It’s less than a week to go before the global launch of the next-generation Honda City (code: 2CT) and, surprisingly, it’s not yet been caught on camera anywhere and in any form. Autocar India had scooped the current City just weeks before it debuted in Thailand in August 2008, but this time round we’ve drawn a blank, despite offering a handsome reward (the offer still stands!) for a picture before the launch.
Honda has put Pentagon levels of security behind the new City and, in fact, has appointed a ‘Secrecy Committee’ whose job is to ensure that no image of the City leaves Honda’s premises, let alone the car! Well, Honda has so far succeeded and this has only heightened the sense of anticipation for what, apart from being the best kept secret in the industry, is also currently the most awaited car.
So what’s the City like? Unconfirmed reports say that it’s more of an evolution rather than the revolution the past two Citys have been over their respective predecessors. The current City has been a huge success and hence Honda is reluctant to tamper with the formula. In fact, the City’s popularity can be gauged by the simple fact that remaining stocks sold out two months earlier than expected, forcing Honda to advance the launch accordingly. The company did not anticipate the swing back to petrol demand, which worked in the City’s favour. But now it doesn’t matter if petrol is in or out because the City will come armed with both, a 1.5-litre petrol and diesel motor to guard itself against any swing.
The talking point of the new City will be the diesel engine, which is a first in this model. The engine is quite familiar though, the Amaze’s 1.5 i-DTEC motor will power the City too but in a different state of tune. We expect power and torque to be marginally enhanced but its fuel efficiency that Honda is after. The company says that customers will be ‘amazed’ (pardon the pun) with the City diesel’s fuel efficiency, which is expected to be the best in class. What we know for sure is that there is no hardware change – the City diesel will use the same Fixed Geometry Turbo (FGT) as in the Amaze and there won't be a move to a Variable Geometry Turbo (VGT), which enhances power but is considerably more expensive too. Honda is relying instead on ECU tuning rather than any hardware changes to upgrade the performance and efficiency of this 1.5-litre diesel.
The good news is that the diesel City will be more refined than the diesel Amaze. We criticized the Amaze for its noisy diesel motor and customers aren’t happy either. This feedback has filtered back to Honda and the company is using superior sound deadening material to cut the NVH. A Honda engineer confirmed, "The City is in a higher class than the Amaze and we need to make it more refined.”
There’s also the tricky bit about positioning. Before the Amaze, the City had enough leeway to be priced (and even discounted) downwards but now with the Amaze occupying a lower price point, the City’s options are only north. There’s a fear that Honda, which has a growing appetite for profit these days, will use the new City to gently step into the discontinued Civic’s shoes. Hence a more expensive City is much more likely than a cheaper one. Let’s just hope it’s worth the asking price.