1 year & 10,000 km with a used 3rd-gen Honda City Automatic

Some might say I could have gotten her for less. Maybe, but I am happy. More importantly, my Mom's happy, that's what I wanted.

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Mom's 50th birthday was fast approaching, and I remember her saying that she wants to go on long drives in a classy sedan, visiting places she has in her bookmarks. We had the Fiat Palio 1.1 SLX which was not very well maintained and being a Fiat, we always had the issue of servicing and spare parts and she wasn't very reliable for the touring necessities.

Hence, I was on the lookout for a pre-owned sedan, because 1) I am a big fan of the value pre-owned market offers, all three of my vehicles are pre-owned. Thanks, GTO. 2) My budget was ~4L.

Purchase decision

I calculated a budget around 4L to 4.5L that I can afford through EMIs with my teaching job, as business income was rocky and I didn't want to risk it, and then later ask Mom's help for some EMIs I may not pay. Hence the budget constraints and with that, I looked at three options - Honda City, VW Vento, Hyundai Verna.

On scouting hordes of sites like OLX, Droom, CarTrade, I had almost fixated on Vento, as I am a fan-boy of German designs and their clean lines, subjective opinion, but I would always choose a VW or a Skoda over a Honda or Hyundai or the likes. Nothing makes me go weak in my knees like clean and minimalist structures. But, going through various mixed reports of VW, of great build quality to horror ASC stories and cost of ownership, I didn't want to risk the peace of mind and decided that I would keep the Germans to a brand new purchase, not in the used market. Flirted with Verna for a while, but mostly read the cost of that spare part is 80% of VW but the car is nowhere as reliable as a Honda; but I admit, insane features for the price.

Confused again, as I have only ever driven a Palio, and that too just for a couple of years, hence I have no experience whatsoever of what handling dynamics, EBD, steering feedback, and other technical terms would actually mean; as anything would feel like an upgrade on a poorly maintained Palio of 2009.

Honda City was my first choice when I started searching, but I absolutely hated the HU design and the knobs, but overall had a soft spot for the car (because Honda) and I especially liked the headlights and the rear three quarters. But, I simultaneously started searching for a touchscreen HU to replace ASAP if I choose the City.

I started my search from the scratch again, and I came across some newly added Honda Citys, and particularly one stood out - it looked black in shade, but metallic purple under sunlight.

It was a 2012 model, V-AT and what particularly caught my attention was that the previous owner had only driven her 16xxx km!! I was overjoyed but kept my senses cool as Honda cars are known for a good amount of odometer readings, and this one was not! Everything flashed across, odometer tampering, accidental vehicle because it looked so good that some of us thought that it had been repainted, and the cherry on top was that the previous owner had installed CASKA touchscreen HU, which saved me from that expense.

I immediately called up the dealer, and the negotiations began, and a couple of dozen calls later, I asked her to be brought to my place for a test drive, got her checked through my trusted mechanic and when given a go-ahead, I paid the token amount to book her for me, provided that I will be allowed to get her thoroughly checked through an ASC (when they re-open), in which, any suspicious thing and I would get the token money back, to which the dealer agreed easily and he even gave the location himself, which assured me a little. I also managed to procure the number of the previous owner and she confirmed that the car was just used for home-to-office commute, hence the low mileage. More assurance.

This was initially a surprise plan for Mom on the day of her birthday, but as it turned out, I had to inform her during the buying process and it turned out to be a good decision as she helped with a better source of the loan, which helped in lessening the EMI load on my shoulders.

We readied the finance, and went to see her in Mumbai, had already booked an appointment with the Sewri branch of Arya Honda, and after fighting insane traffic (8th June - first day of unlocking) we reached a good 1 hour late to the dealer. The car was readied, polished, and we took her to the ASC. Filled up the form for a general check-up and some 3-4 hours later, we received a thumbs-up from the SA, only issues were that brake pads were only good for another 1000 KMs (2 mm material left) and the battery water had gone black. The minor rattling of the driver's seat was attributed to a loose nut, but she was in perfect condition apart from that. Pulling up the service records showed that the car was only brought for regular maintenance and nothing related to bodywork.

So, all in all, the deal was done! I got home MY first car, and the same route back, through the same traffic, was blissful, thanks to the automatic gearbox and a bone-chilling A.C. I got used to to the smooth gearshifts and the working of the auto-box pretty quick, and a fortunate pooja later, she was parked in the society premises; whereas the Palio was kept outside, which did break my heart a little - You get some, you lose some.

The deal: I paid 4.35L for a 2012 Honda City V-AT (17165 KMs at the time of purchase) with CASKA H.U and a rear camera already installed. Saved two of my primary expenses, and also, the tires were of 2018 Yokohamas (although 175); hence for me, it is a fair deal, some might say I could have gotten her for less. Maybe, but I am happy. More importantly, my Mom's happy, that's what I wanted.

First Impressions (After 500 KMs)

Pros (as observed)

1) Super silent engine, except for the start-up sound, never could make out that the car is running, especially in P Mode.

2) The gear shifts are quite smooth and feel linear in D mode. A little aggressive dabbing of the accelerator, and the car pulls in the same gear till a higher RPM before shifting, which I like very much. I found that the car has a creep function, and oh boy, what a relief for in traffic conditions.

3) I tried Sports mode when returning from a weekend visit to Nashik, and boy, it has become my favorite! I tend to take my foot off the gas when I change the gears through paddle shifters as my old habit. (but is it necessary?). The overtakes are a breeze in S mode, and OH MY GOD the engine roars after 4K RPM and I was grinning like an idiot. The jump from 57 BHP to 114 BHP has me spell-bound! The MID showed up ECO even at speeds of 110-120 in S and 5th gear. HAPPY!

4) The brakes too, are linear, with a good bite when pressed more than ~20%, but they are to be changed soon.

5) Minimal engine braking, not sure if this is a positive (definitely on highways as I can give gaps between the need to accelerate) but technically a con in the city as I would need more use of brakes. (I love my CBR's engine braking in this regard in the lower gears, minimal use of brakes within city limits).

6) A.C is a chiller, even in splintering heat, fan speed on 4 cools down the cabin in 5 minutes maximum, (The previous owner, I think has installed some 3M sun film as there are 3M markings on the front windshield). But all in all, cool super quick and then I am more than comfortable on fan speed 1 once the cabin is cooled, but Dad complains at the back, so its fan speed 2 to keep everyone cozy, although I then later change the direction of the vents away from me. Rear vents feel needful, but not because of weak A.C capabilities but for better circulation.

7) The steering feels chunky to hold, and super light, and it takes two full rotations to turn the wheels to their maximum in either direction, as opposed to a single rotation in my Palio, and the turning radius is definitely shorter than the FIAT. Handling a sedan for the first time has been very smooth, and crisp steering feedback has a lot of praise for it.

8) The gear lever is also nice to the touch, and the silver button to change gear feels satisfactory. I liked the pearl piano black finish on the plastic cover denoting the P, N, R, D, S gears.

9) Center arm-rest storage big enough to accommodate my wallet, keys, a sanitizer, and still has space to store a couple of similarly sized items. The arm-rest length is okay for me, I can comfortably rest my hand, but Dad complains. I am 5'10, he is 5'6.

10) Can holder behind the arm-rest is big and wide enough to hold a large McD coke container, but as stated earlier, rent vents are a miss, as felt by Dad (He sits at the back when all three of us travel together).

11) Rear passenger armrest is comfortable and wide enough to accommodate both passengers; I don't think there will be territorial fights like in movie theaters.

12) Steering control buttons and stalks feel sturdy, good to touch. (Do the indicators have a lane switch function?) Haven't used cruise control yet, as I still don't have the owner's manual.

13) Music quality is good enough for me, when connected through Bluetooth, good overalls, haven't yet fiddled with the equalizer settings, but I am not an audiophile, hence do not see it as a possible upgrade.

14) The chrome door handles are chunky, and the doors close with a soft thud. I have heard a lot of praises for VW in this regard, but please note, these are my comparisons against a 2009 Palio.

15) Have heard the ORVMs are India friendly, but haven't tried that yet, due to obvious fears; a nicety to have nonetheless.

16) The alloys look gorgeous, the only change I would like is to color them to a different shade.

17) Seats are comfortable, a gigantic leap in overall support, comfort against Palio.

Cons (as observed)

1) Some part of sheet metal feels clumsy, easily flexes even while wiping her down, especially roof, but I was prepared for this from all the detailed forums over the internet.

2) Boot door might just be lighter even than my cat. Paperboard material, probably. Loading height is okay for me but might be a problem for others.

3) Ingress and egress is an issue for elders. I saw my grandmother struggling, although the wide opening of doors help. But almost 90-degree wide opening could turn out to be one less support for elders to have, especially when getting out of the car. I'll be courteous all the time to get down first and help elders after. (Some extra brownie points too from them).

4) Front cubby holes are a little inconveniently placed for me, might accommodate coffee cups, but that would render the storage behind them useless. I usually keep my phone there.

5) Door storage is satisfactory, probably might accommodate just 500 ml bottles. I am struggling with a location to keep my umbrellas after getting in the car during the rains, please suggest. The passenger needs to hold them upright throughout.

6) Ground Clearance, a well-known negative, although the 2012 update comes with 165 mm (5 mm more). Scraped just once, with three onboard, no luggage. Searching for options, probably fixed on the ROGERABS. For now, the slow and diagonal approach is working out just fine, the followers can honk all they want, I am deaf (obviously, NOT).

7) Lots of road noise, almost comparable to Palio. What can be done? I don't want to change the tires until they're exhausted. They're stock specifications. Can I retrofit wheel well cladding? Any other tips?

8) Mom feels the need for the slotted coin holders, we had in our Palio, I don't.

9) Speeds of 120 are smooth, but I felt more cautious than confident; might be because of dynamics and tires, or might be my fears of something going wrong on a newly acquired responsibility.

10) A protruding hump at the front passenger's under-seat which eats into the foot space, and mom finds it uncomfortable, I observed it is the same on my side, but I don't mind, because I, 90% of the time, keep my legs stretched.

Expenses (Part 1)

As Almira was purchased during the lockdown, I am taking it slow, shortlisting only extremely necessary changes, and hence, brake pads and a battery, are the top two.

I have already ordered Amaron HILife Pro from batterybhai (4000/-), finalized on Brembo replacement brake pads (red ones).

For keeping her clean, I already have Sonax Concentrate Gloss Shampoo, Sonax Multi-sponge, 3M Compound, Meguiar's Polish, Wavex Hybrid-X, AmazonBasics drying towels, Softspun microfibers, SOBBY Microfiber (800 GSM), Softspun applicators, and ProKlear WWC windshield Wash and of course Jopasu duster.

Particularly impressed with Wavex Hybrid-X, and Meguiar's Polish (But it would be dedicated to the CBR). Looking at Turtle Wax next, to be specifically doing the duties on Almira.

I got her detailed from MaxShine Auto, Thane and the owner, Mangesh Kalzunkar, is the most professional person I have come across in the recent past. The job was thorough to the T, and all 5 employees working were equally committed. Paid 5000, for a service, which would be next required in 8-9 months.

Experience after 1 year & ~10,000 KMs under my ownership

For this part, for the reader's convenience, I will follow the Team-BHP list to jot down the likes & dislikes.

- Engine type & variant: 1.5L I-Vtec, V variant Auto Transmission. A boon in the city traffic and fun on the highways in the S gear.

- The good and bad about its features: Coming from a Palio, the City is a huge upgrade on creature comforts, so I am pretty satisfied with the equipment that comes with the car.

- Safety & related equipment: Comes with ABS and 2 airbags. The sheet metal is alright, supposedly a tad bit better than the 4th Gen City - not a personal view.

- Number of kms at the time of writing your review: ~10,000 KMs under my ownership, Total 25,xxx KMs on the odometer.

- Your usage pattern: 85% in the City, 15% on the highways. Almost acts as a cargo car during her runs in the city for my business.

- Comments on the exterior styling & design: Personally for me, the best looking Honda City amongst all 5 generations, maybe the 4th Gen Facelift coming close. The rear three quarters are absolutely drool-worthy.

- Overall build quality, fit & finish, paint quality, and panel gaps: Build quality is above average, the doors and bonnet feel heavy, the trunk is like a piece of paper, and roof flexes too easily. The metallic brown shade looks gorgeous in daylight but is a pain to keep it clean and shiny. She being the cargo car, is dirty 95% of the time. It pains me, but now I find her more attractive when she is dirty!

- Wheels & tires: Alloys are pretty, not very tough to clean, and the silver finish nicely complements the body color. The tires are satisfactory for my use. I am sure enthusiasts would first upsize the tires. She came with Yokohamas which are more than satisfactory with what they are intended for. Faced two punctures to date.

- Interior design & quality (plastics, upholstery, fit & finish, etc.): A big upgrade from the Palio, but there are a few squeaks from the window panes but nothing else will show that she is 9 years old. I like the beige interiors. The seat covers, roof liners, and plastics are in top shape with no cracks or bulges. Very premium cabin for me.

- Interior space & comfort...front & back (seat support, legroom, headroom & width): For short trips, I am okay with the seating ergonomics, but my back and driving foot ankles starts paining a lot after a long trip even when the seat is fully pushed back and at the topmost height setting. In fact, my left leg pains more because of no action at all. Headroom is fine for me. I am 5"10. The legroom and headroom are abundant for my parents.

- Visibility & size of mirrors: Perfect, ORVMs are big enough to show the world behind, and the IRVM too shows quite a bit of the rear. Palio sucked in this department.

- Air conditioner cooling & effectiveness: Top! Bone-chilling in winters and rains, and only requires 5-7 minutes in summers to completely cool the cabin.

- Audio system & sound quality: I am satisfied, but I am not an audiophile. The stock sound is crisp, clear, and has good overalls.

- Interior storage, practicality & boot space: The interior storage is lacking, and not too intelligent. For example, I can't fit 1L bottles, umbrellas, and coins to be easily accessible. Rear doors do not have any storage at all. Rear armrests have cubby holes, can easily fit coffee cups and bottles. Boot space is huge, for me. I haven't been on multiple day trips yet, but I am sure it will be enough, even with the CNG installed.

- Engine performance & driveability in the city: Verrrrry smooth, I am elated by the ease with which I can maneuver, close the gaps and punch through the traffic in D mode.

- Engine performance & driveability on the highway: Put her in S mode and watch the miles flow by. I am a 90-110 KMPH guy though; and I am the most comfortable here in regards to steering, braking, and reactions. I cannot imagine the fun people would have who love to go even higher with this motor, and OH MY GOD that exhaust note after 6K RPM is addictive.

- Automatic: smoothness, quick or slow shifting, kick down reaction time, lag, manual mode, etc.: One of the smoothest transitions in between gears. If you are not flooring it, you would not even notice the shifts. Kickdown is a mini second late, but I enjoy the after knockdown effects more to be bothered by the half-second loss.

- Overall NVH levels (including engine, wind & road noise): Road noise is a bit much, but better tires should solve it I suppose. Wheel cladding is absent too.

- Fuel efficiency: City and Highway: Abysmal, 8-9 km/l in the city and 12-13 km/l on the highway before the CNG installation. 14-15 km/l in the city and 19-20 km/l on the highway post the CNG installation. The installer said it will go up even more.

- Suspension & ride quality (at low as well as high speeds): Except the prominent thuds, the suspension do their job. (I have also installed AutoRunner buffers after the CNG installation). The turning radius is sweet! The steering is nice to hold and very responsive.

- Braking (effectiveness, pedal feel...): The stock Nissin brake pads were nice, but almost at an end so couldn't judge. I installed Brembo replacement brake pads (red ones) which have a superb bite, although emit a screeching sound & brake dust.

- Ground clearance: One of the major negatives, but after Autorunners, I haven't scraped even once even with an 80 kg CNG tank, and 4 occupants even on bad roads.

- Cost of upkeep & maintenance: Being a Honda, I can service her once in a year, which should range in between 5K to 6K for a generic service with fully synthetic oil, which is nice. Reliability and low cost of ownership were my two must-haves which the Honda City nicely satisfies.

Continue reading more on the ownership experience and BHPian comments for more insights and information.

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