Best Sedan Under 10 Lac.
The Honda City gets a diesel engine – FINALLY. So, can it recapture itS bestseller tag? Back in 2003, I bought a Honda City. It was the one that introduced India to the concept of ‘cab-forward’ design. It looked like a tadpole – the design bias was on the front, and the rear appeared to be more of an afterthought or a stick-on job for the time. Of course, we know that it wasn’t – and Maruti actually does a much better job of spoiling a perfectly good design by sticking a boot to it. The Honda City wasn’t anywhere near being the most exciting car on the market, but, a decade later, it sure seems like the most logical and sane thing that I did back then. Ten years have passed, and I still have the Honda City – running as a daily driver, no less – and the damn thing still does 16 to a litre! My other car, a Skoda Laura 1.8 TSI, may be the result of a heart-over-head decision, but it’s becoming painful now. The running costs are huge (gives me 7km/l), and the after-sales makes sure that I recalibrate my brain for massive expenses each time it goes to the workshop.Everything was going really well for the brand until our government started acting funny by hiking the price of fuel. That’s when the diesel culture caught on, and things changed for every manufacturers’ product planning department. Mostly every manufacturer adapted to the shift toward diesel, but Honda kept ignoring it – till such time that it almost seemed suicidal. A diesel was needed, and it was needed urgently. And now we all know what resulted – the Amaze was the first diesel offering in India by Honda, and went head-on against the bestseller, the Dzire. And I must say they’ve done rather well. But that’s a segment below – even in the upper C segment, the Verna has been the runaway success, and Honda desperately needed to give the Honda City a diesel engine if it were to stay in contention. So this is what we have now – the all-new Honda City. Based on the new Jazz platform, the Honda City comes with the same 1.5 litre i-DTEC diesel engine that you find under the hood of the Amaze – only in a revised state of tune and a 6-speed manual gearbox, as compared against the 5-speed that does duty in the Amaze. One look at the new Honda City, and you begin to question its ‘all-new’ tag. It looks quite similar in design to the outgoing model, and looks to be more of an evolution rather than a revolution (which the previous generations have been against their respective preceding models). Forgive me for saying that it may even look like a facelift to some! The front end is largely the same as the last-gen model, save for the ostentatious chromed front grille and larger headlamps. It looks like Honda has been secretly working with BMW for its design evolutions – especially the rear panels. The last-gen City had its back-side inspired from the last-gen BMW 3 Series, and guess what, this new one pays homage to the latest 3 Series. There’s definitely something going on here that the trade pundits don’t know!It’s on the inside that the game changes completely. The new Honda City is as long as the outgoing model (4.4 meters), but the wheelbase has been increased by 50mm to 2.6 meters and that makes a huge difference. Even the shoulder space has gone up by 40mm, despite the width of the car remaining the same. As a result, the space inside is – and there’s no other adjective for it – immense. Kapil and I are both 6-feet tall, and even with the drivers seat set to my driving position, Kapil had enough space to grow another pair of legs and still be comfy. Hyundai has mastered the art of doing incredible value-for-money cars. The Verna comes with an equipment list that will humiliate even some D segment cars. So, Honda needed to play the game right, and they appear to have done just that this time around. The Honda City now comes with more bells and whistles than ever. The interior has been given a complete do-over, and now it features things like push-button start, climate control with a touch sensitive panel, a parking camera (which is a bit specious in its function), steering mounted controls, options to play all formats of music, rear aircon vents, and my favourite – 4 charging points. Practical and useful, that’s what the interior is, but there are places where you sense that the quality has been somewhat compromised. Now, I could forgive the Amaze for slightly inferior cabin quality, but the City has an aspirational brand value attached, so you expect everything to be prim-and-proper – as a result, these small issues do stand out. Or perhaps I suffer from OCD. On the performance front, the brilliant i-VTEC engine remains but expect the diesel to make the most noise – metaphorically and literally. The 1.5 litre i-DTEC engine that does duty in the Amaze finds a home in the City too. Mated to a slick 6-speed manual gearbox, it generates 99bhp, which peaks out at 3,600rpm and 200Nm comes into play at 1,750 revs. It’s a noisy motor – there are no two ways about it. Sure, Honda has invested heavily in containing the NVH levels, but it feels like the City needs a much larger effort to dampen the noise. Again, you could forgive the noise levels in the Amaze, but because the Honda City is that much more premium, you expect it to be much smoother and more refined.
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