Honda WR-V vs Hyundai i20 Active vs Maruti Vitara Brezza
- Published On: 18 May 2017
- 13 min read
Is the WR-V a compact SUV, or a cross-hatch? Time to find out.
Hyundai, Volkswagen, Toyota and Fiat, each have cross-hatchbacks in their line-ups, while Maruti and Ford don’t. The Vitara Brezza and EcoSport are referred to as compact SUVs by virtue of their shape, size and positioning, while the i20 Active has been branded a cross-hatch by the company.
What we want to see is where exactly Honda’s New WR-V fits in. With its bespoke styling, raised suspension and additional features, it is not just a cosmetically upgraded Jazz. So, for this test, we drive the most popular of the cross-hatchbacks, Hyundai’s i20 Active, and the most popular of the compact SUVs, the Vitara Brezza, to figure out where the Honda stands.
On the outside
Honda could have simply added bits of plastic cladding on the standard Jazz but it chose a more comprehensive route. The WR-V’s front section, with the high-set bonnet, along with the larger 16-inch wheels and 23mm increase in ground clearance to 188mm, give it a distinct profile and a stance to differentiate it from the more MPV-like Jazz. Naturally, some bits like the doors have been carried over. The stretched-out headlamps and heavily cladded bumper are a nice touch and the tail is easily identifiable thanks to its unique L-shaped tail-lamps. The high bonnet makes the WR-V look beefier but not enough to pass off as an SUV.
The standard i20’s shape is widely popular, so Hyundai probably didn’t see the need to make expensive sheet metal changes for the i20 Active. However, this means the Active just doesn’t look unique enough. Sure, it’s got the requisite dose of plastic shrouds, roof rails and even ground clearance is up to a useful 190mm, but, even so, the Active looks simply like a bulked-up i20.
Put the three together and it’s the Vitara Brezza that will generate the most interest. It’s not butch-looking from any angle but it’s still got that defined SUV silhouette and that seemingly counts for a lot among Indian buyers. The Brezza’s simple lines are complemented well with the contrast roof – there’s also a full catalogue of accessories to stylise it further. Its 198mm ground clearance also gives it an advantage over the other two.
On the inside
The Brezza’s SUV-like high seating position gives it the upper hand here. You sit reasonably high up and get a good view out. Its relatively upright A-pillars further emphasise that feeling of being in an SUV. The Brezza’s cabin can be jazzed-up with colours and trims as well. The low-set dash aids visibility, the front seats are comfy and there’s lots of storage space, including two gloveboxes. The plastics in the cabin are a bit inconsistent, some parts feel like they’re from cheaper Marutis.
You’re sat similar to the Jazz in the WR-V, spare for the fact that you sit a little higher. The advantage is a more commanding driving position but the car’s thick A-pillar obstructs visibility at crossroads. And, as with the Jazz, some might also take time getting used to how far ahead the high-set dashboard extends to meet the windscreen. There’s that immense feeling of space in the WR-V as well, just like the Jazz. The sportily upholstered, large and supportive seats are nice. Unique to the WR-V is a sportier gear lever (it looks good but isn’t great to grip) and Honda’s latest touchscreen infotainment system. There’s a touchscreen for the climate control settings too.
The i20 Active features an updated touchscreen infotainment system while the rest of the cabin is the same as before, including its quirky colour schemes – Actives with light-coloured exteriors get a blue-on-black theme while dark-coloured cars get a subtler orange on black. Quality levels are easily a notch or two above the Maruti and Honda. But the i20 Active just doesn’t give drivers or passengers the heightened seating they’d desire. It feels more ‘car-like’ than SUV and this works against its favour in this test.
If you travel regularly with five in your car, the i20 Active may not suit your needs. Its rear seat’s width and contours make it best suited for two, while the rear air con tower eats into middle passenger legroom. For two people, the seat is fine. The Brezza’s back seat has ample headroom, a fair deal of legroom and more than expected shoulder room. The flip-down centre armrest also features two additional cupholders. The back seat feels a bit upright though. The WR-V’s rear backrest is perhaps a touch too reclined and cushioning is on the softer side too. But it evens out, given the sheer amount of space on offer. Legroom is terrific for what is still a ‘small car’ and the large windows only accentuate the cabin’s roominess. The WR-V, however, makes do with only small fixed rear headrests and not the safer adjustable type as on the other models. Honda has also left out the top-spec Jazz’s split, fold and flip ‘magic seats’ on the WR-V.
The WR-V has the largest boot and the most convenient access, thanks to its low loading lip. The Active has the smallest boot as well as the highest lip. Maruti’s Brezza comes in second in terms of boot space and access but offers the versatility of 60:40 split rear seats; the others come with single-piece rear-seat fold.
Let’s talk safety first and glance at what the base versions of these cars offer. The WR-V has the highest starting price (₹8.99 lakh, ex-showroom, Delhi) but dual airbags and ABS are standard fit. The Brezza range has the lowest entry price (₹7.49 lakh) and comes with ABS and a driver-side airbag come as standard; a passenger-side airbag is a ₹14,000 option. ‘Base’ spec i20 Actives (₹8.25 lakh) get dual airbags but no ABS. When you look at the top-spec versions, the i20 Active SX comes with six airbags, the most here.
All three cars come with touchscreen infotainment systems. The screens serve as the display for the reverse cameras and sat-nav system on all three cars, and all of them get MirrorLink. The Brezza and Active get Apple CarPlay, but only the Hyundai offers Android Auto too. Honda’s Digipad system offers the most customisation, is the slickest in operation and is the only one with a HDMI port, SD card reader and allows web browsing using a paired phone’s 3G/4G connection. The Brezza’s screen is clear and legible. You might find the lack of a volume button a hindrance.
All cars get electric-fold mirrors, push-button start and automatic climate control. The WR-V is the only one here with a sunroof, the i20 the only one with a rear air con vent and the Brezza the only one with both automatic headlamps and wipers. The Brezza does miss out on telescopic steering adjust, there’s no cruise control on the i20 and even the fully loaded WR-V lacks auto headlamps and rain-sensing wipers.
The WR-V and Active are available with petrol and diesel engines but the Brezza only gets a diesel. So, we’re going to compare only the diesel cars in this test.
The WR-V uses Honda’s 1.5-litre i-DTEC diesel engine that makes 100hp at 3,600rpm and 200Nm at 1,750rpm. The engine pulls well from low revs and builds speed easily, making it easy to live with in town but the engine also offers little to excite, despite making the most power of the three. The real issue though is the engine noise. Honda has tried to reduce the decibel levels, but it remains noisy throughout – you can keep it in check by upshifting early. The WR-V’s clutch is well-weighted and gearshifts on the six-speed ’box are nice.
Despite its noisy engine, the WR-V’s motor isn’t the noisiest here. That unfortunate distinction belongs to the Vitara Brezza’s diesel engine. The Brezza is the loudest at idle and is also the noisiest at max revs. The blame lies with the car’s Fiat-developed 1.3 diesel that also powers most of Maruti’s other cars. In the Brezza, the engine makes 90hp at 4,000rpm and 200Nm at 1,750rpm. At really low engine speeds, the Brezza feels lethargic but when you cross 2,000rpm, the turbo kicks in and the Maruti leaps forward. The mid-range is particularly strong and there’s even a 5,000rpm-plus top-end! This form of jerky power delivery won’t find favour with all types of drivers but it does add a bit of fun to the Brezza. The gearshifts could have been crisper too.
The i20 Active’s 1.4-litre diesel engine may not feel as effortless as the WR-V’s at low revs and isn’t as punchy as the Brezza’s in the mid-range but it does offer a nice compromise. It is the torqueiest of the three, producing 220Nm at a low 1,500-2,750rpm. It pulls well enough from low speeds and you can feel a surge at about 1,800rpm. Keep the throttle pressed and you’ll find the power tapering off around 3,800rpm, though the engine will pull on to 4,800rpm. The i20’s engine is the quietest while the six-speed gearbox is the smoothest. There’s little setting these cars apart as far as 0-100kph acceleration times are concerned, though the WR-V does top the charts.
All three models use electric power steering, ride on 16-inch rims and rely on front MacPherson struts and rear torsion bar suspensions. But each has its own ride and handling characteristics. Attack a corner in the Brezza and there’s little body roll and turn-in is quick, despite this car’s tall height - the steering is also quite quick. Coupled with the Brezza’s free-revving engine and this is a car that’s good fun on the right roads. The Brezza tends to thud through bumps though.
On the same patch of broken road, the WR-V will judder less, the suspension handles bumps well. The Honda holds its own at higher speeds as well where the suspension generally feels nicely damped. Even in the corners, the WR-V behaves far better than you’d expect a propped-up hatchback to. The WR-V also has the lightest steering at low speeds.
The i20 Active is a car you drive in the city thanks to its reasonably easy-to-twirl steering, and a supple low-speed ride. But, like most other Hyundais, it’s not the keenest of handlers. The steering doesn’t provide the level of connect you’d want and there’s a fair bit of body movement at higher speeds. On uneven patches, you’ll also find yourself bouncing about.
Which one to pick?
Let’s compare the WR-V in terms of its cross-hatchback competitor, the i20 Active, first. The Active has the nicer finished cabin, the quieter engine and at Rs 9.78 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi), it’s the more affordable car too. But it doesn’t feel like a proper SUV. And it’s in here where the WR-V has the advantage. The Honda has the more distinctive design, offers the requisite high seating position while also having the upper hand in crucial areas of space and practicality. The WR-V feels more like a cross-hatchback than the i20.
The WR-V also holds its own against the Brezza, which is a compact SUV, in many areas. For one, it’s the comfier and roomier. But as good a cross-hatchback as the WR-V is, it is still just that. The WR-V doesn’t quite veer close enough to SUV territory to lure buyers away from the Vitara Brezza.
It is the Brezza (Rs 9.99 lakh for the ZDI+) that we would like to have in our driveways. It is practical, well-equipped and a reasonably fun-to-drive vehicle. Sure, the engine is noisy and the car might not look special enough but it does give buyers most of what they like about SUVs in a compact and pocket-friendly package.