Japanese carmaker Honda has been one of the popular names in our market and its biggest seller has been the City. However, with petrol prices spiralling up, the popular sedan hard pressed to beat down rivals. But now, with the new City, the company hopes to take the fight right back to the competition.
Honda’s i-VTEC engines are renowned for their brilliance, but this time around, the company is focussing on a diesel motor -- the 1.5-litre i-DTEC that debuted in the Amaze and has been carried over to the City. The new vehicle also gets the smaller saloon's gearbox, though it's a six-speed here. Honda claims that the new City i-DTEC will be the most fuel-efficient car in the country, with a claimed fuel efficiency of 26kpl!
The petrol version of the car gets the same 1.5-litre i-VTEC motor as in the last-generation car although it has been slightly tweaked to improve power delivery at lower revs.
We'd already tested this diesel engine in the Amaze and even here, there is hardly any turbo lag. This motor's performance even at revs as low as below 2000rpm was very useful in city traffic conditions. And although the motor is happy to spin all the way to the 4500rpm redline, this makes evident the same problem as observed in the Amaze -- that of the engine noise. But despite this, the diesel variant is expected to account for a fair bit of overall sales.
The petrol motor-equipped version is offered with a CVT automatic transmission as well. It works well at low revs and makes driving around the city quite easy. The rubberband effect characteristic of CVT 'boxes has also been kept well in check. Additionally, Honda claims the CVT is more frugal than the manual.
The improved fuel efficiency is also down to the new chassis which makes the new car around 45kg lighter than the last-gen one despite being slightly longer and taller. The suspension has also been redesigned and though at low speeds road undulations jar through, once past 40-50kph, broken surfaces are dealt with easily.
In terms of handling, the all-new car does well, staying stable on winding roads and tyres gripping the road with an assuring feel. What improves the driving experience is the precise steering and the capable brakes.
The new car's 50mm stretched wheelbase results in acres of room at the rear and additionally, the comfy seats, the rear air-con vents and power outlets make for a great back seat experience. As good as the back seats are, the front seats have been made as supportive.
Honda has made the interiors richer with a silver ‘T’ running across the dash, and the glossy piano black trim adds to the appeal too.
There’s plenty of equipment on offer. The instruments for the driver are big and easy to read, rings around the dials glow blue or green (depending on your driving style), and the chunky steering wheel is a high point, with well damped switches for the music and telephony. The music system includes a CD player (along with DVD support) as well as Bluetooth and Aux-in. A five-inch screen is the interface for the music system, while the air-con system is operated via a touch panel. And of course, there's a sunroof as well.
But despite the equipment levels, the LCD display blends in a little too much with the dash and the air-con control panel and plastics on the dash take away from the consistency of design.
The new City looks good on the outside as well with the slim headlights and the familiar arrowhead front profile. It has more presence and looks bigger. At the rear, the tail-lamps are integrated slickly with the boot. While the car looks bigger and has more presence, it's no wider than the older one and is as easy to drive around in the city as ever.
The fourth-generation City does look like it has the goods to live up to the name, if not further propel popularity with its lengthy features list, great comfort levels and capable engines. Now Honda only needs to price it aggressively to ensure success. Sources say, when it goes on sale next month, it is likely to be priced at Rs. 8.2-11.5 lakh.