From carrying kids to school to chauffeuring executives to the office and then turning into a sharp corner carver, Honda City has been an example of the phrase ‘power to the people’. The 2020 model will be taking this journey ahead with much more on offer
As far as a family car is concerned, every car-loving Indian has owned or wanted to own a Honda City. It is such a household name that anybody wanting to purchase a family sedan will certainly have the City on the top of the list. Its lively i-VTEC petrol engine is a gem which will live on in history books, and the new generations have taken cabin comfort to a level found a class above. Such was the package that people who would normally buy the Civic just settled on the City as their next purchase. Why did it become such an icon? How did it captivate an entire spectrum of audience, young and old? And will the new one be as relevant with so many new players in the market, SUVs becoming the new sought after body styles? You do not need to think further, the answer is YES. It is such an accomplished design that not much is left to offer by other competing rivals.
Its journey so far has been flexible
Through all its generations in India spanning across more than two decades, Honda City has changed in design, mechanicals, and interior a lot. It started as a retro-sedan in its first generation in 1998. Stately and impressive in its proportions, it looked like a grown-up family sedan for the mature audience. It had the choice of a 1.3l or 1.5l petrol engine with modest power output, and a comfortable cabin. It was a perfect launchpad for a classy reliable car for the skeptical Indian customer.
To further appeal to a wider audience, ahem the sportier kind, 2000 saw the introduction of the VTEC system to the 1.5l petrol engine. Simply put Variable Valve Timing and Lift Electronic Control (VTEC) managed the amount of air inside the combustion chamber resulting in more power at higher rpm and enhanced fuel efficiency in lower rpm. The results were, let’s say profound. The VTECs could snarl and touch almost 7,100rpm which almost felt like it never runs out of breath. Needless to say, Honda made a massive ripple across its audience capturing more audiences.
Now came the second generation of the Honda City in India in 2003. The design was changed, and the option of a CVT transmission. The cabin was hugely more human friendly and power figures dropped on the 1.5l engine in pursuit of fuel economy. A couple of years down the line i-VTEC variant was added with more power to make it more exciting. However, the design was not really an improvement, and the performance was dimmed for fuel-efficiency. It did sell more numbers because of passenger comfort and features, but it still did not feel like a proper image Honda had already built for the City.
Come 2008 and Honda City was back in its glory. The new arrow design was considerably more attractive, the engine had 117bhp and the automatic 5-speed transmission was much better than the elastic CVT. Engine performance and handling had improved making it an excellent driver’s car. And the cabin was spacious and comfortable enough for chauffeured passengers. It also gained a sunroof which made it a hit with kids as well. So a perfect family car again from India’s most reliable manufacturer. As a contradiction though, it had a minor chink in its armor. The 5-speed automatic was an excellent transmission for enthusiasts because it was fun and had paddle-shift capabilities, but this annoyed chauffeured passengers as gear shifts were noticeable through the torque convertor. This will be the last City to be remembered for this excellent 5-speed AT as Honda opted for the CVT in future models. By the end of 2019, the second-hand market still saw this one go for Rs 4-5lakh were the rivals were considerably cheaper. It was light, powerful, handled sharp and was robust enough the last past 15 years easily.
The fourth-generation update in 2014 will mark the biggest change in the Honda City bloodline through India. Honda had already started losing market share as City lacked a diesel heart and its rivals were banking on it. A new aluminum block 1.5l iDTEC diesel engine was introduced which tipped scales in favor of Honda. City was now longer with more rear passenger space, and higher too as earlier City’s used to scrape their belly on a pebble. Apart from the new choice of a diesel engine with a 6-speed manual transmission, the 1.5l i-VTEC could be picked with a 5-speed manual or CVT transmission. It had touchscreen infotainment, sunroof, lots of cabin space, soft seats, a big boot, Honda’s impeachable reliability, and an ever-increasing fan list. The ZX update in 2017 even gave it a soft-touch dashboard; a frameless rearview mirror inside and full LED headlamps. The refinement levels have gone up, but so has the price. However, the tiny number of those aficionados had been lost. It is still a fast car and had a peppy petrol engine, but rivals are better equipped for these enthusiasts. Honda will figure out how to capture this audience back, it always has.
2020 Honda City could make a case for sedans
Just about when Honda was readying plans to release the 2020 Honda City in the market, the coronavirus crisis held back all plans. The new version will come with a lot of equipment and connected car features to stay in the race with its rivals. A new infotainment system with enhanced UI/UX will be the welcome addition. Both the petrol and diesel will be on offer as earlier, but the diesel will get the option of a CVT this time to make it a more attractive package. But we need to drive it first to give you any details on the dynamics, lets reserve and comment on that front. As far as packaging is concerned, expect more refinement and even more attention to fit and finish on the new City.
Too many hurdles on the path to glory
Yes, not just its regular rivals but 2020 has more problems in Honda’s way. Firstly customer’s sentiment is strongly shifting towards the SUV category of vehicles, and the coronavirus crisis has rendered production and sales in the state of temporary punishment. The imposing body stance, ground clearance, stronger perceived safety, and a long feature list has made the SUV market much stronger. And the coronavirus problem is faced by all manufacturers, and considering Honda car’s stronghold and understanding of the Indian market they will formulate stronger strategies for the upcoming 2020 City. The new offering could turn back tides bringing people back to sedans as the more compact, safe and more fun-to-drive option.