Test driving three sedans: Honda Amaze, Toyota Etios and Maruti Suzuki Dzire

Buying a car is never easy. First you get excited. A new baby will come into the house after all. Then reality bites. It’s going to be a costly affair. And high maintenance too. Sounds familiar?

So when recently I sold my six-year-old car and got down to deciding which car/model I wanted next, it turned out to be a longer and tougher decision than I had bargained for.

(Clockwise) Amaze S-MT, Etios G and Dzire VXI. Pic/Dutta Kumbhar

My brief was simple: we wanted a mid-sized/compact sedan where three people could sit at the back. It needed to look smart, be delivered quickly (remember we were selling off the old one) and of course, could not be a gas guzzler. Oh and also, it couldn’t be beyond our ‘budget’.

After much soul searching, we whittled it down to a battle between the three Japanese brands (one of them half Indian) -- the Honda Amaze, the Toyota Etios and the Maruti Suzuki Swift Dzire. Over the next 48 hours we test drove all three -- the Amaze 1.2 SMT petrol, the Swift Dzire Vxi and the Etios G class -- all of them mid-range models and almost direct competition to each other.

The look
The Amaze S-MT scores high on this. Clearly the classiest looking of the three cars in question, it’s sleek clean cut lines impressed us upfront. The fog lamps, the downward sloping cuts, the neat finish -- all win brownie points. The new Etios G class is a surprise too. Twelve spoke alloy wheels, a bold new front grill and smarter headlights no longer conjure up images of a fleet cab car. By comparison the Dzire VXi suffers a bit -- mostly because it’s the oldest of the three models, has been around for a while and is one of the country’s fastest selling cars. It looks a bit overweight, chunky and despite the compressed posterior, it comes out second best on the style quotient.

Interiors and features
But then beauty is hardly ever skin deep. So we venture deeper. The Dzire’s desirability zooms up almost immediately. While all the three cars have door ajar, low fuel and seat belt warnings, only the Dzire has a button that tells me how many kilometres the curret fuel will take me. The space inside the Dzire is also big -- three adults fit comfportably at the back. The same cannot be said of the Amaze where we manage to squeeze in but by holding our breath. The Etios scores the highest on space with three people sitting very comfortably. The leg space is the best too. All three cars have really cool music systems with the Etios also having a wheel switch to control the channels/volume. We are pleasantly surprised with the Dzire here, as it more than matches up to its more glamorous throughbred Japanese cousins. The Etios, a corporate sedan with its extra leg space also wins us over.

Drive quality
This is critical as I am going to do much of the driving once we buy the car. The Honda purrs and then roars. The 1.2-litre I-VTEC engine makes Honda the brand that it is. We go up Pali Hill and then down again, cross over to Khar and enter bumpy stretches. No problems at all. The Etios is as good with the 1500cc (1.5 litre) petrol engine making the drive up and down the lanes and roads of Bandra and Khar a dream. I deliberately switch off the music, but I still hear no engine noise. It’s powerfully silent. The Dzire does not score that high even though we must admit the new 1.2-litre VVT engines are so much better than the older version. In that sense the Dzire’s drive quality comes as a pleasant surprise. Shifting gears is not as hard a task as it used to be on Maruti cars once. And even with the windows down, the engine sounds like a dream. 

Value for money
Ah! Finally that quintessential Indian question. Quite simply, the Amaze has a city mileage of between 10 and 12 kmpl, the Etios of 11-12 kmpl and the Dzire also of around 12kmpl, stretchable to 13 if you are lucky. Very little there. But maintaining a Maruti is less costly we are told. Also there are service centres everywhere. The resell value is also higher. But then the Honda and the Toyota need only a single servicing in a year at best. The Dzire needs two. Toyota is offering a three year/1,00,000 km free servicing on the car. Maruti gives it for two years and 40,000 km.

The cost? The Honda Amaze 1.2 S-MT comes with a Rs 7.12 lakh on road price in Mumbai. The Etios G class costs Rs 7.26 lakh but is currently on offer for Rs 12,000 less as part of a special scheme. The Dzire VXi costs a cool Rs 50k less at Rs 6.60 lakh on road in Mumbai. So is it about money or maintenance cost? Or drive quality and the leg space in the passenger seats? Or maybe the choice comes down to who has the larger boot space (Etios has 500 litres, Amaze a little over 400 and Dzire just under 400)? Or do you go by the looks? What’s my choice? Iwill find out in a week’s time when I finally book my chosen one. 

Amaze S-MT: 1198cc petrol. Rs 7.12 Lakh
Dzire Vxi: 1197cc petrol. Rs 6.60 lakh
Etios G: 1496cc petrol. Rs 7.26 lakh
* Prices on-road Mumbai

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