For over two decades, the Honda City has remained one of India’s most favourite sedans. From the first-generation model that was based on the sixth-generation Honda Civic (FERIO), to the highly popular arrow-shot designed third-gen City powered by an all-new 1.5 l i-VTEC engine, Honda continued to raise the benchmark with this car in the upper C-segment of the industry. With over eight lakh units sold in India, and four million units sold in 60 countries, the City has built a strong legacy among customers, especially in the Asia-Oceania region, with a market share of around 20 % in total.
The company has now started production of the fifth-generation Honda City at its Greater Noida plant, with its launch scheduled for some time in July. Competition in the segment is likely to heat up with the upgraded versions of Hyundai Verna, Maruti Suzuki Ciaz and the Volkswagen Vento having hit the market in the last few months. How the 5th-gen Honda City takes on these cars, and whether it would be able to create new sales benchmarks in the segment will be clear once the product is launched in the market.
We were recently invited to the first experience of the soon-to-be-launched 2020 Honda City, and this is a feature on what’s new from a technology and product perspective.
Unlike the fourth-gen City, which bore a similar look as that of the third-gen City, the new City has been completely redesigned, based on the grand concept of an ‘ambitious sedan’. Dimensionally, the new 2020 Honda City is bigger than the previous generation City. It is longer by 109 mm at 4,549 mm and wider by 53 mm at 1,748 mm. Honda has reduced the height of the new City by 6 mm, while the wheelbase has remained the same.
The design of the new Honda City is inspired by the Katana sword, a Japanese curved sword that was used by ancient samurais. At the front, the new Honda City has a wing face similar to that of the Civic and the Accord. The headlights comprise nine LED arrays that have been developed to align the shells and help enhance the light distribution in the vehicle. Six low beam (outside) and three high beam (inside) LED have been installed in an array with a high-sense design. The rear combination lamps have been integrated with the body in a horizontal and three-dimensional shape, while the stop lamp has been changed from the halogen bulb in the current model to LED.
A lot of emphasis was accorded to improve visibility form inside the cabin. The front hood invisible length, for example, has been reduced by about 42 % as compared to the current model. A gap was created between the A-pillar and the door mirror by moving the mirror to the door skin mounting from the conventional sash mounting, thus minimising the blind spot of the A-pillar. At the rear, the invisible length has been shortened to less than one metre, making reversing a lot easier.
Inside the cabin, the dashboard has got stylish, there’s good quality upholstery and the fit and finish overall is top notch. The AC outlet knobs and speaker area gets metallic finishes, while the seats are very well padded and cushioned, with an optimised torso angle. A rear sunshade has been developed exclusively for India. Compared to the current model, Honda claims to have improved the rear-seat foot space by 27 mm in the space between the front seat rails (width), while the forward direction has increased by 31 mm.
The new Honda City gets a seven-inch colour TFT LCD panel along with two dials – an analogue speedometer with physical guidelines is on the right side and a multi-function meter with built-in 7-inch colour TFT LCD is on the left and centre. This, Honda claims, is a first in the upper-C segment.
The City is based on the Jazz platform, and Honda has claimed to have done considerable work on it for the new City. The new City platform was developed to accommodate various powertrains and to allow the best packaging for a sedan. The body frame, for instance, has been enhanced to make it more lightweight yet rigid. In collision safety tests conducted by ASEAN NCAP and BNCAP, the Honda City has achieved top scores.
Compared to the current generation Honda City, the new City is 4.3 kg lighter. the company has used 980 MPa ultra-high-strength steel – which is a first for an upper C segment vehicle and for Honda in India – to achieve this weight reduction along with 20.4 % torsional rigidity improvement. Rigidity around the suspension installation points has also been increased. Our short drive confirmed this as the new City felt better in terms of handling as well as a more comfortable ride experience.
Engine and Performance
One of the major changes in the new Honda City is the new 1.5 l i-VTEC DOHC engine. This is part of Honda’s Earth Dreams Technology powertrain, which has been brought into India for the first time. It peaks at around 120 hp, while the maximum torque is rated at 145 Nm. The engine capacity, peak power and torque figures actually are similar as the current model, but structurally, there are quite a few new additions.
Primary among them is the valve control. The new engine is a dual overhead chamshaft (DOHC) set-up as against the SOHC set-up earlier. The DOHC uses Variable Valve Timing Control (VTC) in addition to the conventional Variable Timing and Electronic Lift Control (VTEC) on the intake camshaft. This technology shift is claimed to improve the combustion efficiency, while significantly reducing friction and emissions. Overall fuel efficiency has improved on the new engine by about 3 %, claimed the company.
Another key change is the aluminium on the top of the cylinder sleeve, which has been extended as compared to the previous model in order to increase the cooling efficiency. In addition to reduction of engine weight, this has also helped prevent thermal deformation. Honda engineers have also used a separate piston oil jet that blows oil up from the bottom hole of the connecting rod to the back of the piston skirt, increasing knocking resistance and improving cooling performance. This results in high compression ratio, improved combustion and fuel efficiency.
The new 1.5 l i-DTEC engine has also been refined to meet BS 6 norms. This unit produces about 100 hp of power and 200 Nm of torque. Honda has introduced on this engine the exhaust gas aftertreatment system similar to what was used in Europe & Japan. This is a compact after-treatment system developed by Honda that can be deployed in small cars, where both the diesel particulate filter (DPF) and the NOx storage catalyst (NSC) has been redesigned. The catalyst support shape has been changed from a generally circular cross-section to an oval (elliptical) cross-section. Also, the front and back length has been shortened while ensuring the same catalyst capacity as the European model.
Among other improvements, the ECU that controls combustion in this diesel engine has been changed. Combustion control, including multi-stage combustion, has been further advanced. This optimizes the combustion speed, which is the main cause of engine vibration, and reduces engine noise, claimed Honda. A lot of work has also gone into reducing engine vibration, including enhancing structural parts such as the engine block and all kinds of covers that create squeaking, high frequency noise.
Transmission duties in the New Honda City are done by a 6-speed manual and a CVT on the petrol variant, while the diesel comes only with the 6-speed manual transmission. Honda has introduced full-open acceleration step-up shift control and brake operation step downshift control on the new CVT to compensate for the rubber-band effect that CVTs are usually known for. True to its claim, the petrol CVT we drove during the drive Honda organised recently did not have the old CVT effect.
The current generation Honda City petrol comes with a five-speed manual transmission, while the fifth-gen City has been equipped with a six-speed unit. In India, the final gear (final reduction ratio) is made to a higher ratio to further improve quietness and fuel efficiency. The basic skeleton for the MT for the diesel engine is the same as the current MT, but the reverse gear has been changed from the constant mesh type (constant mesh) to the selective sliding type (sliding mesh), leading to suppression of the gear rattling noise during driving.
Enhanced Electronics & Safety Package
The new Honda City gets an 8-inch display audio units that supports USB, Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and a new Weblink method of linking smartphones. The unit allows display of a variety of smartphone apps, such as maps or car navigation systems, etc. on the audio screen. The display unit also supports images from the multi-angle rear camera and LaneWatch camera, attached to the left side rear view mirror.
Honda has also introduced Alexa as part of its connected car technologies, making the City the country’s first connected car with an Alexa remote capabilities. A City owner can use voice commands to use and control 10 key features of Honda Connect to monitor and control their car from home. Some of these features include remote access of car AC on/off, door lock/unlock, checking fuel status, locating the car, checking engine health, etc. We tried using some of these features, and they work with precision.
On the safety side, the new Honda City is equipped with internal pressure retention type airbags in the driver and passenger seats, which is the world's first such system developed by Honda that achieves a quick deployment and internal pressure retention in one inflator (a gas generator for inflating airbags). The side airbags too feature a new technology, wherein it has a unique double structure of one more bag inside the air bag. After the inner bag is instantly deployed at high pressure, the outer bag gently opens at low pressure. There is also ISOFIX child seat lower mounting bracket that comes as standard fitment in the new Honda City.
In addition, there is Vehicle Stability Assist, Agile Handling Assist, Hill Start Assist, Emergency Stop Signal, Tyre Pressure Monitoring System, LaneWatch camera, parking sensor system and other safety and convenience features.
Clearly, the addition of new features, the new petrol engine, the improved CVT transmission as well as the enhanced manual transmission, the new electronics and safety package on the new Honda City offer interested customers everything they want in a modern sedan. The engines are refined, and overall drive and handling of the vehicle doesn’t have many negatives. What makes it interesting though is Honda’s decision to simultaneously sell the fourth- and fifth-generation Honda City in the Indian market. it would eventually be a play of pricing. We would get to know how that strategy plays out over the next few months.