Let's get straight to the biggest differentiator - the engines. The petrol model is powered by a 1.5-litre four-cylinder engine producing 119bhp and 145Nm of torque. Honda wanted to achieve both high output and low fuel consumption through this i-VTEC DOHC engine. We are testing the six-speed manual here, while it’s also offered with an optional CVT about which you can read here. Meanwhile, the diesel counterpart gets a 1.5-litre four-cylinder unit that churns out 98bhp and 200Nm of torque. This i-DTEC mill is said to be cleaner and quieter and only comes mated to a six-speed manual gearbox.
We began with the diesel whose characteristic clatter and engine noise used to be quite audible in the cabin. Thankfully, this time it feels a tad subdued than before. Yet, it still gets noisy as the revs start building and we think the NVH levels can still be better. Even the road noise is heard inside. But what demands your attention is how quickly it gets off the mark, and how nicely it revs till its 4,000rpm redline. Even if the power curve starts to taper off at around 3,600rpm, it managed to sprint from 0-100kmph in 12.82 seconds. This isn't bad especially in wet weather conditions that we tested it on. It even feels quick through the gears. A true testament of this is a time of 8.61 seconds for the 20-80kmph run in third gear, and 14.81 seconds for the 40-100kmph run in fourth gear. Not only does it amble around nicely at revs as low as 1,500rpm, the abundant torque never made it feel that it will stall. However, the gear shifting is not up to our liking as the shifts are a little hard and a smoother engagement could have been a delight. However it’s not a concern as there's plenty of usable torque that ensures gear shifting isn’t required very frequently. What’s more, the clutch isn’t very heavy and this oil-burner’s low-speed performance should also help it be a lot frugal.
Now, the petrol, on the other hand, is way quieter than the diesel at start-up. It comes across as easy-going as compared to the diesel, but still is responsive to throttle inputs. The tachometer needle pulls eagerly to the 6,800rpm redline. In fact, this car also has an engine note to appease enthusiasts. However, it’s not a very likeable raspy one. Instead, we would have preferred it to work more quietly instead. Nonetheless, this car’s higher power output speaks for itself as it helps the sedan accelerate faster to 100kmph from standstill in 10.57 seconds. Despite the tall gearing as compared to the diesel, and being able to extract more power at higher engine speeds, early gear shifts are acceptable. It's tractable around town too and moves easily at around 2,000-2,500rpm. Responses aren't very quick before this, but it never feels bogged down. It did an in-gear time of 11.5 seconds in the 20-80kmph run in third gear and took 17.14 seconds to complete the 40-100kmph run in fourth gear. Slower here than the diesel, but not at all displeasing. Besides, it easily sprints with a downshift or whenever the tachometer is above 3,000rpm. Also, the gearstick here moves smoother than in the diesel, slots in well, but still isn’t very slick. Yet, it feels effortless as compared to the diesel and isn't distracting when a quick shift is needed. The light clutch action makes things even easier. And thanks to its strong mid-range and top-end, overtaking even a big vehicle doesn’t make the driver feel nervous, while it cruises smoothly at triple-digit speeds.