Say hello to the new, fifth generation Honda City; also known as the All New City. And though it will co-exist with the current model in our market, it is still a very important car. Not only because the Honda City has managed to set new benchmarks in its class with every new model. But, if there’s a sedan that can claw back some sort of advantage that SUVs enjoy – especially in the 13-17 lakh bracket – the City is that car.
Now, as far as platforms go, the new City is based on the same platform as the current generation car. But, significant upgrades have been made. For starters, even though the new car sits on the same wheelbase as the older City, it is now longer. And Honda has widened the track lengths as well. It also sits lower than the current City, but thankfully, the ground clearance hasn’t changed. The result is a car that looks hunkered down, sportier and less sedate.
There are other visual clues that help the new car too. The new all-LED headlamps look more modern and technical. The thick slab of chrome has a very ‘look-at-me’ bling character to it. And at the rear, the tail lamps are new and very likeable with the whole pronounced 3D effect.
This is an all-new car, and that shows on the inside. The new steering is chunky and good to hold. And though the clocks aren’t the most modern in terms of design, these are easy to read. Plus, they pack in a whole lot of info. The dashboard design is simple but with the chrome outlines all around, the wood inserts, and the liberal use of leather, it makes the insides of the All New City feel more premium than before.
Even the operability of the dials, the buttons and the rollers now have a crisp, well-engineered feel to them. However, if there’s something we aren’t pleased about, it is the lack of soft grain plastic, especially on the dash and on the doors.
As far as space goes, the City was always right up there with the competition. But on the new car, that goal post has moved further. The new City has acres of legroom for the rear occupants, which is also comfortably best in its class. And the shoulder and headroom aren’t bad either, even though they're more par for the course than exceptional.
Equipment wise, there’s ample of storage space and smart solutions for holding one’s pen and cellphone at the rear. There’s a sunroof, height adjustable seat for the driver, a multifunctional steering wheel, cruise control, a colour TFT screen as part of the instrumentation; and an eight-inch touchscreen multimedia system with everything from Apple CarPlay and Android Auto to Weblink.
The new car also gets a retractable rear windscreen sunshade. It has ambient lighting. It gets LaneWatch courtesy a Camera mounted on the left ORVM. There’s a reversing camera with normal, wide and top view options. And it gets climate control, voice command, and a connectivity suite in the form of Honda Connect.
Honda Connect is the new City’s big party trick. It essentially has the same functionality as the connectivity solutions offered by the likes of the new Creta, the Kia Seltos, and the MG Hector. So on this automatic version, you can start the car, turn on the AC, check the fuel levels, find the car, check air pressures, and get to know if your driver has been driving too fast! You can also geo-fence the car. But its USP is the compatibility with Amazon Echo, also popularly known as Alexa.
Sitting at home you can say stuff like Alexa, start the car, Alexa, turn on the car AC, and impress your kids. Who can in turn impress their friends once this whole social distancing thing fades away. Honda Connect App also allows the car user to book a service appointment, and keep a keen eye on the work being performed at the service station.
There’s fair amount of safety built into the car too. It gets a 5-star ASEAN crash test rating courtesy a lighter, but stiffer body structure. And in equipment terms, it gets six airbags, ESP, ABS, and tyre pressure monitoring system.
The All New City comes with three drivetrain options. The diesel powertrain has been carried over from the older car with some refinements. It is essentially the same engine as on the new Amaze, but tuned to work better for the larger City. It is more refined than the one on the current City, but it hasn’t lost any of its mid-range grunt and driveability. Plus, the clutch is light, and this engine is great for those looking for fuel efficiency and highway munching ability.
The petrol engine meanwhile is a much-improved version of the older 1.5-iVTEC engine. So, even though it makes the same max power and torque outputs as the older petrol engine, its mid-range and NVH have improved significantly. It uses a twin-cam layout and gets variable valve timing now to go with variable valve lift. Honda has also worked towards reducing friction, improving airflow, and making the engine lighter.
This engine can be had with either a six-speed manual or a CVT. The latter is one of the better ones on the market, and though it still has that rubber-band effect typical of CVTs, it is greatly reduced on this Honda unit. The petrol engine with the CVT is a great combo to have for city driving – quiet, refined and serene. Even on a fast, spirited drive with the CVT in S mode and the driver making use of the paddle shifters, the All New City can be fun.
Add to it the lovely driving position, the well-bolstered seats, great visibility all round, and spot-on ergonomics, and the City feels right from the get go. Having a comfy and cosseting ride doesn’t hurt either. The car rounds the small bumps and ditches without bother and even at high speeds the car remains poised and flat and predictable.
Handling too is reassuring. It remains planted and unwavering even over undulated roads. And around corners, it feels light footed and agile and precise as well. Now, the steering on the City isn’t exactly brimming with feel, but it is light and accurate and surprisingly quick!
Overall, the fifth generation City is a car you will enjoy driving, no question.
The All New City has most certainly moved the goal posts further. In fact, it is a better Honda City no matter how you look at it. But yes, it is more of an evolution than a revolution. But it is a car that is quiet, refined, feature-rich, and good on quality. It’s easy and engaging to drive. And it has a strong street presence as well. Yes, we would have liked to see a few more features. And maybe a little more luxury built into it mainly to give it an edge against the SUVs in this price segment. But even as things stand right now, it remains a car that you can’t go wrong with.
Photography by - Kapil Angane and Kaustubh Gandhi