The Right Stuff
I'll be honest, I've always felt that the City is an underrated sedan. Despite being launched years earlier than the Vios, the City can only dream of the kind of sales figures its main rival has. That meant Honda's B-segment sedan often played catch-up to the Toyota Vios. But numbers aren't everything, especially for the City.
After testing the top-of-the-line RS version, Honda has now given us the keys to the mid-range V. While it doesn't come with aggressive bits and trim, what it does offer is a more affordable price tag, albeit sacrificing some of the niceties that come with the range-topping variant. Does this mean the V offers more bang for the buck than the RS? And do B-segment sedans still matter against similarly-priced crossovers?
Let's begin with the exterior. While it's not as flashy as the RS, the City V still looks sophisticated. The shiny chrome grille paired with the halogen projector headlights and LED daytime running lights give the car an unmistakable Honda look. It doesn't come with body-colored door handles, but it does get chrome ones which further give the City a more upscale finish.
What is perhaps my favorite thing to look at is the City's taillights. Whether it's the RS, V, or the S, all models come with a distinct pair of LED units. They are especially gorgeous to look at when it's dark as the L-shaped design is particularly eye-catching and sleek. It doesn't come with the sporty RS-style alloy wheels, but the regular 16-inch set on this particular model looks good.
In terms of size, the all-new City is larger than its predecessor. Measuring 4553mm long and 1748mm wide, the sedan is now 113mm longer and wider by 53mm. Height, on the other hand, is lower than before as it now only stands at 1467mm tall, 10mm less than the generation it replaced. Surprisingly, the wheelbase has been carried over, which means it continues to offer a generous 2600mm.
All in all, the City's new look gives it a more high-end appearance than the previous generation. Combined with the vehicle's bigger dimensions, Honda's B-segment sedan offers a more comfortable and relaxing riding experience which we'll get to in a bit.
Open the doors, and you're greeted by a distinct-looking cabin. With neat touches of gloss black paired with contrasting white and (faux) metal finishes, the interior of the City V is both classy and trendy. It's also ergonomic which lends itself to being user-friendly for both the driver and the front passenger. The automatic climate control system immediately grabbed my attention. Like the Accord and Civic, it too now makes use of dials which make for adjusting the cabin temperature easier.
At the center of the dashboard is an 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system. It's similar to the one found in the RS which means it gets the same level of features. From AM/FM radio, Bluetooth, as well as USB, there are plenty of ways to play your favorite tunes. But it is perhaps Apple CarPlay and Android Auto that most drivers (and passengers) will get to use.
Just connect your mobile device to a USB port via a cable, and you'll be to use Spotify, YouTube Music, Google Maps, or even Waze with ease by way of the touchscreen. I also like the fact that despite having only four speakers, sound quality is actually above average in the City.
On the driver's seat, I was surprised that even though this is a mid-range variant, the City V still came with a leather-wrapped steering wheel complete with buttons for the media system, as well as cruise control. What impressed me, even more, is that it actually comes with a tilt & telescopic steering column. This is something I always look for since I'm pretty particular with my driving position. Speaking of driving position, the driver's seat is height adjustable which is great for drivers that are not blessed vertically.
Even with my 5'7 frame seated at either the driver's seat or front passenger seat, there is still plenty of legroom for the rear passengers. What's more, those at the back will be happy to know the City comes with rear aircon vents for extra comfort. Those looking for a rear center armrest (with cupholders) will be disappointed, however, as the City V does not come with it. That feature is exclusive only to the RS.
Thinking about hauling some cargo with the City? With 519 liters of available luggage space in the trunk, it can easily swallow bags of groceries, an assortment of boxes, and loads of gear and other equipment. However, we were disappointed that the rear seats cannot be folded for extra cargo space, but more on that later.
Under the hood lives a 1.5-liter four-cylinder i-VTEC engine. While it may look similar to the previous generation's engine, this is actually an upgraded version. Instead of just having a single overhead camshaft (SOHC), this engine now benefits from double overhead cams (DOHC). As before, the engine is paired to a CVT complete with 'Sport Mode'. Unfortunately, this doesn't come with paddle shifters as that's only available in the RS.
Off the line, power delivery from the 1.5-liter engine is good. Not only is it smooth, but the CVT kept the revs low when you're just strolling around town. If you need to go a little faster, a light prod on the accelerator is all that you need to do to get things going. Floor it and the powertrain responds by giving you all the revs you need. Set the transmission to 'Sport' (S) and acceleration becomes sharper while the revs linger more at the powerband.
It might not have a turbo under the hood, but the 1.5-liter engine is zippy and likes to rev which makes for driving spiritedly quite fun. But since it doesn't come with paddle shifters, you can't manually “shift” the CVT. Still, that didn't dampen my fun when I had the chance to take the City on a long road trip around Metro Manila over the weekend.
When it comes to fuel consumption, the City delivered impressive figures. In normal city driving, I was able to average around 11.0 – 11.5 km/l. These included my daily trip to the office, some stop-and-go traffic, and the occasional overtaking. I could have gotten better fuel economy if I have set the powertrain to Econ, but I decided to just keep it in Normal. In heavier traffic conditions, the City was still able to sip fuel at around 9.0 – 9.5 km/l.
Out on the highway, it was able to perform better. At an average speed of 90 km/h, the City was able to easily return 19.0 km/l. For those who regularly hyper-mile along expressways, the Honda is capable of averaging over 20.0 km/l if you can keep a light foot on the accelerator pedal.
One of the best traits of the City is its ride quality. Despite having to go over pock-marked streets, rutted roads, and even occasional potholes, the City remained composed. Thanks to its long wheelbase, good dampers, and relatively thick 185/55/R16 tires, the sedan made short work of bumpy roads. Whether you're seated at the front or at the back of the City, you'll be happy to know that it can deliver a comfy ride.
Handling may not exactly be the City's forte', but the sedan is easy to drive. Thanks to an adaptive electronic power steering (EPS) system, the sedan is light to drive when you're just going around town. It only becomes heavier when you're driving at highway speeds. I also like that the City's steering delivers road feedback. Whereas most companies prefer to remove as much road feel from the drivers, Honda decided to allow some of it to go up the steering wheel.
While it seems like I've been all praises with the Honda City, I do wish it came with a bit more equipment. Yes, it sits below the range-topping RS, but I believe these extra features will not affect its value for money proposition. For starters, I wish it came with rear charging ports for those seated at the back. There is a 12V power socket at the front (plus an extra USB port), but unless you have a charging device with multiple ports, charging your mobile device will be a first-come-first-serve basis in the City.
Another feature I wish this particular variant came with is leather upholstery. With an SRP that's already bordering the PHP 1 million mark, I was surprised they removed it for the City V. With other similarly-priced crossovers already fitted with leather seats, this is a rather odd omission by Honda.
Last but not least is the 60:40 split-folding rear seats. Sure some might argue it has more than enough luggage space thanks to its 519-liter trunk. But do remember that the previous generation VX+ model had this as standard. This is on top of its larger trunk capacity which is rated at 536-liters. Hopefully, Honda gets to read this and make it available as an option or part of a future update.
At PHP 989,000, the City V is quite the expensive four-door. Yes, it's cheaper compared to the RS version, but the top-of-the-line Vios 1.5 G is still more affordable at PHP 970,000. But like what I mentioned earlier, not everything has to be about price and numbers.
Honda knows it cannot outsell the Vios. What they're doing, however, is solidifying their position of providing customers with something that is not a default choice. With the City V's looks, design, features, and i-VTEC powertrain, I'm confident Honda will be able to attract buyers that prefer something different.
Even with the continued arrival of more affordable crossovers in the market, I still believe there is room for sedans in the country. And the Honda City will be one of those that will continue to populate our roads in foreseeable future.