Brothers, this is Driving Review of new Honda City posted in a Motor Mag. Enjoy
The City handles Malaysian roads quite well, absorbing road irregularities to a level that is expected from a car like this, and striking a good balance between comfort and handling which is what a Honda buyer would expect. The steering and pedals are light and easy to use for a beginner driver. The City can take corners with confidence and even when you start sliding out of control it is very easy to correct. The combination of the electric power steering accuracy, weight and the lack of any excessive bodyroll except in the extremes makes the City a car that’ll keep the driver happy, that is until he is joined by passengers.
Honda’s media drive to Malacca assigned 3 of us to a car and I began to understand why Mainland China consumers get a 1.8 liter motor in the City. The City may feel sluggy at times and it was made worse by the really hot day. While the engine boasts 120 PS of output, this is only achievable way beyond the 6,000rpm rev range so none of it is actually usable when you are in a hurry but exactly in a hurry enough to slam the pedal to the metal and let the car rev to the redline in all gears. It’s enough power to get going but not enough for the whole gutsy feeling that Honda likes associating the car with. So yes, it’s best to drive gently and smoothly whenever there are maybe 2 or more passengers in the car to keep both yourself and the engine happy, otherwise you’ll be looking for air filter, exhaust and all sorts of mods to extract more power from the car.
You also don’t get to keep the revs up as often as you’d want because despite having 5 gear ratios, the last 2 are overdrive gears with one extra tall gear for more silent and economical highway cruising (for this purpose it works rather well), so during City driving and acceleration it performs identically to a 4-speed auto. While this works well for a car like the Civic 2.0 where the engine is meaty enough, perhaps Honda could also have taken the opportunity to provide more closely-spaced ratios instead to improve acceleration, and have just one extra tall overdrive gear (instead of one very tall one and one not as much) for high speed cruising?
The feeling of a stepped gearbox is nice, and contributes to giving the City a more sporty feel, rather than the rubberband-ish feeling of a CVT, no matter how much more efficient a CVT actually is. The engine doesn’t seem as smooth as a Honda should be, getting a little loud and rough (and slightly Campro-ish metallic raspy reverb) from the high-mid revs onwards. But under normal and relaxed driving conditions, none of these characteristics are noticeable.
I eagerly wait for the day Honda decides to phase out this stuff and replace it with a 1.4 liter i-DSI Turbo or something. 120 PS and 180Nm of torque from at low as 1,400rpm sounds nice. They already have an i-DSI turbo for the Honda ZEST.
The car was quite stable and planted (some would say it feels “solid”) at most speeds until you reach about 160km/h where in a straight line you could feel a little nervousness in the car, like your tyre contact patch to the ground wasn’t very large. It was only present in the lower spec car, which at first we attributed to the smaller wheels but once we gave this feedback to the Honda engineers he said the difference should not have been that big. This could have been an alignment issue with the test cars which we were told were prototype cars, so I hope to have this tested again in another drive.
If you keep to the brand values that the average Joe on the street associate Honda with, this new City seems much more like a “Honda” than the previous City ever was but at the same time loses what made the previous City unique. The previous City was something more like a Citroen or any random wacky European manufacturer in its concept, it did what it was supposed to do really well and was nice and airy on the inside but its looks suffered because of the good interior dimensions.
This new City on the other hand has a traditional sporty forward-shooting wedge design, and has the driving position to match. I’ve tried my best to give you a detailed report of my day with the car, the rest is up to you to feel the car yourself and do a little more research on (if there are) any potential problems early adopters might be encountering, and how to go around them.
While there are 2 airbags and the standard anti-lock brakes, nowhere in the world is the Honda City available with any form of stability control, which is a concern at the moment if Honda wants to bring the car to Europe, unless it is only thinking of the poorer Eastern Europe countries. They are working on this, so it may be a feature that will debut with the facelift model.