Honda City First Drive 2023 | Do you love sedans too?

  • Mar 13, 2023
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Sedans like the Honda City were our default “Badda Gadi.” But with SUVs becoming the bigger draw, has Honda updated the City enough to compete?

The facelift of the fifth-generation of the City is here. Too soon you ask? Well, the current iteration of the compact sedan was actually launched in 2020, a year we all want to forget. So, it’s actually almost three years old already. Let’s take a look at how Honda has tweaked the City’s equation and see if it has done enough to keep it relevant in the sea of SUVs. 

Looks Similar

If you’re someone that looks at patterns then this bit is going to be familiar: change the chrome elements, give the grill a new pattern and tweak the bumper, a formula of sorts for a facelift. Honda has added a slimmer chrome garnish on the top of the grill, a cut-out at the bottom corners of the bumper and a new honeycomb grill up top and a crosshatch grill below the number plate. 

The side profile has changed a little, with a new set of 16-inch alloy wheels, while the new bumpers stick out a little more than before. At the rear the changes are similarly subtle. So, you do get the same taillight cluster, a body-coloured boot lip, and you get a nice carbon-fibre element on the bottom of the bumper. Honda will also offer the City in two flavours: a ‘Sporty’ trim and an 'Elegant' trim, for the lower variants, which is a little harder to distinguish from the older car.

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While this facelift hasn’t changed the city’s overall appeal too much, the fifth-generation car was launched during a really sketchy sales period, so there aren't too many of this new shape on the roads. And that means it still has great road presence. I especially like it in darker colours like this new Obsidian Blue pearl. 

On The Inside

The hybrid City gets more visual changes on the inside, but these are still just a few small tweaks. The dash garnish has changed to a carbon pattern and there’s piano black accents around the air con vents and the steering wheel. Ambient lighting has also been added to the door handle and water bottle cut-outs in the doors. The petrol variant only gets the ambient lighting visual tweaks. 

In terms of features, there’s more to mention. The first of which is new wireless Android Auto and wireless Apple CarPlay. Now, wireless phone apps are pointless without a wireless charger and this is where the petrol City makes a bit of a compromise. The wireless charger here is the removeable variety and actually fits into the front cupholders. It's very nicely integrated into the design, but the issue is with using the cupholders. If you want to enjoy that cup of joe in the morning then you will need to disconnect the charge pad and store it somewhere, Honda suggests the glove box, but if that’s carrying too many papers and knick-knacks, you will need to figure some “jugaad” out. In the hybrid car, the wireless charger is integrated behind the gear lever and the cupholders are always available. 


That aside, the touchscreen has been updated with a brighter and clearer display panel and there are three background theme colours to it as well. The driver display has now been updated to include the bits for the ADAS information too. Speaking of which, the ADAS is actually the big news because, while it was earlier available on the hybrid City, Honda has now introduced this feature to almost the whole lineup. We'll get to the nitty-gritty of the variant lineup later. Other highlights include a sunroof, leatherette upholstery, auto headlamps and wipers, as well as powerful connected car tech that is smartwatch-compatible too. 

The city is still polished and plush on the inside, so there are nice soft materials on the arm rests, the door pads and the steering wheel, but the dash is still made mostly of hard plastics. 

It's practical with good storage all-around and there are USB charge ports in the front console, all but in the rear, where there are just 12-volt sockets and Honda still hasn't added in ventilated seats. Something that we know the new Hyundai Verna will continue to feature and Slavia and Virtus already offer.


In the rear seats the headroom in this sunroof-equipped car is a little lacking for tall people over 5’10”. There is plenty of legroom though, and you have a drop-down armrest, but it still rests on the bottom of the seat and could have been a little taller to match with the door pad. The cabin is wide, so you should be able to fit three at a pinch as well. 

The Driving Experience

The Honda City has always done a lot of things for the owner who loves to be behind the wheel. You get a nice driving position, the steering feels great and there’s just a little weight to it. With the manual, the gears slot in nicely and the CVT is smooth-shifting and efficient too. The 121PS and 145Nm output from the 1.5-litre petrol motor isn’t quite class-leading, but more than adequate and the hybrid’s high 253Nm torque output means it’s engaging to drive too. The City is still the great driver’s car that it always has been, because nothing has changed with the dynamic package with the latest update. 

ADAS

While ADAS is not a new feature, we’re going to go into more detail on how it works and the drive experience, because this is now a feature that practically every City owner is going to experience. Called Honda Sensing, the City’s ADAS is a camera-based system that gives you features like collision mitigation braking that auto brakes in case it detects a collision with an object in front of the car. There’s the a road departure system that keeps you within your lane by giving steering inputs if needed and this is similar to the lane keeping assist feature.

It also packs in adaptive cruise control that keeps you at a safe distance from the car in front of you and accelerates and brakes according to the lead car’s speed as well. It also has an auto high beam feature to prevent you from blinding oncoming motorists. It will even alert you when the car in front of you pulls away from a stop, like when you are stopped at a stop light. 


The system does work fine as long as the roads are well marked, like the Yamuna Expressway is, where we drove for a good hour or so. But the distances that are maintained and the fail-safe measures are on the conservative side. They do work well on the highway, but keep too much of a gap between you and the car ahead in city traffic and so you will keep having other motorists cutting into the gap left in front of you and then find the City dropping further back again to maintain a ‘safe’ gap with this new vehicle.  

Ride Quality 

This update has again not changed anything dynamically. It’s still the great comfortable city car that it always was. Very comfortable at city speeds and even when you get up to high speeds, the car stays stable and takes care of small undulations, smaller bumps and imperfections in the road fairly well. But, you still have to be careful over larger bumps like speed breakers because, if you go over them too fast then the suspension tends to crash a little bit. Ground clearance though poses no issues over potholes, speed bumps etc, so a great city car and quite comfortable to travel around in all four seats. 

Pricing and Variants 

Honda has increased the price of all the variants by around fifty thousand rupees with this update. But it has also introduced a base SV trim that packs in a lot of standard features but only gets a manual option and no ADAS.

New Variants And Prices (ex-showroom)

Variant

Prices

SV MT (NEW)

Rs 11.49 lakh

V MT

Rs 12.37 lakh

V CVT

Rs 13.62 lakh

VX MT

Rs 13.49 lakh

VX CVT

Rs 14.74 lakh

ZX MT

Rs 14.72 lakh

ZX CVT

Rs 15.97 lakh

V Hybrid (NEW)

Rs 18.89 lakh

ZX Hybrid

Rs 20.39 lakh

The rest of the models, though very well-specced, offer the choice of a manual or an automatic and all feature ADAS. The Hybrid is also now available at a lower price point, in a new V trim as well.

Verdict 

So, the Honda City gives you quite a bit of choice: automatic in all but that base trim, and even the option of a hybrid. If the Hybrid is the only draw that you have towards the City, then you could also look at the Toyota Hyryder and even the Maruti Grand Vitara for their lower entry price points. 

Also Read: Knocking On Heaven's Door: Mahindra Adventure Snow Escape 2023

The Honda City is still the great, polished all-rounder that it always was. Great to drive, comfortable and spacious and packing an expansive features list too. And it’s still the deserved flagbearer for all those sedan fans out there. If you're looking for a cool sedan, definitely give the City a hard look, but don't finalise that decision until you check out the new and soon-to-be launched Hyundai Verna

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