What do you get if you want to drive something fun while also satisfying the needs of your family? Something that scratches the itch of owning a fun car while also being easy on the wallet? Well, you have two choices — the Maruti Suzuki Dzire or the new turbocharged Hyundai Aura. Let’s get past the boring stuff first. Yes, they’re both compact sedans, they both seat four people in relative comfort and five at a pinch, they return excellent fuel economy if you keep your right foot in check, and they’re priced very competitively.
You’ll be spending most of your time inside the cars, and it’s a dead heat between the two in this department. Material quality is good in the Aura and because it’s a few years newer, it looks fresher. Funnily enough, the Turbo pack seems like a bit of a downgrade in the Aura; you don’t get the cool copper accents or the interesting upholstery. Instead, you have to make do with an all-black interior with some sporty red piping — that’s going to be a hard sell for the family. Inside the Dzire, there’s nothing here that might rock the boat. All the controls are placed logically, the screen is in your field of view, the beige color scheme makes the interior seem light and airy, there are even some faux-wood accents. But you’re not here to make a buying decision based on the interiors, are you?
The Aura is like those ACME rocket-powered roller skates a certain coyote would strap on; you can mash the throttle and it takes off at any speed, in any gear. Make no mistake, it’s no muscle car, but it will definitely push you back in your seat. There is a very slight amount of turbo lag, but once you’re past 1500 rpm, power delivery is very linear. I was going to tell you that the wonderful K12 engine in the Dzire was good for some high-rpm fun, and it is, but a quick look at their spec sheets will tell you that the Aura and the Dzire make their peak power at the same 6000 rpm. There is a clear advantage to the Dzire on the gearbox front, though. The shift action is lighter than I like, but the throws are very short. In comparison, the Aura’s shifter feels notchy, which is normally not a problem, but when you have to mete out quick shifts to keep the turbo spooled, it does get in the way.
Handling, however, is a whole different story. Quick directional changes seem to throw the Aura off balance. All the improvements Hyundai made with the Grand i10 Nios, which the Aura is based on, are nowhere to be seen here. The ride is both stiff and somehow wallowy at the same time, leaving you very confused after a series of bends. The Dzire, on the other hand, has very well-controlled body movements; good damping and rebound on the suspension allows you to tackle a winding road and come away with a smile at the end. There isn’t much steering feel in either car, but the Dzire delivers a little more feedback to the driver. Let me put it this way — on a twisty road, the Aura will struggle to keep up with the Dzire, but the moment you find a straight stretch the Aura’s tail-lights will become a speck on the horizon.
Which of these would I choose? The Hyundai Aura, without a doubt! Yes, you read that right. When we got these two cars together for a comparison, I drove the Dzire for most of the day and I fell in love with it’s driving dynamics and high-revving engine. On the highway, it did feel like I had to downshift more often to overtake trucks, but the sweet handling made up for it. Or so I thought. On the way back home, I finally had a crack at the Aura and I had a wide smile plastered on my face by the time I got home.
No, it doesn’t handle nearly as well as the Dzire, but it has something the Dzire is sorely lacking — character. It shoves you back into your seat every time you floor the throttle, the exhaust note is ever-so-slightly aggressive, and a little turbo-whoosh makes its way into the cabin. As you floor it off the line and you’re wrestling with the steering to keep it going straight, you realise why you wanted a performance car in the first place. It’s not perfect, of course. But it will put a smile on your face.
Maruti Suzuki Dzire
Displacement: 1197cc, I-4, petrol
Max Power: 81 bhp@6000 rpm
Max Torque: 11.4 kgm@4200 rpm
F/R: 185/65 R15
L/W/H (mm): 3995/1735/1515
Wheelbase: 2450 mm
Kerb weight: 895 kg
Fuel capacity: 37 litres
PRICE: Rs 8.21 lakh (ex-showroom, Mumbai)
Displacement: 998cc, I-3, turbo-petrol
Max Power: 100 bhp@6000 rpm
Max Torque: 17.5 kgm@1500-4000 rpm
F/R: 175/60 R15
L/W/H (mm): 3995/1680/1520
Wheelbase: 2450 mm
Kerb weight: NA
Fuel capacity: 37 litres
PRICE: Rs 8.54 lakh (ex-showroom, Mumbai)