The current Honda City has been around since 2014 and Honda Malaysia has given Malaysia’s most popular non-national B-segment compact sedan a nip and tuck to keep it fresh and relevant.
Aimed squarely at the Toyota Vios, Nissan Almera, Mazda 2 Sedan and Volkswagen Vento, does the updated Honda City have what it takes to remain on top of the food chain?
What has kept customers flocking Honda dealerships nationwide was the fact that the Honda City is a prime example of a well-packaged sedan at an affordable price.
Honda Malaysia introduced the facelifted City back in March, with the number of variants slimmed down to just three from the predecessor’s four.
Engine: 1.5-litre L15A7 Inline-four Petrol
Power: 120 PS @ 6,000 rpm
Torque: 145 Nm @ 4,000 rpm
Transmission: Earth Dreams Technology CVT, Front-wheel drive
Safety: Six airbags, ABS with EBD, Brake Assist, Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA), ISOFIX anchor points, Emergency Stop Signal (ESS), G-Con Body
Origin: Locally assembled in Pegoh, Melaka
Price: RM92,000 (OTR with insurance)
Underneath, the Honda City shares its platform with Jazz. Despite that, however, the City does not have the Jazz's highly-acclaimed Magic Seats that once featured in the 2003 City. Mechanical bits, such as the engine and transmission, are identical to the Jazz.
Honda says that the naturally-aspirated four-cylinder mill of the City is capable of churning out 120 PS and 145 Nm. Hardly earth-shattering figures, but don’t let the numbers fool you, as the Honda City holds it own pretty well against its key rivals. Power is sent to the front wheels via an Earth Dreams Technology CVT.
For the purpose of this review, we will be taking a closer look at the range-topping Honda City Grade V, priced at RM92,000 OTR. As you would expect, the top-of-the-line model comes equipped with all the equipment, including leather upholstery, LED headlights, LED front fog lights, LED tail lights, 8 speakers and a soft-padded dashboard.
There’s little to fault with the updated exterior of the Honda City. The pre-facelift model was handsome to begin with, so Honda did not alter much of the City’s exterior.
New for the facelift is the updated front fascia, now with Honda’s latest corporate design. Some would say that the City now looks remarkably like a mini Civic, especially if fitted with the LED headlights. The Honda emblem up front is surrounded by a large chrome piece that connects both headlights. Below the headlights are a pair of LED front fog lights.
Honda also revised the rear end of the City, though not as drastic as the front end. Tail lights have been subtly altered, looking almost identical, though the rear bumper has been refreshed with a black diffuser-piece that breaks the monotony feel of the pre-facelift model. LED tail lights are standard on the Grade V, whilst lesser models make do with the pre-facelift’s halogen units. 16-inch dual-tone alloys are maintained, though for 2017, the design has been improved.
Moving inside, design of the dashboard and centre console remains largely unchanged. New for this year is the 6.8-inch infotainment system, which we were told is more responsive than the model it replaces.
For the keen drivers, Honda has listened to your feedback and given the City Grade E and Grade V steering-mounted paddle shifters. These paddle shifters, when activated, allow for the CVT to enter a virtual seven-speed mode.
As mentioned earlier, the dashboard is now home to a new 6.8-inch touchscreen infotainment system. Whilst functionality wise it performs similarly to the unit it replaces, we can’t help but to notice that the head unit itself is not integrated as before, suggesting that the head unit was more of an afterthought. Sorry folks, unlike the head units in the Civic and Accord with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility, the City’s head unit lacks that modern touch. Instead, users are expected to connect their mobile phones via the HDMI port or via Bluetooth for audio streaming. We also noticed some glare under direct sunlight. There is also no Radio Data System (RDS) built into the head unit, meaning no radio name can be displayed on the screen.
The touch panel air-conditioning controls also make a return here. Both the City Grade E and Grade V carry the funky new AC controls. During actual use however, the lack of a tactile knob or button meant that drivers need to take their eyes off the road to adjust the AC. For future owners, keep a microfibre cloth handy in the car, as cleaning fingerprints off the touch panel air-conditioning controls will be a daily affair.
Practicality wise, the Honda City boasts a massive 536 litres of boot space. The large opening also meant that loading and unloading things is pretty straightforward. If the massive boot is not enough, the City’s rear seats can be folded 60:40, further expanding the car’s practicality.
In terms of driving experience, the crown still goes to the guys over at Mazda. With that said, the Honda City is no bread toaster on wheels.
We spoke to the sales project leader of the new City regarding the new car’s handling, in which he mentioned that it remains identical to the model it replaces.
Not a bad thing, as the current Honda City rides with considerably more compliance than the 2008 Honda City. The older model had a tendency of being too harsh through rougher roads at the expense of a becoming sportier-handling sedan.
For the new City however, Honda has managed to strike the balance between ride comfort and handling. Granted, some lean through corners are to be expected, and the Goodyear Excellence rubbers do scream in protest when the limits are pushed.
But that is beyond the comfort zone of the City. Where the Honda City truly excels is in town, as the name suggests. The light steering and reverse camera meant that parking and navigating around tight parking spaces is a breeze in the new City. Coupled with the smooth CVT, town driving is where the City really shines, delivering fuss free motoring for all.
When the need arises, the paddle shifters on the City certainly helps to improve the overall driving experience. Drivers can now manually shift into the City’s pre-defined virtual ratios, allowing for a more engaging drive.
We did a mix of trunk road and highway cruise during our time with the City. By the time we returned the car, the trip computer was reporting an average reading of 12 km/Litre. Bear in mind that the final leg of the drive involved us cruising on the North South Expressway at about 150 km/h.
Honda Malaysia has another winner on hand with the updated City. This little B-segment sedan has it all. Good looks, exceptional fuel consumption, superb practicality at an affordable price.
Versus its key rivals, the Nissan Almera is just dated, despite offering superior rear leg room. The Toyota Vios has been the City’s longest rival, even in 2017. But the Vios is crippled by its twin airbag configuration and less-than-stellar driving performance.
Keen drivers would naturally gravitate towards the Mazda 2, and we won’t blame them for that. The Mazda 2 is a stellar little car, although we hope that more airbags could come as standard, considering the 2’s premium pricing. On top of that, the interior of the Mazda 2 is a lot tighter than the City.
Then there's the Volkswagen Vento, featuring a 1.2-litre TSI mill. Power wise the Vento is bar none, but airbag count is down to just 4. The Vento's plain-looking dashboard may not be everyone's cup of tea, though it remains simple and easy to operate.
The company is set for another homerun with the updated City. Coupled with the 5 year unlimited mileage vehicle warranty, Honda Malaysia has given owners the most important feature, assurance.