The City sits below the Civic as Honda’s smallest four-door sedan. Its also based off of the Jazz, a hatch that promises unrivalled interior space, comfort, refinement, and running costs - an ideal template, then.
However, despite sharing the same platform as well as most of the running gear, the City does miss out on those acclaimed Magic Seats that bring some rear practicality plusses to the Jazz. This is mainly due to the packaging constraints and segmentation of passenger cell from a dedicated boot, so we’ll forgive it. It’s offered locally in two variants - the base VTi and better-specified VTi-L.
For those wanting a compact sedan that will probably last forever, represents good value, looks rather decent, is affordable and also quite practical, the Honda City offers quite an enticing package. In the grand scheme of things, though, how does it fare?
“Some would say that the City now looks remarkably like a mini Civic, especially if fitted with the LED headlights.” - Carlist.my
Honda facelifted the City in early 2017, bringing the small sedan more up to visual parity with design cues made familiar by the Civic and HR-V. With this new corporate face and LED daytime running lights, the City now looks the part as the Civic’s sidekick, even adding more angularity to the rear end for a better match.
Objectively, it’s a fairly good looking car, though overall we’d say that the Mazda2 will win over more customers if looks were a deciding factor. The base model receives 15-inch steel wheels while the VTi-L gets 16-inch alloys.
Engine and Drivetrain
“The Honda City accelerates well off the line, with progress slower as you press on towards highway speeds – when you’ll notice the engine gets noisy as revs climb north of 4000rpm.” - CarAdvice
One engine powers both variants of the City, and it’s the same 1.5-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder that lives under the bonnet of the Jazz hatch. On paper, its 88kW and 145Nm output may not seem impressive relative to larger cars, but it’s perfectly suited to one with these dimensions.
It’s a smooth mill too, and one that transmits power to the front wheels via an Earth Dreams continuously variable transmission (CVT), further giving it an unhurried, even relaxed personality. There is a manual option for the base VTi, but not for the VTi-L, though the higher grade variant does gain paddle shifters to manually shift into car’s 7 pre-defined virtual ratios for that little taste of a sporty drive.
Overall, it makes for a very easy car to drive, especially in urban areas. This combination is very frugal with its petrol reserves too, as it can usually come close to its 5.8-litres/100km claimed figure.
At the back, the usual Honda City hallmarks of spaciousness and ease of use remain, along with its marvellous amount of rear legroom.” - Paultan.org
There’s a surprising amount of interior room here for a car this size. But given how this is based on the Jazz, it’s not all that odd. Everything is well laid out and easy to understand, blending well to the adequately comfortable seats and solid build quality.
The VTi-L gains leather upholstery as well as a leather wrapped gear shift knob and steering wheel. It’s an easy car to get used to driving even in tight spaces as visibility is great in all directions.
Over the pre-facelift City, little has changed on the inside. But that also pertains to the less than plush situation for rear passengers. Legroom and headroom are both ample for segment but the middle passenger will get a little cramped over a prolonged stint. Another peeve is the integration of the HVAC controls into touch panel rather than using tactile knob, making a simple temperature or fan speed change more cumbersome than it need be, especially while driving.
In the back, the City boasts an impressive 536-litres of boot space and a large aperture to load up all that cargo. The rear seats do fold flat in a 60:40 split, increasing dimension to what was already a conveniently flat bay.
Behind The Wheel
“The steering itself is a little slow to react but otherwise it is fairly predictable and accurate. Small bumps are mostly ironed out in both VTi and VTi-L variants,” - Drive.com.au
It’s no Mazda2 or Ford Fiesta around the corners, but Honda does a commendable job if you show it some challenging bends. Grip is decently plentiful and body roll doesn’t stray too far off centre if a lot of compression is applied, say, in a quick direction change.
While it’s not the segment leader in the handling department, it’s definitely within striking distance to be the most compliant on the road, not really letting surface imperfections or exterior noises/vibrations disturb it very much at all. It’s clear, though, that like the Jazz, the City is most at home when negotiating the urban environment - hence its name. The ride, engine, even transmission have seemingly been chosen to excel at exactly that. Mission very much accomplished
Safety and Technology
"This is a great example of a non-regulatory program at work. While not required to improve its performance, Honda has reviewed the ANCAP test results and actively implemented changes to offer consumers a safer car.” - ANCAP
Hondas are known to produce safe cars and to adhere to the most current safety standards, and the City’s 5-star rating from ANCAP reflects this. It receives dual front, side, and curtain airbags as standard and even seatbelt reminders for all occupants.
At this price point, though, the active safety systems are limited to the likes of standard traction control, brake assist, and the mandated stability control. Each City also receives a 7-inch infotainment touchscreen infotainment system with integrated reversing camera, which is a nice touch.
There isn’t support for Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, unfortunately, but Bluetooth streaming, AUX input, and USB support do make up for it to some extent. The VTi-L’s head unit also has built-in satellite navigation.
For what Honda offers with the City at this price point, there’s most certainly more than a few reasons to shortlist it if you’re looking for a small sedan. It’s one of the easiest cars to live with and an overall very balanced package for everyday driving.
That said, perhaps the biggest competitor to the City is the very car that it’s based on as the Jazz offers everything here but in a body that is arguably easier to manoeuvre and can more easily accommodate larger cargo thanks to it being a 5-door hatch.
Carlist.my - “This little B-segment sedan has it all. Good looks, exceptional fuel consumption, superb practicality at an affordable price. […] The company is set for another homerun with the updated City.”
CarAdvice - 7/10 - “But if light is right then the City’s combination of sharp starting price, spaciousness, efficiency and infotainment technology make it a strong contender among a tiny group of pint-sized sedans.”
Drive.com.au - “Ultimately, the City could become of victim of its large orientations. Honda admits that prospective buyers might ultimately shop this car against the slightly bigger small car segment. Even so, the City is a functional and solid package in its own right.”
Paultan.org - Beyond the requisite cosmetic updates, the City is mechanically similar to its pre-facelift form. Is it, then, a case of leaving well enough alone? It would appear to be largely so.