The Toyota Vios has always been the best-selling car in the Philippine market for the longest time already. Though if we were to be honest, we’ve always thought that the Honda City was always the better car. Honda’s subcompact sedan felt experimental and revolutionary after every generation, and that sole fact made it a more interesting proposition. This time around, the all-new City, at least in terms of looks, feels more like an evolution rather than a revolution. Is the City still the better car compared to the Vios this time around? Let’s find out by taking a look at this top-of-the-line 2021 Honda City RS variant.
From the outside, the all-new Honda City looks more like a heavy facelift of the previous generation model. Still, it manages to look cohesive and modern to look at. This particular RS variant we have here has a sporty set of front and rear bumpers, two-tone 16-inch alloy wheels, and a black grille. It also gets a sleek pair of full LED headlights and LED foglights, but the fundamental modern touches like the LED daytime running lights, LED taillights, and alloy wheels are standard across the lineup, and those factors alone make the City look more modern than its competitors regardless of which variant you choose.
Inside the all-new Honda City, and you’ll find a dashboard design that looks modern. It’s something that I’d consider functional rather than stylish, though. Hard plastics dominate the interior, but this RS variant gets soft padded surfaces on the dash and the center console. The digital AC controls feel particularly nice, thanks to how clicky the knobs feel. With this being the RS variant, the seats are upholstered in leather and suede, plus there are also sporty aluminum pedals to boot.
Infotainment duties are done through the City’s 8-inch touch screen, which is standard on all but the base 1.5 S MT variant. It’s an excellent touch screen system, thanks to the responsive user interface, intuitively laid out menus, and the presence of hard buttons. I do wish for a volume knob though, and for the buttons to be placed on the left side of the screen. This is a clear indication that left-hand drive markets are a minority for the Honda City. Nevertheless, at least Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are offered as standard.
Subcompact sedans have grown over the years, and the 2021 Honda City is no exception. As a matter of fact, it’s almost as big as the ninth-generation (FB) Honda Civic I used to own. As a result, interior space, which is already a Honda strength, is top-notch and is almost comparable to bigger compact sedans. The City is a narrow car though, which means it isn’t as good as carrying three adults as a tenth-generation Civic or a Corolla Altis. Nevertheless, the City currently has the biggest interior space in the class. Also impressive is the fact that this RS variant also comes with rear seat amenities such as an armrest, rear aircon vents, and two 12V power outlets.
Trunk space is equally class-leading at 519 liters. For perspective, this is just 6 liters shy of the Honda Civic’s. Either the City has been on a growth spurt, or Honda’s efficient utilization of space is simply on point.
Powering the all-new 2021 Honda City RS is a new 1.5-liter inline-4 i-VTEC gasoline engine that produces 121 hp at 6,600 RPM and 145 Nm of torque at 4,300 RPM. What makes this engine new is that it’s now a dual overhead camshaft (DOHC) unit. Torque comes in at 500 RPM earlier than the previous single overhand camshaft (SOHC), making it better for overtaking and gaining speed. Though the difference isn’t night and day, power and torque have never really been a problem for the City in the first place, thanks to its rev-happy engine and class-leading power figures.
What’s noticeable in the all-new City’s driving experience is its newfound smoothness and stability. The DOHC engine feels much smoother than before, and the solidly-built chassis quells vibrations and harshness. The suspension also deals pretty well with bumps, and though the City’s handling feels softer than before, it still manages to balance between the Mazda 2’s sportiness and the Toyota Vios’ softness.
That same feeling of stability also applies to how the car responds to your inputs. The steering is not exactly rich in road feel, and it trades a bit of agility for high-speed stability. The CVT that sends power to the front wheels feels responsive whenever you want more power. Yes, there’s that traditional CVT rubber band feel, wherein it holds the revs constantly as you gain speed, but it’s not too bad and it’s what you’d expect in a transmission like this anyway. Wind noise is well controlled, but I do think that the 2021 Honda City RS has a bit more road noise than the Vios. Treat this car sensibly, and you have a subcompact sedan that makes for an excellent long-distance cruiser, but also with a degree of agility when going through twisty winding roads.
As for fuel economy, this has always been the City’s strength, and the new engine makes it even more fuel-efficient than ever before. Its more modern engine and all-new platform enabled it to have a fuel economy figure north of 14 km/l, which makes it one of the most fuel-efficient cars I’ve ever driven that isn’t a hybrid. Granted, I live in Sta. Rosa, Laguna, in which traffic is minimal, but under the same circumstances, I mustered 12.3 km/l in a Toyota Yaris 1.3 E CVT and 9.8 km/l in a Toyota Vios 1.5 G MT.
Going back to the original question, is the Honda City still a better car than the Vios in 2021? I’d say definitely. The City not only has the power and fuel economy advantage, but it’s also better equipped than its fiercest rival. Whereas a 1.5-liter engine is exclusive to the Vios G and GR-S, all City variants are powered by the most powerful engine in the class. That power gap is further apparent when you look towards the V variants, whereas for the same amount of cash, you’re only able to get a Vios with a 1.3-liter engine.
The 2021 Honda City remains to be the best all-rounder in the subcompact sedan segment regardless of which variant you choose. Not only do you get class-leading power and an excellent set of features, but you also get an arguably nicer-looking subcompact sedan with excellent fuel economy and a more modern platform in the first place.
Pricing and Rating
Exterior Design: ★★★★★
Interior Design: ★★★★☆
Space and Practicality: ★★★★★
Fuel Efficiency: ★★★★★
Value For Money: ★★★★☆
Overall: 4.6 out of 5
*Pricing is correct and accurate as of this article’s time of writing.