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Contra Vento

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Honda City

The leader in the premium three-box segment, the City is the car the Vento has in its sights. Honda’s best-seller manages an average of almost 4,000 units a month. While there’s always the Honda brand image that works in the City’s favour, the car also has many things going for it. The radical lines of the car make it look as if it’s come from tomorrow, while the effervescent 116 bhp 1.5-litre motor loves to sing at the upper reaches of the tachometer — while still managing 10 kpl in lousy urban driving conditions. The insides of the City also make you feel special, while there is ample legroom for those who still shy away from sampling that gem of an i-VTEC engine. The one sore point of the City is its suspension set-up, which doesn’t treat rear passengers too well. Oh, and it’s not exactly value for money.   Maruti Suzuki SX4

The ‘slow’ seller from Maruti Suzuki still manages about 1,800-2,000 units a month. The SX4 is excellent bang for the buck, but the problem is its smaller sibling, the Dzire, itself seems to undercut the poor SX4. Earlier apprehensions of customers regarding the SX4’s thirsty habits plus a rear seat that was uncomfortable for the middle passenger made people shy away from the car. But now, the SX4’s 104 bhp 1.6-litre has become more refined, with Variable Valve Timing, while the engineers have made the rear suspension a bit more pliant. The underpinnings of the SX4 plus the 16-inch rubber on the ZXi version make it a car that can take on bad roads effortlessly. The addition of an automatic gearbox fills up a slot that was empty. Volkswagen will have to look closely at the SX4’s pricing if they want to provide value for the Indian customer.   Hyundai Verna Transform

It’s been transformed, but we don’t know if it’s for the better. The Verna’s new interiors follow the blue treatment seen in the i20, which is quite nice. But the exterior redesign has made it a bit of an oddity, with superfluous touches that contribute nothing to its earlier staid appearance. The Verna is a bit of an all-rounder, excelling at nothing but not underperforming in any category either. The 1.5 CRDi motor however is powerful and torquey, similar to that of the Vento’s. Plus the diesel is the only one in the category to come with an automatic gearbox. The 1.6-litre petrol motor is breezy and has the horses to prove it. Hyundai manages to push about 1,200-1,500 units of the Verna each month and with the Transform version, hope to take that figure up to 2,000.   Fiat Linea

The gorgeous Linea looks big and expensive, but it’s pretty good bang for the buck actually. The Linea is comprehensively loaded, with many feel-good features, and its ride quality is the best among the quartet over here. It has a 90 bhp version of the 1.3 diesel motor and an 86 bhp 1.4 petrol option. A more powerful 112 bhp version of the same petrol motor with an automatic gearbox is on the anvil. The weakness of the Linea remains the perception of Fiat’s dismal after-sales service record, while attention is not paid to the car’s build quality. That apart, the Linea is a well-rounded package that’s looking attractive — Fiat manages to push about 1,000 units a month, though it has the potential to do more.