Why would I buy it?
- Refined drivetrain
- ADAS convenience
- Honda's after-sales service
Why would I avoid it?
- Some missing features
- Diesel engine no longer available
What is it?
This is the latest iteration of the Honda City, a successful three-box sedan still going strong after two decades. Now, although it's the same fifth-generation avatar that was introduced in 2020, it now gets some more updates. The most important ones are an RDE-compliant engine and advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS). Look closely, and you'll see the elegant exterior design exudes a sportier character, thanks to the revised bumpers. These are tastefully done and look like extensions with a carbon fibre look. The grille mesh pattern is revised too and there's the new Obsidian Blue Pearl exterior colour that looks fantastic.
Is the cabin of the 2023 City any good?
7.5 / 10
Honda has kept the cabin's design, interior layout, and elements unchanged for this top-of-the-line ZX variant. It continues to be an airy cabin with good space, has things within reach, and provides good visibility despite not towering over the roads. The materials inside have been carried over, which do give a premium feel upon touch and feel. But the lower sections of the dashboard and console could have done better with the plastics. Also, headroom is tight for tall individuals. That said, there's plenty of knee room, legroom, and shoulder room to accommodate even a third passenger in the second row. No wonder, the City is used by many as a chauffeur-driven car. Besides, an over 500-litre boot still speaks about its great luggage-hauling capacity.
Nevertheless, I believe Honda could have bettered this update to appease more such buyers. For example, an electronically adjustable seat and ventilated ones would have proved beneficial in a climate like ours. A 360-degree camera, TPMS, and HUD would have added to the convenience. Then, the introduction of a plusher upholstery and nicer touch and feel of the switchgear was needed, especially for a Rs 20 lakh car. Otherwise, it's the quintessential well-appointed cabin. Be it any trim (SV, V, VX, ZX), it's got basic features sorted. In fact, the carmaker has rejigged the variant line-up in an attempt to provide more value for money. So, it’s not just the top-spec that’s feature-packed, but the equipment has trickled down to other trims as well.
The top-spec versions, however, come with more provisions. This includes a full-colour MID, auto headlamps, rain-sensing wipers, auto-dimming IRVM, wireless charging, an electric sunroof, and smartphone connectivity with Honda Connect. Apart from these feel-good features, there's ADAS available in all trims, save for the base version. Now, this has taken the City sedan a notch higher with features like Collision Mitigation Braking System (CMBS), road departure mitigation system with lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist, and auto high beam. The next section details how effective and beneficial these systems are. Meanwhile, the other safety features comprise six airbags, ABS with EBD, traction control, ESP, and Isofix among others.
Is the 2023 City nice to drive?
8 / 10
While the 1.5-litre diesel engine has now been discontinued, the RDE-compliant 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol mill is the only option that powers the 2023 City. The one we had was mated to a CVT and it is even available with a six-speed manual gearbox. The e:HEV, on the other hand, is offered with this same 1.5-litre petrol-hybrid powertrain mated to an e-CVT. This 121bhp naturally-aspirated engine still is silent and boasts a fuel efficiency of 18.4kmpl, which is quite impressive for a large-sized sedan.
The ECON drive mode continues in a bid to enhance fuel economy. And be it D-drive or S-Sport mode, you can barely hear the engine — even when idling. It's audible only when the tachometer’s needle points towards 4,000rpm. Now, that's seldom when you're giving it the stick or revving it till its redline in the sport mode. Usually, you'd stick to the drive mode as there’s a good response at slow speeds and it can amble along with traffic. Here the adaptive cruise control works flawlessly even at low speeds. It continues to brake and follow its lead car smoothly. Even when you want to sprint ahead, it overtakes without delay and with good throttle response. Notwithstanding, the paddle shifters help bring a different driving experience than the otherwise usual rubber-band effect of the CVT. They're quick and responsive too.
The ride continues to be a relaxed one for all occupants, whether you're tackling traffic or cruising at highway speeds. And with sufficient ground clearance, it manages to clear most speed humps without breaking a sweat. Even broken roads with small potholes aren't a hindrance. It doesn't induce discomforting passenger movement on bad roads and keeps the cabin noise minimal. It's the sharper ruts, road joints, and deeper potholes that can send in a jolt if the car isn’t slowed down.
But the good thing is, it portrays good straight-line stability and even remains planted no matter what. Then, as easy as it is to drive around with light controls, it inspires the confidence to even go fast around a corner. The steering is light and quick and despite the introduction of the lane-assist (ADAS) features, it doesn't feel intrusive. It manages to hold on to the lane markings and gradually straightens the car, thus adding to the convenience. Even on the braking front, CMBS detects vehicles and even lane-cutting motorcycles early to not jam the brakes abruptly, but progressively bring the car to a halt instead.
Should you buy the 2023 City?
In the current scenario (Rs 11-20 lakh) where the market is infested with SUVs, there’s still a market for sedans like the Volkswagen Virtus, Skoda Slavia, and the upcoming iteration of the Hyundai Verna. The 2023 Honda City is one of the perfect examples of why one opts for a sedan. The silent powertrain delivers more than sufficient performance and fuel economy. Likewise, the City might not be as tall as SUVs to smother bad roads, but can still sail through while providing comfort in a plush cabin. It's now equipped with ADAS to add to the convenience and safety, thus taking it a step ahead of the competition. The upcoming Verna is expected to match this but the City has the first-mover advantage here. Besides, it continues to be an elegant sedan and a reliable brand for prospective buyers to take note of. Not to mention, Honda's consistently good after-sales service is just another reason to seal the deal.
Pictures by Kaustubh Gandhi