Buying a new car is already not an easy task, and it’s now compounded by the sheer amount of choices available to car-buyers these days. Take for example the B-segment sedans, where there was a seemingly unending streak of car launches in just the last few months.
To help ease some of your car-buying headaches, we have assembled a crack team of number-crunchers and word-chaining monkeys for this new series of articles dubbed Head-to-Head, where we will be pitting the heavyweights of each segment in Malaysia against their key rivals.
In this series, we will be comparing the different aspects of these cars to hopefully help you make a better decision. And for this inauguration entry, we will be looking at how the recently-launched Nissan Almera, Toyota Vios, as well as the Honda City measure up against each other in terms of performance. But before we get started, there are a few things to note in this comparison.
First of all, the Nissan Almera and Toyota Vios are only available with one single powertrain choice, while the Honda City has two. For the sake of simplicity, the two powertrain options will be considered as two separate entries in this comparison.
Also, where possible, we’ve chosen the cheapest variant for each entry in this comparison, as they are the lowest entry point of each model to achieve the same level of performance. Now with the general housekeeping out of the way, let’s dive right into it!
Warm Up: The Competitors
Sitting in corner A of our four-way brawl today is the Nissan Almera Turbo 1.0VL, priced at RM79,906. As the name suggests, the 1.0VL is powered by a 1.0-litre turbocharged three-cylinder engine, paired to a CVT gearbox to drive the front wheels.
Next-up is the Toyota Vios, which has just recently received a facelift makeover. With no changes under the hood, our Vios 1.5 J in this match-up continues to feature a 1.5-litre naturally-aspirated four-cylinder engine, alongside a CVT gearbox. Pricing starts at RM74,623 for the entry-level variant.
Our next contestant is the Honda City 1.5L S, boasting a new 1.5-litre naturally-aspirated four-cylinder engine with dual-overhead cams. Just like its other rivals, the City also features a CVT gearbox to send power to the front wheels. The 1.5L S variant is priced at RM73,851, the most affordable in this match-up.
Last but not least we have the Honda City RS e:HEV, the only electrified contestant in the ring with its intelligent Multi-Mode Drive (i-MMD) powertrain. The powertrain consists of a 1.5-litre naturally-aspirated engine paired to two electric motors – but only one drives the (front) wheels. Will this prove to be the key advantage to winning this match? Let’s find out together, shall we.
Round 1: Horsepower and Torque
In terms of horsepower output, The Honda City 1.5L S tops the charts at 121 hp, followed by the Toyota Vios 1.5J at 107 hp, then the Honda City RS at 108 hp, and lastly, the Nissan Almera Turbo 1.0VL with 100 whole ponies. Aside from the ICE Honda City, all other competitors are on a fairly level playing field.
However, in slower stop-go traffic within the city – where most of these cars will be spending a majority of their time, torque output will play a more significant role in the perception of power. If we’re looking at just the torque figure, the Honda City RS with its infamous 253 Nm of torque instantly rises to the top of the rankings, followed by the Nissan Almera Turbo with 152 Nm, then the Honda City 1.5L S at 145 Nm, and lastly the Toyota Vios with 140 Nm on tap.
More importantly, the electric drive on the Honda City RS means that the maximum amount of torque is available essentially at idle, giving you an improved response from a stand-still. Max torque on the Almera Turbo is not far off at 2,600 rpm, while the other two contestants have their peak torque output at 4,300 rpm and 4,200 rpm respectively.
Round 2: Power-to-weight shootout
Plain power output figures can only tell us so much; to get a clearer picture of each car’s performance, we’ll have to also factor in the car’s weight. Based on our calculations, the humble Honda City 1.5L S takes the top spot with 108 hp/tonne, thanks to its high raw output figures.
The Toyota Vios 1.5J comes in second with a horsepower-to-weight ratio of 93 hp/tonne, followed closely by the Nissan Almera Turbo 1.0VL at 92 hp/tonne. The Honda City RS, despite its higher horsepower output as compared to the Vios and Almera, ranks last in the power-to-weight shoot-out with just 87 hp/tonne, thanks to the weight penalty from its more fancy electrified powertrain.
On the flip side though, the City RS’s e:HEV powertrain delivers by far and away the highest torque-to-weight ratio at 203 Nm/tonne. The rest of the field are more closely packed together, with the Almera coming in at 139 Nm/tonne, followed by the City 1.5L S and Vios 1.5J with 129 Nm/tonne and 122 Nm/tonne respectively.
For the same reasons as mentioned above, the Honda City RS should feel the most responsive and pokey in city-driving conditions – falling in line perfect with its name. While we have not driven the all-new Honda City RS yet (it’s only scheduled for launch next year), we can confirm that the all-new Almera Turbo feels sufficiently eager in town – our full review is dropping soon, but you can check out our first impressions here.
Round 3: Performance-per-Dollar (Ringgit)
Cars are one of the largest purchase we’ll ever make in our lives, so it’s completely normal to look for every single ounce of performance out of your Ringgit. However, this simple calculation proved harder than we thought to be, solely because we still don’t have the pricing information available just yet for the Honda City RS – the car is only due for “launch” next year.
For the sake of comparison, we will be using an assumed “estimated” price of RM95,000 – though be forewarned, this is a complete speculation from our side, and will most probably not be accurate. However, the ranking below should still stand based on our various simulations at different “realistic-ish” price points, with no change in results.
Looking at the round-up of competitors in this Head-to-Head contest, the Honda City 1.5L S comes out first based on our calculations at RM610/hp. The Vios 1.5L S came in second, with each pony costing RM697, while third place went to the Nissan Almera Turbo 1.0VL with RM799/hp. The Honda City RS unfortunately ranks last, due to its lower horsepower figure and a higher price – coming in at RM880/hp.
On the torque side of things, the electrified Honda City RS unsurprisingly came out on top again with a price of just RM375/Nm. We all expected the turbocharged Nissan Almera to rank second, but the lower price of the Honda City 1.5L S actually pulled out a victory here at RM509/Nm.
The Almera Turbo drops to third place with a price of RM526/Nm, while the Toyota Vios ranks last in this comparison, at a price of RM533/Nm.
Knock-out: The Winner(s)
If you’re looking for a winner after the comparisons above, we’re sorry – there won’t be a winner. As always, the answer will depend on your use cases and requirements.
For example, say you’re someone who frequently travels on the highway at higher speeds, the Honda City might be a better choice due to its higher horsepower output (and horsepower-to-weight ratio), letting you achieve higher speeds easier.
On the flip side, if you’re someone who mostly drives their cars around the congested city roads, something like a Honda City RS or the Nissan Almera might be of better choice, thanks to their higher torque output, giving you a more enthusiastic power delivery in stop-go traffic situations.
There’s also many more things to consider than just purely performance when it comes to buying a car – some of which we will definitely explore more in the Head-to-Head series. People who spend and inordinate amount of time in their cars might value a more comfortable and functional interior more than anything else, whereas for someone who just uses it for short-distance journeys, a small nippy car might be the way to go.
And at the end of the day, your car-buying decisions should all come down to your budget. But no matter which one you choose, just know that either one of the four in our comparisons today carries more than sufficient power for what we generally expect out of them, which is to be a good commuter car.