toyota has certainly redeemed itself with the Vios. It is certainly a better car than its predecessor, and Toyota has done their homework well by investing their time, money and listened to customer’s complaints to make sure the Vios is no longer overshadowed by the Honda City.
The downside includes the annoying BSM that always triggers with no way to turn it off, cramped interior space, no rear air-con vent, no telescopic adjustment on the steering wheel and lack of full LED headlamps.
As mentioned before, the current Honda City is still a value buy for those looking to own a piece of the H brand. Plenty of interior room, big boot space and well-equipped ergonomics. The new one will not come anytime soon, and there are no confirmation whether we will get the 1.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged engine on our shore.
Apart from the poor touchscreen head unit, one of the daunting issues we found from long-term owners is the front headlight tends to get fogged up after carwash or rain, and some cars have inconsistent gaps near the front hood and boot area.
Similarly, the Volkswagen Vento is one of the ways for you to enjoy German driving experience on a budget. The refined cabin, great touchscreen head unit, plus with the slick 7-speed dual-clutch transmission combined with the zappy response of the turbocharged engine makes for an engaging drive.
However, it only has 4 airbags, small boot space and fuel economy are not as good as compared to both the City and Vios.