While Honda City ruled the sedan segment for a long time in India. But the decline in the popularity of sedans has affected top-selling model as well. For a couple of years now, Honda has been planning to bring the e:HEV or the hybrid variant of the City in India. But unforeseen reasons like the pandemic delayed the arrival of the car. We spent a few hours with the new City e:HEV and this is what we found out about the new car.
Does the new Honda City look any different?
While many of us were expecting Honda to bring the RS version with the City Hybrid, Honda has not done that. Instead, there are a few bits and pieces from the RS variant that makes the new City Hybrid a bit sportier.
There are a few changes in the car like the design of the front grille under the thick chrome slat has changed. The fog lamp housings are more aggressive. The side profile remains the same it continues to get the beautiful 16-inch alloy wheels.
The rear also gets a couple of changes including a new trunk lip spoiler and a new rear bumper diffuser with a carbon finish.
Overall the good old City continues to look the same but it definitely now looks sportier. The list of changes inside the car is much bigger.
What has changed inside the cabin?
The new City Hybrid now houses the battery pack in the boot. There is a space-saver tyre and because of the batteries, we now get about 300 litres of boot space. This is about 200 litres lower than before but the boot space remains massive in size.
The cabin remains a familiar space but there are subtle changes. For example, there is no manual handbrake in this Honda City Hybrid, what you get is an electronic parking brake that frees up a lot of space in the centre.
There is a Brake hold function as well, which can be used as a hill-hold system even when you’re stuck in regular traffic. So you can use it while waiting at a traffic signal and free your feet completely.
Right in front of me, you can see the same steering wheel but there are a few additional buttons around here for Honda Sensing. I will explain that bit while driving the car. Behind the steering wheel lies the hybrid instrument cluster. On the right, you get an analogue speedometer and a 7-inch digital display that shows a lot of information regarding the hybrid system. This part is customisable.
In the middle, there is an 8.0-inch infotainment system with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. There is no wireless connectivity at the moment. Honda has added the Google Assistant integration too. So apart from Alexa, you can now use Google Assistant and also, you can control the system with your smartwatch.
There is a sunroof and the cabin theme is now Ivory and Black, which sure looks premium. But you do let us know in the comments what you think about this.
The rear seats remain the same. You get AC vents in the middle with power sockets. There is a vent on the right-hand side, which is used to cool down the batteries. Yes, the same batteries that lie in the boot.
What powers the new Honda City e:HEV?
The new Honda City uses an advanced hybrid system. Let me explain how it all works. It is not a mild hybrid system like we get in the Maruti Suzuki Ciaz. There are two electric motors in the Honda City e:HEV. One of the electric motors works as a generator to charge the batteries that are kept in the boot. The other motor works as a traction motor. This motor actually drives the wheels.
There is a 1.5-litre petrol engine that runs on a much more fuel-efficient Atkinson cycle. It is mostly used to charge the battery pack and keep it juiced up. Another way to charge the battery pack is through the regenerative system that uses the energy from the wheels.
It does not get a conventional gearbox. Instead, there is a fixed ratio gear that uses artificial steps to add the feeling of driving a regular car with standard transmission. Now Honda has not revealed the capacity of the battery. The Japanese brand has also kept the combined power output a secret. But this powertrain generates 253 Nm of peak torque at zero rpm, which is exhilarating.
The car almost always runs on the battery pack. However, whenever the charge in the battery depletes, the engine kicks in to charge the battery. At times, the power control unit can also use power solely generated by the engine to power the car. Also, the hybrid system can work in parallel hybrid and series hybrid configurations whenever needed. It is the most advanced hybrid system that we have seen in a mass-segment car. But let’s put all this theory into practice and take this new Honda City e:HEV out on the roads.
Press the accelerator, demand more power and it changes to a parallel hybrid system that uses power from both engine and the battery pack to provide the best acceleration possible while using minimal fuel.
The engine can also run purely on the engine power depending on the condition. But that happens rarely. Most of the time, you remain in the hybrid mode.
How is the new Honda City to drive?
Honda has not revealed the combined power output of the powertrain. However, the combined torque output is 253 Nm at zero rpm. Yes, because of the electric hybrid powertrain, all the torque is available at zero rpm.
Now driving feels very familiar. However, it is not outright acceleration like pure electric cars. There is a single ratio gearbox and the stepped set-up gives you a feel of driving a car with a transmission. It is actually a pretty cool effect. Behind the steering lies two paddle shifters. These are not actually the paddle shifters. You can select the battery regeneration level using these paddle shifters.
You can select to use the regenerative braking but put the transmission lever in the B mode, which stands for Brake Mode. You can increase or decrease the level of braking using the pedals. During our drive of about 100 km, we mostly drove in the B mode and minimised the use of the brakes. You get the hold of the system after driving for some time and it sure feels like a lot of fun playing around with the regeneration settings.
The weight of the new City hybrid has increased due to the addition of the battery pack. However, the centre of gravity has gone down due to the placement of the batteries. It means you can take corners at higher speeds with more confidence! As always, the suspension of the Honda City is perfectly tuned to take on all kinds of road surfaces. The steering is precise and there are no complaints in the handling department of the new City Hybrid.
Honda claims that the new City returns a maximum of 26.5 km/l, which is the highest in the segment. During our drive of about 100 km, we saw an indicated fuel efficiency of 22.2 km/l. We drove through the city traffic and also cruised around on the highways.
For the first time ever, Honda is offering a driver-assistance system in India. The system is called Honda Sensing and the brand does not like to call it an Autonomous Driver Assistance System or ADAS. The Honda City e:HEV will be the first car ever to offer the system in India.
It uses a high-precision wide-angle camera to determine the obstacles and identify other objects like cars, pedestrians and even animals on the road. With Honda Sensing, you get features like Collision Mitigation Braking System, Low-Speed Braking Control, Adaptive Cruise Control System, Lane Keeping Assist System, Road Departure Mitigation System, Pedestrian collision mitigation steering system and auto high-beam control.
We drove the new Honda City Hybrid on the roads in Bangalore to test all the features. During our drive in the real world, all the systems worked perfectly including the Adaptive Cruise Control. Yes, you do get a lot of warnings while driving through crowded city roads but that’s because we Indians drive on the roads. With the Honda Sensing, the car feels much safer now. The new City Hybrid has become much more convenient to drive with the Honda Sensing as well.
Should you buy one?
Honda is yet to reveal the price of the new Honda City Hybrid but with all the tech it will be expensive. Honda will offer it only in one variant and according to the brand, the City Hybrid has received an overwhelming response. Even though Honda has not shared the number of bookings with us, the waiting period is spreading rising on the car. But we do think that the City is still missing a few important features like a better infotainment system, and convenience features like ventilated seats and wireless connectivity options with the AVN system.
Now with the fuel prices at an all-time high, we do look forward to such mega efficient cars. Honda also says that it might be cheaper to maintain the City Hybrid. It is because of the lower number of moving parts inside the powertrain. Well, that’s all about the new Honda City Hybrid from us. We feel that it will be a perfect car till the electric revolution comes to India with a better charging network. What do you think? Do let us know in the comments below.