First the numbers, the Dzire gets a 1197cc, four-cylinder petrol motor developing 82bhp/113Nm while the Amaze is powered by a 1199cc motor with as many cylinders and 89bhp/110Nm. The difference here though is with the drivetrain – the Amaze uses Honda’s tried-and-tested CVT gearbox with infinite ratios while the Maruti uses a much simpler automated manual transmission with 5 speeds.
Starting with the latter, its easy to underestimate the petrol-AMT combo on paper alone – it’s proven to be an effective powertrain in all our previous tests, with most of CarWale’s testers rating it to be the least jerky AMT-driven option out there. Coming back to the car, the Dzire petrol isn’t any more powerful compared to the old car but it is considerably lighter and that makes all the difference. Even a slight nudge to the throttle makes the Dzire leap forward with plenty of zest. The motor, in fact, is responsive and has a linear pull from low engine speeds, which makes it great for city driving. The 5-speed AMT in here does a good job of changing cogs in the city. It always upshifts in the meat of the torque band while downshifts are surprisingly smooth. It’s only during heavy acceleration that you will get that typical AMT pause in between gearshifts. This effect can be somewhat dampened in manual mode by lifting off the throttle while upshifting.
The 1.2-litre i-VTEC motor of the Amaze is more audible all the time although that’s down to the CVT working its way to propel the car forwards. Even so, the Amaze is not as refined as the Dzire despite Honda putting in some work on reducing the NVH – there’s more of engine and road noise filtering into the cabin as compared to the Maruti. In terms of performance, this engine too pulls in a linear fashion all the way to 6,600rpm redline although there is a mild surge at about 4,000rpm as the i-VTEC kicks in. The seven-step CVT offers what’s expected of it, delivering power seamlessly and as long as you don’t floor it, the Amaze picks up pace in a butter-smooth manner. That said, under heavy acceleration, the Amaze suffers heavily from the trademark rubber band effect wherein there is an instant rise in engine revs in proportion to the speed. Slot the lever into S and the revs climb up and stay close to the midrange where the meat of the power is, but doing so results in more engine noise. The best way to drive the Amaze CVT is by keeping the transmission in D and using part throttle to gain momentum.
Naturally, the Dzire marches ahead in acceleration. In everyday traffic conditions such as merging onto a main road or overtaking other cars, it’s more responsive and feels more immediate as long as you keep it in the power band. In our acceleration and in-gear tests, it clocked a respectable 12.86 seconds for the 0-100kmph run and took 8.28 seconds to hit 20-80kmph. The Amaze, on the other hand, was noticeably slower (0-100kmph in 15.07 seconds, 20-80kmph in 9.90 seconds).
Despite the longer wheelbase and wider track over the old car, the new Amaze CVT is around 20kgs lighter. What’s more, Honda has tweaked the suspension geometry for better ride quality and it shows. At low speeds its not as stiff as it used to be, absorbing bumps and imperfections with a soft edge. However, because its now running comparatively softer set up, the Amaze exhibits a lot of that unpleasant up and down motion at highway speeds. The new Dzire, meanwhile, is better suited at high speeds with the way it settles at the rear – it’s noticeably quieter and more planted. At low speeds, its fractionally firmer than the Honda, but when loaded it offers a near flawless ride. The Dzire also performed better under hard braking – in our 80kmph to zero brake test, the lighter Dzire pulled up nearly a metre short.