While the Skoda Rapid diesel has been a popular seller in the mid-size sedan segment, Honda, despite having conquered the popularity charts with its City sedan, couldn't compete owing to the lack of an oil burner before. But now, the new 1.5-litre diesel in the latest City is expected to shake things up. We pit the two capable mid-sizers to see who holds the ace.
Performance and refinement
While the Honda City's 1.5-litre i-DTEC motor -- shared with the Amaze -- makes 99bhp and 20.39kgm of torque, the Skoda Rapid pushes out 105bhp and 25.5kgm, a considerable edge. Performance is obviously more exciting in the Skoda although where the Honda has shone through is with responsiveness and driveability. The City pulls forward with little throttle lag and this makes it very predictable and a breeze to drive in traffic. Push on and the performance tails off past 3000rpm. So, it's best to upshift early and enjoy the power. Power on the Rapid, however, is not as instantaneous as on the Honda. But once the turbo kicks in, it's a lot more prompt. In gear acceleration times are also a lot quicker. It gets to 100kph from standstill 3.3sec faster than the City. When it comes to engine noise, the Skoda Rapid is a lot more refined than the Honda City, which is quite noisy.
Ride and handling
Honda has improved the stiffness of the City’s chassis and that means an improvement in the way it rides and drives. Still, at low speeds, sharper bumps tend to thump through. Up the pace and you’ll find the ride improves considerably and it is notably stable as well. The Skoda Rapid, on the other hand, feels utterly secure and at high speeds, it's particularly comfortable. It absorbs broken surfaces with ease and additionally, the suspension works silently. The City's steering gives more feedback than before and is still accurate, but it does not match up to the Skoda Rapid's steering feel. In terms of grip, Honda's skinny tyres on the City provide decent levels although the Rapid has more and there's slightly better body control as well on the Skoda.
The Honda City’s dashboard looks modern and technical. The black dash with the silver running across it looks very nice as does the touchscreen controls of the climate control. It is an easy to use and mostly ergonomic cabin. The blue lights that flank the dials turn green when you’re driving economically and no doubt, a lot of owners will like this. The steering adjusts only for rake and the dashboard cowl is a bit high though and so, eats into your forward vision.
The Rapid’s interiors are for the understated owner. It’s all straightforward and clear, almost bordering on boring. The dials are easy to read but are too plain for a Rs 10 lakh car and even the steering and gearlever could use a bit more flair. That said, everything is put together solidly and it’s clear that Skoda (VW actually as the Rapid is basically a Vento) have given a lot of thought and attention to detail. And yes, the steering adjusts for reach and rake.
Space and practicality
This new City’s wheelbase has been stretched by 50mm over the last City and that means more cabin space. Rear legroom is particularly good and the seat is set at the right height, allowing for easy entry and exit. The seat cushions, front and back, are perfectly judged and very supportive. The only grouse is a lack of headroom at the rear. The cabin is practical too with a lot of cubbyholes and cupholders and Honda has even provided three 12-volt sockets in the cabin. You sit lower in the Rapid and though the seats are comfy, the Honda is simply more comfortable.
That said, space is good and the lower seating position means there aren’t any headroom issues. An interesting feature in the Rapid is the lever for sliding the front left seat forward to improve rear legroom. As for practicality, the Rapid has a massive glovebox and door pockets that can hold bottles and an adjustable centre armrest for the driver.
At Rs 11.10 lakh, the Honda City may be more expensive than the Rapid but it is also better equipped. There’s a reverse camera with a top-down view, a wide angle view and a normal view, there’s the touchscreen climate control, USB and Bluetooth connectivity and the CD player makes a comeback on the City. It also has premium features like a sunroof, keyless entry and go, cruise control, electric folding mirrors and dual rear air-con vents.
The top-end Rapid costs over a lakh less than the City VX, but isn’t as good value. It has a lot less equipment -- there’s no keyless entry or sunroof, no cruise control and no electric folding mirrors. Even the rear air-con vent is a uni-directional one as opposed to the City’s twin vent unit. What the Rapid does have is a USB, SD card and aux-in port along with a CD player and Bluetooth connectivity, remote locking and keyless entry. In this comparison, it is short on equipment.
Although the Honda City lacks the refinement or performance of the Skoda Rapid sedan, it does have an engine that makes city driving a lot easier, it has more space on the inside and packs in a lot more equipment. It is the better all-rounder and packs in more bang for buck. Looks like the mid-sizer segment has found a new champion.