2021 Honda City vs Toyota Vios in Malaysia – sportiest RM106k e:HEV RS hybrid and RM95k GR Sport shown – paultan.org
The Honda City and Toyota Vios have been fierce rivals over the past few decades, and while the advent of affordable national SUVs mean that they aren’t the industry titans they once were, the arrival of two brand-new models is still a very big deal. Here, we have the top-of-the-range variants, offering the sportiest looks and the highest-performing powertrains (well, sort of).
In the H corner, you have the all-new fifth-generation City sedan, seen here in RS trim with the novel e:HEV hybrid system. Challenging it for top honours for the T brand is the third-generation Vios in its latest facelifted guise, dressed to the nines in full GR Sport garb – it’s the first model to wear the badge here.
Despite its much sportier design, it’s the Vios that’s the cheapest of the two, retailing at RM95,294 on-the-road without insurance. The high-tech, high-voltage City is a full RM10,000 dearer, coming in at a steep RM105,950. Both prices include a full sales and service tax (SST) rebate, as they are CKD locally assembled – the Honda in Pegoh, Melaka, the Toyota in Shah Alam.
Let’s start with the headline figures first. The City technically holds the power advantage with a total system output of 126 PS, but not without a few caveats. Most of the time, the car is motivated by a torquey 108 PS/253 Nm electric motor, while its 98 PS/127 Nm 1.5 litre Atkinson-cycle i-VTEC four-cylinder engine is used mainly as a generator to charge the battery and juice the motor.
The petrol mill can also clutch in via a single-speed transmission to drive the car directly at higher speeds, where it is most efficient. The car can also engage both power sources when more oomph is required, such as when overtaking – that’s when the e:HEV RS reaches maximum power.
The Vios trades all that complexity for a relatively simple 1.5 litre Dual VVT-i four-pot, shared with the rest of the range and producing 107 PS at 6,000 rpm and 140 Nm of torque at 4,200 rpm. Sure, it’s a little old-school and the figures don’t exactly jump off the page, but there are no electrics and no fuss.
A CVT once again takes up transmission duties, but it’s been retuned for the GR Sport. The number of virtual ratios has increased from seven to ten, accessible in the upgraded Sport mode that also holds onto gears for longer before “shifting up”. You can also take manual control using either the paddle shifters or the gearlever.
As mentioned, the City is all-new from the ground up, sharing its bones with the latest Jazz (unfortunately not sold here) and new HR-V. Its honey-I-shrunk-the-FC-Civic design has been augmented with the RS (short for Road Sailing, apparently) kit that includes a honeycomb grille, a black grille bar, finned fog light surrounds and a sportier rear bumper design with a fake carbon fibre diffuser. Completing the aesthetic are 16-inch alloy wheels in a two-tone finish compared to the V variant‘s all-silver affair.
The Vios retains the same fluid design as before, but with a new front fascia that provides a more aggressive (and, dare I say it, handsome) appearance. Gone is the massive grin of the outgoing model, replaced by a downturned maw that goes well with the slim upper grille and trapezoidal headlights – now fitted with LEDs as standard across the range.
The Toyota is also the sportier-looking of the two cars here, as befits the GR Sport badging. The deep chin spoiler and large fake corner air intakes give the car more than a passing resemblance to the full-fat GR Yaris, while the side and rear skirting, the gloss black “moustache” rear bumper insert and a prominent gloss black bootlid spoiler continue the theme. The multi-spoke wheels are an inch larger than on the G model (and the City RS), measuring a massive 17 inches in diameter.
Inside, the differences continue, with the City sporting a clean horizontal dashboard design and a smattering of soft-touch leather trim to improve perceived quality. The Vios, on the other hand, features the same dashboard it has used since 2018, with hard plastics, fake stitching and a conventional centre console.
Moving on to the infotainment, both models come with aftermarket head units, although the Honda’s built-in system trumps the Toyota’s double-DIN unit in terms of touchscreen size – eight inches across versus seven. However, both support Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and the Vios also has the benefit of a 360-degree camera system instead of the City’s single reverse camera.
Both the RS and GR Sport models net you black combination leather upholstery (with fabric on the RS and suede on the GR Sport) and red stitching, although the Toyota goes one further with GR headrest embroidery, a GR-branded starter button and floor mats, illuminated tread plates and a GR startup screen on the 4.2-inch multi-info display for some extra kudos. The Honda doesn’t have any of those flourishes but counters by having a seven-inch part-digital instrument cluster with hybrid-specific displays.
Being range-topping models, both the City and Vios are kitted to the brim with LED headlights, fog lights and taillights, keyless entry, push-button start, single-zone automatic climate control and front arm rests. The Honda gets rear air vents and an additional two speakers (eight speakers, instead of six for the Toyota), while the Toyota receives a Qi wireless charger, front parking sensors, a front dash cam and an auto-dimming rear-view mirror; otherwise they’re even-stevens.
These cars also star on the safety front, with both coming with autonomous emergency braking and lane departure warning. The full Honda Sensing suite also adds adaptive cruise control, lane centring assist and automatic high beam. While the Vios has a blind spot monitor, the City has a LaneWatch camera, but without any warning function. A minimum of six airbags (seven for the Vios) and stability control are standard-fit.
So, which do you prefer? Are you Team Honda or Team Toyota? Sound off in the comments section after the jump. Of course, we’ve driven these cars and you can look forward to both written and video reviews of each of these two cars, so stay tuned for more.
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