Shootout: Honda Amaze vs Ford Figo Aspire vs Hyundai Xcent vs Tata Zest
The Ford Figo Aspire offers a lot more than every compact sedan in the Asian market
We all know how mass-market car manufacturers are trying to cash in on the most popular segments by launching newer products. Premium hatchbacks, compact SUVs and compact sedans are some of the most preferred types of vehicles people in Asia buy today. The compact sedan segment started off with the Tata Indigo CS many years back. Then Maruti launched a booted version of the Swift and christened it the Swift DZire. However, the first generation DZire was not really a compact sedan while the second generation that was launched in 2012 was less than 4-metres in length. Honda has also been offering the Amaze since quite some time now. Hyundai then entered the segment with the Xcent while Tata developed a new compact sedan, the Zest. Initially, competition in this segment got quite interesting but later on all the interest died out when we realised that the DZire sells in 20,000 odd units each month while the Zest, Xcent and Amaze are lagging very behind in sales every month. The Xcent manages decent numbers while the Amaze has inconsistent sales. The Zest is simply selling way below we expected it to sell. Ford has now got a new battle going by launching the Figo Aspire.
Motor Quest: The Maruti Swift DZire sells in huge numbers each passing month. Its rivals are fresher but still none of them come even close to the Maruti in sales. The Zest, Xcent and Amaze are all booted versions of their hatchback counterparts and the Figo Aspire will also soon pawn a hatchback version. Compact sedans are in great demand because they offer the snob value of a sedan at the size of a premium hatchback and this is what works in Asia.
Styling – The first thing you notice on the Ford Figo Aspire is the Aston Martin inspired grille. It really stands out amongst the faces of other vehicles which are just doled up in chrome. The Zest also has a smart face and looks good with its projectors and DRLs but still the overall design is too similar to other older Tatas. The Xcent has a slightly quirky front fascia but it looks good with just the right amount of curves. I have always found the Brio and Amaze to be lookers but at present it looks quite outdated and it is begging for a refresh. The side profile of the Ford is rather simple but due to the short overhangs and the small boot, it looks a bit incomplete. The Xcent and Amaze look just the right size but the latter looks a bit ungainly from certain angles. The Zest has a smoothly-integrated boot but again it looks very disproportionate and from the front quarter angle, one can actually mistake it for a hatchback.
The Figo Aspire has a neat tailgate and the number plate is located on the rear bumper. The other three contenders have their number plates on the tailgate itself. The Zest is the only one out here to get LED DRLs as well as projector headlamps while the other three rely on basic halogen headlamps. Alloy wheels are offered on each one of them and the Xcent has easily the best-looking wheels with its diamond cut design. On the exteriors front, we rate the Figo Aspire as the best looking model while the Zest and Xcent come a close second. The Amaze could have been a winner here but it didn’t, simply because the design is dated now.
Interiors – The Figo Aspire’s interior design is very similar to the EcoSport and Fiesta but unlike the latter two, the Aspire gets a dual-tone colour scheme of black and beige and it looks appealing and lends an airy feel to the cabin. I personally prefer full-black interiors though. The Xcent and Zest both have very good-looking dashboards but the Xcent is still a notch above all and when you enter the cabin, you feel as if you’ve entered a car which is in a higher segment. The Amaze has a quirky dashboard and it simply can’t match the standards set by its rivals. In terms of quality, the Xcent has the best material quality while the Figo is close behind. The Zest also has pretty good quality components but still there are quite some inconsistencies in the car. The Amaze also has great quality interiors and everything feels tight and well put together.
While all four compact sedans come with fairly good seats, the Amaze and the Figo Aspire have the best ones, with the Xcent at a close second. The Zest also has large and supportive seats but the cushioning is very firm. The Amaze has the softest cushioning while the Xcent and Aspire are just about perfect. The Amaze and Xcent have fixed headrests at the front but the ones on the Amaze are very tall and hence they feel quite comforting. At the rear, only the Honda gets fixed headrests. The Xcent, Figo and Amaze get an armrest in the rear seat while the Zest lacks this. The Zest also has a huge transmission hump which is missing on the other three. Overall space is good on all the four sedans and even with front seats pushed back to fit in 6-footers, there is ample amount of space at the rear. The Hyundai has the biggest boot at 407-litres, followed closely by the Amaze and Zest at 400-litres and 390-litres respectively. The Ford has a boot space of 359-litres which is lesser than competition but yet it is properly accommodating.
The Aspire, Xcent and Zest are loaded with features which the Amaze shockingly misses out on
Now let’s talk about the equipment on each of these compact sedans. The Amaze is seriously lacking in this department and doesn’t even come in contention. The Figo Aspire and Xcent come with a multi-information display while the Zest also gets a similar display with most of the basic information. The Amaze has a very basic instrument cluster which has only one trip-meter. The Figo Aspire gets Ford’s SYNC system which is very informative and easy to use. The Zest gets a 5-inch touchscreen system on top variants while lower variants get a smaller 3.5-inch unit with buttons stacked at the bottom. Along with Tata, Honda also offers a new touchscreen system which was missing earlier. The Xcent gets push-button start and rear AC vents that are missing on the other three cars. The Korean also gets 1 GB internal storage for the audio system, rear parking camera and a chilled glovebox. All of them have connectivity for USB, AUX and Bluetooth but in the Amaze these adapters are stashed inside the glovebox. The Zest gets features like a Harman audio system which sounds very good but sometimes has a mind of its own. The Zest also comes with 15-inch alloys, DRLs, follow-me-home lights, IR remote and 7-speed wipers.
Even though the Tata Zest scores high in the interiors department, it loses out when we take cubby holes and storage spaces into consideration. There is just one bottle-holder at the centre and even that is pretty small to accommodate even a medium-sized bottle. The Figo Aspire has as many as 20 storage spaces while the Xcent also has a lot of them. The Amaze has adequate bins and pockets to hold your stuff too. When we take overall interiors in consideration, the Figo Aspire emerges right at the top with the Xcent and Zest having a tie at second position. The Amaze scores the least in the interior department thanks to the basic design and lack of equipment.
Performance – All four compact sedans are offered with both petrol and diesel engines and the variety is quite huge. The Figo Aspire gets two petrol engines and one diesel engine. The Zest, Xcent and Amaze get one petrol and one diesel engine each. The Zest is the only one out here to get a turbocharged petrol engine that produces 90 PS of power and 140 Nm of torque. The Figo’s 1.2-litre engine churns out 88 PS of power and 118 Nm of torque while the bigger 1.5-litre petrol engine gives out 112 PS of power and 136 Nm of torque. In comparison, the Xcent and Amaze petrol variants produce 83 PS of power and 114 Nm of torque and 88 PS of power and 114 Nm of torque respectively. The Ford goes from standstill to 100 km/hr in roughly 13.5 seconds while the Amaze and Xcent complete the 0-100 km/hr sprint in 12.5 seconds and 13.28 seconds. The Zest does 0-100 km/hr in 16.62, 15.94 and 13.68 seconds in Eco, City and Sports mode respectively. The Figo automatic takes around 11 seconds for the same.
The petrol Zest is easy to drive while the Amaze is a lot of fun for enthusiasts
The Figo Aspire with the 1.2-litre petrol engine has very good low-end power delivery and hence the vehicle is very chuck-able while driving in the city. Less gearshifts are required to drive the vehicle in the city and hence it makes for a very convenient proposition. However, the mill’s performance is slightly lacking on the highway. In comparison, the Zest Revotron has excellent drivability with a very sedate feel. The vehicle also gets three modes to choose from – Eco, Sport and City and these modes change the way the engine responds to throttle inputs. The Amaze i-VTEC is the fastest petrol car here and it is capable of a lot, but Honda has limited its top speed to 140 km/hr which is a bit of a letdown (not that you’re going to do those speeds everyday). Even though the Xcent has the least power, it still manages to drive well and is satisfyingly quick. Talking about the 1.5-litre engine on the Ford, the powerplant comes mated to a 6-speed DCT gearbox and Ford has worked on its low-end to provide better response.
Coming to fuel efficiency, the Figo Aspire 1.2-litre generates 18.16 km/l while the bigger 1.5-litre mill extracts 17.2 km/l. The Amaze has a mileage figure of 18 km/l while the Xcent runs 19.1 kms on a litre of petrol. In terms of 1.2-litre engines, the Zest has the least fuel efficiency of 17.6 km/l. However, all these figures have been obtained from ARAI and the actual figures in daily use differ by a significant margin at times. All these cars are offered with a 5-speed manual gearbox. The Amaze also gets a 5-speed auto box while the Xcent comes with a 4-speed automatic transmission. The 6-speed DCT unit on the Figo Aspire is the best in segment without doubt. The clutches on all four cars are very light. Gearshifts are also pretty smooth and it is the Xcent which has the slickest gearbox.
Talking about diesel engines, the Figo Aspire comes with the same 1.5-litre oil-burner that powers the EcoSport and Fiesta. The engine gives out 100 PS of power and 215 Nm of torque. The Amaze also gets a 1.5-litre diesel engine that produces 100 PS and 200 Nm. The Zest comes with the famed 1.3-litre MultiJet engine capable of producing 90 PS of power and 200 Nm of torque. The base variant of the Zest gets the lower 75 PS and 190 Nm tune. The Xcent has a 1.1-litre, 3-cylinder unit that belts out 72 PS of power and 180 Nm of torque. The Ford accelerates from 0-100 km/hr in massively quick 9.72 seconds while the Zest AMT does the same sprint in 15.34 seconds. The Amaze is quick at 11.82 seconds from 0-100 km/hr while the Xcent is the slowest at 15.85 seconds.
The Aspire & Amaze have similar power yet the former leaves the latter biting the dust with ease
The Ford Figo Aspire boasts of excellent mid-range and it offers terrific drivability in the city. The top-end is not that good and the engine does make its growl quite eminent after 3500 RPM, the Aspire is still good to drive even on highways and it touches high speeds with ease. The Amaze also churns out sprightly performance and is quite fun to drive. Power delivery is straight and the vehicle loves lurching across roads with quick acceleration. NVH levels are pretty bad though. The Zest is again quick and has almost zero lag felt. The engine is tuned for better drivability. The Xcent is a 3-cylinder engine and yet behaves in a very mature way. Power delivery is very linear and NVH levels are nicely contained.
The Figo Aspire is very frugal with a claimed fuel efficiency of 25.83 km/l while the Amaze has a similar figure of 25.8 km/l. The Xcent follows very closely at 24.4 km/l and again the Zest has the worst fuel efficiency of this lot at 23 km/l. All of these are ARAI figures and real-life figures may depend on driving style and road conditions. The Figo Aspire has a fuel tank capacity of 40-litres while the Xcent, Zest and Amaze have 42, 44 and 35-litres respectively. The Zest is the only diesel car here to be offered with an automatic gearbox, an AMT to be precise. The gearbox is so slow to respond and so laggy that it steals the driving fun from the vehicle. Overtaking other vehicles inspires zero confidence with this AMT unit and later on we mostly drove on manual mode. However, those who like sedate driving will find the AMT a big boon.
Driving Dynamics – All these compact sedans use an electric power steering. The Figo Aspire has good steering feel, it is slightly vague in the centre but then it steadily weighs up as the vehicle gains speed. The Zest and Amaze also provide pretty good feedback and their steering is really confidence-inspiring. The Xcent has a very light unit which seems quite lifeless. The light steering is a boon while driving in the city but when you drive fast on highways, the steering doesn’t weigh up much and you need to keep a firm hand on it. The Xcent, however, has the best brakes and even the Figo scores high on the braking front. The Figo has a turning radius of 4.9-metres while the Zest is a bit higher at 5.1-metres. The petrol and diesel Amaze have a turning radius of 4.5-metres and 4.7-metres respectively. The Xcent has a radius of 4.7-metres too.
The Zest has very good ride quality while the Amaze has poor NVH
The Aspire has amazingly good ride quality and the suspension does a terrific job of maintaining the car’s composure over different types of road surfaces. The Zest is also very, very capable in this department and has excellent ride quality and is also the only one to have Cornering Stability Control. The suspension on the Xcent is softly-sprung and ride quality is good while the Amaze comes in at last position thanks to its poor insulation levels. The ride is quite decent though but still lots of thuds manage to filter inside the cabin. All cars remain pretty much stable at high speeds but it is the Figo and Zest which score high here.
Safety and After Sales Service – Ford has played the safety card well with the Figo Aspire having dual airbags as standard on every variant while the Titanium+ variant gets six airbags. The Aspire also gets a unique MyKey feature which helps restrict top speed to as low as 100 km/hr (a useful feature when new or young drivers are using the car). The Zest comes with dual front airbags on the top three variants while the Xcent and Amaze get airbags only on the top trims. Talking about ABS, Ford offers it on the Titanium and Titanium+ variant while Tata offers ABS on every variant except the base trim. The Amaze gets ABS on every diesel variant while the petrol model gets it only in the top trim. Hyundai offers ABS as optional on the mid and top variants of the Xcent. The Figo Aspire automatic also comes with ESP, TCS and Hill Hold Assist. Hyundai has the best service experience out of all four and Tata also has a huge network but the experience isn’t very satisfactory. Ford and Honda have good service but the former has more service centres than the latter.
Verdict We did a similar shootout last year between the Hyundai Xcent, Maruti DZire, Tata Zest and Honda Amaze and it was the Zest which emerged to be the winner. The Xcent came in at second position while the Amaze and DZire bagged the third and fourth positions respectively. You might be wondering why we chose not to use the DZire in this comparison, since it is the best selling compact sedan and also the second highest selling car in the country. There is a reason behind this. The Amaze was launched first and it was better than the Maruti but yet it failed to create a dent in its sales. Then Hyundai brought in the Xcent which offered a significantly higher value proposition than the DZire and even that failed to affect the DZire’s sales. With the Tata Zest having come last year, we expected a lot from it and again the Maruti Swift DZire proudly and consistently maintained its position and sales. Hence, we just decided to keep it out of contention this time and talk about the other four compact sedans as no matter what cars come in the segment, none is actually rivalling the DZire.
The Ford Figo Aspire is an excellent compact sedan and offers a lot. It comes with six airbags that are a segment first and also comes with a dual-clutch automatic transmission while the others get either a conventional automatic gearbox or a CVT or an AMT. Ford has also priced the vehicle aggressively and the vehicle is a very sweet deal overall. Hence, our pick in this shootout would be the 2015 Ford Figo Aspire. Choosing the vehicle that comes second is quite difficult. Both the Zest and Xcent are again excellent products and come with nice engines, good quality interiors and a long equipment list. However, Tata increased the prices of the Zest recently while Hyundai continues to trump the desi automaker in after-sales service. Therefore, the Xcent bags the second position and the Zest comes in at third. The Honda Amaze is undoubtedly a great car in this segment but loses out despite being so fun to drive and even though I’ve always been a fan of Honda cars, I wouldn’t buy it due to some missing features, limited top speed and now dated looks.
Ford has completely nailed the compact sedan segment in Asia by launching the Figo Aspire at a good price point. The Hyundai Xcent and Tata Zest are also very good value-for-money and all three are very capable. The Ford wins this comparo just because it offers a notch more than the others. The Amaze is a great car but needs some updates which we think Honda will soon give the vehicle.
Picture Editing – Sri Manikanta Achanta
Further Reading –
Ford Figo Aspire Test Drive Review
Tata Zest Revotron Review
Tata Zest AMT Review
Hyundai Xcent Review
Hyundai Xcent Long Term Review
Honda Amaze Review
Honda Amaze Long Term Review
Tata Zest vs Maruti DZire Review
Honda Amaze vs Maruti DZire Review
Hyundai Xcent vs Honda Amaze vs Maruti DZire
Maruti DZire vs Honda Amaze vs Tata Zest vs Hyundai Xcent