For a sedan to continue non-stop production run for 22 years in any market is an achievement. In 1998, when Honda Cars India started operations by launching a premium sedan, the City, in a small-car market,it was a gamble. Its competitors from that era — Maruti Suzuki Esteem, Daewoo Cielo, Hyundai Accent, Mitsubishi Lancer, Ford Escort, Opel Astra — have entered the annals of automotive history. The City not only lives on, but is thriving, even in this SUV age. And there is not one, but two generations of the City that will be sold simultaneously — the existing fourth generation and the soon-to-be-launched fifth. We drive the latter.
The fifth-generation City is the largest sedan in its segment; it is bigger than Hyundai Verna, Volkswagen Vento, Maruti Suzuki Ciaz, Skoda Rapid and Toyota Yaris. It looks almost as premium as the class-above Civic, and has a similar road presence. It’s neither as‘flashy’ as the Verna, nor as ‘understated’ as the Ciaz — it looks like a fusion of the two design languages.
Getting in and out is easy, you don’t sit too low, and visibility from the driver’s seat is good. Quality of materials used is what you’d anyway expect from a midsize premium sedan. The rear-view and left-side view camera display on the central touch screen is pixelated — in bright sunlight what you see on the screen isn’t very clear.
The most noticeable change inside the cabin can’t be seen, and is barely heard. It’s eerily quiet — not the spooky kind, but still quiet. There is no diesel engine rattle, minimal tyre noise or wind noise — if there is one noise, it is the CVT ‘humming’ when you fully press the accelerator, but it is still at far lower decibel levels compared to most other CVT cars. Also, the new City is India’s first ‘connected car’ with Alexa remote capabilities, i.e. most of in-car features — such as starting AC, door lock/unlock, fuel status, locating car — can be operated remotely via a connected Alexa device.
1.5-litre petrol MT: It suits a buyer who likes to get driven around. The rear seat is supremely comfortable and spacious — one can easily sit cross-legged. From a driver’s perspective, there are six gears, and gear-shift is smooth. However, for urban stop-and-go traffic, the CVT may be a more convenient option. 1.5-litre petrol CVT: It suits a buyer who likes to drive. Honda has made the CVT experience better than what it is in the fourth-generation City — the humming CVT sound is less.
1.5-litre diesel MT: It’s extremely fuel efficient — driving on Delhi roads I got 21kpl (under test conditions it is 24.1 kpl). But the best thing is that there is no diesel engine rattling sound, and the cabin is as quiet as a petrol-engine model.
Honda will announce the price of the fifth-generation City later this month. It will be more expensive than the fourth-generation City, but if variant-to-variant the price difference is Rs 1 lakh or so, the new City will be good value-for-money. It is an aspirational car, after all, and its brand value is still the best in the segment.
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