The iconic Honda City, for long Honda Car India’s flagship model in the country, has received a midlife upgrade, primarily to add vigour to its persona. The new City 2017 gets no mechanical changes, but there are significant changes made both to the exteriors and interiors to bring about freshness into the product, which of late has lost market share to newer introductions in the market. Launched in 2014, the current City model is in its fourth-generation and has sold over 2.2 lakh units in the past three years. Whether the City 2017 edition will eventually lead to Honda reclaiming the top spot in the premium midsize sedan segment is for future analysis.
With the 2017 edition, Honda has added a new ‘flagship’ ZX variant to the City line-up, one that is aimed to “address customers that want everything in their car.” We drove a petrol ZX variant during the drive organised for the media, and this feature would highlight the changes as well as the new additions made to the popular midsize sedan.
Bulk of the changes in the new City is visible on its front. The bumper has been reworked to give it a wider stance, and the grille is all-new. Honda designers have focussed a lot on the lights – both at the front and rear – to add not just aesthetics but functionality. The integrated LED daytime running lights are being offered as standard across all variants, an industry first.
Then, on the ZX variant, there are inline LED headlamps, LED fog lamps, LED rear combination lamps, trunk spoiler with LED stop lamp. The ZX variant also gets LED interior lamps. Headlamps get automatic control with light sensors, and are featured with auto-off timer. Two other additional features on the ZX include automatic rain sensing wipers and rear adjustable head restraints.
The biggest change Honda has brought into the City is in its infotainment system. The DIGIPAD, as the 17.7 cm capacitive touchscreen AVN (audio, video & navigation) system is called, has been designed – in the company’s words – to keep occupants connected to their music and social network. There’s Wi-Fi support to access the internet, voice recognition for media, navigation and phone, standard music playback including two USB ports, one SD card slot, and 1.5 GB of internal storage memory. The navigation system is a satellite-linked 3D set-up with preloaded maps, and during our morning run with the car, it worked fairly well.
Surprisingly though, there’s no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. The smartphone projection standards developed by Apple and Google are gradually becoming standard features in this segment, as well as segments below the midsize premium sedan segment. The new system is Android-based, and can be customised for various applications. The system gets MirrorLink support aiding smartphone connectivity.
With these new additions, and the well laid out functional dashboard, Honda has been able to maintain the overall impressive feel of the City’s interiors.
Like most other manufacturers today, Honda too has committed itself to offer more safety features to its customers. The ACE body structure, dual front airbags, ABS with EBD, impact-mitigating front headrest system, and the pedestrian injury mitigation technology are standard across all variants of City 2017. The ISOFIX anchors and tether in the rear seats is a sensible feature on all the variants as well. For the uninitiated, ISOFIX is the international standard for attachment points for child safety seats in passenger cars. The top ZX trim gets six airbags – two front, two side and two curtain airbags. The other notable feature that would add to the safety quotient of the City 2017 is the rear-view camera that offers multiple views – normal, wide and top-down – with guidelines.
From a powertrain perspective, there aren’t any changes. The two engines – the 1.5 l i-VTEC petrol as well as the 1.5 l i-DTEC diesel – continue to power the Honda City 2017. The petrol engine gets two transmission options. In addition to the 5-speed manual as earlier, the ZX grade gets a new 7-speed continuously variable transmission (CVT) with torque converter that also gets paddle shifters. The 1.5 l i-VTEC petrol engine, which produces approximately 117 hp of peak power and 145 Nm of torque, delivers a certified mileage of 17.4 km/l in manual mode, and a slightly better 18 km/l in the automatic mode. The 1.5 l diesel engine delivers 25.6 km/l, and produces 99 hp and 200 Nm torque. The diesel engine is paired with a 6-speed manual transmission.
For close to 19 years, Honda City has enjoyed a premium space in the consumer mind-set. In recent times, as in other occasions in the past, the City has lost out to newer competitors in the market. Currently, it lies in the second position behind Maruti Suzuki India’s Ciaz. Ciaz, incidentally, also benefits from the demand it enjoys for its mild hybrid version.
Honda has offered a significantly better package on the new City 2017. The company has also offered customers the option of choosing for an extended warranty of five years, with unlimited mileage – a first in the Indian car market.
But is that going to be enough, especially with refreshed editions of competing vehicles lined-up for launch over the next few months? At a starting price of Rs 8.50 lakh (S, petrol) going up to Rs 13.57 lakh for the all-inclusive ZX variant (ex-showroom, Delhi), the new City 2017 might look a tad expensive but it does come with a lot of excitement built in, in terms of features and technologies. And with a strong legacy and loyal customer base, there isn’t much reason why Honda won’t pull out a winner with the new City 2017.
(Do watch out for our video on the new City next week)
TEXT: Deepangshu Dev Sarmah
PHOTO: Bharat Bhushan Upadhyay