Driven: 2017 Honda City sedan

The Honda City is a very special car to both Honda and the Indian consumer. It is a car that started Honda’s innings in India in 1998, instantly building a reputation as the enthusiast’s favourite. It is a car that many dreamt of owning. Through several iterations of the model, the demand for the car stayed strong. This level of aspiration and Honda’s stellar quality made the City a best seller for a long time . However, since the launch of the Maruti Ciaz in 2014, the City has been facing headwinds. To make the City more appealing, Honda has just given the City a facelift.

First, the looks!

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While the previous Honda City was a good looking vehicle too, this one improves upon it and makes it look sporty and aggressive. You now get an all-new chrome grill and honeycomb mesh below it. This new grill is what is on offer on the global Hondas – the family look is now here. The front bumper design has been tweaked a bit so it now resembles that of the new Civic (Not in India yet).

That brings us to the most important change to the front of the City –  all variants now come equipped with LED DRLs. In addition, if you opt for the VX or the ZX trim line, you will get LED headlamps up front as well, something that makes the new City look very sharp. You also get LED fog lamps, both being segment-first features.

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The profile remains the same, save for the new 16″ Diamond-cut alloys on offer. This is the first time the company is offering 16″ rims as standard on the City. The new rims are on offer from the VX grade up. At the back, the tail lamp cluster and rear bumper have been redesigned too. The top-of-the line ZX gets LED tail lamps with light guides as well as a boot lip spoiler with integrated stop lamp.

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While this isn’t a major design update to the City, the facelift does make it fresh to look at and sufficient to attract customers to the showrooms.

How’s it on the inside?

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The insides have received a minor refresh as well. First, the infotainment system. The car now gets a larger 17.7 cm touch screen system from the V variant onwards. It comes with navigation, Mirrorlink, phone apps, Wifi (you can connect it to your phone hotspot and browse from the car) and supports the rear view camera. The navigation was very detailed as well and is quite informative. The top-of-the-line ZX gets cool-looking interior LED reading lamps. Also on offer is a sunroof.

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The cabin is roomy and there is abundance of space up front and at the back. The cabin feels airy thanks to the large window area and the provision of the sunroof. At the back, you have AC vents as well as power outlets for charging devices. The rear armrest gets two cupholders.

Fit and finish is improved and it shows, especially on the dash. The car now gets key-less go, and the start button lights up red when the car is on. For the first time ever on the City, Honda now offers 6 airbags (front, side and curtain). ABS, EBD and dual airbags are standard across the range; the car is already ready for future safety norms.

How’s it to drive?

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The City comes with the same engine options that were previously offered. So you get the same 1.5 liter petrol and diesel engine options. While the petrol produces 118 Bhp and 145 Nm, the diesel produces 99 Bhp and 200 Nm. The petrol is mated to either a 5-speed manual or a new 7-speed CVT. The diesel on the other hand comes with a 6-speed manual only. We drove both the CVT and the diesel.

Diesel

Since the diesel is more common, let’s start there. The 1.5 liter Earthdreams engine is an aluminium block, something that is not a common practice for diesel engines. Honda Engineers have worked on the NVH for the cabin and have improved upon it, but there is still a good amount of diesel clatter which can be felt at idle, if you have the audio turned off.

While 99 Bhp doesn’t sound like much, you do get 200 Nm of torque from 1750 rpm, which is adequate. The car does suffer from turbo lag below it but upon reaching that figure, you do have ample power on tap. Revv it hard and you realize that the powerband is narrow. Yes, this is a diesel and they tend to rev less, but power is only on offer till 4000 rpm, after which you will have to shift up. Makes sense, as the City is designed as a frugal car. The ARAI figures for the diesel engine is 25.6 km/l.

The 6 speed gearbox is a little notchy at times, especially compared to silky smooth units from Honda. This minor gripe aside, the diesel is a good choice if you are looking for a car to potter around in the city or the highway, and are not hell-bent on performance.

Petrol-Auto

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Since this too is a new unit, we thought we would give it a try. Unlike a normal CVT that has infinite ratios, Honda engineers have given this unit 7 fixed ratios, something you will notice when you slot the car into manual or sport mode by using the paddle shifters. Other than that, the engine is silky smooth, like we have come to expect from Honda.

Since it is a CVT, you do not feel the shifts which are seamless. It is only when you go hard on the accelerator that the CVT box gets noisy and a lot of engine noise creeps into the cabin. Driving at city speeds, the gearbox is very smooth and refined. ARAI fuel efficiency figures for the CVT is 18 km/l, which is more than what the manual offers, showing how efficient the new transmission is.

As for ride qualiy, the car has been setup keeping comfort in mind. It glides over most of the bumps with ease. Steering is light at city speeds but has adequate amount of feedback as speeds increase. There is a good amount of heft that you feel at higher speeds which is reassuring. Brakes are something that are very effective. Honda is offering ABS and EBD as standard across the range, which is a certainly a step in the right direction.

Verdict

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Yes, with the update, it is more expensive than its main rival, the Ciaz, but it does offer more than the Ciaz does in the current avatar. The Ciaz misses out on the LED headlamps, the 6 airbags, the sunroof,  touchscreen system for the climate control, a larger touchscreen system which supports phone applications and can be used to browse the net as well.

If you are looking for a car that is more fun to drive and feels more premium, you will have to shell out extra for the City. However if your main objective is a low cost vehicle which is suited more to the rear seat, the Ciaz will save you some money there.

Prices for the new City

Petrol

Manual – S – Rs. 8.50 lakh, SV – Rs. 9.54 lakh, V – 10 lakh , VX – 11.65 lakh

Petrol-Auto

V – Rs. 11.54 lakh, VX Rs. 12.84 lakh, ZX: Rs. 13.53 lakh

Diesel

SV Rs. 10.76 lakh, V – Rs. 11.56 lakh, VX – Rs. 12.87 lakh, ZX – Rs. 13.57

Prices for Maruti Ciaz

However, its main competitor, the Ciaz is priced cheaper.

Petrol: 

Vxi: Rs 7.53 lakhs, Vxi (O): Rs 7.73 lakhs, Vxi+: Rs 8.14 lakhs, Zxi: Rs 8.80 lakhs, Zxi+: Rs 9.36 lakhs

Petrol-Auto

Vxi+ : Rs 9.31 lakhs, Zxi: Rs 9.96 lakhs, Zxi+: Rs 10.52 lakhs

Diesel

Vdi: Rs 7.73 lakhs, Vdi (O): Rs 7.89 lakhs, Vdi+: Rs 8.30 lakhs, Zdi: Rs 8.96 lakhs, Zdi+: Rs 9.57 lakhs.