There are cars and then there are cars. The City has always had something about it that makes it the latter. There is always something special about the introduction of a brand new generation of a Honda City, and the new avatar is no different. Launched first in 1998, the new 2014 Honda City will be the 4th all-new generation (7th if you consider facelifts) of the car. The City has always been Honda’s top selling car and has quite a reputation of being one of the most loved and desired cars in the sub-10 Lakh range of the Indian automotive sector. We take the new City in both Petrol and Diesel avatar for a quick spin to tell you what it is all about.
Although the new Honda City looks more like an evolution as compared to a revolution, there is a lot more than meets the eye. Honda has applied its ‘H Design’ concept to the new City following its recent global design direction. The new City borrows a lot of design elements from the likes of the global Honda Civic while maintaining a distinct Honda City feel. The new 2014 Honda City features much sharper lines and more aggressive lines and angles when compared to the previous generation City. There is also a noticeable difference in the overall stance of the City, mainly due to the longer wheelbase of the car as compared to the older outgoing City. But, the car certainly showcases what is unmistakably a ‘Honda City’ look to it.
The Honda City perhaps looks best when viewed from the front. With a large horizontally placed chrome slat, the Honda City’s front grille displays a sense of luxury, a much needed feature in a car that will cost about Rs 10 Lakh or thereabouts. There is a very interesting styling feature just below the chrome slat that runs across the grille structure giving it a touch of additional character. This little styling feature accentuates itself best on one of the lighter paint shades like the silver or white of the 6 paint shades available. The front bumper is extremely well styled with a lot of sporty attributes. The lower part of the bumper has two very distinct edges that look phenomenal although there are certainly some concerns about how these would suffer from dents or chips while parking considering that they appear to be the furthermost points of the new Honda City. The fog lamps too are enclosed in two very aggressively angled grilles that further accentuate the sporty pretentions of the Honda City. The front fascia then is a perfect blend of a saloon that has both luxury and sportiness embedded into its DNA.
From the sides, the new 2014 Honda City has a deep and distinctive shoulder line that initiates itself from the rear tail lamps and angles itself downwards towards the front wheel arches. Although this design feature masks itself in the darker colors, the lighter colors like silver demonstrate it exceedingly well. There is also a slightly controversial styling aspect of the new Honda City which originated from the front bumper and makes its way to the windscreen but one does get used to it soon. The biggest difference in the Honda City visually though is the rear. As many have pointed out, there are a lot of BMW inspired touches on the rear that really make the Honda City stand out. The large horizontally placed tail lamps connected by a large chrome accent piece on the boot looks spectacular in every sense of the word. The tailgate itself although a little tall, is very well crafted and is much wider than the last few generations. This in turn means that the loading bay on the new Honda City is much wider than before and therefore has more boot space. One of the biggest customer oriented feedbacks that we received from older Honda City customers was the lack of enough lit-up areas in the tail lamp which in some cases were actually safety concerns. That issue too has been addressed with the new tail-lamp cluster which although we expected to have LED tail-lamps has stuck to a more conventional setup.
One of the biggest disappointments though in terms of design are the new 15 inch alloy wheels. Not only do they feel small and under designed as compared to the rest of the car but they also look quite boring. In fact, we would gladly swap these wheels for the ones that came in the older City or the optional two-tone V-Spoked wheels that were offered on both the Honda City and the Honda Jazz. The skinny 175 section tyres too make the Honda City look a little disproportionate. We expect a lot of owners to swap these wheels and tyres out immediately with either aftermarket or Honda dealer provided wheels.
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The first thing you notice as you step into the new 2014 Honda City is its large greenhouse. The city feels extremely airy and well lit. The large and well padded seats give extremely good all-round support. Although they do take a little time to get used to, once in right position, one can easily spend all day driving the Honda City over long distances The new Honda City’s interior though is most certainly the biggest upgrade to the car. With a new gloss black finish dominating most of the dashboard, the 2014 Honda City will certainly be one of the new benchmarks for interior design in years to come.
The floating dashboard concept combined with the high quality of plastics is certainly a step up from previous generation Honda City models. The biggest talking point about the City is the new touch screen for the Air Conditioning controls. Placed prominently beneath the central infotainment system, the touch screen controls for the climate controls are as easy to use as conventional knobs and buttons. With a quick scroll feature that in three steps helps the user to scroll from the minimum to the maximum settings for both the fan speed and the temperature control.
The Piano Black theme continues on the infotainment screen bezel too. With a high gloss surface encapsulating the large 5-inch screen and the well crafted buttons, the central dashboard unit looks exceptionally well crafted and embodies a sense of luxury through and through. The quality of the screen too is excellent while viewing images that are produced by the rear parking camera. That said, the interface for the rest of the operating system looks old and completely outdated. In fact the only let down in the entire interior is the interface of the infotainment screen. The driver console that houses the speedometer and tachometer though is extremely well lit up and well crafted. While driving with a light foot in the economy mode, the instrument cluster is bathed in a light green glow that transforms to a sporty blue one when the driver increases the pressure on the accelerator pedal or under spirited driving.
Coming back to the seats, the front seats are large and offer immense comfort when adjusted correctly. Wrapped in a creamy beige shade using good quality perforated leather, the seats feel premium aand offer excellent support to the back, lumbar and thighs. The new Honda City features a new special Impact Mitigating Headrests that reduce whiplash injuries at slower speeds. The rear seats though are the big improvement over the last model. With a 50mm increase in wheelbase over the last model, rear leg space has seen huge improvements. The backrests of the front seats too are well contoured to give the rear passenger the most amount of leg space and knee space available. Although the Honda City doesn’t have the sheer leg room as compared to a Nissan Sunny for example, the rear seat angles and sheer comfort makes up for it.
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Engine and Performance
Everyone has been eagerly waiting for Honda to plonk their diesel engines into the City for ages and finally, Honda have heard the pleas of the consumer and done just that! The 1.5 Litre turbocharged i-Dtec engine, identical to that found in the Honda Amaze makes 100PS of peak power at 3600Rpm and 200Nm of peak torque at 1750Rpm. Although we presumed Honda to have bumped up the power on the Honda City, the figures have stayed exactly the same as the powertrain in the Amaze. What has changed between the two cars though is the fact that the Honda City does not have a top speed limiter which gives it a claimed top speed of 195Kmph. The engine is matched to an excellent 6-speed manual transmission which feels effortless and precise.
The 2014 Honda City diesel managed to achieve a record setting fuel efficiency figure of 26.0Kmpl in ARAI tests which makes it the most fuel efficient car in its class. This boost in fuel economy is due to several improvements in the cooling system of the new 2014 Honda City which includes a quicker warm-up circuit while under cold start circumstances that maximizes the mechanical efficiency of the engine. There are also several changes in the construction of the engine like the piston wall surface which features an asymmetrical pattern for greater oil retention that reduces the overall friction between the piston and the cylinder walls. The use of a special 5W-30 oil which is made specifically for the 1.5 Litre i-Dtec engine also helps in increasing the overall mechanical efficiency thereby improving both power output and fuel economy.
The diesel engine equipped Honda City feels extremely nimble to drive while managing to sip minimal amounts of fuel. There is almost no noticeable turbo lag at slower speeds or at higher highway cruising speeds if one is in the right gear. The 6-speed gearbox too feels extremely well synced with the diesel motor with no clutch judder or harshness to report. The gearshift itself feels extremely precise although the tiny gearknob does take some time getting used to.
On the other hand, the bread-and-butter of the Honda City, the 1.5 i-Vtec engine, that has been tuned specifically for the Indian driving cycle feels a little rough when pushed to the limit. The 1.5 Litre petrol engine makes 119Ps of peak power at 6600Rpm, which is one more than the last generation and 145Nm of peak torque at 4600Rpm. It is best to drive this engine under 5000Rpm though as it does start to get highly uncomfortable after that. The i-Vtec engine is mated to a 5-speed Manual gearbox or a CVT, both of which offer immense driving pleasure. In fact, the CVT proved to be more fuel efficient as compared to the manual achieving a test figure of 18.0Kmpl as compared to the manual’s 17.9Kmpl under ARAI test conditions. Some of the technological advancements in the new Honda City’s petrol engine include a resin based intake manifold that reduces the engine’s weight, an exhaust gas recirculation systems that is placed after the catalytic convertor and a new oil-retention coating on the pistons and thrust bearings. The gearbox too has been reworked from the previous generation with a reduction of gear ratios of about 5-11% which in turn helps in fuel economy.
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Ride and Handling
The 2014 Honda City diesel weighs in at 1165 kilos, 100 kilos heavier than the petrol powered car. The difference in weight is slightly apparent under heavy cornering or braking but otherwise, the Honda City petrol and diesel perform very similarly. One of the most impressive features in this department are the brakes. The highly effective brakes make sure the Honda City stops as well as it goes. In fact, with the limited contact patch from the 175/65 R15 tyres, the Honda City truly outperforms itself in that department.
The Honda City has always been a well handling car and the new 2014 Honda City is no exception. Although we have harped on the fact that the Honda City would have been a better car with wider tyres and bigger wheels, the current setup too is well balanced. The boffins at Honda have most certainly put in a whole bunch of time and effort in making sure the City goes around corners as well as its previous generation cars while making sure the City is a very comfortable car for the road conditions like India.
Although the City does have minimal body roll, it is not something to be concerned about. There is negligible pitching in the new City too which means most customers will not have to worry about an uncomfortable or choppy ride.
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The Honda City is not just another car for India, it is a phenomenon. What is arguably the best kept secret of the year has become the talking point for a hundreds of people who are eager to look, touch, feel and drive the newest incarnation of this cult classic. The Honda City will be one of the best selling cars of 2014 for sure and will certainly set a new benchmark.
Although there are critics that have argued about how the new City is not as revolutionary as the one before, Honda has taken the ‘Why fix it if it isn’t broken’ mantra and adapted it to their benefit. The Honda City should be priced between Rs 9-12 lakh (ex-showroom) and will be launched in the first half of January 2014. Dealers have already started taking bookings for the same with a token booking amount of Rs 51,000 and have seen staggering responses from existing as well as new customers. From what information we gather, Honda is going to concentrate more on rolling out the diesel version of the City first and deliveries of the same should start in early February. The petrol Honda City will soon follow with deliveries for both the manual and the automatic starting in late February or early March.
So is it a car worth waiting for? Our answer: A resounding YES!
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