The City is easily Honda’s most important model in India, and the new fifth-gen model, like its predecessor, boasts an evolutionary design.
A lot has changed under the skin. The body shell packs in more high tensile strength steel and a stiffer roof section resulting in a 20% increase in torsional rigidity. The petrol engine, while still a 1.5-litre, is a new DOHC unit.
Honda’s signature front chrome bar is now thicker while the sharp-looking head and tail lights seem brilliant and offer the new City a contemporary look. At 4,549mm, the car has grown in length but with no corresponding increase in wheelbase. The shoulder line has been moved higher up and it runs the length of the car. Along with the sharp crease across the bottom of the doors, these changes give a nice tension to the body.
Touch of class
Inside you are greeted by a premium-looking, light brown and black interior. The plastics look good but they are a bit too shiny and hard. That aside, there’s little else to complain about. There is generous use of leather in the cabin; the dash and centre console trim are beautifully styled with neat stitching and the well-sculpted front and rear seats look very inviting..
What is nice is that all three rear passengers get three-point seat belts and head restraints, but headroom may be an issue for tall people. Honda has also packed quite a bit of equipment into the new City including a sunroof, a lane-watch camera, rear-view camera, tyre pressure monitor, six airbags, and auto climate control.
The instrument panel is a 7.0-inch display with an analogue speedometer needle. The tachometer is all-digital; the screen can also be set-up to display a G-force meter or other trip-related information. The graphics are quite simple and the clarity is brilliant and not distracting like the Hyundai Verna.
While the bright and sharp instrument cluster is easy to read, the same cannot be said of the 8.0-inch touchscreen. The use of an optical bonding application to reduce reflection has seriously reduced the screen brightness. There is Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity alongside a new version of Honda’s connectivity tech with additions like remote engine start and pre-cooling. There is also Alexa voice assistant integration.
Coming to the engines, Honda’s new 1.5-litre DOHC petrol is a real delight. It is not punchy like a turbocharged unit but it is very strong, tractable, and works well at both ends of the rev range. It pulls cleanly from low rpms even in higher gears, and it revs freely until the 7,000rpm redline. This tractability allows you to drive right from 15kph all the way past 150kph in third gear.
Compared to the older car, the gear ratios are a bit taller too, letting you hit higher speeds in each gear. The taller gearing, though, means in-gear acceleration is slower, but the CVT offers quicker in-gear times in kickdown. Talking of the CVT, the rubberband effect is very well managed. For regular driving, the rise in revs matches the rise in speed. Honda says it has calibrated the control unit’s software so that the CVT ‘box performs stepped upshifts during acceleration to try to match the vehicle speed with the engine speed and sound. Upon hard braking, the unit is said to shift to lower ratios thus providing engine braking.
2020 Honda City specifications
- LENGTH 4549mm
- WIDTH 1748mm
- HEIGHT 1489mm
- WHEELBASE 2600mm
- KERB WEIGHT 1153 – 1217kg
- TYRE SIZE 185/55 R16
- FUEL TANK CAPACITY 40 litres
- BOOT CAPACITY 506 litres
- ENGINE 1498cc, 4 cyls, petrol | 1498cc, 4 cyls, turbo-diesel
- POWER 121hp at 6600rpm | 100hp at 3600rpm
- TORQUE 145Nm at 4300rpm | 200Nm at 1750rpm
- GEARBOX 6-speed MT/CVT | 6-speed MT
As for the diesel engine, Honda has improved its NVH levels and it is noticeably quieter. The unit is pretty tractable from low revs and turbo lag is minimal too. Power is muted below 1,500rpm but you don’t really struggle with a lack of response. The diesel posts a 0-100kph time of 12.9sec, compared to the petrol’s 10.20 sec.
Ride quality has improved owing to a softer suspension set-up. The City soaks up potholes without crashing through them. The ride is flat and composed at highway speeds. Handling is benign and predictable, which makes the City an easy car to drive. The steering is nicely weighted and the grip from the low-rolling tyres is surprisingly good. Braking performance is good, however, an earlier bite point would have helped. All in all, this is a car that will reward most, except the keenest drivers.
Honda has done a tremendous job with the new City; it looks set to leapfrog its rivals but a spoiler could be its price. For the first time in its history, Honda Car India will have two generations of the same car on sale. The current model, with a starting price of ₹9.91 lakh, is already pricier than its rivals. Honda may need to position and price the new model smartly to ensure it does not leap out of the segment and contention.