What is it?
Why would I buy it?
Sporty design, space on offer and engaging to drive.
Why would I avoid it?
Ordinary infotainment system.
With an all-new design, updated platform and reworked mechanicals, this is the fifth-generation Honda City, due for launch in July. Now, the City has a strong brand recall in India, and in essence, it is the product that shaped Honda’s fortunes in the country. So much so, that it has continued its dominance in the mid-size sedan segment since its introduction, and even manages to take the fight to the likes of the Hyundai Creta and the Kia Seltos. And to appeal to a wide spectrum of buyers, the All New City will be sold alongside the current-generation model.
The 2020 Honda City features an evolutionary design and draws cues from the Honda Civic. The tapering nose, flowing lines and the coupe-ish tail brings out the sporty styling of the sedan. What adds character to the fascia is the large chrome bar on the grille and the exquisitely-designed full-LED headlamps. The profile is highlighted by the sloping roof and the dual-tone 16-inch alloys, while the wraparound LED taillights with a Z-shaped light signature adds a neat touch to the rear.
How is it on the inside?
On the inside, you are welcomed to a well thought-out cabin with dual-tone hues that help elevate the premium experience. The clean dashboard layout is complemented by the classier-looking faux wood trim and the leather finish. And compared to the earlier touchpad controls of the ACC unit, we particularly like the physical climate control switches, which improves ergonomics. There are enough cubby holes and the large door pockets easily gobble a one-litre bottle. While the plastic quality is on par with competition, some hard plastics lower-below could have been of better quality.
The front seats offer generous side bolstering, which enhances driving comfort. And the large glasshouse and narrow A-pillar provide an unrestricted view of the surroundings. However, the highpoint is the rear seat that offers acres of space, which can put cars from a segment-above to shame. The seat offers liberal under-thigh support, and the backrest angle, flat floor and wide bench make it a decent five-seater. On the flip side, the 506-litres of boot space, coupled with a low loading lip makes it practical for a weekend trip or the usual airport runs.
The All New City features an eight-inch infotainment system replete with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. However, the UI feels a bit laggy and the upward-raked placement hinders legibility under direct sunlight. Otherwise, the car comes loaded with features like a comprehensive digital driver information system, a single-zone climate control, electric sunroof, lane watch camera, cruise control, automatic LED headlamps and more. It also gets the next-gen Honda Connect connected car tech that allows you to remotely control 32 features of the car, including SOS alerts, unauthorised entry, find my car, book a service and much more.
How is it like to drive?
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.
Should I buy one?
The All New City is a compelling package in the mid-size sedan segment that offers a sporty design, is loaded with features and comes with a comfortable and spacious cabin. The new City should appeal to the family man as well as the enthusiast in you, with its neutral road manners and the engaging drive experience. And, in addition to the Honda connected car tech, it also gets a comprehensive safety kit that includes six airbags, vehicle stability assist, tyre pressure monitoring system, hill start assist and more. What’s more, it also comes with a five-star safety rating from ASEAN NCAP. If anything, we would’ve appreciated a better infotainment system and quality plastics in the lower parts. However, these aren’t a deal breaker for what the All New City offers.
Where does it fit in?
The All New City is expected to be priced between Rs 11 to 15 lakh (ex-showroom). At this price point, it will rival the new Hyundai Verna, Maruti Suzuki Ciaz, Skoda Rapid and the Volkswagen Vento. It will also face competition from SUVs like Hyundai Creta, Kia Seltos, and the Renault Duster.
Pictures by Kapil Angane