Why I would buy it?
- Fully loaded Honda City but with green credentials
- ADAS suite
- Ride quality
Why I would avoid it?
- Interior quality
- Reduced boot space
- Missing out on some crucial feel-good features
It looks feels and rides just like the standard fifth-generation petrol Honda City but thanks to the hybrid powertrain, the drive experience is completely new. The electric motors buzz without any noise as you make progress with just a light rumble of the petrol engine when it comes online. The ADAS suite is equally impressive at recognising things like mopeds and tractors while doing its bit to keep you on the safest and straightest path. However, the one that should favour the City Hybrid is a claimed fuel efficiency of 26.5kmpl and that combined with a 40-litre tank should give a theoretical range of 1063km and this without range anxiety. On the downside, the quality of some of the plastics used in the cabin does not match the segment and the touchscreen could do with a major upgrade in terms of look and feel.
Engine and performance
There are two parts to this and the first part involves a deep dive into the technical aspects of the powertrain that we have covered in our first look at the Honda City e:HEV you can find the link here as well as our video listed below.
In terms of the drive experience, at speeds below 40kmph, the electric motor is silent and at startup, it is only when you look at the speedometer, that you realise the car is ready to go. At low speed, progress is smooth and effortless due to the electric motor providing instant torque. The pure EV range is very minimal and sources have indicated it would not be possible to calculate a realistic figure due to the system being designed to not let the battery drop below a certain charge level.
However, up the pace and the petrol engine comes to life to start charging the batteries. You do feel some of that lag associated with CVTs as the powertrain builds up the pace but you are never short of grunt and it is easy to perform overtakes even on large vehicles with short notice. At highway speeds, with the petrol motor powering the wheels it feels like the conventional City, which is not a bad thing at all and will go a long way in creating an appeal for this version of the City.
The shift between each of these modes is seamless allowing you to drive normally as one would do in such a car, thus normalising the driving experience for anyone looking to make the jump into hybrid vehicles. The paddle shifters behind the wheel provide various degrees of regeneration with noticeable steps between each of the three stages. This is aided along by a B-mode in the gearbox that irrespective of your speed will go to the same stage of regeneration that you last set. It’s a form of engine braking but also recharges the batteries.
The headline of this powertrain setup is a claimed F.E of 26.5kmpl and when combined with the 40-litre fuel tank gives a range (on paper) of 1063kmpl and this is without range anxiety.
Ride and handling
One of the strong points of the fifth-generation Honda City is ride quality and this one with its additional weight is no different at all. It’s underpinned by the same setup as the standard car, McPherson struts in front and a torsion beam setup at the rear, but with retuning to account for the extra 120kgs the hybrid package adds on.
The ride quality is quite plush and most bumps and imperfections are smoothened out without sending too much back into the cabin both in city and highway conditions. The latter along with the lane keep assist and adaptive cruise control in the ADAS suite of this top-spec ZX variant have added a feather in the cap of the City in terms of kilometre munching ability.
We didn’t get to test out the handling much due to our limited time with the car but can tell you that it is quite easy to have fun with the car thanks to predictable body roll and understeer if you break the limits of traction. The steering rack remains unchanged and so like all our previous experiences with the car, it lacks feel and is not as responsive as we would have liked given the nature of the powertrain. However, it does weigh up nicely on the highway providing confidence for long-distance cruising.
Interior space and quality
The two most noticeable changes to the cabin are the use of a new ivory white upholstery scheme as well as a semi-digital instrument cluster. In the instrument cluster, the tachometer has been replaced by a power gauge that also doubles as the display for the various hybrid and ADAS functions and that’s the only place you can see all of these options.
There’s no change in terms of dimensions and so you get the same space and quality of plastics as the standard car. The former is quite good while the latter feels a segment behind and this is visible in places like the dashboard, armrests on the doors as well as the window and mirror switches. In the standard car, you get 506-litres of bootspace whereas here it has been reduced to 306 due to the battery pack.
This Honda City e:HEV is based on the fully loaded ZX trim and thus you get all the bells and whistles offered with the City. This list includes climate control with rear vents, ambient lighting, an 8.0-inch touchscreen with the latest generation Honda Connect/Apple CarPlay/ Android Auto, smartwatch connectivity, Amazon Echo connectivity, Google assistant and a sunroof. It still lacks features like wireless charging, ventilated seats and a 360-degree camera. On the safety front, this model gets six airbags, ABS with EBD, a traction control programme and of course the Honda Sensing ADAS suite that we have detailed in the next section.
ADAS/Honda Sensing Experience
One of the new things that Honda has added to the City’s kitty is an ADAS suite called Honda Sensing. It includes collision mitigation braking, road departure mitigation system, lane keeps assist, adaptive cruise control and auto high beam function. The adaptive cruise control works quite well in recognising objects the size of tipper lorries to mopeds without functional brake lights. On our roads, a lot of the time driving is micro-managing to compensate for various factors and the ability of the cruise control and lane-keep assist to take over that micro-managing is a welcome change.
It allows you to focus on the bigger picture but at the same time be fully available when you need to take complete control of the situation. The road departure mitigation system is very effective in pulling you back on track if you veer out of your lane but will switch off for two minutes if you go off track in succession.
ADAS systems have now started filtering their way into this part of the market and City joins a growing list of models. For want of a better statement, if more cars have these systems, then there’s going to be an improvement in terms of road safety.
Yes, the Honda City e:HEV looks capable in terms of fuel efficiency, driving experience, features and safety list but on the flip side, the quality of the interiors feels a segment down and we could have done with more feel from the steering. Now the important question is pricing- at the time of writing this review, the top-spec Honda City ZX CVT petrol was priced at Rs 15.03 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi) while the equivalent ZX diesel was priced at Rs 15.23 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi). If this City e:HEV is priced Rs 2.0 lakh to Rs 2.5 lakh over the ZX diesel, then Honda has hit it out of the stadium.
Photography: Kapil Angane