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Honda City vs Ford Fiesta: A closer look
Bijoy Kumar Y
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July 29, 2006 14:57 IST

Petrol car buyers tend to stay away from diesels the way strict vegetarians would react when offered a steak. For them, it wouldn't make a difference whether it is well done or rare - they are not going to touch it in any case.

But what if the diesel option is from the current common-rail fed, stretch-the-litre, save-the-planet brigade? Well, petrol followers may take a test drive, but that is about it, right? Not so, as Ford India found out after the recent fuel price hikes.

The Ford Fiesta TDCi is converting ardent petrol car owners like never before. And to add oil to the fire, Ford recently made a quick price correction at the dealer level, and bingo!, the Fiesta 1.4 Exi TDCi is now bumper to bumper with the base model Honda City Exi.

In Mumbai, both cars can be yours for roughly Rs 750,000 on-road. Brilliant, isn't it? So which one would you choose, a super refined, recently facelifted City or the brand new Ford that's the talk of the town? Time to take a closer look.

The lines

The Honda is as futuristic as the Fiesta is traditional. From what we have heard, not many people spend money on "I Love My Honda" stickers in India. That means the quintessential booted car that the Fiesta represents has an advantage.

The City is put together in a meticulous fashion with narrow shutlines and beautifully aligned plastic-metal interfaces. The Fiesta exudes European solidity from the blue oval to the blue oval. I personally prefer the sci-fi Honda looks but I know a lot of people who would buy the Fiesta because it looks 'right'. Honours even, then.

Living in

Again, the Fiesta represents a world of cars that India was ready to skip thanks to cars such as the City. The instrument console, though it harks back to the nineties, is purposeful. That said, Honda has gone in for no-nonsense instrumentation and ergonomics which make it easier to drive the car.

There is a certain feel-good factor about belting up in a Fiesta - it feels solid and you are immediately set for a long drive. If the Honda feels flimsy, it is because it is engineered to be light - the doors click shut in comparison, while the controls are lighter to the touch and feel.

Seriously, the clutch lever of the Fiesta diesel feels far too heavy after you have spent considerable time in a City. The seats on offer from Ford are better for long drives, especially those of the driver and passenger.

Both cars have adequate rear room, with the Honda getting a small advantage thanks to space liberated under the rear seats. Your legs, once folded, can be accommodated better in the City.

On the road

The Fiesta diesel is modern enough to fool you into believing that you are driving a petrol car - even inside the city. Well, almost. It takes a while to get used to the slightly heavier clutch and the slower acceleration.

What helps matters in favour of the Fiesta TDCi is the fact that Honda has not given the base City its most powerful engine. The 77 bhp of power and 12.8 kgm torque developed by the 1497cc econo-marvel of a petrol engine ensures that the 68 bhp 1399cc diesel burner of the Fiesta feels more than adequate.

The Fiesta though has the advantage on the torque front, with the diesel motor developing 16 kgm of the stuff pretty early in life. While just about a second separates both in the sprint to 60 kph, by the time the speedo reaches 100 kph in the Fiesta (17 seconds), the City will be a spec on the horizon (13 seconds).

Both cars are capable of cruising at a steady 80-100 kph on highways and it takes a downshift in them before you are ready for an overtaking manoeuvre.

Well, if you want sheer performance, both Honda and Ford offer you 100 bhp engines (psst... that too at a discount).

Saving fuel

The best figure that we have managed with the Fiesta TDCi is 18 kpl on a Mumbai-Pune Expressway run - with the car easily averaging 90 kph plus. The City, with the IDSi petrol engine, is pretty frugal too and it is not unusual for it to record 16 kpl on good highways.

Inside towns, the Fiesta diesel would still return around 14 kpl, while the City drops to the 11-12 kpl mark. That said, our test City recorded 14 kpl for the suburb-metro-suburb runs - which is pretty impressive.

Dynamic feel

The Honda is a fine automobile that will do extremely well on neatly surfaced roads. But as the roads deteriorate, most people who wish well for their cars reduce the speed of their Citys. The Fiesta, on the other hand, offers a more mature ride quality even on potholed roads.

In short, the average speed that you carry on a bad stretch of road will be higher with the Fiesta. The finely balanced City can be a tad boring on a nice and winding road while the Fiesta's underpinnings give you the confidence to push the car around corners - which makes it quite fun. It is entirely another thing that the diesel burner needs to be kept on the boil for you to cross the fun threshold.

Decision time

The odds are turning towards economical cars these days, and in the Fiesta TDCi Exi, Ford has a very strong case. Mind you, in the last quarter alone, Honda sold more than 10,000 Citys despite heavy competition.

In comparison, Ford managed to do close to 5,000 units. Can the Fiesta 1.4 Exi diesel tilt the scales for Ford? Well, a lot of people who buy the Honda City opt for it because they are in the market for a refined, reliable and premium product - which the City certainly is. Of course, its economy is a bonus.

The Fiesta too is a contemporary product that drives extremely well and is quite refined for a diesel offering. In its case, the economy is not just a bonus, it is its raison d'�tre.

And guess what, the new Ford does not seem lacking on the premium image too.

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