The City is the car that built Honda in India. It’s not just a product, it’s an aspirational brand. Born in 1996 in Thailand, Honda started producing the first-generation City in India in 1997. Sales began in January 1998. The second-generation model was launched in 2003, the third in 2008 and the fourth in January 2014. Since 1998, a total of 6.5 lakh units of the City have been sold in the country.
While it has remained segment-leader almost all through its journey, recently Maruti Suzuki Ciaz successfully challenged it. In an attempt to regain the leadership position in the segment, last week Honda launched a facelift version of the car. We drive it around Delhi.
While the dimensions of the new City remain unchanged, the front now sports a wider stance, in part due to a wide-opening bumper design and a new signature front chrome grille with an intricate design connecting the two headlights. The LED package—including the integrated LED DRLs (these are now standard across all variants), inline LED headlamps, LED fog lamps, LED licence plate lamps and even the trunk lid spoiler with LED—lend the car a unique look, especially at night. Auto-folding door mirrors are now standard in V, VX and ZX grades.
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Changes inside the cabin include a new 17.7-cm touch-screen infotainment system, called the Digipad, in V, VX and ZX grades. The system gets satellite-linked navigation, voice recognition, Bluetooth telephony, audio streaming, USB and microSD card slots, and an HDMI slot. There is Wi-Fi support for internet and MirrorLink support for smartphone connectivity. While the internal memory of the system is 1.5GB, in today’s age is it enough?
The dashboard gets a soft-touch material, which is usually found in luxury cars, and there is white illumination in the 3D multi-information meter.
Space all around is very good and five people can comfortably sit in the car.
Since it is a facelift, engine specifications remain the same. The diesel City is powered by the 1.5-litre i-DTEC engine. Its rated fuel economy is an impressive 25.6kpl and the maximum power it produces is 99bhp. It is mated to a six-speed manual transmission. The good news is that Honda has worked on the car’s sound and vibration absorption technologies, further reducing noise levels inside the cabin.
The petrol is the 1.5-litre i-VTEC. The maximum power it produces is 117bhp. It is available in both automatic and manual gearbox—the CVT automatic with seven-speed paddle shifters (rated fuel economy of 18kpl), and a five-speed manual (rated fuel economy of 17.4kpl).
Most active and passive safety technologies are offered as standard. So, dual front airbags, anti-lock braking system (ABS) with electronic brake-force distribution (EBD), three-point seatbelts with pre-tensioners and load limiters, impact mitigating front headrest system, pedestrian injury mitigation technology, ISOFIX compatible rear seats and rear windshield defogger—all are offered as standard.
The City also has a strengthened body structure (Honda calls it ACE, short for Advanced Compatibility Engineering—a design that uses a network of front frame structures to absorb and deflect the energy from a frontal collision).
Perhaps Honda wants to attract buyers from a segment above, and so has introduced a new grade. Called the ZX, it gets six airbags, automatic headlights, headlamp auto-off timer & rain-sensing wipers.
There are a total of five grades—S, SV, V, VX and the flagship ZX.
Honda has given the City the needed dose of refinement, but these improvements come at a price, making it one of the most expensive cars in its segment. Ex-showroom, Delhi, prices of petrol start from Rs 8.5 lakh (manual S grade), going up to Rs 13.53 lakh (ZX CVT). Diesel City entry-level model costs Rs 10.76 lakh (manual SV), going up to Rs 13.57 lakh (manual ZX). At such prices, it won’t be easy for the car to regain the leadership position. But, even at such prices, the City can prove to be a sensible buy, considering the fact that it enjoys good resale value, is an aspirational car, and its brand value is still the best in the segment.