CAR REVIEWS

2009 Honda City 1.5 A/T

2009 Honda City 1.5 A/T image

Text: Iñigo S. Roces / Photos: Iñigo S. Roces | posted July 06, 2009 00:00

Closer to the future

We've all encountered a tease at one point or another. It's something that leads you on into thinking one thing and then disappoints you in the end with the horrible reality. It can be quick and nearly painless or elaborate, long and drawn out. Either way, it's going to end in agony.

In the automotive world, the equivalent would probably be a concept car. Displayed at motor shows or in rare cases, a few lucky showrooms, these vehicles easily draw crowds and stares because of the radical styling, technology and vision of the future they bring with it.

There's very little not to like about them, other than the fact that they aren't being produced yet, or in most cases, ever.

Concept vehicles, after all, are little more than just that. They're there to gauge customer reaction and generate media buzz. In reality, their exotic choice of materials, out-of-this world design and space age technology would never be practical (or affordable) if produced in large numbers. They often end up back in warehouses, archives, or if you're patient enough, on the road, in a form butchered by number crunchers, cheap materials and the buyer's own meager budget.

Some might remember the Honda FCX concept car of 2006. It was a four-door sedan with a high focus on comfort and interior space. It had a cabin with a mixture of plastic, wood and leather. It was powered by three fuel cell motors; a large one in front and two smaller ones for the rear wheels. It boasted of a range of 570 kilometers and a top speed of 160 km/h. Best of all it was a zero emission vehicle.

Take a look at the 09 Honda City and there's a little bit of that FCX in there. The car exudes speed and energy with its forward facing form. The front grille and headlights combine to produce a single bow shape. Three bars open up at the center to form the grille, while the headlights continue a line that tapers towards the sides. This bow shape combines with the shoulder and hood lines to create a dramatic arrowhead form.

This City also puts space in priority with a cabin that subtly rises up from the body only to slope back down to make the sporty rear. Even the tail lights seem to take on the arrow theme protruding outward diagonally from an invisible line suggested by the alignment of the door handles.

Inside is an alluring interior that matches the exterior's maturity. The shoulder line outside is reflected in the interior, extending from the doors and arching around the dashboard. The new seats wrap around one's body and better bolster both driver and passengers. The driver's seat can adjust for height as well as distance while the steering wheel adjustment is tilt and telescopic.

In the instrument cluster, vital info is separated into three dials that illuminate in orange. In the very center dial sits a fuel efficiency computer that provides real time and average fuel consumption along with estimated range.

In the center of the dash sits the stereo and climate control on a bib that seems to hang from the arched dash. The stereo plays radio and CDs through four speakers and will easily accommodate MP3s and iPods through its auxiliary cable. As for climate, the interior is quickly cooled thanks to additional vents on the rear seat floor. The floor of the 2nd row itself is nearly flat and offers some additional storage space under the seats. Besides that, an abundance of cup holders, pockets and storage bins will hold drinks and snacks on the go while the cavernous 506 liter capacity trunk can take up to four 9 inch wide golf bags.

It may not be powered by a fuel cell, but underneath the hood is a competent i-VTEC engine. Despite being just a 1.5 liter, this engine produces an astonishing 120 hp at 6,600 rpm and 107 pound feet of torque at 4,800 rpm. This power is delivered through a 5-speed automatic with grade logic control and shift hold. The paddle shifts, mounted behind the wheel, can be used in either "D" or "S" mode and are just as responsive as those in the Civic. Grade Logic and Shift Hold keep the car in the same gear during inclines or turns for better response when it is needed. With all that bundled together, you can expect to achieve the same high fuel efficiency figures if not better than the last City.

Macpherson struts in front and an H-shaped torsion beam in the rear have been re-engineered to be more comfortable and also more stable. This creates a softer ride and also sharper handling. It may make the new City feel a tad heavier at the wheel but it certainly makes it feel more stable.

The bump in performance is also matched with an upgrade in safety. For one, it has safety for those outside the car with pedestrian safety impact absorbing components in front. Inside, passengers can rest assured that their lives are in good hands, even in impacts with larger vehicles thanks to the new collision compatibility design. It is also equipped with ventilated disc brakes in front and solid disc brakes in the rear with ABS, EBD and brake assist, and most importantly, dual SRS airbags inside.

All of this adds up to create a car that is not far from projections made back in 2006. It can go above 160 km/h and exhibits exceptional space for its size and its interior quality is far from typical subcompact fare. Of course, the gasoline engine is far from being a zero emission propulsion system but some mindful driving (an average of 14.25 km/L to be precise) could certainly get you as far as 570 kilometers on one tank.

Is the City the direct result of that alluring FCX concept? Not likely, but it's certainly nice to see the dream come to life in one way or another. And at Php806,000, it's also a lot easier to attain. It's an inspiring car and its capabilities quickly prove that we're slowly getting closer to that radical, luxurious and clean drive dream.