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2020 New Honda City Petrol vs Diesel: Comparison review

Twin sibling warfare

Honda All New City Left Front Three Quarter

The Honda City was first introduced in India in 1998 and since then, this three-box sedan had predominantly been a petrol model. But things changed in 2014.With the growing demand for diesel cars, Honda introduced the fourth-gen City with an oil-burner too. While the world has been looking at alternative fuels lately, petrol and diesel models continue to hold importance and be the mainstay. As a result, the fifth-generation City is being offered in both options and conform to the latest BS6 norms.

Honda All New City Right Rear Three Quarter

Our first drive review of the petrol manual and diesel manual variants of this All New City talks about the changes it gets inside out. And by now, one might have already gotten a fair idea andformed an opinion about its appearance and features. Since both the petrol and diesel models get exactly the same looks and equipment, we shall focus more on trying to answer an important question this time. One that makes a buyer contemplate before he finalises his decision - petrol or a diesel? We have our V-Box figures to help you analyse and make the right choice.

Honda All New City Rear Badge
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Powertrains that set them apart

Honda All New City Engine Shot

Let's get straight to the biggest differentiator - the engines. The petrol model is powered by a 1.5-litre four-cylinder engine producing 119bhp and 145Nm of torque. Honda wanted to achieve both high output and low fuel consumption through this i-VTEC DOHC engine. We are testing the six-speed manual here, while it’s also offered with an optional CVT about which you can read here. Meanwhile, the diesel counterpart gets a 1.5-litre four-cylinder unit that churns out 98bhp and 200Nm of torque. This i-DTEC mill is said to be cleaner and quieter and only comes mated to a six-speed manual gearbox.

Honda All New City Right Side View

We began with the diesel whose characteristic clatter and engine noise used to be quite audible in the cabin. Thankfully, this time it feels a tad subdued than before. Yet, it still gets noisy as the revs start building and we think the NVH levels can still be better. Even the road noise is heard inside. But what demands your attention is how quickly it gets off the mark, and how nicely it revs till its 4,000rpm redline. Even if the power curve starts to taper off at around 3,600rpm, it managed to sprint from 0-100kmph in 12.82 seconds. This isn't bad especially in wet weather conditions that we tested it on. It even feels quick through the gears. A true testament of this is a time of 8.61 seconds for the 20-80kmph run in third gear, and 14.81 seconds for the 40-100kmph run in fourth gear. Not only does it amble around nicely at revs as low as 1,500rpm, the abundant torque never made it feel that it will stall. However, the gear shifting is not up to our liking as the shifts are a little hard and a smoother engagement could have been a delight. However it’s not a concern as there's plenty of usable torque that ensures gear shifting isn’t required very frequently. What’s more, the clutch isn’t very heavy and this oil-burner’s low-speed performance should also help it be a lot frugal.

Honda All New City Left Side View

Now, the petrol, on the other hand, is way quieter than the diesel at start-up. It comes across as easy-going as compared to the diesel, but still is responsive to throttle inputs. The tachometer needle pulls eagerly to the 6,800rpm redline. In fact, this car also has an engine note to appease enthusiasts. However, it’s not a very likeable raspy one. Instead, we would have preferred it to work more quietly instead. Nonetheless, this car’s higher power output speaks for itself as it helps the sedan accelerate faster to 100kmph from standstill in 10.57 seconds. Despite the tall gearing as compared to the diesel, and being able to extract more power at higher engine speeds, early gear shifts are acceptable. It's tractable around town too and moves easily at around 2,000-2,500rpm. Responses aren't very quick before this, but it never feels bogged down. It did an in-gear time of 11.5 seconds in the 20-80kmph run in third gear and took 17.14 seconds to complete the 40-100kmph run in fourth gear. Slower here than the diesel, but not at all displeasing. Besides, it easily sprints with a downshift or whenever the tachometer is above 3,000rpm. Also, the gearstick here moves smoother than in the diesel, slots in well, but still isn’t very slick. Yet, it feels effortless as compared to the diesel and isn't distracting when a quick shift is needed. The light clutch action makes things even easier. And thanks to its strong mid-range and top-end, overtaking even a big vehicle doesn’t make the driver feel nervous, while it cruises smoothly at triple-digit speeds.

Honda All New City Instrument cluster

Road manners

Now on to the ride and handling department. The City uses a torsion beam set-up for the rear suspension and a front suspension whose strut friction is now reduced to 50 per cent than before. The latter helps in improving ride comfort. In both the models, its ride does feel firm but is compliant. It remained steady even on the few broken roads this long sedan encountered. Also, we didn’t have to be extra careful over speed breakers or worry about scraping its underbelly. Gladly, the steering on the diesel has a good feel and is responsive even if it’s a little heavy and requires more effort while parking. Whereas in the petrol model, the steering is even lighter. Still, it doesn’t feel vague as it is quick in moving the car in the direction pointed at. Thankfully, the steering also weighs up adequately at higher speeds in both models, which are very stable while tackling a tight and fast turn. The brakes feel soft at the pedal, but have a good bite and are confidence-inspiring nonetheless. Whether a driver or even an occupant, one never feels nervous in both cars, be it high-speed straight-line stability or switchbacks or even chucking the car hard into a corner. There's only a slight hint of understeer and minimal body roll, but still is sure-footed with good grip. Both models are quite enjoyable to drive.

Honda All New City Left Side View

Fuel efficiency and range

Given the limited time span for the review, our usual cycle of fuel efficiency tests couldn’t be completed. However, to give you a perspective we shall look at the ARAI-claimed data. A fuel economy of 17.8kmpl for the petrol, and a staggering 24.1kmpl for the diesel manual are figures nothing short of impressive in its segment. Even with a fuel tank capacity of 40litres, the range of both cars will always be higher than the usual cars which have a range of 400-600km. This also means the number of stops for refuelling would be lesser with a certainly longer range. More so, travelling longer distances in the diesel will always be preferred knowing it has always been more fuel-efficient than the petrol. So, it earns a brownie point automatically over the petrol. 

Honda All New City Open Fuel Lid

Petrol or diesel?

So which one to choose then? Analyse your motoring needs and take note of this. The diesel one offers more low-speed torque, is quite tractable in the city, and even has better overtaking power out on the highway. Also, the fuel running costs will be lesser with a diesel. So, if your intended real-world usage involves a lot of mileage including long distance travel, then the frugal diesel is the right choice. But then will these fuel savings equate or offset the higher price and tax paid in your city? Especially, when the price gap between a litre of petrol to diesel has narrowed down. Let’s make it simpler to understand with an average household 15,000km/year run.

Honda All New City Front view

The difference here is of Rs 24,321, which becomes lesser if your running isn’t much. Now even if you are paying one lakh more for the diesel over the petrol, it will at least take four years in this case to offset the amount. Much more in cities where the petrol-diesel prices are almost identical. Work it out in your city and for your usage, and most certainly it won’t be worth the extra price paid for the diesel car over the petrol car. The petrol derivative with its smoother and quieter powertrain packs in everything else that the diesel also offers. It will be more than sufficient to suffice the needs of a daily driver or a highway cruiser as well.

Honda All New City Right Front Three Quarter

Pictures by Kapil Angane and Kaustubh Gandhi

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Honda All New City Price in India

CityOn-Road Prices
Mumbai₹ 13.15 Lakhs onwards
Bangalore₹ 13.79 Lakhs onwards
Delhi₹ 12.85 Lakhs onwards
Pune₹ 13.03 Lakhs onwards
Hyderabad₹ 13.25 Lakhs onwards
Ahmedabad₹ 12.37 Lakhs onwards
Chennai₹ 13.12 Lakhs onwards
Kolkata₹ 12.32 Lakhs onwards
Chandigarh₹ 12.29 Lakhs onwards
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Car tips, advice & guides from our experts

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