Changing The Rules Of The Segment
The Honda City is one of the Philippines’ best selling subcompact sedans., and it’s easy to see why. It’s a subcompact that is fun to drive, good looking (looks are subjective nevertheless), and fuel-efficient. Honda’s best seller has just received a major refresh, and from the looks of it, is set to revolutionize once again what people come to expect from a subcompact sedan. So, has Honda done it’s job to raise people’s expectation from what a subcompact sedan should be? Let’s find out.
You’d be slightly forgiven if you think of the new City as merely a facelift. Take a look at its side, however, and the changes are more pronounced. A new chrome or “platinum” grille, in the case of the VX models, bring the car’s front to a whole new level of sophistication, while the side character line that begins from the tail lamps add dynamism to its looks, making it look sleek and raked. Go towards the rear, and the L-shaped tail lamps seem to be inspired from BMWs. Together with the handsome 16-inch alloy wheels, in my opinion, the new Honda City is one of the best looking subcompacts in the segment. The Modulo kits in this Aero Sports model make it look even sportier. However, the Modulo grille and rear wing is a matter of taste. The rear wing with its middle part pushed downward exists so that it won’t hamper the car’s rear visibility.
The interior of the all-new Honda City is where the story becomes even more interesting. The Honda City has the most upmarket interior in the segment, bar none. There is faux stitching on the dashboard, but unlike the one from the Toyota Vios, the faux stitching on the dashboard is done using soft touch materials, and this seems to be a huge blow to the former’s interior. The praises don’t end there. The Honda City may even trump some vehicles in a higher class with its modern interior, thanks to it’s clean, button-less center panel, though the panels are prone to fingerprints.
Space and Practicality
The new Honda City has grown in size, and this growth in dimensions translates to a bigger cabin. Honda still hasn’t forgotten their “Man-Maximum, Machine-Minimum” principle, and they are still one of the leaders when it comes to interior packaging. As a matter of fact, the Honda City’s interior is so well packaged; legroom in the rear is ironically bigger than the Honda Civic’s, which is obviously a bigger car. My height is 5 foot 10, yet I was able to cross my legs when I sat in the back seat, even with the front seats set to my ideal driving position.
Storage places in the Honda City are certainly not at a premium. There are rear seat back pockets and door bins on all four doors. 2 cupholders in the front, a spacious center console bin, and a huge glovebox will make sure that your smartphones will not be preyed upon by the worst thieves Manila has to offer. There is even a clever bin in the rear console, just above the charging ports, so that your smartphones won’t be all over the place while it is charging. A huge boot with a full-size spare tire underneath the boot floor further aids the City’s practicality.
Contributing to the City’s game changing interior is its Display Audio infotainment system with voice command. Unlike the ones that are provided by third party brands, an in-house developed infotainment system is a lot more intuitive to use. The system has minimal lag, and since it uses a capacitive touch screen, like those on smartphones, the touch response is seamless. Another highlight is the touch panel climate control system. Unlike the capacitive center panel from MyFordTouch, lag is minimal to almost non-existent.
The tech goodies don’t end there. The Honda City is also one of the first cars in the market to have an HDMI port. It is used for screen mirroring, which means, your smartphone will be displayed onto the Display Audio, the same way you normally interact when plugging in your smartphone or tablet on your HD television. For now though, it only works on Apple devices.
In this day and age, a dead smartphone is a huge no-no, and the City has yet again, another first in its class feature. There are two power ports in the back seat, so your friends and family have room to charge their smartphones.
Reversing and parking in the Honda City is anything but a challenge, thanks to its Multi-Angle rear view camera, a first in its segment. There are three modes. Normal, Wide Angle, and the most useful of them all, the Top Down view. Thanks to this mode, hitting a parking guard when reversing is now a thing of the past.
The Honda City is powered by a 1.5 liter L15A i-VTEC engine, a carry-over from the previous generation. It produces 118 hp @ 6,600 rpm, and 145 Nm of torque @ 4,800 rpm. This is mated to Honda’s new Earth Dreams CVT with a 7-Speed manual mode, propelling the front wheels. Honda has dropped the 1.3 liter L13B i-VTEC in favor of a line-up of purely 1.5 liter models.
How It Drives
The Honda City has always been known for its fun to drive nature, and the new City delivers. The City is at home in the twisties. The chassis is well balanced and the suspension has that perfect Honda balance of firmness and ride comfort. Smaller bumps upset its ride when cruising slowly, but the ride gets better as you speed up. This kind of suspension set up translates to a body that does not lean like an overweight pig when cornering fast. You may have known by now that the new Honda City is now equipped with a CVT, and how does it fare? I normally hate CVTs for being loud and have the engine “droning” the cabin when putting the pedal to the metal because CVTs tend to hold revs too long, but this Earth Dreams CVT has little to none of those negative attributes. It downshifts like a typical automatic, and when in Sport mode using the paddle shifters, the shifts have a crisp feel, making it even more engaging to drive. Combined with fast, accurate steering that has a decent amount of feedback and brakes that feel progressive and sharp, despite the rear now having drums, the Honda City is a family subcompact that pleases even the enthusiast driver.
Bring the City out to an open highway, and you notice one of the City’s largest improvements, and that is its refinement. Previous generations of the City had a pretty loud (but bearable) interior when travelling at triple digit speeds, and this new generation heavily fixes that. Plenty of sound insulation in strategic places had been added, which explains why the doors seem a lot heavier than the ones from the previous generations. This makes the Honda City have one of the quietest cabins in the subcompact segment, on par with the most refined, the Ford Fiesta and Volkswagen Polo.
Now, because of the City’s new Earth Dreams CVT, its fuel consumption has been improved substantially. Despite having a bigger and slightly heavier body, fuel consumption on the highway at an average speed of 70-90 km/h ranges from a very impressive 16-19 km/l, and I wasn’t even conscious at that time with my right foot. Meanwhile, in the… errr, city, the worst that I could achieve was 8 km/l, and that already includes spirited driving while using the paddle shifters. Now, that CVT also has another advantage. Because a CVT has infinite ratios to play with, overtaking slower vehicles in the highway is never a challenge. Don’t go thinking in challenging someone in a drag race though. The CVT was mainly developed for fuel efficiency.
On The Downside
This is the part seems to be pretty hard for me isn’t it? The new Honda City really is that good. For me not to sound like an endorser, I should point out a few downsides, shouldn’t I? Being picky now, the slim air vents in the center of the dashboard take time to cool the rear seats. Perhaps the new City is so good, its only potential downside is the initial sticker price shock. At P880,000 for the standard VX variant, and P935,000 for this VX Aero Sports, it is understandable, since it is already bordering at the prices of compacts already.
The new Honda City is a new and revolutionary subcompact from Honda. Everything has been improved, from the cabin quality, space, practicality, technology, refinement, and fuel efficiency. Truly, Honda is really aiming to new heights in the segment. The initial sticker shock may frighten the average buyer, but take it for a drive, and explore how well executed the cabin tech is, and it’s easy to see where that extra cash has gone to. Refinement is also top notch, on par with the Ford Fiesta and the Volkswagen Polo, if not better. Do take note of the existence of the E variants, which isn’t sparsely equipped either, both of which has even more features than some of its top spec rivals. The new Honda City is now here, re-writing the rules once again of the subcompact segment.
Exterior Design: ★★★★☆
Interior Design: ★★★★☆
Interior Quality: ★★★★★
Fuel Efficiency: ★★★★☆
Value For Money: ★★★☆☆
OVERALL: 4 out of 5
What The Others Say…
Top Gear Philippines (19/20)
“If it’s basic, comfortable transportation that you want–assuming you don’t need to haul cargo or an extended family–the new City will serve your requirements perfectly. Its design is pleasing without alienating the conservatives; the good build quality can be felt all throughout the car, especially inside the cozy cabin; and the powertrain has been refined to an ideal balance of comfort and athleticism.”
“Priced at P 935,000 for the VX Aero Sport Modulo, the City isn’t exactly on the affordable end of the sub-compact genre. And even if you opt out of the aero kit (and personally, it looks all the more better without it), you can shave some P 55,000 (P 880,000) that can go to a nice set of 17-inch wheels and tires. But, you do get what you pay for and the City is kitted with features considered unimaginable for this class. More than just the technological features though, this is a sub-compact that manages to get even the basic ingredients right from a smooth drivetrain to a capable chassis to a spacious interior. In fact, it actually makes the marginally larger Honda Civic a frivolous and unnecessary upgrade. And ultimately that’s the deal here. Honda is asking for a bit more than what you’re used to, but in return, you get something that’s truly ahead of the game.”
“For comfort and refinement in the metro, the City is really the “class” leader now. The transmission, the suspension’s manners, the way the car drives and rides on our concrete roads is pretty good; a definitive improvement over the previous generation. Those along with all the other upgrades inside including the suite of safety features (stability control and 6-airbags, among others for the VX+) take the City to new heights. All that comes at a cost, which that brings us to the only real issue with the City: the SRP.”