The headlights, with multiple reflectors and techy detailing, look brilliant and make this car stand out as genuinely new
The headlights, with multiple reflectors and techy detailing, look brilliant and make this car stand out as genuinely new

Sunday Drive by Hormazd Sorabjee: The Honda City upgrade- What does it spell?

When a popular brand goes through an upgrade, it must set high expectations and meet them
Hindustan Times | By Hormazd Sorabjee
PUBLISHED ON AUG 09, 2020 07:00 AM IST

The Honda City is not just another Honda, it is Honda. The popular City is synonymous with the Honda brand and, for four generations and 22 years, the Japanese company has profited greatly from the success of its mid-size sedan. In fact, after the Mercedes E-Class, the City is the longest-running nameplate on a car in the Indian market and over the years has earned itself a deep and loyal fan following. A fan following that Honda can’t afford to upset. So with every generation of the City, Honda has had to up the ante. It has to make its bread-and-butter model more appealing than before to please City loyalists, who, of late, are being swayed by aggressive overtures from rival brands that have invaded the City’s turf.

Hence, the newly-launched fifth-generation Honda City comes with high expectations. Not only does it have to be a step up from its predecessor (which, by the way will continue to be sold alongside the new model), but it has to compete with a new wave of mid-size sedans from Hyundai, Skoda and VW, all launched in quick succession.

Space cadet

Coming after six years, the fifth-gen City is all-new and like with every successive generation, it has grown in size. The latest model has stretched into a segment above and, in fact, is even longer than the first Honda Civic. So, is the new City a baby Civic or just a bigger City?

In terms of design, the City looks more of an evolution of the previous model and the overall stance, shape and design of the individual elements remind you of the earlier car.

A lane watch camera system, which makes lane changing in our chaotic traffic less hazardous, is unique to the City

Honda’s signature front chrome bar is now thicker, with the top strip stretching across the width of the nose above the LED highlights. The sharp-looking headlights, with their multiple reflectors and techy detailing, look brilliant and make the new City stand out as genuinely new.

The cabin is even more inviting with its plush-looking and well-crafted light brown and black interior. Some of the plastics, though, have a shiny, downmarket look and we would have preferred duller, soft-touch textures.

There’s no stinting on space though. The large, well-sculpted front seats have good all-round bolstering but it’s the rear seat Honda has really aced, yet again. Like with the fourth-gen City, the rear bench is the most generous in the class and will keep you comfortable for hours on the road. This is, without a doubt, the best car to be chauffer-driven in for the money.

First in class

Honda has typically been quite miserly with equipment, but with the new City it has been surprisingly magnanimous by packing in features that are even first in class. You get all the goodies like a sunroof, multi-view rear camera, a tyre-pressure monitoring system, but a lane watch camera system, which makes lane

changing in our chaotic traffic less hazardous, is unique to the City. And so is the Alexa voice assistant. From your home, you can simply ask Alexa to start the car, switch on the air con, and tell you the fuel level and the current location of the car. Gimmicky? Maybe, but a lot of owners will find this feature genuinely useful.

The cabin is massive and well-equipped, with plush-looking interiors
The cabin is massive and well-equipped, with plush-looking interiors

The 1.5-petrol engine has always been the heart of the City and it’s been upgraded for the fifth-gen City. It’s not as punchy as the new breed of turbo-petrols but it’s a very flexible engine, which delivers power seamlessly and effectively. It’s fast when you want it to be and will amble along in traffic without complaint. And with a 0-100kph time of around 10 seconds, you won’t complain about performance either. The CVT automatic is pretty sprightly too and its combination of convenience, performance and efficiency will make it the most preferred variant in the City range. Diesel engines have never been Honda’s forte and the 1.5 unit in the City does the job efficiently and without fuss, but it’s not the quietest and nor is it the quickest.

What makes the City special is its big car feel. It has a mature ride that soaks up bumps effectively, safe and predictable handling, a massive, well-equipped cabin and this goes a long way in justifying its pretty steep ~10.90 lakh starting price.

Hormazd Sorabjee is one of the most senior and much-loved auto journalists in India, and is editor of Autocar India

Sunday Drive appears every fortnight

From HT Brunch, August 9, 2020

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