With the City as its torchbearer, Honda built a premium, desirable brand image in India. Over the years, the City cemented its dominant position in the midsize sedan segment, and for the longest time, it singlehandedly drove sales for the brand in India. So to say that the City is an important car for Honda is an understatement.
Now, Honda has launched the all-new fifth-generation City, which enters a very competitive space. This new car is bigger, plusher and better than its predecessor in nearly every way. So we put it to the test to find out just how good it actually is.
This latest City’s suspension has gone even softer than before, resulting in a very compliant ride quality. It absorbs bad roads with a sense of maturity, and road shocks are absorbed so nicely, they don’t make their presence felt in the cabin. Even the sharpest potholes emanate mere muted thuds inside, and the suspension components do their job quietly and very competently. As a result, the new City has the nicest low-speed ride quality in its class. At expressway speeds, too, it remains composed and predictable, but when you up the pace, due to a peculiarly hollow rear section of the car, it doesn’t feel as planted or as reassuring as its European rivals. This hollowness also filters in a lot of road noise from the rear into the cabin, especially while driving over a wet surface.
Ride comfort is excellent; handling, although predictable, is quite uninspiring.
The first-gen model earned a reputation for being engaging to drive; but over the years, the City has matured into a comfort-oriented sedan with a more balanced approach. Most owners will be happy with its light steering that weighs-up well at speed, but those who enjoy driving will be left wanting for more feel and feedback. That said, the turn-in is quite sharp and the front end changes direction rather confidently too. Despite the narrow, 185mm tyres, there’s plenty of fun to be had while chucking it around on a winding section of road, but a wider set of rubber would further enhance the experience. There’s also a G-Force meter on the digital instrument cluster that displays up to 0.5 Gs, and can be a really fun tool when you are attacking corners or driving in a spirited manner.
In terms of braking, an earlier bite point would have been nicer, but the brake pedal feel and weight are very easy to get accustomed with. The overall braking performance has improved, and the car stops much earlier and in a shorter distance than before, under panic braking from 80kph.
On par with the competition, Honda offers an 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with the new City, although it looks like an aftermarket fitment and sticks out like a sore thumb in an otherwise well-executed cabin. The system is easy to use; and what helps is that it gets smartphone integration in the form of Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. It also gets connected-car features for remote operation, alerts and geo-fencing, as well as advanced voice guidance via the Amazon Alexa app. The screen doubles as a display for the rear-view camera and blind-spot monitor, but in bright daylight, the display isn’t bright enough and very difficult to read. Sound quality from the eight speakers is very good.
Display isn’t bright enough, especially under the afternoon sun, making it difficult to read.
Honda has stuffed the City to the gills with features, and for the first time, it gets kit like ESP, hill-start assist, agile handling assist, a lane-watch camera, a tyre-pressure monitoring system, and a crisp digital instrument cluster.
Door-mounted mirror with a nifty camera to minimise blind spots.
Additionally, it carries over features from the previous version like auto LED headlamps, LED fog lamps, 16-inch alloys, rain-sensing wipers, cruise control, auto climate control, a sunroof, six airbags, a reversing camera, an 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment unit, leatherette upholstery, rear AC vents, keyless entry and go, sensor-based keyless access, auto-folding mirrors, a G-force meter, and more. What’s more, the automatic variant features paddleshifters, as well as an Economy mode and a remote engine-start system.
Impressive sound quality from the eight-speaker audio system.
Honda’s winning formula, now with an added dose of comfort and plushness, blended into a pricy proposition.
Honda has hit the ball out of the park with the new, fifth-generation City. It builds on the strengths of the outgoing version and excels in several areas. Its interiors feel upmarket, with several high-quality materials and tastefully executed bits. Space inside the cabin is huge, and the City’s seat comfort is in a league of its own. Then there’s its ride quality, which is supple, and one of the best in its class. When it comes to engine performance, the diesel is fuel-efficient and refined, and the new petrol is an absolute firecracker in terms of outright performance. A lot of premium kit and connected-car tech has now made it to the equipment list too.
But this contemporary proposition comes at a price, and the new City is one of the most expensive cars in its class. Some rivals might offer a more engaging drive experience, while some might be more feature-rich, but the Honda City is a jack of all trades and master of some – and although it’s pricey, this is a car you can seldom go wrong with.