Honda City

Talk about clever packaging

"There's lot of space in the rear, as much as in midsized sedans" said Ershad

"The new City has a sporty design in general"

"Honda has achieved a lightweight and high rigidity sedan body structure"

"Honda's objectives were driven by customer demand"

Finally, we get to see innovative engineering. When Honda realized the risk in doing minor touchups to launch a revised model, it wasn't too late. The new Honda City had a regional launch in Dubai and a quick glance through the car was enough to see the effort. We took the car for a weekend and I can tell you, "The car was planned and designed to achieve lot of space, better fuel efficiency and great looks with a fresh infotainment package." We are talking about the sub compact sedan segment, where a minor "good or bad" can easily tempt a buyer to flip his choice - as we aren't short of alternatives.

Driving Impressions
A little background. It's the 6th generation Thai-built Honda City which is based on a Honda Jazz platform 3rd generation. The wheelbase is 2600mm long which is precisely 50mm longer. The extra length was used to make a dimension that offers extra head and leg room for rear passengers. Honda basically followed the philosophy "man maximum machine minimum" where the aim was to maximize the space inside and minimize the space required for machinery. There's lot of space in the rear, as much as in midsize sedans, and so Honda City easily tops the league in terms of capacity.

The new City has a sporty design in general. There's a sharp downward angle from the bonnet leading to a chunky piece of grille. The front spoiler embedded with fog lamps further add to the mass to give a bold look. You'll not know how tall the car is until you've seen the rear side. We had the shark fin antenna mounted on our tester, which was a top of the range EX. Turn indicators on the door mirrors is a standard feature and our EX model has a lovely set of 16" alloy wheels. Nicely crafted curves over the front and rear wheels could be a follow up to the overall makeover with new striking lines. Honda City is available in six exterior colors amongst which Golden Brown Metallic is the newly added one - goes well with the local taste, they said.

As much I've said about interior ergonomics of the new Honda City, I should also highlight the newly introduced climate control and infotainment system. Auto air-conditioning system is a first in its class feature on the EX grade with touchscreen control panel and available rear AC vents. Oh, did I say touch screen? Yes, a 7" TFT touchscreen. So this can integrate smartphones (iPhone only for now) and get you Bluetooth hands-free telephone connectivity, audio system with AM/FM, USB, Bluetooth streaming channels and detailed trip computer information. The touch feedback was just about okay and can feel better with a haptic feedback. The dashboard layout looks simple and tidy. Under the touchscreen there were few more touch buttons for climate control. So basically, physical buttons were totally expelled. Average hard plastic material covered most of the interior and that's a downside. But there are shiny black panels around the steering mount and silver colored panel strips in the dash. Our EX variant was equipped with smart entry, one-push engine start/stop button.

It's the same 1.5L i-VTEC petrol engine with an output power 118 hp @ 6600 rpm and a maximum torque of 146 Nm @ 4600 rpm. This engine is mated to the new generation CVT transmission. Honda has achieved lightweight and high rigidity sedan body structure thanks to the usage of high tensile steel. The car has disc brakes for front wheels and a normal drum brake in the rear. For a comfortable ride, City has MacPherson struts front suspension and high rigidity H-shaped twist beam rear suspension.

In terms of safety features, we have a list that includes driver and front passenger SRS airbags, ABS, EBD, impact mitigating headrests reducing possibility of neck injury in rear impacts and safety pedestrian injury mitigation technology.

For a car with 118hp to deliver, I know what to expect. We should be content if the car is responsive, quiet and easy to handle. Speed progression from standstill to over 100kph was mostly on a smoother side. Unwanted noise from the road and engine was barely heard while in city limits (100kph). So we sensed an overall refined behavior.

But then comes the villain. Steering was too light and we expect a little more feedback. The high rear side, which I mentioned earlier, had a side effect - it limits visibility when you look behind while reversing. Body roll was mostly under control and there was decent grip out of those 16" alloy wheels. Brakes were strong enough to stop you in high speed but still needs character for a comfy ride in city. The ECON button is now introduced in the City and substantially limits the usage of fuel as less as 6.2liters/100km on straight roads. Quality of ride with infotainment options further add to the positives. The best part is the feedback you get from rear passengers. They get more space and also cool A/C quite quickly thanks to rear A/C vents.

Verdict
The Honda team has done a great job to come up with a revised model of City. Objectives were driven by customer demand. Looks, fuel economy, infotainment package and most importantly interior room were the targets to achieve. We find them totally successful. From a pricing perspective, they may stand a little higher than rivals but that's justified with the overall package - exactly the reason why they can book a seat just above rivals!

Pros: Very spacious inside, fuel economy, front looks, quiet, decent handling
Cons: Steering too light - needs better feedback, rear visibility while reversing, price close to Civic
Rivals: Toyota Yaris sedan, Hyundai Accent, Chevrolet Sonic, Ford Fiesta
Engine: 1.5 L, i4 cylinders, i-VTEC engine, 118 hp, 146 Nm
Transmission: CVT, FWD
Performance: 0-100 kph: 10.5 sec, 7.5 L /100 km, Top speed: 190 kph
Weight: 1092 kg
One word: Package

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