2017 Honda City: First Drive Review
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Does the Honda City’s facelift make it a worthy segment-leader?
The car you see here is the facelift of the fourth-gen Honda City and this is a model name that has a lot of emotional connect in India. But let’s not beat around the bush. We’re looking to answer two questions – what’s changed and are all the changes actually for the better?
- LED Headlamps, foglamps and tail lamps are new
- New design for 15-inch alloy wheels (V Variant)
- New 16-inch alloy wheels on offer as well (VX and ZX Variant)
It doesn’t take much time to realise that the facelift is all about making the City look a little sleeker and sportier. Up front, the chrome grille is slimmer and gets a black honeycomb mesh behind. The headlamps have been restyled as well, and now sport - prepare to read this term a lot - L-E-D daytime running lights and LED headlights. Additionally, the front bumper’s new and apart from featuring smaller fog lamp enclosures, the fog lights themselves are, you guessed it, LED units.
While we do wish the chrome door handles were dropped, it’s good to see that the boring old alloy wheels have not only been redesigned, but upsized as well. So, on the top-two variants, you get a new set of 16-inch wheels. The design may be not be to everyone’s taste, though.
The City facelift looks the most distinctive from the rear, mainly because of the new tail lights that now feature dual-tone (red and clear-lens) detailing on the top-end model. No surprises that the tail lights are LEDs too, as is the stop light that’s integrated into the new rear spoiler. Believe it or not, even the number plate is illuminated with LEDs! The rear bumper’s new as well and gets a black honeycomb insert that makes the City’s rear look leaner.
- Steering gets reach adjustment as well
- One touch operation for sunroof
- New backlighting for Engine Start button and Dials
- New ZX variant gets many thoughtful features
Honda did a good job with the interior when they introduced the 4th-gen City, so there wasn’t really any need for a major overhaul. The black-beige-silver theme is classy and the overall quality is still really good, though, a few soft-touch plastics would’ve been nice. What Honda has really done with the facelift is plug a few gaps.
So the steering now gets the added advantage of reach adjustment (only tilt earlier), which helps you find that perfect driving position with a lot more ease. The sunroof, which was already available, gets the one touch operation for some added convenience.
And you see many little add-ons that enhance the feel-good factor in the City, so you now get an interior rear-view mirror that’s not only auto-dimming, but frameless as well. Even the starter button gets some new backlighting which makes it look more distinctive, while the instrument cluster’s dials now glow white (earlier blue).
Honda has also thrown in additional kit like auto-headlamps and auto-wipers - something that its rival, the Hyundai Verna already offered. Of course, following the exterior lighting theme, you get LED map lights up front and LED reading lamps at the rear in the range-topping ZX variant.
Since there haven’t been any changes to the dimensions, the cabin is still uber-spacious as ever. 5 occupants can fit in with ease and two six-footers can sit one behind the other. The only problem is that tall occupants will find themselves wanting for better rear seat headroom and while the cabin is wide, the middle occupant won’t be too comfortable over long journeys because of the raised centre section of the rear bench and slightly protruding armrest console. On the plus-side, the rear headrests are now adjustable, but the feature is limited to the top-end ZX variant only.
- New Android based 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system
- Data can be sent via WiFi to infotainment system for additional features
Honda India’s R&D division has developed a new seven-inch touchscreen infotainment display labelled the ‘Digipad’. It runs on an Android-based operating system and is very user-friendly. Apart from the larger screen size, the unit comes with the added advantage of MirrorLink and Wi-Fi connectivity. Since you do have 2 USB ports, one can be used for running the apps offered in MirrorLink, provided you have a MirrorLink enabled phone. While MirrorLink does offer added benefits (e.g. music player and navigation app), the number of apps available is limited when compared to Android Auto or Apple CarPlay – both of which, the new Hyundai Verna is expected to get.
The Wi-Fi connectivity option lets you connect to a Wi-Fi source nearby (say, your phone’s hotspot), to operate functions through the browser app. Once connected, you can access any website directly through the infotainment display. It’s also useful for receiving live traffic updates on the in-built navigation system (SD card-based/by MapMyIndia). Additionally, the setup gets voice command recognition for the navigation system, entertainment and telephony systems. Other features of the infotainment system include an SD card slot for media files, Bluetooth audio streaming and telephony, 1.5GB of internal memory and an HDMI port. The eight-speaker sound system is the same as before and the sound quality continues to be impressive.
- Dual airbags and ABS as standard
- Side and curtain airbags on ZX take total count of airbags to 6
- ISOFIX child seat mounts
The car’s safety package is even better than before. Dual airbags and ABS come as standard, but you also get rear seat ISOFIX child seat mounts right from the base variant. Also, considering how not only rivals like the Verna, but more affordable cars like the Figo, Elite i20 and Aspire get them, you now have side and curtain airbags on the top-end ZX grade.
- Both, petrol and diesel engines are unchanged.
- Petrol available with manual and automatic transmission
- Diesel only available with manual transmission
- Top-end ZX petrol variant not available with manual transmission
- ARAI-certified Fuel Efficiency: 17.4kmpl (Petrol-MT) | 18kmpl (Petrol-CVT) | 25.6kmpl (Diesel-MT)
The updated City is mechanically identical to the outgoing version, so you still get the same 1.5-litre petrol (119PS/145Nm) and diesel (100PS/200Nm) engines. The petrol gets a five-speed manual gearbox as standard, with the option of a CVT automatic with paddle-shifters, while the diesel only gets a six-speed manual gearbox.
We sprinted for the diesel, as Honda claims the noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) levels have been improved. Have they? Not really. Whatever improvement has been made is marginal and the engine still lacks the kind of refinement levels you’d expect at this price. Vibrations can still be felt through the steering and pedals and engine does take away from the car’s otherwise premium feel.
However, the engine’s low-end torque is great and the motor offers great driveability even before the turbo kicks in. There’s barely any throttle input needed to drive at city speeds and power delivery, even when the turbo kicks in, is very smooth. The City diesel is an efficient urban-commuter and highway cruiser, but it isn’t fun to drive like the rev-happy petrol. As long as your driving style is calm, this engine offers adequate performance. On the downside, the mileage figures have gone down for the diesel in this update, from 26kmpl to 25.6kmpl! Meanwhile, Honda claim a mileage of 17.4kmpl for the petrol City.
Interestingly, the top-end petrol variant is now available only with the automatic gearbox. The City AT will be a popular choice, especially since it’s just about Rs 4,000 cheaper than the diesel. However, the Honda City is a popular choice for chauffeur-driven owners. Many of these buyers would want the top-end petrol model, while saving money by opting for the manual gearbox.
Honda has launched the facelifted version of the Honda city with prices starting at Rs 8.5 lakh for the base “S” petrol, going all the way up to Rs 13.53 lakh for the new top of the ZX CVT. The diesel range starts from Rs 10.76 lakh for the SV variant going all the way to Rs 13.57 lakh for the top end ZX variant.
All the changes in the new City aren’t for the better. The manual transmission should have been offered in the top-end variant and while the new infotainment system is better, it brings nothing monumentally new to the table. Additionally, like the old system, it doesn’t look or feel premium.
The facelift doesn’t radically change the City’s package. It’s still the same comfortable, reliable, spacious and easy to own car as before, but what Honda aimed to do is fill in a few holes in its package. Has it done that? Yes, whether it’s a matter of safety or adding some desirable features so the City can cater to modern buyer demands, Honda has almost perfected the City’s positioning as a great all-rounder.
The changes are enough to make sure the City’s status as segment leader continues for now, but has it helped it leapfrog its way ahead? Not quite.
Photography by: Vikrant Date