From the very beginning, the City has been the bestseller for Honda in India, and, more often than not, the go-to model for mid-size sedan buyers. Lately, however, it has been facing serious heat from the Maruti Suzuki Ciaz; and right on cue, Honda has given the City some much needed sprucing-up.
With the facelift, the City gets a new top ZX trim that’s available as a petrol automatic or a diesel manual. The ZX brings a host of new and sought-after features which are sure to make the City more appealing. Prices for the updated City start at Rs 8.49 lakh for the base petrol and go up to Rs 13.56 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi) for the top-end diesel, which make it a costlier car than the one it replaces.
So, the question is: does the City still have what it takes to ace its segment all over again?
At first sight
The new car receives a host of styling changes, most of which are up front. The new sharp-edged bumper design and wide honeycomb grille give it a sleeker look, and the all-new LED headlamps (VX and ZX) with LED Daytime Running Lights (standard across the range) add to the car’s premium image.
LEDs, in fact, also feature in the fog lights, rear tail-light cluster and the trunk lid spoiler stop lamp. The top variants also get all-new 16-inch alloy wheels and wider tyres – both of these do well to improve the City’s stance.
Entering the car
Honda has always been great with interiors and the City is no exception. The new car keeps the best bits of the City’s interiors intact and also adds to the premium quotient and tech. The most notable change here is the new touchscreen infotainment system that was sorely missed on the older model. Available in V, VX and ZX trims, this system features a 7.0-inch screen that has great resolution and is pretty easy to use.
The system also offers new features like Wi-Fi support (use your smartphone as a hotspot and it will connect to it), MirrorLink smartphone integration, navigation with real-time traffic data, 1.5GB of onboard storage, two USB slots, two microSD card slots and even an HDMI port. Connectivity is the buzzword for customers today and Honda seems to have kept this in mind.
Now, the dashboard also uses soft-touch plastics and chrome highlights which add to the cabin’s premium appeal. The City’s traditional strengths like the comfortable seats, rear seat space and flat floor remain unchanged.
The City drive
On the safety front, dual front airbags, ABS, EBD and ISOFIX seats are standard across the range. The top ZX variants get side and curtain airbags as well, but at this price point, perhaps ESP or traction control could have been included too.
The City continues to be powered by the same set of petrol and diesel engines. The 100hp 1.5-litre diesel delivers great performance at low revs and is quite a smooth motor, but rev it hard and it becomes rather noisy. Honda claims to have added more insulation for lowering the ambient noise levels in the diesel, and, though it is a marked improvement, there’s only so much that could be done to curb what is inherently a noisy engine.
The petrol option is of course the tried and tested 119hp 1.5-litre engine. This free-revving motor particularly makes the City a hoot to drive when pushed hard, and is also quite usable for regular city driving conditions.
Gearbox options remain the same as well, with a six-speed manual for the diesel and a choice between five-speed manual or seven-step CVT automatic for the petrol. However, with India’s crowded roads and newfound fondness for automatics, it’s sad that the diesel City doesn’t get an auto gearbox.
With no changes to the suspension either, the ride remains largely the same, which is to say agreeable by class standards, but not the class best. There’s still a fair bit of leaning around corners and you can hear everything that the wheels go over. The top ZX variants do get new 16-inch alloys and wider tyres, and thankfully they don’t seem to have hurt the ride quality at all.
The Honda City has always been a great buy for the Indian buyer, thanks to strong core values. Reliability, performance, space, comfort and premium feel meant that if it ever wasn’t the class benchmark, it always came very close. With the new 2017 City, Honda has gone even more premium and this definitely shows in the pricing. That’s because the City is now easily the most expensive car in its class.
In fact, the City’s diesel top-end ZX variant is a whopping Rs 4 lakh more than the Ciaz’s top variant! But is it worth the extra money this time around? While some of the additions are new to the segment, most are now par for the course. So yes, it’s a more appealing package overall, but Honda will have to rely on the City’s brand clout and core strengths to pull this one off.
In partnership with Autocar India