It is the diesel variant that is being bruited about, and will probably make the most impact in India’s automobile world, but as a petrol sedan, the Honda City’s clout has been unrivalled ever since it debuted. It was notoriously expensive by segment standards and stingy on features, which many automakers tried to exploit, but failed signally.
The refinement and efficiency of the iVtec petrol engine has been such that even now, it accounts for over 50% share in mid-size petrol sedans. Honda has put out the fourth-generation petrol variant. But is there scope for improvement?
Honda has a habit of surprising us and going completely radical. That has been the track record of City’s previous generational changes. This time though, it seems they have walked the middle path in the manner of rival Toyota.
The overall dimensions of the car remain more or less the same with the only difference being a slightly longer wheelbase. From the outside, it does not look very new; just an evolution over the existing sedan. In terms of changes, the dual projector headlamps are wider and sharper while the grille gets bolder chrome accentuation. More work has been done at the rear, which gets an all new wrap around tail lamp cluster and an integrated spoiler edge at the boot lid. Sadly, no LED tail lamps, though.
For all its refinement and stylish looks, Hyundai’s Verna exposed Honda’s weaknesses inside the cabin the most. Honda has addressed that handsomely this time. The steering wheel is a lift from the new CR-V, while the dashboard layout is new. And there is no lack of equipment.
For a Honda, the list of firsts is long: 5-inch LCD screen for infotainment, embedded rear parking camera, rear air conditioner vents, an eight-speaker music system, four power outlets for charging, push start and stop ignition, touch screen air conditioner panel...
The longer wheelbase has added more space at the back, which Honda claims is comparable to cars that cost double. There is a fun element to it as well. The back lighting on the instrument panel for example changes colours on the basis of throttle response. Drama galore.
RIDE AND HANDLING
The 1.5-litre iVtec petrol engine is similar to the one in the existing car, with minor modifications. While the diesel is basically an adaptation from the Amaze, it is the petrol where Honda flexes its muscles. On paper it is at par with other cars, but on road it is faster and more refined by quite a distance. Modifications include a variable valve timing, which means the valves do not open completely unless you floor the throttle. This improves the fuel economy of the car which is also aided by enhanced spark plugs. And it gives you a sorted drive that really shows up other cars in the segment.
Power delivery is linear and extremely smooth, and gear shifting is slick. The suspension has been tuned for precise handling for a car that is seriously fast.
On an open road, we got into a race with the bigger Corolla and the new City simply killed it.
The car is also silent to a fault. On a couple of occasions waiting at a traffic light, we had to check if the engine was still on.
Complaints? The steering while being direct is a tad too light. On occasions it did not inspire confidence on hard corners.
In one line, City retains the crown in the petrol space handsomely. Barring the underdone exterior design, there is little to fault. It is now more spacious, has more features and is more refined. It is also the most powerful. Except for the Vento TSI, which is an automatic, there is no petrol sedan under Rs. 10 lakh that has as much technology riding on it — or in it.
Though it is the diesel holds the key to whether the City will rise to the top of the charts, the ongoing hike in diesel prices, and the resultant resurgence in the demand for petrol cars, means Honda is very well placed here.