We can't deny that we've always liked the City. Since 2014, we've found it to be a stellar example of what a car in the subcompact, B-segment category should be like: sharp looks, a spacious cabin, a good engine, great features, and overall great value.
Times have changed since the City came out though. There are new players and updated ones. Even the crossovers are getting in on the action, as carmakers are offering smaller, more affordable utes to challenge the position of the established subcompacts, much in the same way that compact crossovers almost took over the industry.
Now we've got a new version, and it's got some good upgrades to help re-affirm the City's leadership in the class.
For starters, they definitely got the styling right. The Honda City really didn't need a redesign given that it still looks every bit as sharp now as it did three years ago, but the subtle updates are definitely much appreciated.
The LED headlamps are new, and they come with LED DRLs for this VX+ variant. Even the foglights are LED. The grill has been revised along with the bumper; the air intakes are smaller, but properly proportional. The wheels are new, the taillights are new, along with a sportier rear bumper. Overall, the updates give the City somewhat more dignified yet sporty character.
The interior updates are likewise subtle. The City's cabin really is one of the best looking in the category, so they really didn't need to do much. For this iteration, they did change the color of the trim and accent pieces. No more bright silver accents on the dash; the accents are now more metallic gray. The changes, again, lend the cabin a more dignified aura about it; even the red hazard switch is now black.
Many of the features are the same for the VX+. The multimedia system is a new version of Honda's touch screen unit, and being that this is a top spec model, it comes with things like Bluetooth, voice control, and a navigation system. I'm not a particular fan of the touch panel climate control system, but it does look proper for the interior design of this car. Six airbags are standard for this model, along with stability control, ABS, and a total of three 12-volt sockets; one in front and two behind the center console. Yes, you'll never have to share a charging socket again for your phones.
What motivates the Honda City is the L15Z1 motor. The 1.5-liter four-cylinder has a single cam and i-VTEC, and it makes 120 PS and 145 Newton-meters of torque. Yes, it's a carryover, but they didn't really need to change it. To drive the front wheels, the City uses a continuously variable transmission instead of a more traditional slushbox automatic; and this CVT has seven speeds if you like to play around with the paddle shifters.
As a, uh, city commuter, the 2017 Honda City VX+ performs exactly as they said it would: comfortable, efficient, and smooth. The way the unibody and suspension have been tuned together delivers a very composed vehicle for daily urban driving. The NVH is particularly excellent given the price point of the entire City line, not just the VX+. As for fuel economy, over our tests, it was able to return a mileage of 8.8 kilometers per liter at an average speed of 24 km/h.
On the open expressway, the City excelled too. The very same qualities and characteristics that made it a great in-town commuter also make it a great highway drive; and the addition of a cruise control system in this VX+ makes it a convenient cruiser. The suspension and tires, while good on rutted concrete in town, is great on international grade expressway tarmac. There's a touch of wind noise from the mirrors, but not enough to be disturbing if you're cruising at 95-100 km/h. Fuel economy is likewise good too, as the VX+ achieves 13.1 km/l at an average of 89 km/h.
When taken on a more spirited course like a mountain road, the City shows what Honda can do even for their economy cars. The acceleration, while not exciting for those who expect the now-old school original VTEC (aggressive cam changing), is very linear; a testament to the great combination of the newer economy-tuned i-VTEC (cam timing/phasing). I liked shifting manually, but I still prefer the alloy paddle shifters more akin to Mitsubishi than these button-type paddles.
From the driver's seat, cornering at speed with the City is very controlled and composed. It's no sports sedan, but they tweaked the way the City behaves to be very controllable when shifting its weight; it never feels like it's going to get away from you if you're the type who likes to have fun on a mountain pass. The brakes could be improved though, as the front discs and rear drums mean that there's quite a bit of pitching under hard braking; rear discs would be a good, albeit more expensive, idea.
Overall, I like how the City performs. Honda didn't need to do much to keep it competitive, but they did so any way, putting in a few meaningful design updates and really useful features. What Honda really did well with the City was the pricing: they maintained it, meaning the City VX+ CVT retained the same pricing as the pre-facelift model. And given that the City is already priced at the high-side of the spectrum in the subcompact class, retaining the price is a very good thing.
Great car, great value, and Philippine-made too.
Note: Dashcam not included