What is it?
Why would I buy it
Lovely CVT, great on space, looks and feels upmarket, has a sunroof!
Why would I avoid it
Love for SUVs, it misses out on some crucial features
What is it?
This is the automatic version of the Honda All New City. It will co-exist with the current City already on sale in India. And if you are interested in the petrol manual or the diesel manual versions of the car, you can read our dedicated reviews for those models HERE and HERE.
But, just to quickly run you through the basics if you haven’t already read our other reviews on the new City… The Honda City has always been a benchmark car. It has moved goalposts in its class with the introduction of every new version. But now the playing field has changed with the introduction of popular SUVs like the Hyundai Creta and the Kia Seltos.
Clearly then, for the All New City to get back some of that preferential treatment being showered onto SUVs by customers; it would need to be special. The same onus lies on this, the CVT version. And it all begins with the design.
The new car, even though longer than the current City, looks hunkered down courtesy its wider stance and reduced overall height. Thankfully, the lowering of the height hasn’t made any difference to the ground clearance of the car. Additionally, the new design gives the City an air of modernity along with a stronger, sportier stance.
There are other visual clues that help the All New City standout as well. The new all-LED headlamps look more modern and technical. The thick slab of chrome has a very ‘look-at-me’ bling character to it. At the rear, the tail lamps are new and very likeable with the whole pronounced 3D effect. The new bumper has a little more aggression to it as well. And overall the new City has that tail-up stance that’s been so typical of the Citys over generations.
How is it on the inside?
Like the name suggests, this is an all-new car even though it shares the platform architecture with the current City. And, that shows on the inside.
The dashboard is simple and easy on the eye. The new steering is chunky and good to hold. And, though the clocks aren’t the most modern in terms of design, these are easy to read and pack in a whole lot of info. The overall look and feel of the new City’s interior is that of a more upmarket car. The chrome outlines, the wood inserts and the liberal use of leather only add to this. We also love the way the various dials, buttons, and rollers operate; they have a very satisfying crisp, positive and tactile click every time you use them.
If there’s something we aren’t pleased about, it is the lack of soft grain plastic, especially on the dash and on the doors.
Equipment-wise, on this top-spec ZX trim, one gets a whole lot of goodies.
There’s a sunroof, of course. But it also gets a height-adjustable seat for the driver; a multifunctional steering wheel that also adjusts for rake; cruise control, a colour TFT screen as part of the instrumentation; and an 8-inch touchscreen multimedia system with everything from Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Weblink.
It gets a retractable rear windscreen sunshade. It has ambient lighting. It gets LaneWatch courtesy a Camera mounted on the left ORVM. There’s a reversing camera with a normal, wide and top view options. And it gets climate control, voice command, and a connectivity suite in the form of Honda Connect.
Honda Connect is the new car’s big party trick. It essentially has the same functionality as the connectivity solutions offered by the likes of the new Creta, the Seltos, and the MG Hector. So on this automatic version, you can start the car, turn on the AC, check the fuel levels, find the car, check air pressures, and get to know if your driver has been driving too fast! You can also geo-fence the car.
But, its USP is its compatibility with Amazon Echo, also popularly known as Alexa. Sitting at home you can say stuff like Alexa, start the car; Alexa, turn on the car AC; and impress your kids. Who can in turn impress their friends once this whole social distancing thing fades away. There are other well thought out bits, too. There’s ample of storage for instance – door pockets, cup and bottle holders, and smart solutions for holding one’s pen and cellphone at the rear. It also gets a big boot.
And in terms of safety, it gets a 5-star ASEAN crash test rating courtesy a lighter, but stiffer body structure. And in equipment terms, it gets six airbags, ESP, ABS, and tyre pressure monitoring system.
How does it drive?
This new car feels just like a City should, and that’s paying it a big compliment. It has a lovely driving position, well-bolstered seats, high seating, and great visibility all round, and spot-on ergonomics. It just feels right, and at-home from the word go.
Engine wise, this petrol engine says Honda, is all-new. It now uses a double overhead cam or DOHC layout instead of single overhead cam used on the current model. It also gets variable valve timing now to go along with variable valve lift. Honda has also worked towards reducing friction, improving airflow, and making the engine lighter. The engine is mated to a CVT.
Honda says they have tried to reduce the rubber-band effect with this iteration of the CVT having engineered pseudo shifts into it. And you can tell that stretchy feel of CVTs is significantly reduced on this one. But it is still there. Not that I personally mind it because unless you are going hell for leather, the CVT makes for a seamless, quiet and relaxed drive. And personally, I think CVTs are great.
As for the engine, its refinement and quietness adds to this serene experience, especially when driving the car within city confines with a light foot. It’s only when the engine revs past 4,000rpm that it becomes properly audible. And then the closer it gets to the revlimiter, the louder it gets. And with the CVT in D mode, the engine note begins to turn into a drone.
In S mode though, the CVT is quite enjoyable, especially when you begin using the paddle shifters. The shifts seem more conventional, more intuitive, and more responsive, both while shifting up or down.
But, the All New City is best enjoyed at a more relaxed pace. Helped no doubt by its comfy and cosseting ride. The car rounds the small bumps and ditches without bother and the passengers don’t get jolted or thrown around. The ride is equally sorted at high speeds over such less than perfect roads. The car doesn’t pitch or rock excessively either. But, over deeper potholes and square edged bumps, the ride can get noisy and a bit crashy. Now, the car might also feel slightly unsettled over really bad roads, but it never feels hairy. And that’s always welcome.
In fact, the handling on the new City is quite reassuring as well. It remains planted and unwavering even over undulated roads. And around corners, it feels light footed and agile and precise too. Now, the steering on the City isn’t exactly brimming with feel, but it is light and accurate and surprisingly quick!
Overall, the fifth generation City is a car you will enjoy driving, even with the CVT; I know I did.
Should I buy one?
The All New City has most certainly moved the goal posts further. In fact, it is a better Honda City no matter how you look at it. But yes, it is more evolution than being something totally extraordinary that might blow you away. And it stems from the fact that instead of starting from a clean piece of paper, the fifth generation City is based heavily on the current generation car.
The good things: It is quieter, more refined, more feature-rich, better in quality, more driveable, and more engaging to drive than the current City. It is also nicer looking in my opinion. And more desirable.
The not so good things: It could have had a few more features like wireless charging. It could have done with a fancier looking multimedia system. And, having soft grain plastic on the dash and the door inserts would have given it a higher sense of premiumness to give it an edge against the SUVs in this price segment.
Where does it fit in?
On the traditional end of the competition scale, there’s the Hyundai Verna, the Maruti Suzuki Ciaz, and the likes of the Volkswagen Vento. Sedans all. On the other end of the scale, meanwhile – and this is where the biggest challenge lies – are the SUVs, the likes of the Kia Seltos and the Hyundai Creta.
Pictures by Kapil Angane and Kaustubh Gandhi