Honda_City_frontHonda has launched the second generation of its City light sedan 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.

Slotting into the space between the Jazz and Civic hatches and acting 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.

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.

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.

New Honda City comes well-equipped with six airbags (front, side, curtain); whiplash mitigating seat design; VSA (Vehicle Stability Assist) and TCS (Traction Control System); ABS brakes with EBD (Electronic Break-force Distribution); EBA (Emergency Brake Assist) and ESS (Emergency Stop Signal); and Hill Start Assist (HAS). It has yet to be tested and rated by ANCAP.

A reversing camera is standard in all models and includes three modes: normal, wide, and top-down. Rear parking sensors are a $450 option.

The slick, sporty design, spacious cabin and the enhanced boot capacity are all definite drawcards but it’s the Display Audio System that may well be the clincher. With an emphasis on the ever-increasing trend of electronic media and smartphone technology, Honda is hopeful of attracting a younger demographic to the new City.

Front and centre of the dash is a seven-inch touch screen that hooks up to your own iPhone via a HDMI cable. It is compatible with the iPhone 4S and ensuing models with an Android interface in development.

This ‘mirroring’ technology integrates selected Apps – approved third party applications that are said to be safe to use whilst driving – where you can swipe, scroll and zoom you way through your music library, contact lists and vehicle trip information without the need to touch your phone.

Honda offers a $50 satellite navigation App that provides a three-year subscription to mapping and navigation data. This system is housed within the phone itself so you can preset the course while away from the car. Once saved, it will continue to operate even if you lose internet connection.

The audio system also provides Bluetooth phone and audio streaming; MP4 movie file play (operates only when vehicle is stationary); Siri Eyes Free Mode; two USB ports; and a four- speaker stereo system (the City VTi-L has eight).

Overall, Honda City provides a comfortable and easy drive, albeit with no real grunt or thrills. The launch test was in unchallenging conditions in and around Canberra. We’ll be able to give it a more varied test when we conduct our extended test within the next few months.

The trendy look, the integration of smart phone technology and the spacious interior are likely to attract the 30 to 40 year old demographic that Honda is targeting for this slicker City.

For those holding out for the new Jazz hatchback, it’s due for release in July.

Honda City VTi 1.5-litre four-door sedan: $15,990 (manual); $17,990 (CVT)
Honda 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.

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