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Comparison Test: Honda City vs. VW Polo Sedan – Sedans for the daily hustle

POSTED BY Mick Chan ON 11 August 2014

Japanese sensibilities go head to head with German appeal

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The B-segment sedan is an important sector for those who produce such a vehicle. Vast numbers of them ply Malaysian roads, and the demand for these cars have long overtaken the demand for vehicles a size larger.
The Honda City we have here, for example, accrued 10,000 bookings within a month of its launch.
Volkswagen’s most affordable sedan offering, the Polo Sedan, represents an entry point to the marque for those with an affinity towards German engineered motoring. In this head-to-head match, the Polo’s price tag weighs in at almost RM5,000 cheaper than Honda’s most generously specified equivalent, the City V.

 
Exterior

Sharp lines and acute creases define the overall look of the Honda City, while its solid wing design gives the Honda’s front a visual boldness that is present throughout the Japanese brand’s newer models. The Volkswagen Polo is much rounder and consequently softer visually, whilst retaining most of the Polo look.

The Honda wears 16-inch wheels while the Volkswagen is shod with 15-inch numbers, which gives the City a slight edge in visual appeal in terms of filling the wheelarches. Granted that the current crop of B-segment sedans employ a tall roofline for an improved sense of cabin spaciousness, some will appreciate the sportier look of a larger wheelset.

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Interior

There is a marked sense of restraint with the Polo’s cabin. Functionality is generally sound, although its aesthetics can be a bit drab in comparison with other contenders in this segment. The German car’s switches and buttons operate smoothly and without fuss, and generally serves well in daily usage.

The Polo accommodates four adults reasonably well, and the front seats seems to offer marginally better lateral support than the ones in the City.

However, the City is a bit ahead by some margin when it comes to rear legroom. That is not to demean the Polo’s rear seat accommodation, but the City’s rear cabin space really feels like it is a size larger than it actually is.

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There is no escaping the limitations of the B-segment bodyshell, though. In other dimensions such as shoulder room and headroom, the space in the City is merely comfortable, rather than conversation-inducing.

Where fit and finish is satisfactory in the Polo, the City steps things up a notch, with a heightened sense of polish to the way the minor controls operate and feel beneath the fingers. The Honda’s dashboard architecture is visually more appealing to these eyes too, with swooping curves across the fascia along with glossy, touch-screen controls for both infotainment and air-conditioning.

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Behind the wheel

Driver appeal is where the Polo claws back some points, and nuances in each steering set-up come into play. The German car’s steering is hydraulically assisted while the Japanese entrant’s is electric, which gives the Polo helm more feel.

More points to the Polo in this area, courtesy of a six-speed transmission that allows manual gear selection; something the City driver is denied. Operated thus, the Polo’s gearbox responds reasonably swiftly and smoothly.

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The City doesn’t completely lose out here though. Despite employing continuously variable transmission, it mostly banishes the dreaded rubber-band effect when accelerating, thanks to the clutch in its set-up, which grants the Honda response that is comparable with most torque converter automatics under normal circumstances.

Despite the Honda’s numb steering, it is not difficult to place accurately on the road, and while both cars are commendably refined at a highway cruise, the Polo is marginally more sure-footed at speed. Conversely, there is less droning noise from the City’s engine, a fact which will be preferable especially for the rear passengers.

As for the features you’d want but hope not to deploy, the City beats the Polo on numbers: Six airbags in the Honda versus the Volkswagen’s two, and the City also has VSA (stability control) which is absent in the Polo.

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The choice?

The City has the road manners to support the showroom appeal of the features and numbers on its spec sheet, therefore for most buyers who will drive these cars purely for functional purposes, it is the one to spend one’s hard-earned money on.
That is by no means diminishing what the Polo offers, as it is a capable, enjoyable and refined companion for the daily cut-and-thrust.

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Specifications of the Honda City V
Engine: 1.5-litre, Four-cylinder, 16-valve, DOHC i-VTEC
Displacement: 1,497cc
Transmission: Seven-step CVT
Max power: 118hp at 6,600rpm
Max torque: 145Nm at 4,600rpm
Features: Six airbags, ABS, EBD, ECON mode, push-start ignition, cruise control, rear air conditioning vents, seven-inch touch-screen infotainment system, leather seats, VSA
Tyre size: 185/55R16
Price: RM90,800 on-the-road including insurance
Specifications of the Volkswagen Polo Sedan 1.6L
Engine: 1.6-litre, four-cylinder, petrol fuel injection
Max power: 103hp @ 5,250rpm
Max torque: 153Nm @ 3,800rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic with Tiptronic
Acceleration (0-100km/h): 12.3 seconds
Top speed: 184km/h
Fuel consumption (combined): 6.3L/100km
CO2 emissions (combined): 162g/km
Safety features: ABS with BA, anti-pinch windows, Isofix child seat mounts, dual airbags, immobiliser, ICRS, front head restraints
Tyre size: 185/60R15
Price: RM85,888 on-the-road without insurance