Choosing a car has always been like choosing a bride from a ‘Mail-order bride’ catalog. You decide on how tall she is, what length of hair, facial features, “C”, “D” or “E”, all the things you look for in a bride. The new 4th generation Honda City is no exception.
You want space? Safety? Performance? Comfort? Nick-nacks? Price? Resale value? “Brilliant Sporty Metallic Blue” paint? This car pretty much has it all. Before you mistake me for a bribed media journalist, I must first say that I drive the previous 3th generation City quite often (belongs to my brother-in-law) and I quite frankly hate it. It’s clinical, it’s heavy, it turns like a barge and it feels flat and just plain old boring. Nothing excites about that car and quite frankly I expected very little from this new car. Very. Little.
The media was assigned 3 to a car and I was given the top of the line V-spec Honda City that had the Modulo package as well as the premium add-ons. First impressions? What a driving position! Telescopic steering wheel that’s spot on in the middle of my driving seat. This has been a pet peeve of mine ever since I noticed it in my now-sold Wira. My Wiras steering was slightly off to the left and every other car I’ve ever driven is pretty much the same except for a rare few. The new City had a fully adjustable steering wheel and spot on center position steering.
Seats were comfortable, nice side bolsters (a little tight for a fat bloke like me to be honest), firm and pretty settling lumbar and bum support, height adjustable and the usual works. Very nice driving position with the seats, pedals and steering all in perfect harmony.
Rear legroom was off the charts too. In the picture you can see 5″7 me sitting with my knees slightly bent at a comfortable 70-ish degrees with the front driver seat pushed all the way back. Yup… it’s got plenty of legroom at the back. The missus would be happy. Take note that this new City has cubby holes and cuppy holes everywhere. With 8 cup holders total, you will never complain about not having a cup holder ever again. Did you also notice the rear aircon vents? Yes…. standard feature for the V-Spec and E-Spec.
The new 6th gen City is insanely spec-ed out in terms of everyday life things and safety equipment. Traction control, 6 airbags, ABS, ISOFix, trunk release remote, rear folding seats, enormous 536L boot, lots of other things. You have to remember that this is a B-segment car and prices start from only 76k. For that kind of money you’re getting a lot of kit! Kinda blows away the competition if you look at it from that perspective.
But I digress. Buying a car for me has always been about feel. If I feel I like the car, no matter what sort of quirks it has I’ll be able to live with it because I like it. So what does the City do that’ll make a person like me like it?
We were given a chance to test drive the City against a few competitor cars just to feel the differences between Hondas own traction control program called “Vehicle Stability Assist” (VSA) and the competition. To be fair 2 out of the 3 competitor cars don’t have a traction control system in any of their variants so those were wipe-outs compared to the City. The 1 that did have traction control didn’t survive the test given to us by one of the famous Khong brothers. The Citys’ VSA system was intrusive, cut power and braked whenever it felt I was going to get into trouble (see picture above for 3-wheel action). To purists that’s blasphemy, but to me I want this blasphemous action to kick in when I’m in trouble. Anything to save my sorry bacon in an emergency situation! What was interesting about this test was even the seasoned drivers had trouble controlling those cars without any traction control. The one that did have traction control was still manageable but you had to have incredible car control skills to manage it. For plain old me, I could only avoid crashing into the boxes with the City with the blasphemous VSA.
Honda somehow managed to arrange to close off a stretch of straight road to allow us to pit the new City versus its competitors in a drag race. Take note : the City uses a CVT gearbox that was in-house built by the Honda pundits themselves. Yes, a drag race with a CVT powered 1.5L car. Interestingly none of the competitors won this drag race even though one did manage to pull away initially before it got trounced by the City mid-drag.
The most impressive test however was the mini touge session. We each got to drive the competitors up a stretch of winding, uphill-downhill roads and then the Honda City. It was blindly clear the City was way superior in handling compared to everything else. There was one car however that did manage to somewhat keep up with the City, but I had to stick it into manual mode and rev the bejeezers out of it to maintain the Citys pace. It was absolutely hopeless in auto mode.
Take note of the green tree in the rev counter. The new City has this interesting “Eco” button which when pressed seems to quieten the aircon compressor noise and completely mellows the go-fast pedal. Also take note of the KM/L bar on the right side of the dash that tells you how economical you are driving in real time. Why is this important?
Because you’ll start to obsess about these figures and will keep trying to outdo yourself everytime you fire up the car. The digital double-din display has an interesting info panel that shows you your fuel guzzling habits and yours truly managed an incredible 16.9km/L in one very economical cruise around town. To be fair though, during the touge session I was doing 4.6km/L. But considering how much redlining I was doing I’m not too surprised!
The other interesting thing to note is the number of sockets this little car has. Two power sockets at the back, 2 in front and one HDMI connectivity socket (for IOS connectivity). If this kind of ideology gets around to all car manufacturers, cigarette lighter cellphone chargers will soon be made redundant!
This new Honda City was quite the surprise for me. Mr. Makoto Suzuki-san who is one of the project leaders that made the City informed me that they made improvements over the old 5th gen City based on feedback from owners whilst focusing on their go-green effort. The same engine was used except made lighter, the CVT was used for better fuel efficiency, the aesthetics and creature comforts, everything else was all based on feedback from customers.
If there was one thing that I would complain about, it would be the waste of space of a touchscreen display. No GPS! No android compatibility! In fact they were grilled by the media a lot during the media session because of this. But rest assured, there’s an upgrade in the works that Honda is working on to make it Android friendly. It’s worth noting however, Android itself does not have any mirroring technology that the HDMI connectivity was made for, and aftermarket accessories is already available now to allow your Android phones to work with the system.
So overall, did they do a good job? Oh yes. Honda took customer feedback seriously and made the car a completely different monster. I read somewhere that the car is as large as the Camry – no it’s not. But for a B-segment player, it’s the biggest in its class and probably, dare I say it? The best value for money.
Oh and since Honda is so fond of customer feedback : Make a Type-R! With a manual!