The most memorable cars aren’t just the ones that leave striking visual impressions – they’re the ones that evoke the most emotion because they were either very good or very bad. Nobody remembers an average car, but it’s hard to forget an automobile that blows you away with its performance or leaves you fuming because of its poor design.
Fortunately, the fourth-generation City you see here doesn’t fall into the latter category, for despite being the entry-level saloon in Honda’s local model line-up, it is surprisingly well-sorted. The same can’t be said for the second-generation model, however, for it was not as well-received.Walk up to the new City and you’ll find that its design is more appealing compared to its predecessor, whose front end sports a large and tacky-looking plastic grille. The latest City’s rear end looks sleeker, too, thanks to the elongated tail-lights. The square tail-lamps on the previous model were unflattering to its rump.
Helping the City look more streamlined are its new dimensions. The car is now 47mm longer than before, but its body is 21mm narrower and 7mm lower compared to the third-gen model. More significant, however, is its 50mm longer wheelbase, which bodes well for occupant space.Also vastly improved is the City’s cockpit. Although there are still lots of hard plastics in here, the perceived fit is better, while the finish feels classier. The instrument cluster is a lot more attractive, too, as the blue/white dials are more pleasing compared to the dated-looking orange meters in the last model.
For added convenience, steering wheel-mounted controls for the hi-fi and Bluetooth telephony systems are now standard. Cruise control, which was absent in the preceding model, is also a standard feature. The keyless ignition is another nifty addition, although the racy red start/stop button seems rather pretentious.Another terrific feature in the cockpit is the new infotainment unit. While the previous City was only equipped with a simple audio system and conventional switches, the infotainment here has a cooler touchscreen interface.
You can also sync your smartphone to the system via the HondaLink app (which can be downloaded into iPhone and Android devices only), but we found the process to be cumbersome, as it still requires you to connect your phone to the system using the supplied HDMI cable. Nevertheless, the City does offer good connectivity – there are two USB points (even most luxury cars only offer one) that let users charge their mobile devices on the go.Even more accommodating to occupants is the backseat. Belying its compact dimensions, the City’s rear compartment is roomier than ever, with its almost-flat floor making it spacious enough for three adults (four, if they’re skinny) to sit here. There’s even a three-point seatbelt for the middle occupant instead of a two-point lap belt, which was what we initially expected.
Also surprisingly pleasant is the driving experience. The 1.5-litre engine is carried over unchanged from the preceding model and still produces 120bhp and 145Nm, but this time it’s been paired to a CVT (the previous model had a 5-speed automatic). The result is enhanced efficiency – Honda claims a combined consumption figure of 17.5km per litre, an improvement of 2.3km per litre.Indeed, efficiency is the name of the City’s game. It loves being driven in a gentle and steady manner, and will “howl” in protest when pressed hard. I managed 13km per litre without even trying.
Although the car takes a leisurely 11 seconds to go from a standstill to 100km/h, it accelerates smoothly and its CVT operates in a seamless and unobtrusive manner. Complementing this is its softly damped suspension, which lets the car glide over speed bumps with aplomb.
It is these characteristics that make driving the City such an enjoyable experience. So enjoyable, in fact, that I couldn’t stop smiling while driving the car. The car’s positive vibes were so infectious that even my colleagues declared how much they enjoyed the ride after I had driven them around. The City may not be cheap, but its cheerfulness definitely has the ability to turn its passengers into shiny, happy “City-zens”.
TYPE Inline-4, 16-valves
BORE X STROKE 73mm x 89.4mm
COMPRESSION RATIO 10.3:1
MAX POWER 120bhp at 6600rpm
MAX TORQUE 145Nm at 4800rpm
POWER TO WEIGHT 108.9bhp per tonne
GEARBOX CVT with 7-speed override
DRIVEN WHEELS Front
0-100KM/H 11 seconds
TOP SPEED 192km/h
CONSUMPTION 17.5km/L (combined)
CO2 EMISSION 135g/km
FRONT MacPherson struts, coil springs
REAR Torsion beam, coil springs
FRONT / REAR Ventilated discs / Drums
TYPE Bridgestone Turanza ER370
SIZE 185/55 R16
TRACTION CONTROL ABS with VSA
KERB WEIGHT 1102kg
TURNING CIRCLE 10.6m
PRICE INCL. COE $109,900 (after $10k CEVS rebate)
WARRANTY 5 years/unlimited km
+ Roomy cabin, creamy drivetrain, more efficient than ever
– Engine rough when pushed, drum brakes at the rear, HondaLink app is cumbersome