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Hatching a plot - Honda Jazz vs Hyundai Elite i20

Snapshot: The new Honda Jazz has the segment leader, Hyundai’s Elite i20 clearly in its sights. So can the Jazz’s roomy cabin, big boot and fuel efficient diesel engine dethrone the king?

Hyundai seems to have hit the nail on the head when it comes to the premium hatchback segment with the Elite i20. The cars upmarket looks, refined diesel engine and long list of features has ensured hordes of buyers lining up Hyundai dealerships. Honda now wants a chunk of this pie and has launched the all-new Jazz hatchback in this competitive segment. With a striking exterior, acres of cabin space and a fuel efficient diesel motor, Honda hopes to have many takers for this car. That’s the plan, actually. But which one is best and where should you invest your money? We find out here.

Exteriors

There are no two ways about it. The i20 is the more appealing design of the two. Not only does it look good and stylish, the Fluidic design language gives it plenty of personality as well. Key styling elements include the big hexagonal grille upfront with the stretched back lamps. The blackened out C-pillars and the sporty looking rear lamps give it an upmarket European look.

The Jazz shares its platform with the City sedan and it looks similar as well. The front end gets the same sleek grille and similar looking head lamps along with the sculpted bumper. The side profile makes the car look like a mini-MPV rather than a big hatchback and that’s a good thing. The rear-end seems to have been over styled with plenty of cuts and curves. Overall, the Jazz does look fresh, modern and appealing but simply can’t outclass the i20’s bold and classy exterior.

Interiors

Step inside the Jazz and you will be quickly realise what a roomy place it is. The beige interior adds to the airy feel as well. The dashboard is borrowed from the City and plastic quality is decent. The Jazz has a total of nine bottle holders in it, giving it the edge over the i20 for sheer practicality. The Jazz also has the edge when it comes to seat comfort. The front seats offer better support all across, and support for the lower back is superior as well.

But it is the rear where the Jazz has a massive advantage not only over the i20 but any other car in this segment.  Rear knee room is phenomenal and even tall six-footers will have no problem inside the Jazz. The boot at 354-litres is brilliant as well.

The Elite i20 might not have the same level of cabin space as the Jazz but its plastics feel better. The i20 also has the essential ‘feel good’ factor which is associated with most Hyundai cars. Rear knee room is decent too but the low set seats and the raising belt line at the rear means rear occupants will feel claustrophobic over long journeys. The boot at 285-litres is generous as well.





Engine, performance and gearbox

Both these cars come with a petrol and diesel motor. We drove the diesels for this comparison. The Jazz has the bigger and more powerful motor. It’s 1.5-litre ‘i-DTEC engine has 99bhp of power. The Hyundai’s 1.4-litre unit produces 89bhp in comparison. That said, the Hyundai has the clear edge in terms of refinement, especially when revved hard.

The i20 feels lazy to respond to throttle inputs below 2,000rpm and it is only once past this figure that it deliver on generous power. This can make the i20 a little irritating around city traffic.

The Jazz feels lively from around 1,600-1,700 rpm and redlines at 4,000 rpm, while the i20 has it’s redline at 4,750. The extra revs give the i20’s engine greater flexibility.

Both cars come with a six-speed manual gearbox. While both are positive, accurate and slick to operate, the i20’s unit is lighter making constant gearshifts in the city a breeze.  The i20’s greater refinement, greater engine flexibility along with the six-speed gearbox makes it a nicer car to drive.

Ride and handling

While neither of these two cars can truly be called sporty, it is the Jazz which has a slight advantage for keener drivers. The steering is more responsive, the body has less roll when pushed into corners and the suspension is more absorbent as well. The Jazz’s high speed ride is better than the i20’s and the Honda simply feels a whole lot stable at faster speeds than the Korean.

The i20 excels in the city. Its light steering, soft suspension setup and light controls make it a delight around town. The i20 though doesn’t have the same confidence inspiring ride on the highway that the Jazz displays.





Safety and features

The Elite i20 has the clear advantage over the Jazz in features. The i20 offers a lot more bells and whistles. Apart from the usual twin airbags, and ABS which are standard on the top end versions of both cars, the i20 also get 1GB storage space, reverse parking camera, cooled glovebox as well as rear AC vents giving it the clear advantage over the Jazz.

Which one should I buy?

This is a very close comparison and does boil down to personal preferences. The Jazz outclasses the i20 for sheer space inside the cabin. It diesel engine is more frugal too making it a convincing buy. That said, the i20 has its own advantages, chief of which are the refined diesel engine, long features list and a well-made cabin. So the i20 has the tiniest of advantages over the Jazz and wins this battle. But remember, whichever one you choose, you simply can’t go wrong with either of these two cars with the H badge in front.  

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