2020 Honda City review, road test
Rating 8 8

2020 Honda City review, road test

28th Sep 2020 7:00 am

We put the fifth-generation City through our comprehensive tests to find out how it performs in the real world.

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  • Make : Honda
  • Model : City (5th gen)
We Like
Premium, comfy interiors
Engine performance
Stuffed with features
Compliant ride quality
We Don't Like
Expensive
Not engaging to drive

With the City as its torchbearer, Honda built a premium, desirable brand image in India. Over the years, the City cemented its dominant position in the midsize sedan segment, and for the longest time, it singlehandedly drove sales for the brand in India. So to say that the City is an important car for Honda is an understatement.

Now, Honda has launched the all-new fifth-generation City, which enters a very competitive space. This new car is bigger, plusher and better than its predecessor in nearly every way. So we put it to the test to find out just how good it actually is.

Honda City (5th gen)
Honda City (5th gen)

Rs 12.76 lakh * on road price (New Delhi)

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Based on the Jazz platform, like its predecessor, its wheelbase remains the same at 2,600mm. However this fifth-gen platform has been heavily modified for improved crash protection and refinement, and there’s a higher percentage of high-strength steel used, which doesn’t merely help save weight, but has also improved torsional rigidity by around 20 percent.

The City has grown in size with each subsequent generation change and this fifth generation isn’t an exception. Not only is it larger than the outgoing version in almost every dimension, it is actually the longest car in its segment, boasting of a 4,549mm length, which is even longer than the first-gen Civic (if only by 4mm). To put its growth into perspective, compared to the first-generation Honda City that was launched back in 1998, this fifth-gen is approximately 300mm longer, 50mm wider and 100mm taller.

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Full-LED headlamps look premium and light-up the road nicely.

Its styling has evolved, and it wears a subtler, more grown-up persona; yet its silhouette has a visual link to the outgoing version. Honda’s signature chunky chrome bar that stretches across the width of the front fascia is now flanked by sleek headlamps that make it resemble the more premium Civic. Adding a touch of bling to its styling are the full-LED headlamps, which look contemporary and upmarket. The diamond-cut 16-inch alloys are attractively styled, but the 185/55 tyres look undersized for this car’s stretched dimensions. The LED tail-lights are good-looking too, and bear an uncanny resemblance to those of the new BMW 3 Series.

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Tail-lights bear some resemblance to those on the new BMW 3 Series.

 

With the key in your pocket, the City’s sensor-based system unlocks the car without the need to press any physical buttons. The interiors make a great first impression, with light beige upholstery, soft-touch materials and the tastefully-executed wood trim. Adding to the cabin’s upmarket feel are the extremely high-quality rotary controls for the climate control system, which operate with satisfying clicks. Even the all-digital instrument cluster is superbly executed with just one physical speedo needle cleverly fused with a virtual display, offering crisp and clear readouts. The steering feels great to hold and its buttons have a quality feel.

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Crisp, clear virtual dials are a superb blend of modern and retro.

Not all is perfect though; the touchscreen looks like an aftermarket add-on and isn’t well-integrated into the design. And then some plastics look a bit too shiny and stand out in an otherwise well-appointed cabin.

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Contemporary styling; feels rich with soft-touch materials and tastefully executed wood trimming.

Just like the fourth-gen City, the front seats are broad, supportive and exceptionally comfortable, offering the right amount of cushioning. And taking comfort to another level is the City’s rear-seat experience, where legroom is aplenty, the seat is nicely angled, support is spot on – and so is the cushioning.

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Wide, comfy seats with good all-round support and soft cushioning.

This time around, Honda has equipped the rear seat with three integrated head restraints, and what’s nice is that although they aren’t adjustable, they are quite tall and hence usable for most rear passengers. To nitpick, the rear centre armrest is a bit too low for comfort, and headroom for someone over six feet tall could be a bit of an issue.

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Has the best back seat in its segment; now with three head restraints.

There are plenty of cleverly thought-out storage areas, as well as charging provisions scattered across the cabin. Honda has consciously designed areas and cavities to store modern smartphones around the gear console, as well as in the front-seat back pocket for rear passengers. Taking practicality a step forward is the humongous 506-litre boot.

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Large, 506-litre boot can easily swallow the family’s weekend luggage

 

Honda has deployed the familiar 100hp, 1.5-litre, i-DTEC diesel engine to power the City, but it now includes a NOx Storage Catalyst (NSC) and a diesel particulate filter (DPF) to meet BS6 emission norms. It is much quieter and more refined than the previous version. With modifications to the shapes of certain components, such as the chain case, combustion pump protection, bracket and oval catalytic converter, as well as the inclusion of additional ribs for the engine block and a cover-tightening floating structure, Honda has managed to significantly reduce the squeaking and rattling sound from the engine. Vibrations too are excellently controlled, thanks to additional insulation and sound-deadening materials.

What hasn’t changed is this engine’s zero-lag character and strong low-end responses. With a very tractable nature and linear power delivery, this is one of the most user-friendly diesels around. It feels at ease while chugging along in a higher gear at a low engine speed, and the moment you put your foot down, it builds speed in a very smooth manner.

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The motor does step outside its comfort zone when spun beyond 3,500rpm, and for the last 700 revs or so, progress is slow as the engine runs out of steam. But keep it between 1,500-3,000rpm, and it rewards you with brisk performance. It does come as a bit of a surprise to see that the gear ratios (including the final drive) haven’t changed; and this fifth-gen is nearly 62kg heavier than the outgoing version too.

Still, performance has improved significantly. This version does the sprints to 60kph, 100kph and 140kph quicker than the fourth-gen City i-DTEC by a respective 0.79sec, 2.34sec and 6.93sec. Even the 20-80kph acceleration in third gear is dispatched 0.6sec quicker than before. However, the 40-100kph time in fourth gear remains unchanged.

A bigger talking point of the new City is its all-new petrol engine, which belongs to the ‘Earth Dreams’ family. This engine has a longer stroke (if only by 0.1mm) and displaces 1,498cc (as compared to the outgoing version’s 1,497cc). It employs DOHC or double overhead camshafts, for improved efficiency as well as performance. Some salient features of this new engine include a higher compression ratio of 10.6:1 (vs 10.3:1), increased use of aluminium in the block, a lighter crankshaft and several low-friction and weight-saving measures to improve performance. But do these changes take away from the enjoyable high-revving character of the older 1.5-litre petrol?

Absolutely not! This engine’s character remains identical to the outgoing unit’s. It is a responsive engine, has a flattish mid-range, and loves to be revved hard. Power does flow through in steps, with prominent spikes felt beyond 2,000rpm and 4,000rpm, but it is the last 2,500-3,000rpm in the rev range that feels the most enjoyable, not only in terms of performance, but also the aural experience. It does get quite vocal at higher revs, but it isn’t coarse or a strained sound.

Acceleration times are near identical to the fourth-gen City – and amongst the quickest in the segment, with a 0-100kph sprint being dispatched in just 10.2sec. In-gear acceleration times also remain identical to the outgoing car despite the higher kerb weight and lower final-drive ratio (more on that later).

The 6-speed manual gearbox is light, with well-defined gates and a very positive shift action. The reverse-gear slot is beside sixth gear, and is actually very easy to engage and get accustomed with. The clutch on both, the petrol and diesel units, is light and has a short travel, thus demanding very little effort. With great visibility, light controls and an easy-to-drive character, the Honda City is still a very user-friendly car.

For those seeking sheer convenience, the petrol-CVT is the one to go for. It is very smooth and offers a truly effortless drive experience. At city speeds, it does its job in a fuss-free, relaxed manner, and what’s nice is that even when you’re aggressive with the throttle, that typical ‘rubberband effect’ is negligible; or in simpler words, there isn’t a disconnected feel between the engine speed and the vehicle speed under hard acceleration.

The CVT offers paddleshifters too, mimicking seven preset gear ratios. These do offer a certain degree of manual control over the engine speed, and are particularly handy while driving downhill, when you need stronger engine braking. The petrol-CVT takes 1.6sec more than the petrol MT to sprint to 100kph, but due to the absence of gears to go through, it is much quicker in scenarios where you put your foot down to close a gap in traffic or to make a quick overtake.

This latest City’s suspension has gone even softer than before, resulting in a very compliant ride quality. It absorbs bad roads with a sense of maturity, and road shocks are absorbed so nicely, they don’t make their presence felt in the cabin. Even the sharpest potholes emanate mere muted thuds inside, and the suspension components do their job quietly and very competently. As a result, the new City has the nicest low-speed ride quality in its class. At expressway speeds, too, it remains composed and predictable, but when you up the pace, due to a peculiarly hollow rear section of the car, it doesn’t feel as planted or as reassuring as its European rivals. This hollowness also filters in a lot of road noise from the rear into the cabin, especially while driving over a wet surface.

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Ride comfort is excellent; handling, although predictable, is quite uninspiring.

The first-gen model earned a reputation for being engaging to drive; but over the years, the City has matured into a comfort-oriented sedan with a more balanced approach. Most owners will be happy with its light steering that weighs-up well at speed, but those who enjoy driving will be left wanting for more feel and feedback. That said, the turn-in is quite sharp and the front end changes direction rather confidently too. Despite the narrow, 185mm tyres, there’s plenty of fun to be had while chucking it around on a winding section of road, but a wider set of rubber would further enhance the experience. There’s also a G-Force meter on the digital instrument cluster that displays up to 0.5 Gs, and can be a really fun tool when you are attacking corners or driving in a spirited manner.

In terms of braking, an earlier bite point would have been nicer, but the brake pedal feel and weight are very easy to get accustomed with. The overall braking performance has improved, and the car stops much earlier and in a shorter distance than before, under panic braking from 80kph.

The engine that really impresses in this department is the diesel. Averaging nearly 2kpl more than the fourth-gen car in the city, this fifth-gen City diesel returns an impressive 16.2kpl, while the highway fuel-economy stands at 19.1kpl, identical to the outgoing version.

In the petrol-manual’s case, there’s a new sixth gear brought into the equation to make it a more relaxed highway cruiser. What’s more, the final drive ratio has been lowered to 4.111:1 (compared to 4.294:1) and the gear ratios from first to fifth are unchanged from the outgoing version, so the engine will spin at a lower RPM compared to the fourth-gen car. As an example, 100kph comes up at 3,000rpm in fifth and 2,700rpm in sixth gear, as against 3,100rpm in fifth gear in the outgoing version, thus sipping less fuel while cruising. As a result, it returned 11.5kpl in the city and 17.7kpl on the highway, an overall improvement of 0.6kpl, despite the gain in weight.

What comes as a surprise is the petrol-CVT’s city fuel economy of 12kpl, which goes to show how frugal and intuitive the CVT is compared to a manual. Helping the CVT’s case further is the presence of an Eco mode, which relaxes the responses, especially under part-throttle inputs. But it is still very usable in this mode and owners won’t mind leaving it switched on at all times to extract the best economy out of this engine. On the highway, the petrol CVT returned a rather respectable 16.4kpl.

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On par with the competition, Honda offers an 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with the new City, although it looks like an aftermarket fitment and sticks out like a sore thumb in an otherwise well-executed cabin. The system is easy to use; and what helps is that it gets smartphone integration in the form of Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. It also gets connected-car features for remote operation, alerts and geo-fencing, as well as advanced voice guidance via the Amazon Alexa app. The screen doubles as a display for the rear-view camera and blind-spot monitor, but in bright daylight, the display isn’t bright enough and very difficult to read. Sound quality from the eight speakers is very good.

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Display isn’t bright enough, especially under the afternoon sun, making it difficult to read.

 

Honda has stuffed the City to the gills with features, and for the first time, it gets kit like ESP, hill-start assist, agile handling assist, a lane-watch camera, a tyre-pressure monitoring system, and a crisp digital instrument cluster. 

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Door-mounted mirror with a nifty camera to minimise blind spots.

Additionally, it carries over features from the previous version like auto LED headlamps, LED fog lamps, 16-inch alloys, cruise control, auto climate control, a sunroof, six airbags, a reversing camera, an 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment unit, leatherette upholstery, rear AC vents, keyless entry and go, sensor-based keyless access, auto-folding mirrors, a G-force meter, and more. What’s more, the automatic variant features paddleshifters, as well as an Economy mode and a remote engine-start system.

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Impressive sound quality from the eight-speaker audio system.

 

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Honda’s winning formula, now with an added dose of comfort and plushness, blended into a pricy proposition.

Honda has hit the ball out of the park with the new, fifth-generation City. It builds on the strengths of the outgoing version and excels in several areas. Its interiors feel upmarket, with several high-quality materials and tastefully executed bits. Space inside the cabin is huge, and the City’s seat comfort is in a league of its own. Then there’s its ride quality, which is supple, and one of the best in its class. When it comes to engine performance, the diesel is fuel-efficient and refined, and the new petrol is an absolute firecracker in terms of outright performance. A lot of premium kit and connected-car tech has now made it to the equipment list too.

But this contemporary proposition comes at a price, and the new City is one of the most expensive cars in its class. Some rivals might offer a more engaging drive experience, while some might be more feature-rich, but the Honda City is a jack of all trades and master of some – and although it’s pricey, this is a car you can seldom go wrong with.

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ENGINE Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT Electric
Fuel Type / Propulsion Petrol Petrol Diesel
Engine Installation Front, transverse Front, transverse Front, transverse
Type 4-cyl 4-cyl 4-cyl, turbochaged
Cubic Capacity (cc) 1498cc 1498cc 1498cc
Bore/Stroke (mm) 73/89.5mm 73/89.5mm 76/82.5mm
Compression Ratio 10.6:1 10.6:1 16:1
Valve Train 4 valves per cyl, DOHC 4 valves per cyl, DOHC
Max Power (hp @ rpm) 121hp at 6600rpm 121hp at 6600rpm 100hp at 3600rpm
Max Torque (Nm @ rpm) 145Nm at 4300rpm 145Nm at 4300rpm 200Nm at 1750rpm
Power to Weight Ratio (hp/tonne) 104.9 hp per tonne 104.9 hp per tonne 82.2 hp per tonne
Torque to Weight Ratio (Nm/tonne) 125.8 Nm per tonne 125.8 Nm per tonne 164.3 Nm per tonne
Specific Output (hp/litre) 80.8 hp per litre 80.8 hp per litre 66.8 hp per litre
TRANSMISSION Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT Electric
Drive Layout Front-wheel drive Front-wheel drive Front-wheel drive
Gearbox Type Manual CVT Manual
No of Gears 6 - 6
1st Ratio/kph per 1000 rpm 3.461/7.85 - 3.642/7.96
2nd Ratio/kph per 1000 rpm 1.869/14.53 - 1.884/15.39
3rd Ratio/kph per 1000 rpm 1.235/21.99 - 1.179/24.59
4th Ratio/kph per 1000 rpm 0.948/28.65 - 0.869/33.37
5th Ratio/kph per 1000 rpm 0.809/33.57 - 0.705/41.14
6th Ratio/kph per 1000 rpm 0.727/37.36 - 0.592/48.99
Final Drive Ratio 4.111:1 - 3.85:1
BRAKING Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT Electric
80 - 0 kph (mts, sec) 26.48m, 2.31sec - -
EFFICIENCY Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT Electric
City (kpl) 11.5kpl 12kpl 16.2kpl
Highway (kpl) 17.7kpl 16.4kpl 19.1kpl
Tank size (lts) 40 litres 40 litres 40 litres
ACCELERATION Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT Electric
0 - 10 kph (sec) 0.57sec 0.61sec 0.55sec
0 - 20 kph (sec) 1.17sec 1.41sec 1.12 sec
0 - 30 kph (sec) 1.97sec 2.37sec 1.94sec
0 - 40 kph (sec) 2.74sec 3.32sec 2.85sec
0 - 50 kph (sec) 3.57sec 4.33sec 3.96sec
0 - 60 kph (sec) 4.53sec 5.45sec 5.21sec
0 - 70 kph (sec) 5.88sec 6.71sec 6.82sec
0 - 80 kph (sec) 7.22sec 8.19sec 8.44sec
0 - 90 kph (sec) 8.65sec 9.91sec 10.07sec
0 - 100 kph (sec) 10.20sec 11.85sec 12.41sec
0 - 110 kph (sec) 12.57sec 14.15sec 14.82sec
0 - 120 kph (sec) 14.98sec 16.79sec 17.38sec
0 - 130 kph (sec) 17.64sec 19.99sec 21.01sec
0 - 140 kph (sec) 20.71sec 24.10sec 25.11sec
1/4 mile (sec) 17.07sec 18.05sec 18.10sec
20-80kph (sec) 13.23sec 7.18sec 12.66sec
40-100kph (sec) 18.23sec 8.57sec 15.04sec
MAX SPEED IN GEAR Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT Electric
1st (kph @rpm) 53kph 6800rpm - 34kph 4300rpm
2nd (kph @rpm) 101kph 7000rpm - 66kph 4300rpm
3rd (kph @rpm) 153kph 7000rpm - 102kph 4200rpm
4th (kph @rpm) 198kph 6900rpm - 136kph 4100rpm
5th (kph @rpm) 198kph 5900rpm - 160kph 3900rpm
6th (kph @rpm) 198kph 5300rpm - 181kph 3700rpm
NOISE LEVEL Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT Electric
Idle (dB) 39.6dB 38.8dB 43.8 dB
Idle with AC blower at half (dB) 39.6dB 38.8dB 43.8dB
Full Revs, AC off (dB) 78.4dB at 7000rpm 75.9dB at 6400rpm 69.3dB at 4400rpm
50 kph AC off (dB) 63.1dB 63.8dB 63.1 dB
80 kph AC off (dB) 68.3dB 68.2dB 68.2dB
BODY Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT Electric
Construction Four-door sedan, monocoque Four-door sedan, monocoque Four-door sedan, monocoque
Weight (kg) 1153kg 1153kg 1217kg
Front Tyre 185/55 R16 185/55 R16 185/55 R16
Rear Tyre 185/55 R16 185/55 R16 185/55 R16
SUSPENSION Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT Electric
Front Independent, MacPherson struts with coil springs Independent, MacPherson struts with coil springs Independent, MacPherson struts with coil springs
Rear Non-independent, torsion beam, coil springs Non-independent, torsion beam, coil springs Non-independent, torsion beam, coil springs
STEERING Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT Electric
Type Rack and pinion Rack and pinion Rack and pinion
Type of power assist Electric Electric Electric
Turning Circle Diameter (mts) 10.6m 10.6m 10.6m
BRAKES Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT Electric
Front Discs Discs Discs
Rear Drums Drums Drums
Dimensions Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT Electric
Length 4549mm 4549mm 4549mm
Width (mm) 1748mm 1748mm 1748mm
Height 1489mm 1489mm 1489mm
Wheel base 2600mm 2600mm 2600mm
Front Track (mm) 1496mm 1496mm 1496mm
Rear Track (mm) 1484mm 1484mm 1484mm
Rear Interior Width (mm) 1310mm 1310mm 1310mm
Ground Clearance (mm) 165mm (unladen) 165mm (unladen) 165mm (unladen)
Boot Capacity (Lts) 506 litres 506 litres 506 litres
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