Ever since its introduction in 1998, Honda City has proven to be a popular car in India through its three previous generations. While the last three generation changes brought about an entirely different car, the latest one looks more like an evolution of its predecessor. The biggest change though is the introduction of a diesel engine for the first time in the City line-up. We take a look at the all new Honda City and its technologies to find out if the new model can push the game further.
A versatile sedan, the Honda City has been a popular choice among a wide range of consumers, ever since it was introduced in the Indian market in 1998. The last three generations of the car found 4.3 lakh buyers and only when the fuel prices swayed the market towards diesel vehicles, Honda started feeling the pinch on its City sales. After a long wait, the company has now introduced a diesel engine from its Earth Dream Technology series. The initial euphoria for the new City saw 9,000 bookings by the time the vehicle was launched.
DESIGN & CONSTRUCTION
Developed as a global sedan, the new City looks more like a facelift of its predecessor, despite being a new generation model. The new car sports a sleeker front end now, owing to the sharper headlamp and bumper design. The prominent chrome grille, however, looks a little overdone and breaks the otherwise free-flowing design. The side profile now gets a flowing crease from the front wheel arch to the rear tail lamp. This crease imparts a forward moving impression but many might still prefer the clean look of the previous model.
The rear is where the main attraction is since the tail lamps are now slim and long unlike the cubical ones on the older model. Owing to these tail lamps, the rear section of the City is the most attractive one. The wide lamps also help accentuate the wide look of the car. A segment first inclusion is the shark fin antenna, which further helps the vehicle create a sharper and dynamic impression. The bits, which look out of place on the City, are the skinny 175 section tyres. The narrow tyres do not go well with the body's design language, which aims at creating an impression of width.
The new City makes use of high tensile steel in a new body structure, helping achieve a lightweight, yet rigid shell. Also, using lighter materials has lowered the new car's overall weight by more than 40 kg over its predecessor. The resultant weight reduction has played an important role in achieving the high fuel efficiency, better explained later in this story. Overall, the new City comes across as a good looking futuristic car with a design befitting its segment and pricing. The only short coming is that it looks too similar to the outgoing model.
The engine is a key talking point for the new City, as for the first time, it gets a much needed diesel engine. The 1.5 l i-DTEC engine is the same unit as found in the Amaze and develops about 99 hp and 200 Nm of torque at 1,750 rpm. For a C segment car, the numbers do not sound exciting but things on road are better than expected. The trick lies in the newly developed six-speed manual transmission, which through its clever ratios delivers impressive drivability. This unit is inclined towards enhancing fuel-efficiency and is lighter and smaller too.
Since there is almost no perceivable lag, the car pulls away cleanly from a standstill even in second gear. Acceleration is linear but beyond 3,500 rpm or so revving comes without any significant gain in momentum. While the clever ratios ensure that one doesn't feel the lack of power, the engine fails to deliver an exciting experience. Also, despite the better insulation offered than Amaze, the diesel City is a noisy car. Better insulation means that NVH levels are acceptable when cruising but in stop-go traffic, the noise can still be bothersome. In terms of vibrations though, the car fares well and the cabin is well-insulated from the action taking place in the engine bay.
Fuel-efficiency is the largest reason why people buy diesel cars and the City trumps this department. With a claimed fuel efficiency of 26 km/l, it is the country's most fuel efficient car. That a car from the C segment is more fuel efficient than smaller and lighter diesel hatchbacks, is an impressive statement of Honda's technologies. During our test, the car returned a system indicated average fuel economy of 16.8 km/l. Given the fact that our run was carried out mostly in city traffic, one can expect this number to go up significantly on cleaner stretches of roads.
The 1.5 l petrol engine is the same as offered in the outgoing City but has been improvised to offer better drivability and efficiency. This engine is mated to a five-speed manual and a CVT transmission with claimed fuel efficiency of 17.8 km/l and 18 km/l, respectively. With about 117 hp and 145 Nm of torque, this engine continues to be one of the most powerful units in its segment. Refinement levels are top notch and during our test we couldn't find any considerable shortcoming in the unit. Acceleration is impressively quick and the cabin is relatively silent even while revving strongly.
The diesel version makes a good buy for those on the lookout for a smart, practical and well-loaded fuel-efficient sedan. While the diesel will outsell its petrol sibling, it's the petrol version which makes the driver's seat an interesting place to be in.
Even though the exteriors haven't undergone a major change, the interiors are completely new. This is a positively critical change for the City since the last generation was scantily equipped in terms of features, when compared to the competition. The centre console now comprises of a five-inch touch screen integrated in a piano black panel. Sitting below the unit is the control panel for the climate control. With no physical buttons, this panel responds in a similar way to a touch screen. The material quality too has improved significantly over the previous model, thereby offering a more upmarket feel.
The newly designed instrument cluster also looks good and offers easy to read information. At the top sides of the speedometer, the lighting changes from blue to green if the driver is driving in an efficient manner. The overall look of the cabin comes across as a futuristic one with features loaded to the brim. The reverse camera offers three different views, further improving the safety and convenience.Despite maintaining the exterior length, the wheelbase has now been increased to 2,600 mm, resulting in more interior space. The legroom at the rear is impressive and coupled up with supportive seats the City will be popular among chauffeur-driven buyers. Among all the positives, there is one drawback though and that is the overall design of the dashboard. While all units look brilliant individually, they do not form a cohesive and free flowing design.
In a nutshell, the best part about the new City is its interior if you're buying the diesel version. In case of the petrol version, the motor still remains the best bit in the car.
The City has always been known as a comfortable car with a cushioned ride, and things continue to be good in the new car. Potholes are overcome in an impressive manner by the McPherson strut upfront and the torsion beam axle at the rear, both with coil springs. Ride quality is comfortable even at triple digit speeds and only when going past about 140 km/h things become unsettling. A light steering with almost no feedback makes high-speed handling even more unpredictable. The same steering though is a brilliant unit in traffic and while parking in tight spots.
hile the chassis and suspension set-up is good, the City is underequipped in terms of footwear. The 175 section tyres do not allow the driver to utilise the car's handling abilities. At corners, the tyres give away a lot earlier than the chassis and suspension. Given the fact that cars such as the Toyota Etios and Maruti Suzuki Dzire have 185 section tyres, the City with its higher power should've got better tyres. Braking power is good but for its price, the City, in its latest avatar, should've also got discs all around. That said the City is a car aimed at families, so the lack of high-speed credentials shouldn't bother majority of its buyers.
Unlike with the previous generations, the game is different for the City this time around, as it plays catch-up to other cars in the segment. Honda has addressed the previous model's shortcomings by improving the features and including a diesel engine. When looked at as a whole, the new City comes across as a wonderfully packaged vehicle. With new features now, the car offers even more value for money and retains all good qualities the City has been appreciated for.
Even though a little late to the diesel party, Honda has arrived well-equipped and it won't be a surprise to see the City taking back its leadership spot. The City through its top variants is also attempting to plug the void created by the Civic's absence. While it doesn't come across as a very convincing choice for someone looking in the D segment, the sheer cost-saving might be a convincing reason for many. Importantly, the new City is priced between Rs 7.42 and Rs 10.98 lakh for the petrol and Rs 8.62 and Rs 11.1 lakh for the diesel. This translates into a negligible price increment over the outgoing model, despite the abundance of new technologies. With its futuristic interiors and the most fuel-efficient diesel engine in the country, Honda seems to have got its winning recipe right once again.
Text: Arpit Mahendra
Photo: Bharat Bhushan Upadhyay