We at Autocar India haven’t run a middle-of-the-road Honda City as a long termer for some time now. This is a bit strange, because as one of our most recommended cars, we should have.
The new Honda City, however, is finally here, and in the ‘right’ spec. Sure, the diesel is efficient and the CVT automatic is convenient but none of them can quite match the charm of that fabulous 1.5 petrol engine run through a manual gearbox. Our long term car is also the top-of-the-line VX MT. So it comes fully loaded with driver and passenger airbags, a sunroof, leather seats and soft-touch HVAC system. The on-road price for this car is a not inconsiderable Rs 12.31 lakh (on-road Mumbai). But it is important to remember you can bag yourself a City for much less. Manual versions of the petrol start at a relatively affordable Rs 8.93 lakh, and though the base version lacks basics like an audio system and an airbag for the front passenger, the SV MT is much better equipped and much better value at Rs 10.39 lakh.
Although it’s early days, I’m already smitten by the Honda. Convenience is of the highest order and it’s a great urban tool: it is called the City after all. The keyless entry, for example, works just great. While there is a small lock and unlock button on the handle, you don’t need to use it. All you have to do, as long as the fob is in your pocket, is pull at the door handle and step in. Now Hondas, and especially Citys, in the past haven’t had the nicest seats. But here, the seats deliver everything you ask for and more. They are big, there’s plenty of shoulder and thigh support and the leather seats seem to have the perfect blend of support and suppleness. You really do go ‘aahhh’ when you sink in.
The core proposition of every Honda, however, is the engine. And the new City’s is just brilliant. Now brilliant isn’t a word we bandy about loosely, but it just seems so apt here.Evolved from the earlier City’s motor, this version now has a newly designed resonator box in the air inlet system. This helps it respond a bit quicker every time I give the accelerator a tap, making it much nicer to drive in start-stop traffic. You no longer have to come down a gear just to pass someone and that means fewer gear changes and a more relaxed drive. Yes, if you want to blow past a couple of cars, or make that green light, you do still need to chuck it down a gear, but the flat responses of the old City at low speed are almost eradicated on this car.
But what I search for incessantly, when behind the wheel, is a nice break in traffic. Then, of course, snick it into second, plant the right foot and wait for that smile, as the rev happy, honey smooth engine delivers a huge hit of power and torque all the way from four to 7000rpm. What I like the best; how the engine wants to spin harder and faster, as you go higher up the power band.
7,000rpm is also what I used a lot of when driving up to the hill station of Panchgani. An early morning start and some wide open roads had me regularly using the powerband, the City impressing me even more by delivering the effortless pace and performance of a much larger car.
The one thing I don’t like about the City though is the tinny build. You feel this when you get in and shut the doors, you can feel it when the City takes on some large size potholes and thumping the sides doesn’t fill me with confidence either. This is because Honda’s bestseller is designed to keep the weight down for good fuel efficiency and performance.
Talking of fuel efficiency, the City has been delivering some decent numbers at the pump. Our City is giving us an impressive 11kpl in Mumbai traffic, which is pretty handy when you consider the comfort and space this car provides. Of course, driving style impacts the efficiency of the Honda quite a bit, especially if you pull it hard, but that is only to be expected.
While it’s still early days, it isn’t difficult to understand why the City is such a popular car. Space, comfort, performance, features, the Honda
has it all. Will it continue to capture our imagination or will we tire of it in the coming months; stay tuned for further reports.