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New Honda City – Long live the king

New Honda City – Long live the king

Snapshot: Honda has updated the popular City sedan with plenty of new features and subtle changes to the look. Here’s why you should consider one.

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Meeting the new Honda City is like meeting an old school friend who has got a new pair of glasses. You know something is new but cannot pin-point the changes immediately. Yes, the changes to the exterior are subtle and are what Honda internally calls MMC or minor model change. But the bigger changes are inside the cabin and under the hood. All this is Honda’s pre-emptive strike against the Maruti Suzuki Ciaz, which will receive an update soon and also the upcoming new Hyundai Verna.

The face now gets a new set of lamps which extensively use LED lamps. The grille doesn’t get an overt dose of chrome like the last car and the bumper too gets slight modifications to the housing for the fog lamps. The side profile remains largely unchanged except for the addition of a new alloy wheel design. The top-spec cars finally get 16-inch alloy wheels, which should help ride improve further, though the lower trim levels still come with 15-inch wheels.

The rear end also gets new tail lamp clusters with stylish LEDs in them, which gives the car a premium and upmarket look. Overall, it’s a very classy design and one that doesn’t try too hard to impress, but manages to do so without too much effort.

The single biggest talking point about the cabin is the introduction of the new touch screen for the infotainment system. It’s an intuitive system to operate and has good legibility as well. Honda calls it the Digipad and it is essentially a 7-inch screen which also doubles up as the reverse parking camera’s view finder.

The seats are as comfortable as before but you do get softer materials on top of the dashboard to help improve perceived quality levels. The start/stop button now lights up in red when you switch the engine on, which is a nice if somewhat gimmicky touch.
The system also offers cool new features like MirrorLink integration, navigation with real-time traffic data, Wi-Fi support, two USB slots, two microSD card slots along with an HDMI port. You also get 1.5GB of storage for your music so you don’t have to carry too many pen drives with you.

Rear seat comfort is excellent as well and the flat floor means you can genuinely have three guests sitting there.
All versions come with two airbags and ABS plus EBD along with ISOFIX seats are standard across the range making it one of the safer bets in this segment.

Engine, performance and gearbox
You get the same tried and tested 1.5-litre diesel and petrol engines. The diesel develops 100bhp of power while the petrol will make 118bhp. These power outputs remain unchanged. What has been added though is a lot of sound deadening materials under the bonnet and around the body to the diesel version. Though you can still make out there’s a diesel mill under the hood, the noise is lower than before and feels like a distant hum rather than the constant distraction in the last-gen car. The petrol i-VTEC engine is just a smooth as the last car. This is easily the best petrol engine in this segment at the moment when it comes to sheer refinement levels.

Performance from both the diesel and petrol engines is effortless. The diesel needs about 1,800 revs to feel agile and once past that mark it delivers good power. However, it redlines at around 4,000rpm, which means constant gear changes will be the order of the day to keep the momentum going. The manual six-speed gearbox on both the diesel and petrol cars is crisp and light to operate.

The petrol engine loves to rev. There is plenty of power available all through the rev band so you won’t have to constantly shift gears to keep the momentum going. Even when revved hard it throws out a nice and crisp note at the exhaust.
You can also choose a CVT-auto gearbox with the petrol engine.

Ride and handling.
At slow city speeds, the ride is supple and offers good comfort. You will have to slow down for some of the badly patchworked roads but the plus side of this is that when speeds increase the car feels very stable. High speeds manners are very good, especially on the top version which gets 185mm-section tyres on 16-inch wheels.

The handling is pretty slick as well. The steering has good feedback and though it’s still pretty light by keen driver standards, its more than enjoyable to use on a twisty hill section.

Honda has left no stone unturned to ensure that the City is likeable. It really is a very good and complete package that’s really hard to fault with. Overall, this is still the leader in the petrol segment. Even though prices have gone up for the top versions think of it this way. Imagine you want the luxury and features of a much bigger car that will cost Rs 20 lakh but don’t want to be called a showoff – the City is perfect for you.

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