What is it?
Ever since its launch, the City has been a pillar of Honda’s success in India, a darling of the Indian car buyer and, more often than not, the class best-seller. But this title has been under threat lately with stiff competition from Maruti’s Ciaz. Right on cue, Honda has launched the 2017 City with revised styling, new features and a new variant line-up.
The City gets a new top ZX trim which comes only as a petrol automatic or diesel manual; and not as a petrol manual. The ZX brings a number of new and sought-after features to the Honda mid-sizer, which should help it appeal more to those who simply must have the latest kit. Prices for the updated City start at Rs 8.49 lakh for the base petrol and go up to Rs 13.56 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi) for the top end diesel.
Is this the winning formula that will help the City get back to the top? Read on to find out.
What’s it like on the outside?
The new car receives a host of styling changes and features that make it more modern and up to date, and yet, unmistakably, a City. The new sharp-edged bumper design and wide honeycomb grille give it a sleek look that reminds you of the latest Honda Civic that's sold overseas. The chrome bar atop the grille is now thinner but protrudes more, and extends at the sides to meet the all-new LED headlamps (VX and ZX) with LED Daytime Running Lights (these are standard across the range). These changes will certainly be a huge draw with customers for their premium imagery and bright illumination.
LEDs, in fact, also feature in the fog lights, rear tail-light cluster, trunk lid spoiler stop lamp and on the wing mirror indicators giving the City a sharp, distinctive look. The top variants also get all-new 16-inch alloy wheels, and, with them, wider tyres – both of these do well to improve the City's stance.
What’s it like on the Inside?
Honda has always been great with interiors and the City is no exception. The new car keeps the best bits of the City’s interiors intact while trying to pile on the premium quotient and tech. The first thing that will catch your eye inside the new City is the new ‘Digipad’ infotainment system. Available in V, VX and ZX trims, this system is equipped with a 7.0-inch capacitive touchscreen that has great resolution, legible icons and is pretty easy to operate.
The system also offers new features like Wi-Fi support (use your smartphone as a hotspot and it will connect to it), MirrorLink smartphone integration, navigation with real-time traffic data, 1.5GB of onboard storage, two USB slots, two microSD card slots and even an HDMI port. Connectivity is the buzzword for customers today and Honda seems to have kept this in mind.
The City’s premium quotient has been upped a bit with a greater use of soft-touch plastics and chrome trim on and around the dashboard. The City’s traditional strengths like the comfortable seats, rear seat space and flat floor remain unchanged.
On the safety front, dual front airbags, ABS, EBD and ISOFIX seats are standard across the range. The top ZX variants get side and curtain airbags as well, but at this price point, perhaps ESP or traction control could have been included too.
What’s it like to drive?
The City continues to be powered by the same set of petrol and diesel engines. The 1.5 litre i-DTEC engine that makes 100hp and 200Nm delivers great low-end performance and is smooth and linear in a very un-diesel-like way, but rev it hard and it becomes rather noisy. Honda claims to have added more insulation for lowering the NVH levels in the diesel, and, though it is a marked improvement, there's only so much that could be done to curb what is inherently a noisy engine. Ambient sounds have gone down a bit, but the diesel engine rattle is still an issue.
The petrol option is of course the tried and tested naturally-aspirated 1.5 i-VTEC engine developing 119hp and 145Nm. The motor is still a riot for enthusiasts, revving out eagerly to its red line and making a lot of its power at the top end. It's quite usable at the bottom end too and, as the revs climb, it can get a bit vocal.
Gearbox options remain the same as well with a six-speed manual for the diesel and a choice between five-speed manual or seven-step CVT automatic for the petrol. With India’s crowded roads and newfound fondness for automatics, it’s sad that the City doesn’t offer such an option on the diesel, but that's just something that will perhaps have to wait for the next generation.
With no mechanical changes to the suspension either, the ride remains largely the same, which is to say agreeable by class standards, but not the class best. There's still a fair bit of roll around corners and the ride quality can get a bit choppy at times. The top ZX variants do get new 16-inch alloys and wider tyres, and thankfully they don't seem to have hurt the ride quality at all. As for the handling, we didn't get much of a chance to test it on Delhi's wide, smooth and straight roads, so the verdict is still out on that one.
Should I buy one?
The Honda City has always been a great buy for the Indian buyer, thanks to strong core values. Reliability, performance, space, comfort and premium feel meant that if it ever wasn't the class benchmark, it always came very close. With the new 2017 City, Honda has gone even more premium and sophisticated, especially with the new ZX variant.
This definitely shows in the pricing, where the City is now easily the most expensive car in its class.
In fact, the City’s diesel top-end ZX variant is roughly around Rs 1.2 lakh more expensive than an equivalent Verna, and a whopping Rs 4 lakh more than the Ciaz’s top variant! So Honda’s premium pricing is certainly back, but is it worth it this time around? While some of the new additions are new to the segment, most are now par for the course. So while it is a more appealing package overall, Honda will have to once again rely on the City’s brand clout and core strengths to pull this one off. Let’s wait and watch.