Honda City 1.5E vs Toyota Vios 1.5G (2010)
You’re a dean’s lister and you’ve been bugging your parents for a reward. With school starting just two months away, why don’t you skip the Boracay trip and go for a new car instead? While your folks may be easily tempted by low downpayments and zero interest deals, it’s much more important that your new ride reflects who you are: smart, individual and hip. And so, I’m putting on my cool hat and bring to you the Honda City and the 2010 Toyota Vios: two of the country’s slick but practical cars. Best of all, these cars won’t have your parents crying, “Uncle” with their affordability. But which of these is the slicker one
Undoubtedly, Honda has always gotten the mechanical bits right, however judging from the previous generation it seemed to lack the “good looks gene”. The City has always been the aspiring athlete with great potential but not the endorsement attracting face. But the current generation is very, very different. Honda designers have finally given the City killer looks to match the sporty pretentions and has gotten everyone’s attention for all the right reasons.
The best angle to appreciate the Honda is from the front end with the sharply raked, low hood that’s sporty and sleek. The dominate three-bar grille and squinted headlamps give it a look that’s unlike any other. At three-fourths view, the low angle windshield and strategically placed creases give it the illusion of size despite its compact frame. Perhaps the weakest point is the rear with its hexagonally-shaped tail lamp cluster that evokes the “shark” Mitsubishi Galant. Despite that minor oversight, the back’s a showcase of Honda’s consistent body gaps and build quality as seen through the irregularly shaped trunk that’s equal parts daring and equal parts practical (it opens lower than the Vios).
On the other hand, you’ve been the Toyota Vios so many times you’ve probably grown sick of it. It’s available in just about every color and configuration from taxis to cop cars. Still, a million user-choosers can’t be wrong, right? And who could blame them, after all the Vios’s looks are much more boring but timeless. However, given how cars are status symbols here in the Philippines, Toyota just had to update the Vios’s looks for the 2010 model year. Toyota terms it “minor change” and based on what we’ve seen, you can’t get any more minor than this.
Upfront, the 2010 Vios gains a revamped nose thanks to a chrome-up grille. The previous one lived a sporty life with the minimal of shiny embellishments. But Toyota just had to crank up the pseudo-luxury factor. The net effect is somewhat negative actually as the Vios now looks more like a whale—a whale with shiny teeth. The front bumpers have been tweaked too with the fog lamp clusters losing its sporty brake duct look. Over at the side, the Vios retains its 15-inch tires, but somehow the 10-spoke high-gloss design makes it look smaller. Over at the back, the rear lamp clusters have been given the prismatic look (again) and the chrome plate number garnish has been toned down to a single strip. Perhaps the most welcome (and modern) change for the Vios is its antenna which has made the switch from a bee-sting type to one that’s printed onto the rear glass. This gives the Vios much better radio reception while giving a much sleeker profile.
Exterior Winner: Honda City
Score: Honda City (1) / Toyota Vios (0)
The Honda City’s daring-do personality gets a bit muddled the moment you enter into its cabin. The previous City shared most of its cabin with the Jazz, so you would have expected the new one to inherit the space-age one found in the new Jazz. But that’s not the case. This time, the City’s interior is dressed in its own unique garb, which is best described as solid but uninteresting. The execution’s typical Japanese which is solid but uninteresting. There’s absolutely no soul in here, but then again, there’s nothing you can genuinely hate. Well, maybe expect for the orange-lit gauges that look like a throwback to cars circa 1990’s. Honda could have used white illumination where the appearance could have been greatly modernized.
The story’s quite the same with the 2010 Vios’s cabin, which is typical Toyota boring. For the updated model, Toyota has done some changes to improve the cabin feel a little bit. For instance, the matte-silver accents have been replaced with daring high-gloss piano plastics. Equally daring is the new steering wheel design that has an Audi-like flattened bottom. It’s a good laugh for about 10 minutes, until you realize it frees up some knee room. Often the criticism of owners and critics alike, the cheapo ventilation knobs now have rubberized surrounds making them much more luxurious. Finally, the Vios has entered the modern audio age with the introduction of an auxiliary input jack. Oddly enough, the placement’s near the handbrake so there’s no cradle or box to secure your iPod in. The Honda City certainly has the connectivity edge with full iPod control via its nicely placed USB port placed at the front of the gear shifter.
Interior Winner: TIE
Score: Honda City (2) / Toyota Vios (1)
Though the interior design of the City remains debatable, there’s no denying that the little Honda has the clear edge when it comes to ergonomics. The driving position is absolutely perfect, making this the best and most comfortable car to drive in everyday traffic. The controls are within easy reach and are clearly marked for ease of use. The seats are supportive and comfortable with fine levels of adjustment, especially to the seat height. The small diameter steering wheel’s often a concern since it blocks the large speedometer, but it’s nice to hold and features tilt/telescopic adjustment. The gear shifter looks puny and breakable, but the engagement is positive and slick.
Though I consider the interior design of the Honda City debatable, one thing that’s not is its ergonomics. The driving position is spot on, making this car the best one to drive in everyday traffic. It’s extremely comfortable and easy to use. The seats are supportive and comfortable with fine levels of adjustment, especially to the seat height. The small-diameter steering wheel may block a part of the large speedometer, but it’s still nice to hold and is the only one in its class to feature tilt and reach adjustment. The gear shifter looks puny and breakable, but the engagement is positive and slick.
Despite its minor change or mid-cycle facelift, whatever term you prefer, the Vios is still the older car here and it shows in its dated ergonomics. First of all, you sit rather awkwardly with either the steering wheel too close or your feet too far from the pedals—it was difficult for me to find right mix. Perhaps the addition of a tilt/telescopic steering column could have rectified the problem. Otherwise, the Vios would have been alright. There’s ample support from the seats (not as good as the City though) and the gated shifter’s pretty neat to use. However, I’m simply dumbfounded by the odd central cluster placement. It’s bad enough that the built-in Fujitsu Ten has backlit green lighting, but add to that controls located to both sides of the LCD screen and you have a pretty confusing experience. More than often enough, I found myself hitting the ‘2’ preset button when what I wanted was the Disc/Aux button or pressing ‘1’ when I was going for ‘AM’. The Vios’s mechanical twin, the Yaris has a much more logical layout to its radio, so Toyota should have nicked it straight from there.
Ergonomics Winner: Honda City
Score: Honda City (4) / Toyota Vios (1)
Space and Luggage
The second-generation Honda City led the pack with its larger-than-life space utilization. Sadly, the current model loses all those nifty features such as the flat rear floor or even the ULT seats. Still, no need to fret at the loss since the City’s still nicely packaged with enough space for five occupants. Upfront, the room easily matches that of a compact car thanks to the simplified layout of the central cluster which frees millimeters of space. At the back, despite the small rear hump and protruding cup holder, three adults can revel in the available space, though thigh support maybe a bit lacking. Though fairly minor, it’s good to note that the rear headrests aren’t adjustable, so if you’re on the tall side, better look elsewhere. As for luggage space, there’s enough space in the trunk for the occasional airport run, but if pick up several balik-bayan boxes at the time, you’d wish Honda should have put a 60/40 split-fold function. At least the trunk opening makes lifting stuff out of the trunk much easier in the City.
Meanwhile, the Toyota Vios isn’t class leading in anyway either, but despite its age, it still gets fairly good marks in its use of available cabin space. For one, there are more cubby holes to put your knickknacks around such as those found behind the central cluster and so forth. Like the City, there’s ample seat adjustment for all occupants, though the Vios has the slight edge for the rear occupants where the flat rear floor and folding cup holder makes way for more knee room. Additionally, the Vios is the only one to offer adjustable rear headrests.
That said, Toyota could have widened the gap with Honda further if they simply plopped down the Yaris’s interior which uses its interior space much, much better. For starters, there are no less than three glove boxes in Toyota’s diminutive hatchback: one for the driver and two for the passenger. Toyota could have put these in the Vios instead of settling for a long expanse of plain plastic. Additionally, the Vios deletes its leather optioned model for 2010 so that kills of the availability of the 60/40 split-folding rear bench. For regular Joes, this shouldn’t matter much, but again the shallower trunk (compared to the City) could make those airport trips much more of a hassle. Otherwise, it’s more than enough for everyday use.
Space and Luggage Winner: TIE
Score: Honda City (5) / Toyota Vios (2)
Performance and Fuel Economy
The City jumps from strength to strength the moment you crank the starter and drive off. The 1.5-liter displacement may seem modest, but it packs quite a punch: 120 horsepower and 145 Nm of torque. At lower rpms, it’s nothing extraordinary, but once it opens up, it sounds like how a Honda should: refined with a hint of authority. The five-speed automatic means that the Honda has better off-the-line acceleration and much more relaxed at highway speeds. Though geared towards fuel economy than performance, nail the throttle and the car does respond well enough. There’s even a sport mode that keeps the revs up further and even paddle shifters if you do decide to exercise your hands.
When you’re not pretending to be a racer, the City exhibits a very refined personality that can shame cars a class higher. Compared to the crashy Jazz, the City is decisively tuned for a more comfortable experience perhaps through the use of softer shocks. The low speed ride is good and it rides bumps very well, even the heavy variety like concrete joints. At higher speeds, the City still feels stable. There’s noticeable body roll when cornering, but that’s a more than acceptable trade-off. The electric power steering is numb, which may be discontenting to some, but it does make parking effortless. With disc brakes at every corner, the City is surefooted in braking and the pedal modulation is excellent.
Though sharing the same displacement as the Honda, the Toyota Vios’s conservative nature means it basically inherits the 1NZ-FE VVT-i engine from a generation ago. But then, why fix if it isn’t broke? Typical of a Toyota, the Vios relies on its broad torque curve rather than peak power to pull itself forward. The result is smooth takeoffs from standstill while giving adequate overtaking acceleration when needed. It doesn’t’ like to be revved and it sound asthmatic beyond 4,000 rpm so best keep this car away from highways and drag strips. Unlike the City, the Vios is still being offered with a five-speed manual, but the four-speed automatic with the test unit is the one to have. It’s a good partner to the engine, offering a responsive and smooth experience. It’s tuned to minimize revving, so the cabin is kept muted most of the time. Despite losing one forward gear against the City, the Vios exhibits slightly better mileage figures.
Though it was once available in the sporty 1.5 S package, puttering around and about town is what the Vios does best. Aside from the smooth engine and responsive transmission, the ride is dampened without being too isolated. It modulates itself well, absorbing sharp and abrupt road imperfections while keeping some degree of enthusiastic handling. The brakes do their job better and thanks to wider tires, the Vios feels more surefooted during emergency braking situations. The quick-witted steering may be good for slower speeds and parking situations, but it feels somewhat disconnected at higher speeds, limiting this car’s fun-to-drive factor.
Performance and Fuel Economy Winner: TIE
Score: Honda City (6) / Toyota Vios (3)
Value for Money
Before, pricing a sub-compact sedan above the psychological P 800,000 barrier is a sure shot in the foot; after all, there are larger sedans on offer such as the Mazda3 for around this price range. However, both the Honda City and the Toyota Vios break the mold, pricing their respective range-toppers at P 816,000 and P 810,000 respectively.
This is much more significant for the Toyota Vios since this is the first time it has cracked the P 800,000 mark (with the exception of the leather seat model). So what do you get for the P 10,000 price jump? Aside from the revamped styling inside and out, there’s no mechanical change done to the Vios since it launched in 2007. Basically, it’s the same engine, same transmission, same suspension tuning and even the same exact tire down to the size and model. The additional money you pay for goes to the improved interior fit and finish as well as the inclusion of stuff like the auxiliary audio jack.
On Honda’s side, the City’s gone up only P 10,000 since its introduction last year. The price adjustment could easily be seen as the regular price as opposed to the P 806,000 “introductory price”. On paper, the City’s certainly more expensive, but you have to remember that it has a multitude of stuff both mechanical and cosmetic that makes it the better value. The 120 horsepower engine and the five-speed automatic alone are certainly worth more than any auxiliary jack, right? And Honda’s got you covered on that front too by providing both an auxiliary jack and an USB input!
Value for Money Winner: Honda City
Score: Honda City (7) / Toyota Vios (3)
Though it fails to really set your loins on fire, the sheer predictability of Vios ownership is probably what attracts buyers to it. Ask anyone what they think of the Vios and things like bullet-proof build quality, fuel frugality and excellent value for money all pop up. The Vios has certainly gone the safe route in almost every aspect the second time around, and in today’s cutthroat car industry, that’s not enough. Of course, for some the Vios’s simplistic and no-frills attitude will probably make this their first choice.
However, Honda has managed to retain all that makes the City, the City. It’s high tech, avant-garde and certainly excellent value for money. Aside from its excellent drivetrain, the City manages to be one of the most refined cars you can buy. Though the price may be somewhat prohibitive already for some, it’s justifiable given the City’s sleek execution, solid construction and excellent features.
Winner: Honda City
By Ulysses Ang | Photos By Ulysses Ang