The All New City is available with three engine/gearbox combinations. There’s a 1.5-litre petrol unit with manual and automatic (CVT) transmissions, and a 1.5-litre diesel with a manual. We are driving the 1.5-litre petrol version, which is coupled to a six-speed manual. This is a completely reworked engine with a DOHC setup, and benefits from VTC (Variable Valve Timing Control). The iVTEC motor offers two cam profiles – the lower one for better efficiency and combustion, and the high cam profile for performance.
The free-revving engine feels refined and is barely audible at idle, but as the revs rise past 4,000rpm, it starts sounding raspy. There is decent torque available lower down the revs, so even with small throttle inputs, the engine responds quickly to keep up with the traffic. And, should you wish to make swift progress, there's dollops of torque available in the mid-range past the 2,500rpm mark. With this, a gentle dab on the throttle is enough to overtake the vehicles ahead, while it also makes maintaining triple-digit speeds on the highways, effortless. What's more, if you are in for some spirited driving, there is a good surge of power throughout the wide power band, before it starts tapering down around 6,500rpm.
The gearbox offers short throws along with well-defined gates, which essentially doesn’t necessitate much effort to work through the gears. However, it felt slightly notchy to operate. Otherwise, the flexible gearing allows you to run a higher gear at lower speeds; for example, we were able to drive in third gear between 20-30kmph, without having to downshift. On the flip side, if you have to make a quick overtake, you'd have to downshift to whizz past traffic. Nevertheless, the tall nature of the higher gears means that you can maintain cruising speeds at low rpms, which should translate to better fuel economy. It is complimented by the light clutch action, which doesn’t tire you out in traffic.
Coming to the ride bit, the suspension rounds off bumps nicely and provides adequate cushion over sharper edges. And as you build speed, the suspension flattens out undulations and maintains composure superbly. It’s only when you suddenly encounter a rough patch at high speeds, when the ride unsettles slightly. Honda seems to have found a good balance between comfort and sporty. Meanwhile, the steering is direct and offers quick turn-ins with less than three turns lock-to-lock. It has a good heft at city-speeds and weighs up adequately as the speed increases. And although it isn’t vague at the centre, we’d have expected more feedback. On the contrary, the brakes lack initial bite but offer good progression and stopping power. However, you get a spongy or wooden feel at the pedal.