What was once the segment that played catch-up to C-segment cars is now one of the most cutthroat segments in the local automotive scene. Smaller, lighter and more affordable than compact cars, B-segment sedans have more or less become the king of the crop when it comes to owning a family car.
One such vehicle that ushered in the arrival of the subcompacts is the Honda City. First debuting in the country back in 1996 in its third-generation guise (3A2), it proved to be a hit with car buyers. With low running costs and a fuel efficient powertrain, it became the first stepping stone in owning a Honda back in the day.
Fast forward to present day and the Honda City has grown both in size and in features. While it does stick with the basic essentials of a four-door saloon, the sixth-generation City (codenamed GM6) dons a sleeker exterior, along with a more comfortable cabin. But does this mean Honda’s perennial seller has shed its affordable sticker price? We find out in the entry-level City E with CVT.
For the 2018 model year refresh, Honda gave the GM6 City a minor nip and tuck. While there was nothing particularly wrong with its design, I do like the more prominent front fascia which now comes with larger headlights, new Solid Wing Face front grill and LED daytime running lights (DRLs). All in all, the 2018 City now bears a close resemblance with its bigger sibling, the tenth-generaton Civic.
Also new on the 2018 City are the stylish 15-inch diamond-cut alloy wheels. The VX and VX+ roll on bigger 16-inch alloys but frankly these smaller wheels look better. Everything else pretty much remains the same on the City, including the rakish windshield, sharp character lines, trapezoidal taillights and high trunkline.
Open the doors and you are greeted with a clutter-free cabin. While the interior looks simple, everything is placed where they should be which makes for an ergonomic layout. All variants of the City come with a telescopic steering rack along with a fully adjustable driver's seat. For once, it's nice to see big car features in Honda's B-segment offering.
The front seats have been redesigned and now come with better side support for both driver and passenger. In addition, a new fabric upholstery blankets the seats. Personally, I never had any problem with the old seats but the new fabric looks and feels better than the previous one. Trunk space on the City is great as well as it can easily hold several coolers, bags and maybe even the kitchen sink.
Originally fitted with a 1-DIN audio head unit, the 2018 City E now comes with a new Garmin touchscreen infotainment system. Compared to the old unit, this one has a more ergonomic interface and responds faster to input and commands. In fact, it was a breeze connecting my phone with the system via Bluetooth. Being the entry-level model, it does not get navigation as standard however as that is only available in the VX and VX+ models. Granted, the system does support USB as well for those that store their music via flash drives.
Residing under the hood is the 1.5-liter SOHC L15Z1 four-cylinder engine with i-VTEC. Like the pre-updated model, the inline-four produces 120 PS at 6600 rpm along with 145 Nm of torque at 4800 rpm. It is available with a five-speed manual but this particular entry-level variant comes with the continuously variable transmission (CVT) that drives the front wheels.
The 1.5-liter motor may look and sound average but it is actually the most powerful in its segment. Sure, most of its power is at the mid- to upper-rev range but it has good pulling power nonetheless. Drive it leisurely around the city and the revs stay relatively low.
With a smooth CVT, getting the City to highway speeds was a cinch. Overtaking slower vehicles can also be done with ease especially when you set the CVT to 'S' (Sport) mode which picks up and holds the revs for longer. There are no paddle shifters for this particular variant but the higher VX and VX+ models have them as standard however. As for fuel economy, the City is capable of averaging 9.0 – 9.5 km/l in the city. Out on the highway, the City was able to return 14.0 km/l.
Aside from the powertrain, what I have always liked with the City is its ride quality. It's not too soft that passengers may feel car sick, and not too firm that it will give anyone back pain. All in all it's nicely balanced. Equally good is its progressive braking as it gave me confidence in both normal and emergency stopping.
It's pretty difficult to fault the City. In the very competitive B-segment, one has to factor many variables in making a good-packaged four-door. The 2018 City E still ticks those boxes with its affordability, practicality and fuel efficiency.
So how much is this entry-level City with a CVT? PhP 900,000? PhP 850,000? This base model City equipped with a CVT can be yours for PhP 804,000. Surprised? So were we when we learned that Honda kept its original price from the pre-updated model. Of course it's not as loaded as the VX and VX+, but it has all of the necessary equipment that you'll need in a four-door sedan.
For those looking for an everyday, no-frills budget five-seater, the 2018 Honda City E is surely one of those cars that can fill that need.