Can the new City be the talk of the town?

Changes are little, and in this age of SUVs these may not be enough to pull a large section of prospective car buyers to Honda showrooms

car, Honda City,
Now Honda has launched the new City, and we drove it around Delhi NCR.

For a sedan to continue non-stop production run for 25 years in any market is an achievement. In 1998, when Honda Cars India started operations by launching a sedan, the City, in a small-car market, it was a gamble. Its competitors from the era — Maruti Esteem, Daewoo Cielo, Hyundai Accent, Mitsubishi Lancer, Ford Escort, Opel Astra — have gone in the annals of automotive history. Today, the City is soldiering on, even in the age of SUVs. Now Honda has launched the new City, and we drove it around Delhi NCR.

What are the changes?
Design changes are bare minimum — new grille, and redesigned front and rear bumpers and alloy wheels. New features include wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, wireless phone charger, rain-sensing wipers, and PM 2.5 cabin air-filter. There are two new entry-level grades — V grade in City hybrid and SV grade in petrol.It’s the largest sedan in its segment.The City e:HEV looks almost similar to City petrol (barring the e:HEV badge and a blue tint in the Honda logo). Honda should have tried to make it look unique.

How is the cabin?
Getting in and out is easy — you don’t sit too low — and visibility from the driver’s seat is good. The rear-view and left-side view camera display on the central touchscreen is pixelated. Plastics and fabric used are top quality. All windows get automatic, one-touch up/down function.But the most noticeable change inside the cabin can’t be seen, and is barely heard — the City’s cabin is eerily quiet.While the City petrol has a boot space of 506 litres, the City hybrid has only 306 litres — because the rest of the space has been taken up by the spare tyre and the battery (you can only carry maybe two large bags and a couple of small ones in the boot).

How does it drive?
1.5-litre petrol MT: It suits a buyer who loves to drive. The gearshift is smooth and power in the right gear is adequate.

1.5-litre petrol CVT: For urban stop-and-go traffic, the CVT is a convenient option, but that humming CVT sound is still there.

Hybrid e:HEV: When you start driving slowly, there is no sound, because it drives on electric motor. If you don’t floor the accelerator pedal, you can continue driving on electric motor for some distance. If you floor the accelerator, both the engine and motor power the wheels. As you approach a traffic signal and apply brakes, the regenerative braking turns the car’s kinetic energy into electric energy and charges the battery. On a complete stop, the petrol engine shuts down but the electric motor remains on, ensuring the car’s AC is running, without the unnecessary fuel consumption and emissions associated with idling. Fuel efficiency is very good — claimed in 27.13 km/litre, and driving in traffic the actual figure was still close to 25 km/litre.One thing common to all variants is that the City possibly has the most comfortable rear seat in any car or SUV in the Rs 10-20 lakh price range.

Autonomous driving
The City comes with Honda Sensing semiautonomous driving ability — it can ‘drive’ itself inside a marked lane on the highway and follow a vehicle ahead at that vehicle’s speed.

Is it the best midsize sedan?
Despite new competitors such as Skoda Slavia and Volkswagen Virtus, the City is the largest selling midsize sedan in India. In FY22, Honda sold 37,137 units of the City — more than Hyundai Verna (20,052) and Maruti Suzuki Ciaz (15,869) combined. In April-February FY23, the City sold 32,345 units — more than the Verna (16,014) and Ciaz (13,310) combined.But sales of SUVs are in a different league — Hyundai Creta sold 136,346 units in April-February FY23 and Hyundai Kia sold 93,578 units. That is the segment the City should ideally pull customers from, but these little changes may not be enough to pull a large section of SUV buyers to Honda showrooms.Prices start at Rs 11.49 lakh for the SV MT variant, up to Rs 15.97 lakh for ZX CVT. There are two hybrid variants — V for Rs 18.89 lakh and ZX for Rs 20.39 lakh.

Should you buy a sedan or an SUV?
We compared the City petrol to the Creta petrol, and this is what we feel:

—The City petrol MT is priced Rs 11.49 lakh to Rs 14.72 lakh. The CVT is priced Rs 13.62 lakh to Rs 15.97 lakh.—The Creta MT is priced Rs 10.84 lakh to Rs 14.78 lakh. The IVT (similar to CVT) is from Rs 16.26 lakh to Rs 17.63 lakh.

—There are far too many Creta SUVs on roads, and possibly just because of that the City may stand out.

Fuel efficiency
—The City MT returns 17.8 km/litre and the CVT returns 18.4 km/litre, which is better than the Creta’s 16.8 km/litre.

Carrying luggage
—The City has more boot space (506 litres) than the Creta (433 litres). The City’s boot space is horizontal and that’s why it’s more usable than the Creta’s.

Cabin space
—The City (or a similar sedan) offers more ‘usable space’ inside the cabin than the Creta (or a similar SUV). But the Creta has more headroom for tall passengers.

Ground clearance
—The City has lower ground clearance of 165 mm than the Creta (190 mm), and so on tall speed breakers you have to navigate carefully.—The Creta has a little bit minor body-roll (because it is taller), but the City rides ‘hugging the road’, and therefore feels more grounded.

Sedans: Hyundai Verna, Maruti Suzuki Ciaz, Skoda Slavia, Volkswagen Virtus
SUVs: Hyundai Creta, Kia Seltos, Maruti Suzuki Grand Vitara, Toyota Hyryder, Skoda Kushaq, Volkswagen Taigun, MG Astor

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First published on: 13-03-2023 at 04:15 IST
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