All-new fifth-generation Honda City: First drive review [Video]

For more than two decades, the Honda City has remained as a status symbol for many families in India. The fourth-generation Honda City introduced the diesel engine option for the first time ever and it was a massive change in the model in years. Honda is back again with the all-new fifth-generation City, which will be launched in the market soon. To remind you, Honda has decided to continue selling the current-generation City alongside the upcoming all-new City. How different is the all-new City from the current-generation and does it have the power to become a segment-leader again? We answer your questions after spending a brief time with the all-new City.

Much sharper-looking

We spent a few hours driving the car on the streets of NCR and we were stopped at least thrice by the onlookers to ask for more details about the City. It sure is a much-awaited model in the market but we think the all-new looks has to do a lot about the curious eyes on the roads. With the all-new City, the designers have made it more reminiscent of the latest Honda sedan family in India that consists of cars like Civic and the Accord. You get a smooth flowing bonnet lid with an aggressive yet premium looking front-end. Yes, it will turn your head on the road.

The all-new Honda City has also grown in size. It is now the widest and the longest sedan in the segment that has players like the Maruti Suzuki Ciaz and the Hyundai Verna. It leaves an impact on the onlooker. The car gets a new single-strip chrome band in the front with sleek LED headlamps on either end. Since we drove the top-end variant, it offered beautiful looking headlamps with integrated DRLs. The 9-inline LED is a delight and can make a lot of difference while driving in dark.

The overall shape of the all-new City has changed too. It now gets a sloping C-Pillar that merges into the newly shaped boot lid. The next thing that will catch your eyes on the rear is the split LED tail lamps. These tail lamps are huge and cover a lot in the rear. The three-box design of the City is elegant and not to forget the 16-inch multi-spoke alloy wheels that look brilliant when the car is in motion.

Premium cabin

The top-end trim of the Honda City cocoons you in luxury. The first thing that you will notice is that the dashboard is not anymore tilted towards the driver. It is now in a neutral position that adds symmetry to the design. Even the horizon where the road meets the dashboard is not flat and Honda claims that it has been done to do away with distractions and give a clear view of what lies ahead. During our short drive, we did not notice much about it so it did serve the purpose.

From the driver’s seat, you will also notice the 7.0-inch digital-analogue instrument cluster. We old-schoolers really appreciate the analogue speedometer though. Coming back to the LCD, it can be customised and selectively show information like fuel consumption, a meter to measure G-Forces, good old tachometer and other such information. You don’t even have to touch the instrument cluster to change the settings, all you have to do is scroll on the new steering and it is all done.

Sitting in the comfortable, newly designed seats, you notice a lot of other changes in the fifth-generation City. But let me tell you that the front seats have been designed to keep in the same place even while taking sharp turns at high speed. The cushion thickness is thrice as much. Sitting on the new seats with the G-Force meter in the instrument will make you press the throttle even more but let’s come to it later. The driver seat is adjusted for height and the best part is that the steering wheel can be adjusted for reach and rake, which will allow getting into the most comfortable position.

Honda was one of the first brands in India to offer app-based features in 2015 with the introduction of Honda Connect. With the all-new City, they have now entered the brand of manufacturers to offer connected features. The 8.0-inch matte finish infotainment system offers the Honda Connect that offers as many as 32 features including safety, security and convenience features. The Honda Connect will send you notifications about the speed alerts, stolen vehicle, time fence, geo-fence, tire deflation, low fuel alert and many more. Also, you can use this to open the tailgate, keep your car cool by starting the AC remotely, find the car by pressing a button on your phone and many more.

The all-new Honda City will also become the first car in India to offer integrated Alexa services. Connect it with the phone Alexa app or your home Alexa device and you will be able to interact with your car! There are several things that you can ask Alexa about the Honda and it will reply to you with its artificial intelligence. The most satisfying change that you see on the dashboard is the AC controls. You get rotary knobs replacing the touch-based system. No need to concentrate on the touch-sensitive arrows in the new City.

There is a lot of space in the car too. Space to keep your bottles, your phone, small coins, toll slips, travelling mug and much more. The space management is quite neat in the rear too. You get segregated pockets behind both the front seats and can keep your things organised.

The rear seat is almost bucket-like and as always, the all-new Honda City provides a lot of space. Even with the front seat in driving position, there are acres of space in the rear. Space is not segment-leading but it is enough to keep you in your most comfortable posture. The third passenger squeezing in might find a few problems since there is a dual rear AC vent with two charging sockets. It is best for two passengers and with large windows and a sunroof, the cabin feels quite airy too.

Driving around in the city

It is an improved platform that holds the all-new City together. It is lighter in weight and is much agiler to drive. Let’s talk about petrol-manual and automatic. The first-impression while driving the City is that the car is very stable and reach the three-digit speed and remain there without much of a problem. The steering weight and your confidence, both increase with the speed and there are speed warning to make sure that you know how fast you’re going. Also, a new addition to the all-new City is the lane watch system. It gets activated as soon as you push the stalk for left indicator and reveals if there’s anything in the blind spot. This feature is already available with the new CR-V and the Civic.

Honda has used a new petrol engine with the City. The engine now gets DOHC, which is a first for a Honda City. It has better low-end torque and is very, very smooth. Honda has always been a pioneer of petrol engines and it shows in the all-new City too. The engine is very responsive, quick to take commands and can raise the tachometer quickly but if you truly want to enjoy the all-new petrol engine, go with the manual transmission. The six-speed manual transmission is to the point and precise. There is a reason the bucket seats and the G-Force meter are in place in the new City. The petrol engine produces a maximum power of 121 PS of maximum power and 145 Nm of peak torque. Even though the low-end torque has improved, the real “enjoyable” power only kicks in at about 3,500 rpm. But you would not require that powerband unless you are on an open highway.

The manual-petrol returns a maximum of 17.8 km/l but if you’re someone who keeps inside the city limits and struggles with the bumper-to-bumper traffic, go with the CVT. The automatic returns more fuel efficiency than the manual at 18.4 km/l and also keeps your left leg free. However, you would not enjoy the CVT while driving like an enthusiast. Even with the 7-stepped CVT, there is ample amount of rubberband effect in the car.

We di not get much time to play around with the diesel-powered City but during the short drive, we found that the diesel variant has become a lot quieter than the fourth-generation. It only gets a manual transmission and produces a maximum of 100 PS and 200 Nm.

The all-new City also offers a host of safety features including multiple airbags, vehicle stability assists, agile handling assist, TPMS, Lane Watch and host of other features that keep you safe inside the cabin. Also, Honda claims that the all-new City meets the 5-star testing requirement of ASEAN NCAP. The tests are yet to be done.

A segment leader?

The all-new Honda City misses out an on certain features like ventilated seats, a wireless phone charger and similar features that look good on the brochure but we believe that Honda customers would not keep them in the priority list. The City offers a long list of usable features and the Katana blade design of the City does move a lot of heads. Honda might be missing out on the diesel-automatic variant but since it is already available with the Amaze, it should not be much of a problem to introduce the same in the City if the demand arises in the future. For now, we think that the City has all the ingredients to reclaim the top position on the sales chart. The missing piece in the puzzle is the price, which we will get to know soon. If you have any guesses about the price, do let us know in the comment section below.