BEST CAR IN ITS SEGMENT
Successive generations of the Honda City have managed to capture the minds of buyers in India despite intense competition from other brands. And, despite the fact that Honda never had a diesel engine in any of its cars, including the City.
The City’s promises to its buyer, which it has held on to for the last 15 years, are reliability, longevity and efficiency. The City has also always been the aspirational compact (C-segment) sedan in the market. But the lack of a diesel engine option has weighed heavily on its prospects in the market during the last five years. As the demand for diesel cars picked up the City held its ground for a while, but later receded from its leadership position.
The current generation of the Honda City – the third – has found it a particularly tough task to woo buyers, who, despite its obvious charm, because competing sedans had a diesel option. Honda brought in its first diesel engine in the Amaze and it was only a matter of time before the mill also found its way into the bonnet of the City.
Instead of just shoe-horning the engine into the current-gen City, Honda has chosen to completely revamp the model and make it a generation change. The City has been through a generation change once every five years since its first introduction. The new fourth-gen model will also attempt to plug the one hate point – the lack of in-cabin gadgetry – often cited by younger buyers who might have otherwise chosen the current City.
For the fourth Generation City, the company is said to have done extensive customer surveys to try and gauge the changes in their needs and preferences.
Honda has wisely chosen to retain the overall footprint of the fourth-generation City at the same level as the outgoing model. Going by the crowding on the roads, that would be appreciated, but we can always make do with some more space inside the car. Honda engineers have achieved that by increasing the wheelbase of the new City by 50mm to 2,600mm, even as the overall length continues to be 4,440mm.
Similarly, while the overall width of the car remains the same 1,695mm, Honda engineers have managed to free up an additional 40mm of shoulder space. Some of that could have come from the new unit-construction door panels. Front head clearance is up 10mm, knee room is said to be up 70mm and the rear legroom is also said to be about 60mm more than the outgoing model.
Some of the space, especially legroom in the new City has also been liberated in the front by the use of a column-mounted electric power steering. Honda engineers claim that the space in terms of legroom and width available in the new City is more than that offered by a few D-segment ‘mid-size’ sedans. I didn’t find it dramatically more than the previous-gen during the short stretch that I sat at the rear of the car. But, the City was never really cramped even earlier. The rear seat squabs are softer than the front two seats, though I don’t know how good that will be for long road trips.
Honda engineers have spent a lot of effort trying to spruce up the interior of the new City. With the objective of becoming more attractive for younger buyers, there is a lot more gadgetry. There is the touch-screen climate control, the push-button engine start, steering mounted controls, four charging points (2 in front and 2 at the rear), LED back-lit instrument cluster and most importantly CD/ radio music system with 8 speakers. Yes, the CD player is back after being absent in the previous-gen. While most of those features will be more appealing to younger buyers, there are the rear airconditioner vents, soft touch plastics, rear legroom, ample storage spaces and beige leatherette upholstery that should be more appealing to older buyers.
Honda says that the new City’s cabin was conceived on a new concept called ‘layered floating cockpit’. There are multiple coloured plastics in beige, black, grey and soft matt-silver, and there are multiple textures too. Honda designers have also created the premium T zone as part of the dashboard layout, making most of the controls and displays driver-oriented. The overall finish quality and material quality are really good, with the exception of the large swathe of glossy black plastic on the centre stack panel housing the music system, which, for me, seemed a bit tacky. Music system display also doubles up as a rear parking camera display.
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