The Honda City is now in its fifth generation and currently is the nameplate for their compact four-door sedan. Originally, back in 1981, it started out as a subcompact car, but this was retired in 1994, and the current version took off two years later.
The shape has come a long way from its harsh square roots in the 1980s, and the City is now a smart, elegant-looking vehicle, complete with a large, bold front grille, sporty rear end, and aerodynamic lines. The City, with a generous 506Lboot with 60/40 folding rear seats, excellent safety rating, and a variety of engine choices, makes for a flexible, stylish car to suit most family needs.
The first two generations of subcompact cars were available in Australia and had a very sharp-edged, bulky look to the vehicles. When the revamped, larger cars were brought out and given a complete overhaul, these were not put on the market. When the City was released as a larger sedan, it had a more modern look and style about it, a fresh attempt at the compact sedan. It was still a little harsh on the eye, but it was a definite change in design from the earlier models. By 2002, the facelift gave the City its now familiar curve. The version first available in Australia was the latest fifth generation, with the more rounded rear window that came out in 2009, completing the sweeping aerofoil body shape.
Reviewers have always considered the Honda City to be a spacious, durable four-door sedan but felt that there was still room for further refinements. However, the City's popularity throughout Asia points to the fact that Honda must have got something right, although this never translated into massive sales in Australia since it hit the car yards back in 2009.
Honda's City is available in two variants: the VTi and the higher spec VTi-L. Both come with the petrol driven 1.5L SOHC i-VTEC engine, while the VTi has the choice of either a 5-speed manual or automatic gearbox. The VTi-L only comes fitted with the automatic transmission.
The power produced by the 1.5L engine is 88kW with a torque rating of 145Nm, and it accelerates to 100km/h in 9.7 seconds, with an emission level of 148g/km and a combined road fuel economy of 6.3L/100km. As you'd expect from a car called the City, it performs best when travelling around streets, lanes, and alleyways. The City is agile enough touring town centres. The somewhat sluggish steering is sufficient for manoeuvring into tight parking spaces, though it may appear a little underpowered on the open road, and a diesel version wouldn't go amiss.
Safety is second nature in Honda cars and the City's five-star ANCAP rating is proof of its credentials. There are 6 SRS airbags to protect occupants, and the car is fitted with ABS, brake assist, vehicle stability, and traction control. The latest versions will all be fitted with ESC.
Anyone travelling in the Honda City will find a comfortable, well-equipped interior, with easy-to-read and easy-to-access dials and controls. It also features steering wheel mounted controls and Bluetooth hands free system. The City has good connectivity too with USB/MP3 ports with a smart sound system and digital media dashboard to keep occupants entertained.
The standard City comes with powered windows and door mirrors, air-con, 15-inch alloy wheels, and keyless entry. If you are interested in added options, the City can be equipped with 16-inch alloys, fog lights, leather interior, rear armrests, and a chrome exhaust pipe.
Sales for the fifth generation haven't quite hit the levels Honda would have liked, but when you look at the competition and the premium price tag, this is understandable. The likes of the established Toyota Yaris, Nissan Tiida, Hyundai i20, Holden Barina, and better-powered Mazda3 are all competing in the same class for customers. To make it big, you've really got to have something special in this tight market.
For families looking to downsize their big car to something more manageable or for those who are not fascinated by the crossover 4x4 class, the Honda City is worth a look. It does cost a little more than the competition and perhaps is not equipped with the same level of refinement as standard, but, being a Honda, you are guaranteed a sturdy, well-constructed vehicle with a good safety record, generous boot, and plenty of space. It's designed for city life and performs that role well, as expected of a family car.