Honda City sits into the space between the Jazz and Civic hatches and acts as a sedan option for both, City has never been a particularly big seller since arriving here in 2009. A $20,000 price tag for that first model certainly didn’t help and $4000 was eventually cut to bring to a more realistic price.
The latest (second generation) model City, launched here in mid-2004, comes with a range of new features including continuously variable transmission (CVT), a more fuel-efficient engine and a smartphone-based infotainment system; all in a larger but sleeker body and with a sub-$16,000 starting price.
The new City delivers excellent value for money through fuel economy and top-line specification levels, the latter the result of the Japanese manufacturer trawling the world to discover how owners use their vehicles, what they like and dislike, how they live and what are their future plans.
A common theme emerged: their reliance on smartphones, which travel with them constantly, hence the truly integrated experience on offer with the new City.
The car comes powered by Honda’s upgraded 1.5-litre i-VTEC petrol engine in three versions – VTi manual and automatic and VTi-L automatic – coming to market from $15,990 to $21,885, plus on-road costs.
The City follows fashion with the sedan curving front to back in a way that copies coupe shapes. The nose-down front emphasises the vehicle width with an aero-style bumper and incorporated air inlets.
A strong so-called character line connects front and rear and is distinguishable, says the maker, equally in bright sunlight or cloudy conditions. Flared rear wheel arches add substance to the profile, while the rear lamp clusters are brought together by a chrome licence plate surround.
While keeping within the confines of smaller sized sedan models, the City has expanded internally with an extended wheelbase. The spacious interior can seat five adults in relative comfort with significant increases in head, leg and shoulder room over the previous model.
At the rear, the already huge boot has got even bigger size, up 30 litres to a whopping 536-litre capacity. Honda rates it at four in the golf bag scale.
Central to the Honda Display Audio system is the 7-inch colour touch screen, centrally located on the dashboard in easy reach of the driver and front-seat passenger.
It enables Bluetooth connectivity for Apple and Android smartphones, including audio streaming, plus HDMI audio and video playback, the latter with the vehicle at a standstill and the handbrake on.
Display Audio also integrates Apple’s Siri reducing the time the driver needs to take eyes off the road. Compatible iPhone users, via Bluetooth, can operate Siri with voice command by holding down the Talk button on the steering wheel.
By downloading an app, satellite navigation can be stored on a smartphone as opposed to the hardware of an in-car system. This sets the user free to have a navigation system in the car or elsewhere, providing more mobility.
ENGINE / TRANSMISSION
The 1.5-litre SOHC four-cylinder petrol engine carries over from the previous City with power and torque unchanged at 88 kW and 145 Nm respectively. However, new lightweight technologies and the use of the CVT reduce fuel consumption to a combined city/highway figure of 5.7 litres per 100 km.
An Eco Assist function helps the driver keep fuel consumption to a minimum by monitoring driving style using the outer ring of the speedometer. A blue light changes to green as fuel efficiency is increased by the driving mode.
Further help comes in the shape of an Econ system which is connected at the push of a button. This remaps the drive-by-wire throttle system to maximise fuel economy.
Active safety is covered by ABS braking, Electronic Brake-force Distribution, Emergency Braking, Vehicle Stability Assist with Traction Control and Hill Start Assist. An emergency stop signal flashes the rear lights under hard braking, warning following drivers.
Honda’s long established ACE (Advanced Compatibility Engineering) body structure provides occupant protection in a variety of crash conditions, along with six airbags and front seat whiplash mitigating head restraints.
A reversing camera is standard in all models and includes three modes: normal, wide, and top-down. Rear parking sensors are a $450 option.
A roomy cabin put occupants at ease for the test vehicle take-off, which was smooth enough in Normal mode. However, the engine struggled in Econ under hard acceleration. Up to speed the engine appeared to be holding back, which, of course, it was in a bid to save fuel.
Under test the City recorded fuel consumption of 4.5 litres per 100 kilometres on the motorway, 10 litres per 100 kilometres around town. In Econ consumption was 6.8 in the suburbs and, again 4.5 on the open road, so the Econ mode certainly works well.
According to Honda, at 536 litres, the new City boot is larger than that of the preceding model (506 litres) and is larger than many large sedans including the Holden Commodore. Big enough to take large objects, the boot opening is not, making loading and unloading some objects awkward.
When open, the hatch leaves its lower edge in a horizontal position just above eye level. More than once on test the lid was given a nudge by the noggin while dropping stuff into the boot.
Performance takes a back seat in the new Honda City at the expense of low emissions and fuel use. It has an impressive list of standard features, many of which are rare in a car of this class. Add a trendy look, the integration of smart phone technology and the spacious interior and its likely to attract the 30 to 40 year old demographic that Honda is targeting for this slicker City.
AT A GLANCE
City VTi 1.5-litre four-door sedan: $15,990 (manual); $17,990 (CVT)
City VTi-L 1.5-litre four-door sedan: $21,390 (CVT)
Note: These prices do not include government or dealer delivery charges. Contact your local Honda dealer for driveaway prices.
ABS Brakes: Standard in both models
Automatic Transmission: $2000 option in VTi, standard in VTi-L.
Cruise Control: Standard in both models
Dual Front Airbags: Standard in both models
Front Side Airbags: Standard in both models
Electronic Stability Program: Standard in both models
Rear Parking Sensors: Optional in both models
Reversing Camera: Standard in both models
USB/Auxiliary Audio Inputs: Standard in both models
Bluetooth: Standard in both models
Steering Wheel Mounted Controls: Standard in both models
SPECIFICATIONS (Honda City VTi 1.5-litre five-door hatch)
Capacity: 1.497 litres
Configuration: Four cylinders in line
Head Design: SOHC, four valves per cylinder
Compression Ratio: 10.4:1
Bore/Stroke: 73.0 mm x 89.4 mm
Maximum Power: 88 kW @ 6600 rpm
Maximum Torque: 145 Nm @ 4600 rpm
Driven Wheels: Front
Manual Transmission: Five-speed
Automatic Transmission: Continuously variable
Final Drive Ratio: Not supplied
DIMENSIONS, WEIGHT AND CAPACITIES:
Length: 4455 mm
Wheelbase: 2600 mm
Width: 1694 mm
Height: 1477 mm
Turning Circle: 10.5 metres
Kerb Mass: 1082 kg
Fuel Tank Capacity: 40 litres
Towing Ability: 450 kg (800 kg with braked trailer)
SUSPENSION AND BRAKES:
Front Suspension: MacPherson struts, anti-roll bar
Rear Suspension: Torsion beam, anti-roll bar
Front Brakes: Ventilated disc
Rear Brakes: Drum
Type: Petrol 91RON
Combined Cycle (ADR 81/02): 5.8 L/100km
GREEN VEHICLE GUIDE RATINGS:
Greenhouse Rating: 8/10
Air Pollution Rating: 7.5/10
Three years/100,000 km