- Published On: 30 March 2017
- 7 min read
Is the new Honda City still the hot selling formula that its predecessors have been?
Once every five or six years, Honda brings a brand new City to India that is a huge departure from the car it replaces. And to Honda’s credit, each car goes on to become the mid-sizer to beat. So, when you look at the fourth-generation City’s design, which looks more evolutionary rather than radical, you might be a bit disappointed initially. But, before you jump to conclusions, let’s take a closer look at the capable Honda and see what tricks Honda has hidden under its sleeve.
On the outside
From its rather safe exterior, it’s clear then that the company has focussed on pleasing the masses. After all, it’s the common consumer that will eventually let Honda meet the lofty sales targets it has set for the City. Also, Honda finally caved and has given in to the country’s demand for a diesel engine. So, just how good is the new fourth-gen City?
The slightly garish chrome slab on the grille adds richness to the front and the sleekly cut and technical-looking twin headlamps add to its overall appeal. As far as shape is concerned, for once, Honda has stuck to the old car’s design and gone with its ‘Arrow Shot’ silhouette, albeit a sharper iteration. The sharper creases on the bumper are all part of Honda’s new design language, christened ‘Exciting H’. The attractive Civic-like tail-lamps are wide and extend into the boot lid. The City is 1,695mm wide and the car sits on skinny 175-section tyres and smallish wheels, which give it slightly odd proportions. In its quest for fuel efficiency, Honda has stuck with narrow 175/65 R15 tyres, which may disappoint enthusiasts.
The chassis that underpins this car is 24 percent more rigid and is lighter too. Honda used higher-tensile steel in the body and lightweight parts in the suspension to achieve this. The company also moved the fuel tank back to its conventional position under the rear seat which saves weight as well as cost. Together, these have resulted in a good 45kg weight reduction over the previous manual car, while the CVT is an impressive 75kg lighter than the previous automatic.
The company has its priorities clear. Fuel efficiency takes precedence over all other driving attributes and it is for this reason that Honda has lowered friction with a manic focus, wherever possible. There’s now a sixth gear for cruising on the highway, further reducing consumption. Even though its ground clearance is 165mm, the company has cleverly shaped the underbody such that the areas that typically scrape on speedbreakers or bumps have been recessed in.
The major addition in this car is its diesel engine - the same 1.5-litre i-DTEC motor that’s found in the Amaze. This 98.6bhp motor’s job is to deliver the best possible driveability and fuel economy – Honda’s first diesel in India has managed to deliver just that. Step on the accelerator and the motor pulls cleanly from as low as 1800rpm all the way to its rather modest 4400rpm limit. The diesel City hits 100kph in a modest 14.75 seconds – it’s not the quickest in its class. Where it shines though is snappy low-end response, exactly what you need when driving in the city. Also, it’s best to keep this engine at low revs because it starts to sound pretty noisy when you rev it hard.
From behind the wheel
In a bid to make it quieter, Honda claims to have added more noise insulation material and tweaked the engine. However, the all-aluminium motor is fairly noisy despite this. Honda’s forte is the petrol engine and expectedly, there are no refinement issues here. Though it’s the same 1.5-litre i-VTEC motor from before, Honda has tweaked it substantially and it shows. It’s remarkable how these tweaks have added incredible flexibility to this engine. You will love how, the minute you floor the accelerator, the tacho needle sweeps cleanly from as low as 1,700rpm to all the way past 7,000rpm. Flat out, this car hits 100kph in just 10.13sec, setting the benchmark in its class.
The City isn’t the most composed when you chuck it into a corner, with its tyres fighting for grip, but it isn’t half as bad as you may imagine for such a large car with such skinny tyres. The electric power steering has also been reworked to be more accurate and is now more realistically weighted.
At expressway speeds, the City shows rather noteworthy composure, even when suddenly confronted by a rough patch. However, at low speeds, the ride isn’t exactly plush and sharper edges thump into the cabin quite easily. Honda claims the diesel City is the most efficient car in the country, with highway and city figures of 19.5kpl and 14.2kpl respectively. The petrol’s quite efficient too. We saw figures of 11kpl and 17kpl, city and highway – way ahead of its rivals. The only hitch is the tiny 40-litre tank.
On the inside
Step inside, and this is where Honda has really focussed its effort. The equipment list is long, and includes four 12V power sockets, keyless entry and go, a sunroof, cruise control, steering-mounted controls, electric folding mirrors and a rear AC vent as standard on the top-spec VX version. All variants get ABS, EBD and at least one airbag as standard (higher trims get two), and it doesn’t stop there.
Saying the new City’s cabin is spacious is an understatement. Hop in and you’ll instantly notice how incredibly comfortable the seats are, especially the driver’s. The generous seat cushioning all around gives you the feeling of being in a car that’s at least a segment above. Honda’s packaging prowess is best experienced at the back. There’s an incredible amount of knee room here and there’s more than enough space for three people, thanks to the car’s flat floor and wide cabin, which according to Honda is 40mm wider. However, headroom is surprisingly limited and taller folk will find the roof too close. The cavernous boot can hold up to 510 litres - easily the best in the segment.
The instruments are very easy to read both in the day and at night. Blue accents in the dials guide you to be economical while you’re driving. There’s a five-inch LCD screen (lower trims get a 3.5-inch screen) that acts as the multimedia centre and reversing camera screen (the camera gets three viewing angles). The car also now has a touch panel-operated climate control system – a segment first. The audio player has a CD slot and it supports all contemporary audio formats through USB and Bluetooth telephony as well.
Is it worth the money?
Honda looks to have pulled out yet another winner. The all-new, feature-packed interiors and shockingly spacious back seat have raised the bar. Complemented by remarkably frugal diesel and petrol engines that are certain to woo customers. The diesel sets new standards for efficiency, while the petrol motor packs a strong enough punch to appease enthusiasts too. The diesel engine is a little noisy though, but there’s very little else to complain about. The fourth generation of the City feels like the most rounded one yet.