August 16, 2014
Vehicle Style: Light Sedan
Price: $21,390 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 88kW/145Nm 4cyl petrol | CVT auto
Fuel Economy claimed: 5.7 l/100km | tested: 7.6 l/100km
Some may tell you there’s no such thing as a bad car these days - and to a certain degree they’re right.
Even budget buys now are more respectable, safer and more capable than they were just ten years ago. But that doesn't mean every car is a good one - there are some that struggle to make par.
But there are also some that are pleasantly surprising.
Take the new Honda City for instance: it won’t set the world on fire but it is good enough to make the competition sweat.
With a quality interior and a strong features list the City boasts plenty of appeal.
In top-spec VTi-L guise, the $21,390 sticker-price may be more lofty than the impressively-priced $15,990 VTi entry model (with manual), but this car has quite enough going for it to allow it to carry that burden.
Quality: A quality interior certainly helps. Inside the City VTi-L you'll find things are both well-finished and well-presented.
Even in the absence of softer-touch surfaces, the plastics are of a high standard and panel alignment is excellent.
There’s also a unique silver decor panel running the entire span of the dash, that not only adds some visual width, but also helps define the City as something more than a Jazz with a boot.
Looking at the expansive touch-screen panels for climate controls and infotainment, you could easily be persuaded into the thinking the City costs more than it does.
Comfort: With a focus on interior space geared towards international markets (where the back seat is the prefered place to ride), the City presents an odd comfort conundrum.
Front seat-travel is limited, put a six-footer into the passenger seat and they'll have their knees uncomfortably close to the dash.
Put that same tall chap in the back however and there is room for the knees and a comfortable seat. Although headspace is a little tight, every other dimension is generous.
Equipment: The City comes standard with a seven-inch touchscreen ‘Display Audio’ system with four speakers, USB, aux in and Bluetooth connectivity.
There’s also cruise control, steering wheel audio buttons, cloth seat trim, multi-function trip computer, power windows and mirrors and a reversing camera.
In the upscale VTi-L model seen here there’s also climate control, proximity key with pushbutton start, front foglights, electrically folding mirrors, leather steering wheel and gear knob, two additional 12 volt rear power outlets, four tweeters and 16-inch alloy wheels.
A note about the Display Audio system - while it allows you to connect a phone for functions like navigation, it requires two cables and at this stage only works with an iPhone 5 or later (so it is both fiddly and limited in its appeal). Something worth keeping in mind.
Storage: In the rear the City packs plenty in with a 536 litre boot. This can be expanded via a split-folding rear seat, although the nifty flat-folding Magic Seats of the Jazz are absent.
There are four cup-holders and four bottle-holders, door and seatback ma- pockets, a deep but narrow lidded centre console and a not too big, not too small, glovebox.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: Instead of reinventing the wheel, Honda has elected to refine the City’s carry-over engine.
Outputs of 88kW and 145Nm are the same as the previous model, but fuel consumption improves to a claimed 5.7 l/100km (we averaged 7.6 l/100km... still pretty good).
The transmission is the biggest mechanical change. In place of the previous model’s five-speed auto sits a CVT transmission, which as well as being economy-focused is also pleasantly smooth.
The throttle can feel a touch sensitive until you can adjust to it, but the upside is a zippy feel around town.
Press the ‘Econ’ button and the lively edge is dialed back, but judging by the trip computer, the eco setting is genuinely easier on the juice.
Away from town, the City’s shine starts to fade. The throttle needs a serious prod when overtaking and the CVT isn’t always up-to-pace on undulating roads.
Refinement: Top marks for city refinement, the engine and CVT combo get along famously, keeping revs down, but acceleration strong.
Noise levels are respectably low for commuter duty and there’s no real thrash or vibration unless you really work it hard.
Escape the urban sprawl however and the City is a touch noisier than some of its competitors, with a constant engine buzz that isn’t always welcomed.
Ride and Handling: With comfort a priority, the City will glide over speed-humps and spoon drains without breaking a sweat. Some sharp bumps can catch it out though, crashing into the cabin.
There’s an expected amount of body roll through bends, and the steering feels very eager - again perfect for darting through traffic around town, but a little nervous on the freeway.
Braking: With a disc front and rear drum setup the brake hardware might not look cutting edge, but the City pulls up confidently and can tackle repeated stops without crumbling under pressure.
ANCAP rating: The 2014 Honda City has yet to be tested by ANCAP.
Safety features: Six airbags, stability and traction control, ABS brakes, brake assist, electronic brakeforce distribution, three-mode reverse camera, adjustable head restraints and three-point seatbelts on all seats plus two ISOFIX and three top-tether child seat mounts.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years or 100,000km, whichever occurs first.
Service costs: Honda’s capped price servicing offer cover’s the City for 60 months (five years) or 100,000km, whichever comes first. Standard services alternate between $236 and $272 every six months or 10,000km.
Additional items, changed at time or distance intervals are also price capped, but additional to standard service costs eg: cabin filter (every 24 months) $44, brake fluid (every 36 months) $38, air cleaner (60,000km) $39, fuel filter (90,000km/72 months) $158, spark plugs (100,000km) $183, transmission fluid (40,000km/36 months) $142. For full conditions and exclusions consult your dealer.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
Holden Barina CDX ($20,590) - With a strong equipment list (17-inch alloys and heated seats) and reasonable pricing the Barina CDX plays a strong value game.
Inside the excellent MyLink infotainment system is a definite high point. The rest of the interior isn’t quite as exciting with a lower-grade look and an odd-looking motorcycle instrument cluster. (see Barina reviews)
Hyundai Accent Elite ($20,990) - Hyundai offers an enticing little package with the Accent sedan. Its sharp looking inside and out and has the most powerful engine of this grouping by a decent margin.
The interior may not be as cutting edge as the City or Barina, but it is still comfy and user-friendly. (see Accent reviews)
Mitsubishi Mirage LS ($17,490) - Call it the wildcard if you will: the Mirage is cheap, but you get what you pay for. Smallest dimensions, least powerful engine and most basic spec here.
That said, the Mirage is still competent, so if you’re shopping on a shoestring it may just do the trick. (see Mirage reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Honda has put together a compelling package in the new City. This car is a much better offering than the model that came before it, and it puts up a strong fight against its competitors.
Just be reminded that the name City says it all.
Keep it in town and you’ll find this light sedan is quite the charmer. Pull it away from its natural habitat though and there’s a few rough (if only minor) edges to be found.
Overall, in terms of quality and value, the City VTi-L doesn’t put a foot wrong and should appear on your shopping list if you’re in the market for a light sedan.
PRICING (excludes on-road costs)
- VTi manual - $15,990
- VTi auto - $17,990
- VTi-L auto - $21,390
MORE: Honda news and reviews