Honda is looking at covering lost ground with the introduction of its Honda City Diesel. With this car, it’s not just about a diesel offering, but about raising the game to a whole new level.
When Honda introduced the City in 1998, the car went on to become the bestseller in its segment and more importantly it set the standard for midsize sedan customers. Competitors pitted their products against the City but couldn’t quite match up to it. A chink in the City’s armour was the lack of a diesel option, and when petrol prices started to spiral skywards, diesel engined versions of the competition made further inroads and the City found itself losing its position as a segment leader. Honda knew the answer was a diesel heart and with the 4th generation version, the company has finally fitted in the 1.5 i-DTEC under the hood.
It’s clear that Honda is taking the fight straight to the competition and not settling for a high-headed strategy. Everything about the new car has its roots in what customers have come to expect from a vehicle of this class and by catering to all these needs, Honda has indeed ushered in a new level on the playing field. Starting with the styling, the car is more of an evolution of the previous model and while you can see similarities, rest assured for this is an all new car from ground up. Dominating details on the exterior include the large chrome bar across the grill, the slimmer and longer headlights, an aggressive looking front bumper, and a nice contoured hood. The rear has also received ample changes including the taillights and a dash of chrome. Overall, the car looks more mature than its predecessor yet retains a glint of a sporty attitude that works well enough to classify the new City as a rather handsome car.
The interiors are where you find a greater amount of change and you will be hard-pressed to think you are sitting in a midsize sedan. Honda’s ‘man maximum, machine minimum’ mantra can be experienced first-hand in the cabin of the new City. The car now measures 4440mm in length, 1695mm in width and 1495mm in height. While these dimensions are almost identical to the outgoing model, the new car’s wheelbase has been increased by 50mm to 2600mm which has led to freeing up a lot of space inside resulting in exceptional seating space for five. While this has been a virtue of the City since its 2nd generation model, the 4th generation definitely takes it up a notch. In terms of materials, the car comes packed with goodies including a start/stop button, high end audio system with 8 speakers, a touchscreen air-conditioning control system, steering mounted controls, keyless entry, a sun roof, rear air-conditioning vents, rear view camera and an elaborate instrument cluster that also lights up based on your driving habits. As far as materials that comprise the interiors are concerned, they are top notch and seem to belong to a car that is at least a segment higher if not two.
Powering the diesel version of the Honda City is the 1498cc, four cylinder, DOHC i-DTEC diesel mill, which incidentally is the same unit that Honda offers on the Amaze compact sedan, albeit for the fact that in the City it is mated to a 6-speed transmission. Capable of making 100PS @3600rpm and 200 Nm @1750rpm, the engine offers a refined drive and power is delivered in a linear fashion and as per our tests, the City is capable of going from 0-100 km/h in 14.06 seconds, while doing the 0-60km/h sprint in 5.96 seconds which is rather decent and you are never really left wanting. The 6-speed transmission is a dream as well and typically Honda in the manner in which it slots into gear. While a bit of the diesel noise does creep into the cabin, the car comes across as a refined machine that is an absolute blast to drive without having to worry about the fuel bill for our test car delivered a rather decent 16.1 kmpl in the city and a still commendable figure of 22.6 on the highway. While Honda claims an ARAI tested 26 kmpl, the car still manages to deliver a rather respectable mileage under real world conditions.
Being a 3rd generation Honda owner myself, I found the new car’s on road mannerisms to be rather similar. There is a slight change in the way the car drives and this might have to do with the longer wheelbase, but overall, the ride quality and handling, even under some spirited jaunts, remain a strong point of the City’s character. In fact it takes quite a bit to get this car to lose its bearing and I highly doubt any owner will really reach that threshold under normal circumstances. The set up feels just right as you cruise along open roads and the car soaks in most road adulations. Get on the twisties and you can swing this car around bends without having to deal with a handful-a feature I thoroughly enjoyed while tacking the Lavasa ghat. It is very easy to get carried away behind the wheel of the City i-DTEC and as you learn to keep it well within its powerband you can really get the car to respond in a manner that is bound to liven you up a little!
Honda has worked hard to deal with low ground clearance issues that have plagued earlier models, and while the new car also maintains a 165mm ground clearance the underbody is actually contoured in a manner to give you a high point right in the center in order to avoid bottoming out while tackling speed breakers. It is a thoughtful approach to an otherwise cringing problem and the best part is that it works to a great extent, and it just goes to show how much attention Honda has paid to customer feedback and incorporated it on their latest offering.
Packed with all the right stuff and priced rather aggressively, the new City is no longer going to be a niche player in the market. Armed with a petrol, diesel and an automatic version, Honda is looking at a larger market segment as well as targeting B and C category towns. No doubt it is the diesel that will drive the City back to a leadership position and there is no arguing the fact that with the new City, Honda has raised the bar like never before and has established a new standard amongst midsize sedans.