It’s almost a knee-jerk reaction, this — a mid-life update of the Honda City has come a little early in order for the Japanese brand to match the VW Virtus and Skoda Slavia that came in after the 2020 City, and the all-new generation Hyundai Verna that’s coming this month. The City has been a best-seller for Honda, and these updates should keep the sales numbers turning, at least for Honda loyalists. But does it have enough to pull focus from its rivals?
The visual updates suggest, yes. The City has always been a good-looking and well-proportioned sedan, barring those weedy 185/55 R16 tyres, and the new model continues this tradition. The standard petrol version now also gets a boot-lip spoiler, there’s a new front bumper, and a rather sporty-looking faux diffuser at the rear. The only differentiators between the City e:HEV and the standard petrol version are Honda logos bordered in blue, an e:HEV badge on the boot, and rear disc brakes.
Other than a decent uptick in terms of features, the City’s cabin hasn’t changed, and that’s not a bad thing. There’s a detachable wireless charging pad on top of the front cupholders (ahead of the gear lever) though you can tuck that away into the glovebox when you don’t need it. Honda has also brought the ADAS tech to the petrol model from the hybrid version — both manual and automatic versions get the whole suite — there’s new buttons on the steering for the tech, and new displays on the part-digital instrument cluster.
I should mention that the City e:HEV’s interior now gets a carbon-fibre like trim on the dash, which looks a little low-rent compared to the wood finish on the petrol car. The wireless charging pad is placed where the petrol’s handbrake would be, as the hybrid gets an electronic parking brake. Both models get a new 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system, which is an improvement in all aspects over the previous 7-inch unit. However, I’m still not a fan that the display for the blind-spot monitor takes over the entire screen — if you’re using navigation and turning left at the same time, you may have a few seconds of waiting to know which direction you ought to be going in.
The fifth-gen City was available with a diesel engine, but with the new emission norms kicking in, Honda has opted to let the unit go — no sense in upgrading an engine when less than 10 per cent of City buyers choose it. I’m happy to note that the upgrades to the 1.5-litre four-cylinder naturally aspirated engine, to make it meet the Real Driving Emissions (RDE) norms and be compatible with E20 fuel, have done nothing to change its character. It’s still a refined, and exceedingly free-revving unit. It’s enjoyed best with the slick 6-speed manual gearbox, but the CVT auto isn’t too bad a compromise either. It makes driving the City extremely easy, and the fuel-efficiency doesn’t take a big hit either, but there is that rubber band effect from the transmission when you slam the go pedal.
There’s no noticeable change in the way the City e:HEV drives. It still seamlessly shifts between its three drive modes – Electric, Hybrid, and Engine — and there’s strong pull whenever you need it. Around the corners, the hybrid feels a little more planted, and that’s thanks to the added weight of the hybrid powertrain and battery packs. The steering on both provides negligible feedback, but is direct enough. The ride quality on both cars is excellent as always, and only the sharpest of ruts really filters into the cabin.
What all this means is that the Honda City, despite the Rs 50,000 increase in overall price, is still an excellent choice if you’re shopping in the midsize sedan space. We’ll know just how it stacks up against its rivals when we do a full-blown comparison, but by itself, the Honda City still stands as a very viable, and desirable car. And that’s true whether you pick the i-VTEC petrol (Rs 11.49 lakh-15.97 lakh, ex-showroom), or the e:HEV hybrid (Rs 18.89 lakh-20.39 lakh, ex-showroom).
1498cc, I4, petrol
120 bhp@6600 rpm
14.7 kgm@1800-5800 rpm
F/R: 185/55 R16
Rs 15.97 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi)