Full Throttle

Road Test and Review: The All-New Honda City

Photos by Clint Thomas
Just when we thought 2013 was full to the brim with fabulous new models, in drives the all-new Honda City with the biggest surprise of all – a mileage of 26 kilometre per litre. Yes, you read that right; the Honda City finally has a diesel engine under the hood, and now, the iconic car is also the most fuel efficient car in India.

Well, if mileage is the need of the hour, City now offers the most of it. But there’s more to the story than meets the eye. Let’s discuss in detail.
Design

Although every body panel has gone under the knife, the fourth generation City looks very familiar.  Perhaps, Honda didn’t want to tamper with an already perfect design. But a closer look at the car reveals some remarkable design choices. The three-slatted signature grille has given way to a larger, chrome-heavy grille linking sharper headlamps. Two bold creases run down the bonnet, seamlessly converging into the grille. Thanks to the sportier and forward-reaching bumper styling, the new City looks poised to devour the road ahead.

Contrary to the lackluster profile of the outgoing model, the new City gets a prominent character line that gracefully rises towards the rear to meet the elongated, wraparound taillights. The new taillight design works well with the overall styling and the shark fin antenna completes the picture.
Inside the cabin

Honda has always been stingy when it comes to City’s features.  Even when the competition grew too intense, the City’s cabin remained very basic. The new model is a huge leap forward over its predecessor and offers a host of innovative and segment-first features. The centre console now boasts a 5 inch LCD display with audio, Bluetooth and rear camera settings. The rear camera offers three angles – normal, top down and 180 degree wide. The touchscreen climate control looks super cool but bright sun bleaches it out, making it difficult to read.

The CR-V inspired steering wheel is leather-wrapped and offers plenty of grip. It also houses Bluetooth, audio and cruise controls.  Instrument panel gets a new theme, too. All these are well appointed on a flowing and cohesive dashboard.
No one ever cribbed about the City’s cabin space, yet Honda has increased the wheelbase by 50mm, shoulder room by 40mm and height by 10mm to make it as roomy as the D segmenters. The overall length and width, meanwhile, remain unchanged. Rear AC vents further enhance the rear seat comfort. The new City doesn’t fall short on other contemporary features such as push start button, keyless entry, four power outlets, 8 speakers, auto folding mirrors and sunroof on top trim levels.


Performance

The diesel City has borrowed the 1.5 L i-DTEC engine from the Amaze with the same tuning and the performance figures remain unchanged  - 100ps@3600 rpm and 200 N-m@1750 rpm. Power is transferred through a newly developed 6-speed manual gearbox, which helps the City achieve better fuel economy than the Amaze.


The i-DTEC motor feels more refined under the City’s bonnet because Honda has further reduced friction of all moving components. Moreover, the car benefits from as many as 14 new noise insulation methods that make the cabin brilliantly quiet. Power delivery is very similar to the Amaze, however, top speed is not limited to 145 kmph on the City and it can travel up to 190kmph, the company says.


The 1.5 L i-VTEC petrol engine has been Honda City’s forte and it gets even better in the fourth generation. Twin needle spark plugs, enhanced cooling system and low friction technology help the engine achieve better fuel efficiency. The petrol variant is available either with a five-speed manual or an advanced CVT auto transmission. Traditionally, most auto boxes are thirstier than manuals but the City’s CVT achieves a commendable 18 kmpl as against the manual variant’s 17.8 kmpl.

The rev-happy and instantly responsive nature of the manual i-VTEC makes it the most fun to drive among the three. The car is lighter by 40 kg, so it feels even faster. The CVT automatic, on the other hand, is very practical and easy to live with. It offers paddle shifters for a bit of zest, too.
Similar to the Amaze, the diesel City offers smooth and effortless power delivery. Peak torque is delivered 1750rpm onwards, but there’s enough torque (up to 80%) available from a low 1200rpm. That means low-end response is impressive and there’s very little turbo lag. The engine pulls strongly till around 3500 rpm and is relaxed at highway speeds. If handled prudently, the diesel City is certain to return over 25kmpl.

Ride and Handling

Honda City had an Achilles’ heel – poor ground clearance. At 165mm, it remains unchanged in the new City as well. However, Honda has reworked the exhaust pipe layout to improve the ‘ground contact factor’ that avoids frequent underbody scrapes. Revised suspension geometry ensures a more comfortable ride and the aforementioned noise insulation keeps NVH levels well under tolerable limits. New suspension setup, increased wheelbase and kerb weight haven’t taken a toll on handling either.
Honda’s desperate attempt to achieve higher fuel efficiency sees the car still ride on 175mm tyres, especially when all other C segmenters use 185mm or above. If only Honda considered broader tyres, the handling and overall appearance of the car could be even better.

Safety

Honda never compromises safety for anything. Like its predecessors, the new City gets dual front SRS airbags along with ABS with EBD across all the variants.

Conclusion

Diesel powered Honda City has always been on top of every car enthusiast’s wish list. Finally, when Honda introduced the diesel City, they nailed it in style. It’s undoubtedly a great, desirable package that gives you more bragging rights.

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