Some say the average human attention span is on a decline. In a day and age where everything changes a bit too frequently, brand loyalty is something hard to come by. That holds even when it comes to cars given the fact that buying one is a lot of time also an emotional decision. Honda City has been one such brand that has kept bucking the trend for over two decades now. The midsize sedan, which was designed inherently for customers in countries such as India was a runaway hit from the word go and while it has undergone massive evolution through subsequent generations that have also resulted in a new kind of clientele, it continues to be the brand that defines Honda in India. With the fifth-generation City, there’s further progression.
Design & Build
Just like its generic namesakes, this City too keeps growing. It is almost 15-feet long now and sets the tempo of a spacious, big car. It is the first thing that strikes you, along with the new design. It’s a seamless evolution of the older car as it borrows a face similar to the bigger Honda Civic and merges it with an overall silhouette that closely resonates with the fourth-generation car. The front is typically Honda with its “Wing Face” design that gets a hefty dose of chrome. The headlights are quite striking and feature a full LED array for both the main beams and DRLs. Even at the rear, the wraparound LED lamps to look quite classy. Diamond-cut alloys (16-inches) add a touch of sophistication. Designers have tried to give it a more curvaceous look unlike the straighter lines of the previous-gen model.
Powertrain & Performance
New City continues to use the same units as are available in the 4th generation model (which also continues to sell in the petrol/manual guise). The petrol unit is a 1.5-litre iVTEC engine. Super smooth, it loves to be revved and as a result, delivers power easily. Both power and torque peak at a relatively higher rpm but the inherent refinement of Honda’s engine tech means you hardly notice it. At 120bhp and 145Nm, this BS6 unit is identical in output figures to its predecessor. But cleaner. Power is transmitted to the front wheels either through a six-speed manual or a 7-speed CVT. In the manual, a light clutch and smooth shifts mean it isn’t as tiring to drive in traffic. Plus the mid-range is meaty so through the gears you can keep maintaining smooth acceleration. Ditto for the CVT although the manual gearbox offers greater comfort and better fuel efficiency. There is also a 1.5-litre diesel engine. Makes 99bhp, lesser than the petrol, but 200Nm of torque which is quite impressive. No automatic gearbox on this one though which is a bummer.
Drive & Dynamics
On the move, the new City is a cool customer. It pulls away smoothly and effortlessly. It is almost therapeutic. Don’t hustle it and it will never complain. Pedal to metal isn’t the kind of driving you want to do on this car though. The City is about finesse and it is best to treat it that way. Getting comfortable behind the wheel is easy. Power steering is well assisted and quite precise. You don’t get the heft of a German car but the upside of that is that parking and slow traffic speed manoeuvrability is easy. Speaking of which, despite its size City manages a tight turning radius of just 5.3m. All-round visibility is more than adequate. Ride quality is plush, akin to a car bigger than its size too. The suspension is soft and sometimes it floats but doesn’t get unsettled easily. Braking is reassuring and confident.
Interiors & Comfort
Some years ago, Honda came under massive fire for reducing the oomph factor of its cabin. The transition from the second-gen to third was where we saw the most ‘drop’. Subsequently, Honda has mended that and tried to improve the interiors. The fifth-gen City’s interior mirrors the subtlety of Japanese luxury. It isn’t loud. There are acres of beige. And while the general plastics and faux leather look neat it still doesn’t reek of luxury. The City is happy to stay premium. The dashboard is functional and may not look gimmicky like Korean or Indian cars, except for a large display that has a smartphone-like touch feel. Apart from the usual features, the new City also brings Alexa connectivity. For eg., you can instruct the car through an Alexa app on your phone to switch on the air con remotely. Is pretty neat once you have the necessary app downloaded on the phone. Switches and dials (for the climate control) are robust and seem like they will outlast even the life of this car. The instrument cluster is straightforward – analogue speedo with a digital tacho – love that. The latter has a G- meter at the center just in case you geeky and want to see how much you ended up pushing the car. Aircon is super effective on a hot Mumbai afternoon when we tested it. Rear seat comfort is top-notch and still the benchmark for space in this segment. Front seats are better contoured than the rear but all are cushioned right. We drove the top model, and it looked well-appointed with its leatherette and faux wood finishes. There is also an ample amount of storage space. Except for the boot lid, the doors of the cars feel solid and close with a delightful thunk.
Owning & Verdict
Honda continues to sell the 4th-gen City for around a lakh less, variant-wise, than this new City. But we feel it is a matter of time before we see them stop that. Coming to the new City, it offers a lot more in terms of space, and creature comforts. With a refined, cleaner powertrain and a plush ride, Honda has upped the comfort game and continues to set the benchmark. Variant-to-variant it does command a premium over rivals, which would be its only drawback. However, it is a wholesome car. Chauffeur- or self-driven, if space, comfort and peace of mind is a priority alongside fuel efficiency, the City does the trick.