In Australia’s Compact Car segment, the scrap for every single sale is as intense as it gets and Honda shobe pleased with the popularity of its City sedan. Now with an all-new model to take up the fight, priced even sharper than its predecessor, the Honda City should do even better.
In a segment dominated by hatchbacks, the Honda City and rivals Nissan Almera and Mitsubishi Mirage stand-out like beacons with their four-door sedan styling. Honda has the similar Jazz for hatchback buyers, Nissan has the Micra and Mitsubishi has the Mirage hatchback but the point is, not everyone wants a hatch.
Consumers are the winner in this battle-within-a-segment as the Honda City really does deliver a massive amount of car for price (which starts at $15,990). No wonder Honda has sold over 2.2 million City models in 55 countries since the sedan’s first generation debuted back in 1996 (previously Honda sold a model called the City from 1983 - it was a two-seat van-type vehicle and your Car Showroom correspondent owned one).
Honda City Overview
We’ve just handed back our second Honda City – back-to-back over a fortnight we drove the VTi and up-scale VTi-L. Both were fitted with the CVT automatic transmission so the VTi was priced at $17,990 and the VTi-L at $21,390.
The latest, all-new Honda City debuts a sleek, modern look, improved 1.5-litre engine, more space inside and a massive boot. Technology is impressive – rival brands take note that the Honda City, from just $15,990, includes as standard in all models cruise control, a three-mode reversing camera and a speed alarm (wish all brands were as committed to these safety advances).
Over the VTi, some of the extras in the Honda City VTi-L include 16-inch alloy wheels, front fog lights, an eight-speaker audio system, steering wheel paddle-shifters for manual gear changes, leather-wrapped steering wheel and gear-lever, climate control air-conditioning, push-button start and an automatic boot opening.
Honda City Engine
Honda has tweaked the 1.5-litre SOHC i-VETC engine in the all-new City in the pursuit of reduced fuel consumption. With the five-speed manual VTi model rated at 5.7l/100kms (combined-cycle) and the CVT automatic versions we tested scoring 5.8l/100kms that’s a 12 per-cent improvement so we say: “Job well done there.”
As usual with Honda there is an ‘ECON’ mode for the CVT automatic transmission which delivers revised throttle mapping and air-conditioning functionality for optimized fuel consumption and an illuminated ‘ECO ASSIST’ function on the dashboard to help drivers drive fuel-efficiently.
Maximum power is 88kW at 6600rpm and peak torque of 145Nm is delivered at 4600rpm.
Honda City The Interior
Space is the immediate impression when you climb into the all-new Honda City…and that’s not something you can say about some others in this league. Stats don’t lie and Honda designers have injected 45mm in extra overall length, 50mm in wheelbase length and 5mm in height into this City compared to its predecessor.
Combine that with some clever working of the all-new Honda City’s interior design and things really shape-up with front seat occupants enjoying 40mm more shoulder room and 30mm more head room. Rear seat accommodation is also impressive.
Then there’s the boot. Bad weather meant we didn’t play golf but with 536-litres it looked like the clubs would be sweet. Honda claims the all-new City is best-in-class for cargo capacity and versatility is there with the 60:40 split-fold rear seat.
Make no mistake, space is where it’s at - considering most purchasers of the Honda City are buying it as a second family car.
Elsewhere you notice the latest version of Honda’s ‘layered’ interior look with contrasting black and silver trim highlights to distinguish the different zones. Honda’s usual excellent steering wheel is just the right size and the driving position in the all-new City presented a good view of the conventional instruments (with Honda’s normal blue illumination).
The multi-information display provided numerous readouts including instant and average fuel economy in an easy-to-read bar graph display – very handy and illustrative of your bad driving habits. Audio includes a seven-inch colour touch-screen and plenty of connectivity.
Honda City Exterior & Styling
We think some motoring journalists of our acquaintance need an appointment at Specsavers or OPSM because we’ve read some negative comments about the looks of the all-new Honda City. C’mon you lot, you’re off the pace…this thing looks modern and dynamic and exudes curb appeal way beyond its $15,990 - $21,390 price tags.
Those deep-edged side character lines and flared wheel arches give a degree of sophistication and complexity you just don’t see in this segment. And the aero front-end and sloping bonnet are spot-on with other uber-contemporary automotive designs.
The grille adopts Honda’s new brand-wide ‘wing face’ (also evident on the all-new Odyssey for example).
Honda City On The Road
Just as there’s no NISMO version of the Almera, nor a Ralliart model of the Mitsubishi Mirage, the engineers slaving away to prepare for Honda’s return to F1 Grand Prix racing with McLaren haven’t been asked to work some overtime developing a version of the City. At these prices we shouldn’t expect that and in fact for most, the biggest news for the all-new Honda City is that impressive cut in fuel consumption (5.8l/100kms for the automatic models we tested remember).
That said, Honda did identify some improvements for the all-new City. Targets included improved stability, better ride and a more linear steering response.
So, the front Macpherson strut suspension features a lower roll centre height, the rear torsion beam is higher and there is more toe-out at the front. And all of that has been combined with a stiffer body and revised damper tuning.
There’s no doubt the all-new Honda City delivers on all of the above – in high-speed corners its turn-in is crisper and there’s less body roll. Of course the paddle-shifters in the VTi-L model made for more sporty performance thanks to those manual gear changes (pushing hard over the twists and curves of mountain roads isn’t the favourite environment of any CVT automatic transmission).
Around town, the all-new Honda City was more at home. We’d still like a bit more performance from the CVT for freeway merging but the tiny 10.5-metre turning circle and standard reversing camera made for very easy maneuvering.
Honda City Issues
Just two areas lose points for the all-new Honda City. And they’re only minor deductions.
Firstly some of the interior trim and plastics don’t match the high tactile standards we expect from Honda.
And the performance of the CVT automatic transmission isn’t as good as some others.
Honda City Verdict
Considering any vehicle in this segment, value-for-money must be uppermost in your mind. When you factor-in that biggie with the undoubted strengths of the car itself, the Honda City sells itself.
The evidence is clear that Honda is well advanced in the fight-back from its well-known set-backs of the last couple of years – not the least of which was the total loss of its Thailand plant in the floods (the City is product of the new plant, impressively built since then). All-new products like the CR-V and Odyssey plus news of the all-new hybrid-powered NSX sports car show the model range too is bouncing back.
So we have the City compact sedan, beautifully engineered and manufactured in the Honda way, delivering family-friendly interior space and tremendous value-for-money in a segment where every cent is debated with the ferocity of a Bill passing the Federal Senate. Honda hasn’t missed a thing really.
Honda City The Competition
If we rule-out the hatchbacks, the two main rivals for the Honda City also have Japanese bloodlines – the Nissan Almera and Mitsubishi Mirage sedan.
While some scratch their heads at the styling of the Nissan Almera we don’t find it hard to take. And the fact is those looks are dominated by significant practicality (important to family buyers where these are second cars) – that would be an enormous boot. While Nissan’s 75kW/139Nm 1.5-litre engine is outgunned by Honda City’s 88kW/145Nm (and the Honda is a lot more fuel-efficient), pricing is competitive with the Almera ST (also a CVT automatic) stickered at $18,990 and the range-topping Ti at $20,990.
Mitsubishi’s Mirage sedan is the newest model on the block here and is sharply priced from $14,490. Power comes from Mitsubishi’s 57kW 1.2-litre three-cylinder engine.