The nameplate ‘City’ started with a hatchback in early 80’s, however, in late 90s Honda wanted to develop a mid-size sedan specifically for the Asian region. And voila, they took the sixth gen Civic’s platform and the City sedan was born in 1996 and went first on sale in Thailand. Honda entered India with the City in 1998, their first plant in Greater Noida started producing City in 1997 and it was launched along with the Honda brand in January 1998.
Though it started slowly in the market with established rivals like Opel Astra and Ford Escort (both entered in 1996), but Honda somehow kicked off and in a very short span City became the best-selling car in the segment. Speaking of its rivals, Opel fled the country, Mitsubishi Lancer is dead, it's hard for Ford to sell Fiesta nowadays, only the Hyundai Accent’s spiritual successors Verna took City’s throne for a brief time. But with the fourth gen and an addition of a diesel heart City came with a vengeance. And with current sales of around 8-9K monthly, City is way miles ahead of the nearest competitor. So lets take a look in to the history of Honda City.
Thing-to-note - All these years before 2014, City managed to defeat its competitors with only a petrol option when diesel was the preferred choice!
The design was a classic low-slung, as it was based on the 6th gen Honda Civic, the design was heavily inspired from the Civic. It was also one of the very first cars in the segment to offer an automatic option. Moreover, with the mid-life facelift, it received the segment-first variable valve timing tech - Honda’s VTEC. It was a pocket rocket, the power was 100 PS and with a kerb weight of below 1000 kilos, it zooms past to 100 kmph in almost 10 seconds!
The pre-facelift model was indeed one of the most non-inspiring City Honda ever made, it was a really drab looking car. It continued the same 1.5-liter VTEC from the previous car, but the drivability was lil lower compared to classic gen 1 City. Moreover, with the facelift (christened as City ZX) it brought massive aesthetic makeover and the drab factor was considerably reduced.
The gen 3 was the most powerful City Honda ever offered in India. The VTEC was replaced by an advanced i-VTEC (Variable Valve Timing and Lift Electronic Control) ‘i’ stands for Intelligent! The same 1.5-liter motor, then with i-VTEC extricated a sporty 118 PS and 145 Nm of peak torque. Apart from this, it is also the most opulent City Honda India has ever offered with things like Sunroof, CVT with steering mounted paddle shifters, cruise control amongst others.
With the fourth-gen, City invaded the grounds of its diesel rivals with country’s most fuel efficient diesel - 1.5-liter i-DTEC. Honda City was dethroned as the segment king in terms of sales due to lack of diesel but with new oil burner City’s sales escalated to the moon and currently no other rival is near the City’s 7-9k monthly sales territory.