2018 Amaze vs Dzire vs Ameo diesel-automatic comparison

    With their unique gearbox types, the second-gen Honda Amaze, Maruti Suzuki Dzire and Volkswagen Ameo are three distinct takes on the diesel-automatic compact sedan.

    Published on Jul 17, 2018 06:00:00 AM


    Make : Volkswagen
    Model : Ameo

    Well suited to India as diesel-automatic cars may be, there’s a genuine dearth of ‘mass market’ options around. It’s welcome news, then, that the second-gen Honda Amaze has been launched with the option of a diesel engine that gets a continuously variable transmission (CVT). A diesel-CVT is not only unique to the compact sedan segment in India but it’s also a first for Honda globally. What’s more, the car is not prohibitively expensive either. Prices for the Honda Amaze diesel-automatic range from Rs 8.39-8.99 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi).

    Best alternatives for the Honda Amaze diesel-automatic come in the form of the Maruti Dzire DDiS 190 AGS (Rs 7.9-9.43 lakh) and the Volkswagen Ameo TDI DSG (Rs 9.2-10.02 lakh). The interesting bit is where the Amaze uses a CVT, the Dzire comes with a five-speed automated manual transmission (AMT), while the Ameo sports a seven-speed dual-clutch arrangement. In a sense, this comparison is almost as much about the gearboxes as it is about the cars in their entirety. We’re out to zero in on the model that offers the most in terms of convenience, comfort and practicality.

    Honda Amaze V CVTMaruti Suzuki Dzire ZDi+ AGSVolkswagen Ameo DSG Highline Plus
    Boot space420 litres378 litres330 litres
    Fuel tank35 litres37 litres45 litres
    Tyre size175/65 R15185/65 R15185/60 R15
    Kerb weight1039kg990kg1184kg

    What are they like to drive?

    Like its predecessor, the second-gen Amaze too features Honda’s wide-serving 1.5-litre i-DTEC diesel engine. But where this engine makes 100hp and 200Nm in the other Hondas – the new Amaze diesel-manual included – it’s been detuned substantially to produce 80hp and 160Nm in this application. Honda says this has been done to preserve the life of the CVT. Honestly, though, you don’t feel any shortage of power on the go. The CVT beautifully complements the Honda diesel engine’s legendary tractability, and the result is a smooth build up of speed at mild throttle inputs. The Amaze diesel-CVT feels right at home in the thick of city traffic as well as out cruising on the highway. What’s missing though are paddleshifters (the Amaze petrol-CVT gets them) and there’s no option for manual inputs via the gear lever either. ‘S’ mode on the gearbox does make the engine more responsive, and there’s a ‘Low’ mode, too, that comes handy in the hills.

    Honda Amaze CVT gearbox
    CVT complements the Amaze's engine’s tractability.

    We were pleasantly surprised to find the Amaze the quickest (or a close second) in our kickdown acceleration runs. Overtaking poses no problem, but you do get a bit of the CVT-typical rubberband effect when you ask more of the engine. At this time, the i-DTEC unit gets noisy and raucous enough to make you think Honda’s efforts to enhance overall refinement have only met with partial success.

    Maruti Suzuki Dzire AMT gearbox
    AMT is weak link in Dzire package.

    It is quite telling that the Dzire’s diesel engine (not known for its refinement) is the quietest unit in this comparison. The engine in question is the Fiat-sourced and Maruti-branded 1.3-litre DDiS 190. Its 75hp is the lowest of this trio, but its 190Nm of torque is par for the course for this class of car. As ever, the engine exhibits some bottom-end lag, followed by reasonable punch around 2,000rpm. However, in the case of the Dzire diesel-AMT, your driving style will not be dictated by the engine’s characteristics but by those of the gearbox. At part-throttle inputs, the AMT goes about the business of swapping cogs quite effectively. Weigh down heavier on the throttle pedal though, and the AMT will often respond with an untimely shift. A workaround to this issue is to use the gear lever to manually change gears, say when you want to overtake. Still, there’s no getting around the head nod that results from the long pause between shifts. The relatively long shift times also reflect in the Dzire’s slow kickdown acceleration times. Also, you’ll have to be careful when starting out on an incline; the Dzire AMT has a tendency to roll back before the gearbox hooks up properly.  

    Volkswagen Ameo dual-clutch gearbox
    It’s great fun to manually flick through the Ameo's ratios.

    On paper, it’s the Ameo that has the best specifications. Its 1.5-litre diesel engine makes a strong 110hp and 250Nm, and the seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox is as sophisticated as they come. Like the other two cars here, the Ameo creeps forward smoothly in bumper-to-bumper traffic scenarios. However, when speeds start to increase, you’ll note the engine is a bit sluggish in its initial response; shifting to the gearbox’s ‘S’ mode does help here. The fact is that the 1.5 TDI engine only gets into its prime at about 1,800rpm, at which point it also transforms into something much more energetic. There’s a thick slug of torque from 2,500-4,500rpm and it makes overtaking on the highway a cinch. What also works really well is the gearbox. Automatic shifts are timely and fast but the real fun is in flicking up and down the ratios via the gear lever in manual mode. You can feel the shifts every now and then and it’s not as smooth as the Amaze’s CVT, but the Ameo’s twin-clutch arrangement certainly does more for the enthusiastic driver. Where the Ameo doesn’t impress is in engine refinement, with a particularly loud clatter at idle.

    Amaze vs Dzire vs Ameo

    Unfortunately, we couldn’t test the three cars for fuel economy. While all cars promise to be efficient, claimed figures suggest the Dzire will stretch each litre of diesel the farthest. The Dzire AMT has been certified with an exceptional fuel economy figure of 28.4kpl, which is significantly more than the Amaze CVT’s 23.8kpl and Ameo TDI DSG’s 21.73kpl.

    Powertrain and performance
    Honda Amaze V CVTMaruti Suzuki Dzire ZDi+ AGSVolkswagen Ameo DSG Highline Plus
    Engine1498cc, 4 cyls1248cc, 4 cyls1498cc, 4 cyls
    Power80hp at 3600rpm75hp at 4000rpm110hp at 4000rpm
    Torque160Nm at 1750rpm190Nm at 2000rpm250Nm at 1500-3000rpm
    TransmissionCVT5-speed AMT7-speed dual-clutch
    20-80kph (in kickdown)6.12s7.90s6.27s
    40-100kph (in kickdown)9.06s11.16s8.80s
    Noise at idle46.7dB45.3dB49.9dB
    Noise at 50kph65.4dB61.8dB63.2dB
    Noise at 80kph67.2dB65.1dB67.1dB

    How do they compare on ride and handling?

    You get a good feel for the road at the Amaze’s helm. The steering is relatively light but also quite precise, making this a reasonably fun car in the corners. The Amaze is softer sprung than its rivals which helps make it that little bit more absorbent of bumps and potholes in town. On the flip side, when you up the pace, there’s more up and down movement too.

    Amaze vs Dzire vs Ameo

    The Dzire feels better tied down than the Amaze on the highway. Its suspension setup is actually quite well judged, but what lets the Dzire down is the steering. It weights up inconsistently and offers little by way of feedback at high speeds. And, around town, the woefully inadequate self-centering calls for a firm hand on the wheel at all times.

    It’s the Ameo that gives the most confidence. The VW feels sure-footed at all times, it isn’t as affected by strong crosswinds as the lighter Amaze and Dzire and, in general, drives like a bigger car. You also get reasonable connect from the steering at all times. It does feel firm in its setup relative to the other two, but you really won’t have reason to complain in the manner in which it tackles the rough stuff. Do note, our test car came equipped with 15-inch rims. The Ameo can also be had with 16-inchers, though the enhanced look of the larger wheels is sure to compromise ride comfort.

    Amaze vs Dzire vs Ameo boot
    The Amaze has the largest boot but you can fit in quite a bit of luggage in the Dzire and Ameo too.

    What are they like on the inside?

    Remember how spartan the original Amaze looked on the inside? Thankfully, that’s not something you’ll think about the new car’s cabin. The new Amaze’s dual-tone dashboard is well styled, even if the absence of a touchscreen on this diesel-automatic variant does rob it of some modernity. Material quality is hugely improved too, with a nice textured finish to many of the surfaces and buttons. Do note, many new Amaze owners have reported a misaligned glovebox lid that pops open when driving over potholes and the like. What does enhance the look of things in the cabin are the new front seats. They are not only richer in looks but also offer excellent shoulder support and get adjustable headrests – something the old Amaze lacked.

    Honda Amaze interior
    New Amaze’s dashboard is well styled but the omission of a touchscreen on the diesel-automatic does stand out.

    You’ll be well catered to on the Maruti Dzire’s large (if soft) front seats too. What stands out in the Dzire’s cabin is the sense of space; it just doesn’t feel like a compact sedan on the inside. Maruti has also done its bit to uplift the ambience with extensive use of light materials and faux wood. The problem is that the beige seat fabrics and carpets are prone to getting dirty quick, and the wood finish is passé. That said, the dash is neat in look, the dials look classy and the flat-bottomed steering wheel is decidedly sporty.

    Maruti Suzuki Dzire interior
    You get the greatest sense of space in the Dzire. The dash is neat and bits like the classy dials do their bit for the look too.

    A flat-bottomed steering is something you’ll also find in the Ameo’s familiar cabin. But more than anything else, it’s the quality of the package that will win you over. There’s a solid thunk on door shut, the switchgear feels chunky and there’s a certain richness to even bits like the sun visors. It feels like a German car alright. For all its quality, however, there’s no getting around the fact that this is not a roomy cabin. Tilt and telescopic steering adjust makes it easy to find a good driving position and the large front seats are comfy, but you sit close to the co-driver and the driver environment isn’t spacious.

    Volkswagen Ameo interior
    Ameo dash may be simple in look but quality is second to none. There’s a pervasive built-to-last feel inside the cabin.

    The gap to rivals just increases when you move to the rear. Legroom in the VW is very limited, the cabin isn’t wide enough to seat three abreast in comfort and there’s no centre armrest either. Rear seat passengers in the Amaze have it much nicer. There’s generous legroom, the cabin feels wide and the rear seat is well designed. Taller passengers might find headroom limited, and will get little support from the small, fixed headrests though. A higher-set centre armrest would have helped, as would a dedicated air con vent at the back, though we did find cooling to be effective enough. Those seated on the back seat of the Dzire will find thigh support to be insufficient and that the rear air con protrudes a bit far back, but that’s largely it. There’s a surprising amount of legroom and comfort levels are quite good.

    Equipment and safety
    Honda Amaze V CVTMaruti Suzuki Dzire ZDi+ AGSVolkswagen Ameo DSG Highline Plus
    LED headlightsNAYesNA
    Auto headlamps/wipersNA/NAYes/NANA/Yes
    Keyless goYesYesNA
    Cruise controlNANAYes
    Android Auto/Apple CarPlayNAYes/YesYes/Yes
    Auto-dimming mirrorNAYesYes
    Rear air con ventsNAYesYes
    Adjustable rear headrestsNAYesYes
    Rear parking sensors/cameraYes/NAYes/YesYes/Yes
    Price (ex-showroom, Delhi)Rs 8.99 lakhRs 9.43 lakhRs 10.02 lakh

    How do they compare on features?

    Irrespective of the trim you buy these diesel-automatic compact sedans in, you are assured of basic safety kit. All three models get dual front airbags and anti-lock brakes as standard. The Ameo misses out on Isofix child-seat mounts at the rear but somewhat makes amends with standard-fit electronic stability control and hill hold control.

    Honda Amaze seats
    Amaze driver’s shoulder well supported.

    In terms of comfort and convenience features, the Amaze trails its rivals. Honda’s decision to leave out the full-spec VX trim for the Amaze diesel-automatic means its compact sedan is the only one here without a touchscreen infotainment system and a rear-view camera, and there’s no provision for rear air con vents altogether. The fully loaded Dzire ZDi+ does quite well for itself when talking features and is the only one here with full LED headlights (with auto on/off). Features exclusive to the VW Ameo Highline Plus include auto wipers, cruise control, auto-dimming interior mirror and one-touch operation for all four power windows. The Ameo does miss out on some frills like keyless entry, push-button start and LED daytime-running lights, though.

    Maruti Suzuki Dzire headlights
    Dzire’s LED headlights are a highlight.

    In the battle of the infotainment systems, it’s the Maruti’s SmartPlay touchscreen unit that comes up trumps. It comes bundled with Android Auto, Apple CarPlay and MirrorLink, and features onboard navigation as well. The Ameo’s touchscreen unit runs the Dzire’s close on features but feels a bit last-gen. Amaze diesel-automatic buyers have to make do with a simpler 2 DIN audio system though aux-in, USB and Bluetooth for audio and telephone functions are included.

    Volkswagen Ameo cruise control
    Ameo is the only one with cruise control.

    What are they like on the outside?

    And finally the way these cars look. The first-gen Honda Amaze was one of the first models that managed to get the proportions right for a compact sedan. The new one is even better turned out. It’s built around a 65mm larger wheelbase, is marginally wider and sports wider tracks too. In all, it looks more wholesome than the old Amaze, and that definitely is a big plus. Styling is neat but the bluff, chrome-heavy nose does tend to divide opinion.

    Honda Amaze rear seats
    Amaze's rear seat is comfy and there’s lots of room too.

    The new Dzire, on the other hand, is slightly less polarising in its appearance. There’s a good balance to the shape and it even manages to look quite substantial. Chrome embellishments at the front and LED headlights give it a premium look but not everyone is a fan of that face.

    Maruti Suzuki Dzire rear seats
    Space at back of the Dzire is on par with much larger sedans.

    Where the new Amaze and Dzire are built on platforms developed to support a compact sedan, the Ameo was never envisioned to be a product off VW’s PQ25 platform that underpins the Polo. That should explain why the made-for-India Ameo looks the way it does. The proportions are awkward and the tail section looks like the afterthought it is. The rest of the car, though, is smart in look, even with the 15-inch rims.

    Volkswagen Ameo rear seats
    Legroom at the back of the Ameo is very limited.

    In terms of luggage capacity, the Amaze has bragging rights with its segment-best 420-litre boot. You can fit in quite a bit into the Dzire’s 378-litre boot as well; though we did find the Ameo’s well-finished 330-litre boot better shaped and more usable. The Ameo is also the only one that offers rear seat fold to let you fit in more baggage.

    Which one should I buy?

    As you may have derived, each of these cars has its set of strengths and weaknesses. Your pick of the three would boil down to the weightage you give individual factors.

    Honda Amaze rear headrest
    Amaze’s fixed rear headrest is too small.

    The Maruti Suzuki Dzire has the roomiest cabin, an expansive features set and also comes with the promise of excellent fuel economy. All well, but in a comparison centred around the automatic transmission, what spoils it for this version of the Dzire is its gearbox. The AMT feels just too basic when judged in light of the Amaze’s CVT and Ameo’s dual-clutch units.

    Maruti Suzuki Dzire rear AC vent
    Dzire’s rear AC vent protrudes far back.

    Frequent highway users will find a great long-distance machine in the Volkswagen Ameo TDI DSG. Its punchy engine, quick-shifting gearbox and great high-speed manners – it has all the right ingredients. The strong build and impressive quality also further the Ameo’s case. It is slightly pricey and down on space to rivals, but for someone with limited use for the rear seats, the VW does make for a great buy.

    Volkswagen Ameo front armrest
    Ameo gets armrest up front but not at rear.

    But, in our book, it is the Honda Amaze that comes closest to being an all-rounder. It’s got a pleasant engine-gearbox combo, has a spacious cabin and scores well on overall comfort. Sure, the engine is noisy but fact is neither of its rivals are much better off on that front. However, a few vital feature additions would make the Amaze a more wholesome package. Then again, factor in the fair money Honda wants for one and you’ll see the Amaze as the right choice. Honda’s diesel-CVT adventure sure has got off to the right start.

    Copyright (c) Autocar India. All rights reserved.


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