When it comes to sedans for the masses. One thinks of the Honda City. Before big luxury sedans or compact sedans, there was the Honda City. The car that did battle with the Lancers and Opel Astra’s in the early 2000s is still out here as the definitive executive sedan. People have been buying generations of the City for its comfort, decent performance, contemporary design and ease of use. ‘Man Maximum, Machine Minimum’ is a mantra followed by Honda. So how does the new City personify it? The 2020 fifth-generation car has some big boxes to tick mark and fills the much loved previous City’s big shoes to fill. Find out more below.
You have to look at it for a while to understand that this is the new City. At a glance, one cannot understand or draw any parallels with the last generation car. The wheelbase is shorter, the length and overhang have visually increased, the sporty lines have given way for more subdued lines.
So let’s start from the front. The new full-LED headlights look great but at the same time are overshadowed by the big chrome nose on the grille. The hood with its cuts looks cool but not sporty. The front on a whole is very business-like, checks the boxes but does nothing. Coming to the side, this car is the tallest in the segment and gives off that big sedan vibe. The c-pillar is not as steeply racked that will result in amazing headroom but we can talk about it later.
The alloy wheels are not badly looking but somehow don’t pop on the car. But I should add that Honda does give a full-size spare which is an alloy wheel. What really defines the side is the long waistline that neatly starts from the headlight and ends in the merging with the taillight. Overall the side looks really well done and does not disappoint. But it’s the rear where it is at. These taillights look sleek and can fool one for assuming they are looking at the rear of a German car. The boot at 506 litres is good and the loading lip is low too. In the end, was the City what we were expecting? Not really. It might not look athletic but at the end of the day, it’s the elder statesman in the segment and has donned a more distinguished look. It does not look or have any exterior design cues from the car that it replaces. I like that. it’s a whole new car and is not clinging to anything old in the bid to look familiar.
Let’s see how some down the months when we see more on the roadshow do we feel? Will it look different? Will it make us forget about the old City? Or will we long for the old City? Let’s just remember that the old Honda City is still being sold alongside the new generation car. It will be interesting to see the sales figures of the old car. It’s a unique situation where the demand for the old car is on par as the new car.
Stepping into the City, let’s start from the rear. The second row of the City is where your money literally goes. Forget about the infotainment system, new instrument cluster or sunroof for a minute. The second row of the city shows how bang-on Honda knows chauffeur driven cars need setting up. The seat recline, headroom, headrest, seat bolstering, armrest and the floor that gently slope upwards so your legs are comfortable, are all PERFECT. The rear reading lights are carried forward from the previous car but that’s okay.
You get two AC vents and a sunshade for the rear windscreen. If I had the option of having a driver to pick-up and drop me to my office would I use the City? Yes, the Honda City rear would be my option of chilling in traffic, making last-minute adjustments to presentations, attending con-calls with clients in the superbly well-insulated cabin. But alas I don’t have a driver and make an earning being a driver for most of the time of my life, so let’s jump to the front row.
Let’s point out the bad things first – fit and finish. I expected Honda to add more faux wood, improve plastics and leather surfaces more. There could have been more soft-touch areas. And what’s up with the new touchscreen. Yes, one gets Next-Gen Honda Connect and Alexa compatibility which works fine and gives one telematics, car start-stop facility via Alexa by Amazon. That’s all good and you can see it in detail in our video below but the layout is what annoys me. Maybe it’s me who tests a lot of cars but every existing Honda car has a different infotainment layout, colours and design. Why not make it uniform for the whole line-up? While this is okay, the response and the feedback of the screen is not very smooth as well. I do like the democratisation of the lane assist feature that is available in the Civic and CRV is nowhere in the City as well. The City does miss out on ventilated seats and wireless charging in its suite of features that are now offered by the competition.
Many buyers today gravitate to a feature-filled car and there is where the City falls back a bit. The sunroof size is good and the seats are fine too, they aren’t the most comfortable but do the job of keeping the driver in place well. I really like the instrument cluster that is digital now. Let me add here – it is better and more simple to look at than the digital instrument cluster in the new Hyundai Verna. The controls on the steering are easy to remember and it’s here where the Honda simplicity lies. After a while, one will not find anything that will surprise you. It’s you who will continue to surprise yourself after you find the G-Meter in the instrument cluster. This is a fun tool for someone looking to get behind the City for a proper drive every now and then. So how is it to drive?
Now three engine and gearbox options are available with the new City – 1.5-litre petrol with a six-speed manual and CVT gearbox option and a 1.5-litre diesel with a six-speed manual only. But before we talk about the two and how they feel, let’s talk about comfort. The City has become softer and less bouncy on potholes. With NVH levels up, the car now has better insulation and no sharp bumps and jolts are transferred into the cabin. The car over speed bumps and manoeuvring around turns and tight spaces is good too. There is no problem with the visibility too.
Coming to the first petrol engine, SMOOTH defines it best. The power is enough to keep you engaged and play with the G-Meter. The manual gearbox is where you would best understand the free-revving nature of the engine. Select say…second gear and floor it – the City pulls with no stress and at no point do you feel the engine is running out of puff. While this will keep the enthusiast happy, the sixth gear means that mileage is bound to be better as cruising becomes more effortless. offered with the petrol engine is the CVT gearbox which gets paddle shifters that do increase engagement while driving on a mountain road where you would like to take manual control.
For me, the manual gearbox with the petrol engine is the one to go for. I will say that as a keen driver but for anyone else – the CVT is the one to go for. For daily driving in traffic, this CVT is sublime. The diesel, on the other hand, is another is the car you should go for if you intend to drive a manual in the city. The mileage is good, the torque means you don’t shift gears more often on the highway and have ample overtaking power and the clutch is lighter than before. This 1.5-litre should give you at least 18km/l in the city which is pretty good.
Now as you read this story or watch the video below, the price of this car is not out yet. But should you consider it? Yes. I feel that the top-end Verna turbo comes around close to 17 lakhs (on-road) and if the Honda City is even Rs 18 lakhs (on-road) it should be a good choice to consider. Apart from that, I really look forward to driving the City more as it has the capability, specs, engine/handling characteristics and all the right features that make it a good long-distance car. Hondas generally are. For now, the new City has done its job – it’s left me wanting for more.