Reincarnation isn’t an easy concept to understand. The idea that we leave this world in one form and return in a completely new shape seems far-fetched to many. But if it’s hard to swallow in terms of humans and animals it’s much easy to believe when it comes to cars. Case and point is Honda’s new City. We all recognise the nameplate from the first generation City hatch that while diminutive in stature was near omnipresent on NZ roads. Through the 1980s and 1990s it was hard to miss the boxy little City as it shuttled Grandmas and students alike around our county, before slowly dying out.
Now, the City has been reborn into the Kiwi marketplace, but not as a micro hatchback, instead as a small sedan. Creating many questions like has the soul of the original City been retained in this new earthly form? Or aside from a boot what else does it have to offer? In search of the truth Car and SUV took the new City on a journey of discovery.
Styling wise the City has more than a passing resemblance to Honda’s larger Accord Euro despite it being based on the Jazz platform. Even with multiple mechanical similarities the City is much more than simply a Jazz with a boot. It sits lower and longer with a purposeful stance. It’s aesthetic is ultra-modern with a high-waist and a snazzy silver and black grille providing a bold front accent. Steel 15-inch wheels are standard on the City S, step up to the City E for 16-inch alloys. Overall, the styling is razor sharp and has a knack for disguising the car’s bantam size with a brawny athletic presence.
Step inside and you see exactly why the City is an interesting proposition. Where small sedans have often been marketed towards older drivers the City has a young, urban appeal in the cabin. Kicking it off it is a 45-Watt, 6-speaker stereo system that could rival cars twice the price for sound quality. A USB jack is located in the deep centre console for hooking up iPods/MP3 players and interface is excellent with steering wheel controls capable of jogging through iPod tracks.
The curvaceous dashboard blends quality black plastics with alloy-look trim and a leather-bound steering wheel is pleasant to the touch. Controls are stylishly but logically laid out and are always illuminated making them easy to operate while driving. With air-conditioning, cruise control, electric windows and mirrors, remote central locking with alarm, rear under-seat storage and numerous cup-holders the City offers a generous amount of kit in base model form.
The seats in the City are comfortable with good support and the rear pew is surprisingly accommodating with excellent leg and headroom for a small vehicle. The seating position allows good visibility but could offer a lower adjustment to suit taller drivers.
For all the City’s interior trickery it’s the cavernous boot that is really magic. With a staggering 506-litre capacity the City’s boot can take more luggage than many larger sedans, including the Accord Euro and even the Holden Commodore.
Like the boot the bonnet has a lot of free space inside, with Honda’s tiny 1.5 litre 4-cylinder motor struggling to fill the capacious area. The 88kW engine is lifted straight from the Jazz and while it’s eager to please reaching 100kph will take nearly 12 seconds. However, the City weighs just 1110kg and has no problems moving swiftly around town when worked hard. It’s not the most refined powerplant around but is offset by a well-insulated cabin that lets little engine, road and wind noise inside.
With a drive-by-wire throttle and clever programmed fuel injection, petrol consumption is miserly with 6.3l/100km possible on the combined cycle.
The engine in our test vehicle was mated to a 5-speed manual transmission which allows short and easy changes. Combined with a light clutch pedal and even lighter electronic power-steering the manual City is a no fuss vehicle to pilot even in stop-start traffic.
Leave the bright lights and take the City on more twisty roads and it sits flat and remains settled during cornering. In terms of dynamics it’s competent and predictable but don’t push too hard because stability and traction control are notable omissions from the City’s spec sheet. In 2010 even cheaper new vehicles are expected to be fitted with stability control and its absence could prove an influencing factor for the safety conscious buyer.
Safety features the City does have include front passenger, driver and side airbags as well as curtain airbags, ABS brakes, seatbelt pretensioners and a reinforced passenger safety cell.
Now we’ve reached a state of complete enlightenment, what’s the verdict?
We tested the base model City S and it certainly didn’t feel entry-level, the interior is spacious, stylish and well assembled with an excellent equipment list as standard. Priced from $26,900 with the manual transmission it offers value for money and could be the pick of the City range. It’s dynamically impressive for a small sedan and cheap to run. Although it can feel underpowered at times, during regular suburban driving that will prove a non-issue for many. The XL size boot and spacious cabin add to its practical value and there is a reassuring sense of quality inside and out.
Even with its new body shape and modern fit-out the new Honda City isn’t a total reincarnation of the old favourite. It still offers the same reliable budget motoring that the original City did with ‘almost’ everything you need and nothing you don’t. So if you’re purchasing in the niche small sedan segment give it a test drive.
Price: from $26,900
What we like:
- Quality interior
- Sharp styling throughout
- Massive boot
What we don’t like:
- Lack of traction & stability control
- Sluggish engine
- Drivers seating position
Words and Photos: Adam Mamo
Honda City S (2009) – Specifcations
Engine 16-valve, 1.5 litre, i-VTEC
Maximum Power 88kW @ 6600rpm
Maximum Torque 145Nm @ 4800rpm
Valvetrain i-VTEC (Intelligent Variable Valve Timing and Lift, Electronic Control) performance and economy enhancing technology
Suspension System MacPherson strut front suspension and torsion beam rear suspension
Turning circle (metres) 5.0
Front Brakes 262mm (10.3″) ventilated discs
Rear Brakes 239mm (9.4″) solid discs
Braking System ABS (Anti-lock Braking System) with EBD (Electronic Brakeforce Distribution) and EBA (Emergency Brake Assist)
Wheel size 15 x 5.5JJ
Tyre size 175/65 R15
Full size steel spare wheel.
Wheels 15″ steel wheels
Length (mm) 4410
Width (mm) 1695
Height (mm) 1470
Wheel base (mm) 2550
Track front/rear (mm) 1695
Steering wheel turns, lock-to-lock 2.7
Turning circle (metres) 5.0
Kerb Weight (kg) 1110 (man) 1145 (auto)
Maximum warrantable towing weight (kg) 1000 (man) 800 (auto)
Luggage capacity (litres, VDA) 506
Fuel tank capacity (litre) 42
Recommended Fuel 91-octane regular unleaded
Emission Control standards Emissions fall within Euro IV and LEV II international standards