Exactly sixteen years and three generations since the Honda City was first introduced in India in January 1998, Honda Cars India Ltd. (HCIL) has launched the all-new fourth-generation Honda City with prices starting from Rs 7.39 lakh for the base petrol trim. The bigger news is that the Honda City will now be available in diesel too with the base diesel variant being priced at Rs 8.60 lakh, ex-showroom Kolkata.
The Honda City was the Japanese automaker’s flagship model when the brand started its India operation in 1998 and soon went on to become a segment leader. With 22 lakh units sold across 55 countries worldwide and over 4.3 lakh units sold in India alone, the City sedan is undoubtedly Honda’s most successful product in the Indian market and certainly it’s most popular.
For well over a decade, the Honda City maintained its supremacy in the mid-size sedan segment until the Hyundai Verna arrived on the scene with its Fluidic design and threatened City’s leadership position. To make matters worse, petrol prices started going through the roof resulting in the growing demand for diesel vehicles which also caused a huge dent in the City’s sales.
But it’s all in the past with the launch of the much awaited City Diesel. The all-new fourth-generation Honda City is now available in 5 trim levels both in petrol and diesel - E, S, SV, V and VX with manual transmission. Additionally, the City is also available with CVT in SV and VX petrol variants only.
We tested the Honda City Diesel VX trim to discover whether this new addition to the City’s line-up can catapult it’s to leadership position yet again. Read on to find out.
Design & Engineering
The design of the 2014 Honda City is evolutionary and builds on the styling elements of the outgoing model. Viewed from the front the fourth generation Honda City retains the outgoing model’s ‘Arrow Shot’ silhouette but features a more prominent chromed grille, sharper looking restyled front bumper, new bonnet lines and stylish looking headlamps.
Take a walk along the side and you will find two lines running along the side - one that stretches between the front and rear wheel arch and the other which starts just beside the front wheel arch and runs till the rear tail light. Both the design lines are clean and simple and lend a smart look to the new Honda City.
At the rear the 2014 Honda City sports restyled bumpers and new, wider and stylish tail lights that extend into the boot lid and help highlight the 1,695mm width of the car lending it a premium look at the same time.
The new City uses conventional McPherson struts up front (commonly used on front wheel drive vehicles) and a twist beam axle at the rear. Braking relies on discs doing duty on the front and drum brakes on the rear. In its quest for better mileage, Honda has stuck with narrow 175/65 R15 tyres, which might disappoint enthusiasts, however, the Japanese carmakers priority for better fuel efficiency takes precedence over all other driving attributes. The 2014 Honda City measures 4,440mm in length (25mm longer than the outgoing model) and the wheelbase too has been stretched by 50mm now measuring 2,600mm. NVH insulation level is definitely impressive with very little engine clatter and negligible external noise filtering into the passenger compartment.
The fourth-generation Honda City will be available in a range of six colours – Golden Brown Metallic (New), Carnelian Red Pearl, Urban Titanium Metallic, Alabaster Silver Metallic, Crystal Black Pearl and Taffeta White.
Interiors & Comfort
The new Honda City features an all-new cabin, with more premium feel and use of better quality materials. The newly designed dashboard with piano black finish around the music system, auto AC with touchscreen control panel, stylish instrument cluster with neon lights all look very chic and refreshing. However, the piano black surface scratches very easily and may not look as pleasing and shiny after a few months if not maintained very diligently. Additionally, some of our road test team found the black plastic a little tacky.
The passenger cabin is spacious and offers ample head, shoulder and leg room for both front and rear passengers. The wheelbase has been stretched by 50mm translating into slightly more cabin space. The front seats are comfortable and provide very good all-round support. The back seat is good for three people and offers decent under thigh support and backrest resulting into comfortable seating with a centre arm rest for added comfort. The air conditioning is efficient and cools the passenger cabin in no time. The rear passengers now get their own AC vents too.
At 510 litre, the boot is indeed very spacious and is capable of accommodating enough luggage for your longer road trips.
The integrated music system with 8 speakers and 5-inch screen on the VX trim (lower trims get a 3.5-inch screen) boasts of impressive sound production quality and is sure to please music enthusiasts.
The top-of-the-line Honda City Diesel VX trim that we tested came with engine start/stop button with smart key system, steering mounted controls, audio and hands-free control, rear A/C vents and rear parking camera with multiple views.
Performance & Handling
The Petrol variant of the City continues to be powered by the same 1.5-litre i-VTEC engine that did duty on the outgoing model. The motor churns out 119 PS of maximum power at 6600 rpm and 145 Nm of peak torque at 4600 rpm. The petrol variant is mated to a 5-speed manual transmission and is also available mated to Honda’s CVT.
The Diesel City that we tested is powered by the 1.5-litre i-DTEC diesel engine that also does duty in the Honda Amaze. The motor delivers 100 PS of maximum power at 3600 rpm and 200 Nm of peak torque at 1750 rpm (identical to the Honda Amaze). However, the engine has been mated to a newly developed 6-speed manual transmission.
There is a slight clatter once the engine is fired but cruises smoothly and quietly till about 1,500 rpm beyond which the engine starts getting noisy. The gruffness increases as you start revving at higher rpm. The steering feedback is nothing much to talk about and at high speeds, you do wish it were a bit weighty for greater confidence.
To be very honest, I had my share of apprehensions at the thought of driving a mid-sized sedan which is powered by the same 100PS diesel powerplant that does duty on a smaller compact sedan. And my apprehensions turned out to be true. There is a noticeable turbo lag as the car begins to roll till about the 1,500 rom mark after which power is available at your disposal in a linear fashion. However, while overtaking and on open stretches you will find that the new Honda City lacks the punch much to the disappointment of an enthusiast. However, the new 6-speed gearbox is smooth and the gear slots in with precision. In the interest of better mileage, Honda has opted for 6 gear ratios, with both 5th and 6th gear being very tall.
Suspension tuning is conducive for city driving and the 2014 Honda City remains composed even while traversing over rough stretches of road resulting in minimum jerks being felt in the passenger cabin. Handling is good with the City remaining poised even while negotiating quick corners. Braking is reassuring as well. However, the City is not a car for enthusiasts, with the handling set-up for safe and predictable understeer. The skinny tyres don’t help much with overall grip levels either.
The Diesel City claims an ARAI-ratified fuel efficiency of 26kmpl. And although we didn’t get an opportunity to conduct a proper mileage test, however, nevertheless Honda engines have always been champions of efficiency, setting the benchmark, and we expect the Diesel City to be no different.
The fourth-generation Honda City comes equipped with a host of safety features including pedestrian injury mitigation technology, driver and front passenger SRS airbags. ABS with EBD is being offered as standard across all diesel and petrol CVT variants.
By introducing the Diesel City, Honda has plugged the gap that was eating into its sales figures. The country’s favourite mid-sized sedan now gets a diesel heart which now puts it on solid ground against competitors like the Hyundai Verna, Skoda Rapid and Volkswagen Vento. What makes the 2014 Honda City more appealing is added cabin space (thanks to 25mm longer length and 50mm stretched wheelbase), one of the best boot space, more features, a more premium cabin and a comfortable ride. Plus, to top it all, the 1.5-litre i-DTEC is known to be rather frugal and has been working wonders on the Amaze which has been driving Honda’s sales since the time it has been launched. Pricing is competitive too with the base diesel trim priced at Rs 8.60 lakh and the top-end diesel VX trim bearing a price tag of Rs 11.18 lakh, ex-showroom Kolkata. With the 2014 City Diesel, Honda has made India most loved mid-sized sedan an ever more attractive proposition that before. Looks like its game on, Hyundai.