Honda City e:HEV (Hybrid) Review
Honda City Hybrid Pros
• 20+ km/l fuel economy in city driving conditions, giving it lower running costs than a diesel!
• Seamless Hybrid system that makes driving a breeze. A car you will enjoy driving in traffic
• Tractable power unit that delivers performance on par with internal combustion counterparts
• Loaded with safety tech such as ‘Honda Sensing’ consisting of lane keeping assist, lane departure mitigation, adaptive cruise control, auto high beam, collision mitigation braking system as well as ESP, 6 airbags and a lane watch camera
• This generation of the City feels grown up in terms of overall feel & exterior dimensions
• Spacious cabin will keep your family happy. A sedan you’d love to be chauffeur-driven in as well
• Compliant ride quality in the city. High speed bounciness (rear) reduced due to beefed up suspension & battery pack weight
• Honda's proven reliability is comforting, as the hybrid system is complex
• Lower emissions in the city. Will appeal to the environmentally-conscious customer
Honda City Hybrid Cons
• Not a car for enthusiasts - it feels like an alien experience and completely disconnected
• Honda Sensing ADAS system is too intrusive for Indian highways; requires the driver to adapt to it and be comfortable using it
• Boot space is compromised due to the battery pack and spare tyre. Down from 506 to 306 litres!
• We’re worried about the price. Honda is usually optimistic with pricing, and there is no lower variant without the ADAS features
• Build quality still feels light and not as reassuring as competitors
• Overall road and tyre NVH levels should have been better to keep up with the refined & silent hybrid powertrain
• Missing features for this price point = powered seats with ventilation, rear side sunblinds, wireless charging…
• Honda City Diesel will give you comparable running costs at a far lower price
• Some misses such as the puny 185-section tyres (upgrade is mandatory
), outdated audio head-unit, ICE sound quality is just average The 2023 Facelift
• Link to report
This review has been jointly compiled with Ajmat. Thanks to him for the expert observations.
It's been a long time coming, but India finally gets its first proper mainstream hybrid car. Honda themselves have tried to sell their hybrid cars in India in the past. The Civic Hybrid, which was brought in as a CBU, was priced astronomically and moreover, the Hybrid system was a mild one, not really offering massive efficiency gains. Then came the Accord Hybrid, which was again, a CBU. This had an excellent hybrid powertrain with good efficiency gains, but being a CBU, it was priced stratospherically. They say, "the third time's the charm" and Honda sure must be hoping this comes true with the Honda City e:HEV - a full hybrid version of the City that is not imported as a CBU, but made locally in India.
While there is a push for EV's in India, a hybrid is actually the perfect stepping stone before going full electric. It offers better fuel efficiency, which reduces running costs considerably and at the same time, doesn't have the biggest concerns with EVs - charging infrastructure and range anxiety. Till the time we see homes with charging options and a good network of charging points along the highways, the move to EVs will be slow. Hybrids can help plug this gap. Petrol prices are going up and diesel cars are not considered clean with the tightened emission norms. The only option is to look at extracting the maximum from petrol engines and efficiency is the new mantra. The Camry Hybrid has been the only proper hybrid that has sold in reasonable volumes in India even though it is priced north of Rs. 50 lakhs. This shows that hybrids do have a market in India and if sold at a lower price point, may very well carve out their own niche.
Having learnt their lessons from the earlier models, Honda is trying to make amends. The City Hybrid is locally produced. The electric motors, batteries and power control unit are imported from Japan, but the rest of the car is the same City that is locally made here in India. Even the engine block is the same locally made unit from the non-hybrid model. The head however is imported owing to the fact that the engine now runs on the Atkinson cycle. Secondly, the hybrid system is one of the most advanced hybrid units out there, which works as a series parallel hybrid motor with no gearbox and a host of other technology that is explained later on. The City e:HEV isn't merely a mild or smart hybrid system, but a full-fledged hybrid that doesn't even connect the internal combustion engine to the wheels. Only the electric motor has a direct connection to the wheels. This means that the real world efficiency of the car will be far superior to the regular petrol model and could give the diesel a close run for its money in terms of running costs. A real world efficiency of 20+ km/l is easy for the e:HEV.
Honda has also decided to launch the City Hybrid in a single top trim and loaded it with additional features. The company hasn't skimped on safety either and the City is now the most loaded car when it comes to technology. Though for the image that the City has, it does lose out on some convenience features. Honda should have equipped it with powered driver seats, ventilated front seats, side rear sun blinds, wireless charging etc.
Design & Styling
The City Hybrid gets very subtle tweaks over the regular car in terms of styling. On the road you can't tell them apart unless you go up close and spot the small details. The first give away is the Honda logo at the front and rear that has a blue surround. At the front there is a new radiator grille with a honeycomb mesh and the foglamp surrounds get a claw like design element. The rear has more notable differences with the e:HEV badge indicating that it's a hybrid. You also get a neat boot lip spoiler and a redesigned bumper with a faux diffuser with a carbon-fibre finish.
The overall styling of the 5th-gen City remains smart and clean. It has grown in size vs the 4th-gen car and now is almost Corolla Altis-like in terms of presence. In fact, the overall length is 9 mm more than my 2009 Corolla Altis and it shows on the road. Some might say that the City is no longer as sharp as the outgoing car, but in my opinion, it looks more grown up with styling that will age well over time.
Build Quality, Fit & Finish
The City Hybrid being the same as the regular car continues to have the same light feel. The overall kerb weight may have gone up by 127 kg, but that is due to the batteries and motors that have been added and not due to any change in sheet metal or build. The doors don't close easily when shut lightly and need a firm push. They don't have the solid feel or make the "thud" sound on closing as European cars. There are also some panel gaps, especially between the rear bumper and quarter panel, that we noticed. That said, it does feel improved over the previous-gen car and Honda has done a really good job in the paint department. The red car in the photos was really popping with an excellent finish.
Wheels & Tyres
The City Hybrid continues with the same 16" wheels and 185/55 section tyre combo as the non-hybrid car. This is obviously done for better efficiency, but the downside is that the car looks under-tyred and now, with the larger body dimensions, the stance is ruined. On our test cars we saw 2 tyre options - Bridgestone Ecopia and Goodyear Assurance Triplemax. Surprisingly Honda hasn't gone with low resistance or low road noise tyres for the Hybrid. The spare tyre is a 15-inch space saver with a 135/80 section tyre.
Honda hasn't specified the exact ground clearance, but it did confirm that despite the 127 kg extra weight, the ground clearance of the City hybrid remains identical. We didn't scrape it anywhere even with 3 on board, "missing" a couple of large speed breakers. However you still need to be careful of really sharp speed breakers, especially the front chin which had a tendency to scrape.
Standard & Extended Warranty
The standard warranty remains 3 years / unlimited km as with all Hondas. However, the company has added an additional 8-year warranty on the Lithium-ion battery. This should allay any fears on the long-term life of the battery. Although, Honda should have probably added a cover on the power unit and 2 motors as well for complete peace of mind.
The City e:HEV will only be available in the top end ZX trim, which means it gets 6 airbags, VSA etc., but the highlight of the package is that the car is equipped with Honda "Sense". This is the safety suite available globally, which is essentially ADAS. The system consists of CMBS (collision mitigation braking system), LKAS (lane keep assist system), RDM (road departure mitigation), auto high beam and adaptive cruise control. Apart from Honda Sense, you also get TPMS, hill hold assist, electric parking brake with auto hold and the lane watch camera.
Cabin Design & Quality
Step into the City Hybrid's cabin and you will be greeted by a familiar design, but with some welcome changes. There is a new ivory & black dual-tone interior colour scheme exclusive for the Hybrid. This is less beige and more greyish. Must say I prefer this over the creamy beige. Other than that there is one significant change in the center console. The City Hybrid does not get a manual handbrake. Instead it has an electric parking brake with auto hold. This frees up space behind the gear lever to keep a large smartphone comfortably.
Overall, the interior quality remains same with hard plastics all over, but everything is well finished with no ill-fitting pieces noticeable. The 5th-gen design also is a lot more mature and less swoopy with clean symmetrical lines, which wasn't the case with the 4th-gen car's interior.
Space & Comfort
The City has always been known for space and comfort and the same holds true for the Hybrid. Space at the front is ample with good seat travel and the seats themselves feel plush. They are manually adjustable with the driver's seat adjustable for height as well. The seats have a good travel range. The soft leather padding on the center armrest and the door armrest gives the driver a very relaxing drive experience. The one gripe I had was with lack of lumbar adjustment. The seats don't lack in lumbar support. Rather the lumbar support was a tad more than what I preferred.
Driving Position & Ergonomics
The ergonomics are typical Honda - perfect. Everything falls perfectly to hand and is within easy reach. Steering adjusts for rake and reach both with a good range. The seats go sufficiently low down for the tall drivers. The footwell has ample space and a massively wide dead pedal. Frontal visibility in the 5th-gen car with the lower set dash is also better vs the 4th-gen with the swooping high set one.
There is plenty of cabin storage at the front. The front doors can hold a 1L bottle and some knick knacks each. The glove box is of a reasonable size, but it isn't cooled or illuminated. You get two cupholders in front of the gear lever as well as small tray for loose change or keys. Next to the air-con controls, there is a shelf to keep a smartphone. With the electronic parking brake, you also get space behind the gear lever to keep another phone. The center armrest storage space also is generous. You get 2 USB ports and a 12V charging socket as well.
Being a Hybrid, the air conditioning is not like conventional cars. Since the petrol engine turns off when the car is in EV mode, the compressor cannot run off any accessory belt mechanically. The compressor in this case is an electric compressor like the ones at home powered by the Li-ion battery pack in the boot. The air-conditioning was effective with the temperature in Bangalore above 35C and we never had to keep the climate control temp below 23C for the 2 of us sitting in front. The blower speed however was at level 4 or 5 to keep the temperature under control. It sounded as if it was working hard to cool the cabin. We also realised that you have to either lower the temperature of the climate control to 20-21C or increase blower speed (manual mode) for the rear seat passengers to be happy. The rear seat passengers do get 2 adjustable blowers, but they are only effective if the blower speed is above 3 at the front. Another bummer is the lack of factory-fitted tinted glasses (like what Maruti gives). When driving the XL6 a few days earlier in the same weather and route, the heavy green tint on the window was a blessing.
Audio System & Sound Quality
The infotainment system remains identical to the regular City variant with an 8" touchscreen and 8 speaker audio. It has the ubiquitous connected tech nowadays with smartphone and smartwatch connectivity. You can do a remote start and turn on the air-conditioning sitting at home and the system also links with Alexa and Google assistant for remote voice commands.
The touch screen isn't the slickest and quickest to respond and the UI seems a bit dated. We didn't spend too much time with it as it has limited use and doesn't show the hybrid details like power flow on it. Audio quality was not really wow and does not have any branding like Sony or JBL or Bose to brag about. We didn't really spend time on the audio as we wanted to focus on the Hybrid powertrain.
Rear Seat Comfort & Space
The City has always been the bench mark in rear seat comfort and it has only got better with the 5th-gen car. The Hybrid is unchanged at the rear except for the right side seat back which has a vent in it for cooling the battery pack using the cabin air conditioning. Legroom is ample and seats are on the softer side resulting in very comfortable cushioning for the body. While the lack of adjustable rear headrests is glaring, the fixed units are soft comfortable and effective even for a 6' tall passenger like me. You also get rear rolling sunblind for the rear windshield. This is much needed as the AC blower is only effective at higher fan speeds at the back. Honda should have given blinds for the side windows as well for a flawless rear seat experience. Below the rear air-con vents, you get 2 x 12V charging ports. Both front seats get back pockets with 3 individual pouches. 2 pouches are perfect to hold your smartphone and one bigger one for the usual rear seat curios.
Hybrids have one big disadvantage and that is the smaller boot compared to regular cars. When you have to pack in 2 electric motors, a power control unit and an internal combustion engine, the boot is the only logical place to keep the battery back. Honda has tried to do some clever packaging by placing the battery pack in the wheel well of the spare tyre. However, this means that there is no space for a full size spare. International variants of the City e:HEV don't come with a spare and only a puncture repair kit. But, we all know this won't work in India. Honda has opted for a space saver tyre and rather than leave it open in the boot, neatly covered it and packed Styrofoam around it to get a flat floor. The non-hybrid City has a massive 506-liter boot. The boot space in the Hybrid drops down to 410 liters globally and the India-spec car with the space saver gets only a 306-liter boot. This means you can at best keep one suitcase lying flat and nothing on top. You can fit three suitcases, but all need to be lying flat as the height of the boot is seriously compromised. If you do need to carry more luggage you can remove the space saver and all the Styrofoam to have the full boot available to you. Below the boot floor you do get lots of storage areas which are nifty. This seems like a fair compromise and more practical as you still get the full depth but lose out on height.