Unlike the previous iterations of the City, which varied wildly from their predecessors as regards shape and character, the latest fourth generation Honda City toes its forebear’s line. The silhouette and the visual essence of the car haven’t changed much over the previous version. What has, however, is the introduction of the much clamored for diesel engine which has eluded the buyers of the sedan model for ages now. Armed with a frugal, linear and intent engine, and featuring segment leading cabin space, the New Honda City is back with a bang. Is it really the first among equals in the RS 10 lakh sedan segment? Let’s find out in this detailed new Honda City review.
Design and appearance
While that newly incorporated big, chrome grille bearing the Honda emblem is the most striking new aspect of the City, what you would also instantly notice is the increased size. In its newest avatar, the City has grown in size, not just to extend the space offered within the cabin, but also to appeal to the psyche of us Indians who invariably associate bigger size with more value. While the overall length of the car has increased only by 25mm, the 50mm increase in wheelbase means that the there is a significant improvement as regards the roominess of the car.
Honda has also made changes to the chassis, making it stiffer, yet lighter. The new car is bigger, has better torsional rigidity and has more features – yet weighs about 40 kg lighter than the previous version. Changes have been made to ensure that the new City drives better than the older version which had its limitations as regards handling prowess.
As mentioned above, the big, wide and thick single piece chrome radiator grille is the center piece of the new City’s frontal design. While the amount of chrome on this grille is just too much for those with subtle tastes, it will most likely appeal to a wider audience. The bonnet has two sharp recesses ending into the grille. The bonnet also features chiseled drop on the flanks to add some muscle to the look.
Under the big chrome grille, you have another slat covering the radiator, overshadowed completely by the chrome slat above. The headlamps are sharply styled and taper outwards. They look sharper in profile, where you can see the pointy end of them. Viewed front on, the sharp wraparound edge isn’t completely visible. The bumper is a complex design with an array of lines, cuts and recesses. The wheel arches don’t merge in the bumper – instead, complete their curvature in profile, leaving an angular bend at the flanks of the front bumper. It adds some girth to the front, but we believe a more seamless, sportier execution of the merging point could have been possible.
The central air dam with plastic mesh within is flanked by trapezoidal honeycomb mesh housings for fog lamps. The new City looks best when viewed from the front three quarters – where the sharply styled headlamps, the nice alloys and the big chrome grille all come together to give its face a modern, sporty look.
The profile of the car is defined by a pair of deep grooves, sharply raked front and rear windscreens and a curvy roofline. Of the two creases on the doors, the top one emanates a little after the beginning of the front gate and merges into the sharply styled tail lamps. The other crease at the bottoms spans both the doors fully – wheel to wheel. The alloy wheels with thick spokes, though nice looking, can probably be replaced by slimmer spoke, snazzier (even bigger in size – 16”) alloys to give the car an even sportier look.
Just like the front, the City maintains it snazzy, sporty look at the rear. The deck-lid which by virtue of its shape features an integrated spoiler looks fantastic. The shark fin on the roof above the rear windscreen is another sporty touch. The sharp theme represented by the headlamps is carried over at the rear as well in the form of the horizontally laid out tail-lamps. The customary ‘premium’ horizontal chrome slat tops the registration plate recess, and a neatly designed bumper with a wraparound crease finishes the design business at the rear.
We love the dynamic styling of the new City, inspired by Honda’s new Exciting H design mantra. It’s reminiscent of the previous gen version but manages to look fresh and more appealing. We aren’t quite fond of those skinny 175/65 R15 tyres though, which though efficiency enhancing, distort the visual balance of the car. Especially when viewed straight on from front or rear.
Cabin, Comfort and features
Apart from the lack of a diesel engine, the relatively moderate list of features on the old city was also one of the reasons why the Hyundai Verna managed to become the success it is. Honda have ensured that the new City is second to none in the segment as regards features and have laden it with a whole army of safety, comfort and convenience features, along with an interior which looks much more premium than the one it replaces.
Everything on the inside is new. The dashboard, the center console, the instrument panel, the seats, the door panels and the steering wheel – everything has been designed exclusively for the new City. Honda has given the dashboard a horizontally laid out theme. The top portion of the dashboard has intentionally been kept clean, and there are no recesses which abound in cars from smaller segments. The central A/C vents are slim, horizontal units, while the side vents are broader.
The dashboard features multiple accents and materials, including piano black, silver and soft-touch black. There is a medium-resolution five inch screen (three inch on lower spec variants) on the central console which can be used to control the audio unit as well as displays the images captured by the parking camera with three viewing angles. Under the screen you get a touch panel (not screen) to control the air conditioning system with climate control. While all of these features will appeal a lot to the mainstream car buyer, somehow the arrangement doesn’t quite feel very intuitive and easy to use. The elements on the dash and the features are visually appealing, and work well too, but somehow don’t represent the simplicity, subtleness and tough build exuded by some other German machines.
The features list on the new City, as mentioned earlier, is generous. The Honda city gets rear A/C vents, with 2+2 power sockets for front and rear occupants. Cruise control is new and a welcome inclusion. The audio system, though average sounding is an eight speaker unit, which gets a CD player back on popular demand. You get a sunroof, steering mounted controls and push button start with keyless entry as standard on the top spec variant.
As regards safety the City gets ABS with EBD and twin airbags on the top variant. Lower spec variants also get ABS and driver side airbag as standard. Top spec variants also gets power folding ORVMs. The city also features an MID within its instrument panel, showing data pertaining to trip and fuel consumption.
The three spoke steering wheel unit with mounted control for audio and cruise function is a new design. It features a brushed aluminium accent with a mesh effect at the bottom for a sportier look. The leather wrapped unit is nice to hold, though not telescopically adjustable. It’s one smooth unit which is a joy to operate at all speeds.
The instrument ‘trinaccle’ features an analogue tacho on the left, with a big analogue speedo in the middle and a digital MID on the right. On the areas within and around these dials, you have your other tell-tale lights. The MID display has an instantaneous fuel efficiency meter at the top, with a fuel gauge at the bottom. Among other readouts are clock, odo, trip, and ambient temperature. You can cycle through the readouts using the push-to-toggle button. All three pods on the instrument are predominantly blue, and adjustable for brightness. The light turns from blue to green if you drive with a light foot – a nice feature to promote efficient driving.
Storage spaces come aplenty in the new City. Between the front two seats you get two cupholders- closer the center console, followed by a small tray to keep your wallet or cellphone. Behind it, you have a flip open armrest with decent storage space underneath. Front door pockets have space for a big bottle, extending into a narrower crevice. The armrest also has an opening to keep your wallet. Rear door pockets also have a big bottle holder with a bit more spare space and a door armrest crevice similar to the front door. In addition, the central armrest at the rear also features two cupholders – one big and one small.
The front seats are big, wide, well-cushioned and comfortable. The back seats offer more knee-room than anything we have seen in the segment. There is ample shoulder room too and the city would accommodate three in the backseat without much squeeze. A 510 liter boot capacity makes the City a complete package as regards features and space. The only qualm we have is the headroom, which though can come across as very limited for taller passengers. A curvy roofline and a sharply raked rear windscreen, which gives the City is sporty exterior character play the spoilsport here.
Engine and Transmission
The biggest talking point of the new Honda City is its newly introduced 1.5 liter earth Dreams i-DTEC engine. Seen earlier of the Honda Amaze, the new diesel engine has been carried over with minor changes. This engine still employs a fixed geometry turbo and the tech specs still read power and torque output figures similar to the unit on the amaze. Peak power is rated at 99 bhp @ 3600 RPM while peak torque is mentioned to be 200 Nm @ 1750 RPM. The car boasts a crazy 26 kmpl ARAI fuel efficiency rating which makes the new Honda City a mileage leader across segments.
The 1.5 i-DTEC diesel unit, as we experienced on the Amaze is quite a noisy unit. The NVH levels on the City, are substantially less, but still not low enough to be termed ‘refined’. The incredibly linear and driveable character of the engine, however, remains unaltered. With a sizeable reservoir of torque available at the bottom of the barrel, this engine pulls from silly low engine speeds, making the new City one of the most drivable cars across segments.
While a proper shove begins to build post 1500 rpm, there some juice at even 1200 rpm. At crawling speed, the City is probably the last diesel car which would require you to downshift. It just chugs without any spluttering where other diesel cars would choke to a halt.
Transmission from the engine to the wheels is carried out by a new six speed manual gearbox. The sixth gear which is an overdrive would help enhance fuel efficiency dramatically on highways where you can maintain 100 km/h with the engine spinning away happily at a totally relaxed pace. The gearbox shifts in a precise, fluid manner with a nice feel to it. No rubbery uncertainty while shifting on this one.
While in gear acceleration and low rev tractability is fantastic, outright acceleration isn’t class leading. But in all honesty, we’d prefer former to latter in the real world where flat torque curve, fuel efficiency and good in-gear acceleration is the name of the game. And with that incredible fuel efficiency figure of 26kmpl, we really don’t have anything to complain about as regards performance.
Engine noise and vibrations, though lower than the Amaze are still quite perturbing. The City’s engine gets pretty vocal post 3000 rpm, and doesn’t like being revved too hard.
The slightly higher NVH levels apart, the new 1.5 i-DTEC City remains one of the most driveable cars around town. We are in awe of the new diesel’s tractability and efficiency, which are two virtues that matter the most for a large percentage of buyers. While the City may not boast class leading acceleration figures, it feels swift on the move and allows for effortless overtaking and maintains triple digit speeds without breaking a sweat.
It would be prudent on Honda’s part to work towards making this otherwise fantastic diesel engine a more refined and noiseless unit though.
Ride and Handling
At 165mm, the ground clearance of the new City isn’t quite enough to tackle the atrocities offered by Indian roads. The previous gen City was notorious for having a liking for getting its belly scraped at every taller than usual speed breaker, which our streets are littered with. The suspension however is on the stiffer side this time around, and that should prevent the body from lowering to an extent, even when loaded. A little more ground clearance would have been desirable though.
The most glaring oddity about the new Honda city, as mentioned is its set of skinny tyres, which don’t appear sufficient to provide a confident drive. While we still assert that a wider set of tyres would most definitely have benefitted the City’s grip levels and confidence on the limit, surprisingly, even with the slim tyres, it doesn’t feel nervous at speed. The stiffening and tuning of the suspension along with a sturdier frame have a big role to play in the better dynamic ability of the new car, as compared with the model it replaces. The ride is not as squishy as the previous version, which is a good thing once you gather speeds above 50kmph. At slower speeds, some stiffness translates into the cabin over sharper bumps.
Even with its relatively newfound prowess as regards handling, the new City isn’t exactly a driver’s delight. The tyres though good for a wide range of driving conditions tended to give way the moment we shifted to extreme mode. The City would take a series of bends without worry at a fairly swift pace, but the moment you gear up to attack the corners with a vengeance, the limitations of the tyres and suspension become evident. There is a fair bit of body roll, and the 175/65 R 15 rubber wouldn’t hold on for too long if pushed to the limit. The Skoda Rapid is still the benchmark for the segment when it comes to dynamic ability. However, for all practical purposes, the Honda City comes as a hugely improved ride and handling package.
We drove the City diesel for more than a couple of days and came to realize how suitable a car it is for everyday use. More than anything, the incredible low end tractability and unmatched fuel efficiency along with that smooth steering wheel makes the City a joy to drive within the urbanscape. With its class leading space, big boot and stupendous highway efficiency, the City is equally well suited for long driving holidays as well. Honda’s impeccable record for reliability is almost a guarantee against surprise breakdowns. Its feature rich, looks dashing and has been priced extremely well – we really would be nitpicking if we said that there is anything this sedan does seriously wrong.
If anything, the noise level is something which may put some people off. It’s above normal, but in our humble opinion, still within acceptable limits and no deal breaker. Honda’s low cost of maintenance and high resale value comes as another big plus for the owners
In all, for a regulation car buyer, who is looking for a well rounded product the City almost makes a no-contest case for itself. You’ll have to look beyond this car, only if you are looking for specific things like terrific handling or the most advanced automatic transmission. For most other needs, the new City’s all you would need in the segment, for now at least.
Price as tested (ex-showroom):
Honda City i-DTEC E 8.6 lakh
Honda City i-DTEC S 9.3 lakh
Honda City i-DTEC SV 9.6 lakh
Honda City i-DTEC V 10.2 lakh
Honda City i-DTEC VX 11.1 lakh
Engine 1498cc, 4 cylinder turbo-diesel SOHC
Transmission 6 speed manual
Power 99bhp at 3600rpm
Torque 200NM at 1750rpm
Tyres 175/65 R15
New 2014 Honda City i-DTEC diesel image gallery