At risk of stating the painfully obvious, the City just doesn’t have an answer to the Vento TDI’s running costs or, for that matter, value-for- money. But that isn’t the question we’re asking here. Our question is slightly more complicated: which is the best C-segment sedan in the country? Or, more to the point is the City still the best mid-size sedan you can buy?
The Vento kicks off the challenge rather smartly with that oil-burner, an engine that is so surprisingly good, it can battle on equal terms with Honda’s iVTEC. Diesels were always engines you opted for because diesel was cheap. Not this diesel though. It has performance to spare, all that low-down grunt makes it is easier to drive in the city, the performance is more easily accessible and it is almost as refined when you’re giving it the beans. In the real world this TDI engine is every bit a match for the iVTEC, plus of course there’s the significantly lower running costs.
Then there’s space. By stretching the Polo platform VW has managed to give the Vento a few millimetres more rear knee room than the City’s. That’s an outstanding achievement. And the Vento’s interiors are much better made with far greater quality and noise isolation than the City’s. The thing is the City’s engine is so refined’ it doesn’t need any sound deadening. At idle you can’t hear or feel the engine ticking. But when you rev the engine, it gets almost as loud as the Vento’s diesel and because there’s not much sound isolation, outside noises intrude very readily into the cabin. The wipers are loud and audible and you can hear the suspension falling into potholes and ruts. The ride and handling may only be a fraction off the Vento’s new benchmark but while the Vento feels robust and Germanic the City feels fragile and Japanese.
Looks like the City is finished? Not quite and here’s why. The Vento’s interiors might be well finished and what not but the fact is this is a Polo cabin with a different colour scheme (I actually prefer the Polo’s colours). Sitting in the back of the Vento feels like sitting in stretched Polo. It feels like a large hatch with space akin to, say, an i20, and when you think of it, maybe this is what the Polo should have offered in the first place (instead of those cramped confines). And think about this: if you’re buying a Vento at ` 8 lakh, don’t you want to sit in a cabin that’s different to what your colleague bought at ` 4 lakh?
The City’s on the other hand, horrid silver-finish centre console and bizarre USB-only soundsystem aside, does feel like a slightly more upmarket cabin. You grip a steering wheel that befits an expensive car. There are audio controls on the Civic-like steering wheel. Even if the quality is not a patch on the Vento, the City’s cabin is more stylish. This is not a stretched Jazz and that’s a crucial point.
But even more crucially, the City has the more comfortable cabin. The windscreen is much further away from your nose (and the dash goes on for longer in front of you) which does wonders for enhancing the feeling of spaciousness. Of airiness. Up front the seats are wider. The footwell is significantly wider with a comfortable dead pedal. The central console doesn’t dig into your knee. The door pad has enough space for you to comfortably rest your right elbow. You feel like you have more space to move around, you don’t feel cooped inside.
Get in the back and the Vento’s trick becomes obvious: to liberate more headroom the Vento’s rear seats are sighted lower which means you have a lower H-point and so have to crawl into the car. Since the seat squab is lower, your knees are bent upwards and the back rest angle is too upright. And while they could stretch the Polo they couldn’t widen it so the shoulder room is tighter. The result is the Vento isn’t as comfortable to be chauffeured around in as the City.
Come to think of it, isn’t that why the City is (and always has been) the default choice in this segment? It doesn’t have a diesel engine and I won’t be surprised if the Vento outsells the City on the strength of that alone (and lower price) but the City isn’t a stretched hatchback.
Personally I think the City looks nicer but that doesn’t matter. What matters is that it looks and feels unique. It retains that aura of premiumness, expensiveness and exclusivity which the Vento (thanks to many, many Polo’s) won’t have. And it still has the most comfortable cabin in this class. It’s a close run thing but in the photo-finish the City still remains the car to beat.