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New Honda City 2020: 50 observations after 2 days of driving

GTO spent the weekend driving the 2020 Honda City. His quick & brief review below:

• The car looks contemporary and unmistakably “Honda City”.

• I loved the tight rear styling. Design is overall neutral & universally appealing, except for that excessive chrome at the front which isn’t to my tastes at all.

• It gets a lot of attention. Turned heads from many people on the road (including bikers). We don’t usually experience this with sedans these days.

• SUVs are all the rage right now. If the C2 sedan segment wanted a representative to fight with the crossovers on its behalf, this car is it.

• The City's wheels are the right size (16”), but the tyres certainly aren’t. 185 mm rubber is too thin for this class of car and 119 BHP on tap. BHPians have to get stickier 195 mm tyres straight from the showroom – it’s a mandatory upgrade for looks & safety.

• Lovely interior ambience. Honda has taken the 4th-gen’s criticism to heart & it shows. Overall cabin look & feel are decidedly superior. Leather inserts (including on the center fascia) are nice. Handful of plastics are average quality, but they are few & far between. Owners won’t be complaining.

• Ergonomics are spot-on. Was at home in <60 seconds of entering the cabin. Japanese car makers are the best at user-friendliness, Honda especially.

• Sad head-unit is my main grouse with the 2020 Honda City's cabin. It is outdated. More suitable to the 4th-gen City in 2013 than the 5th-gen. Interface is old. Reversing camera display is low resolution (again, more 2013 than 2020). By current standards, sound quality is above average for a car costing 17-lakhs on the road. The ICE game has moved on with so many manufacturers (Hyundai, Tata, MG) investing in a superior entertainment experience. Honda hasn’t kept up. I found the “lane watch” to be distracting & switched it off.

• Cabin is spacious. Glass area & light colours make it airy.

• All-round visibility is good for the driver.

• Steering has rake & reach adjustment which is welcome. However, for my low driving position, the steering didn’t drop low enough. Any tall driver who sits with the driver’s seat on the lower side will feel this.

• Driver’s seat has fantastic lower-back support! Those with a weak back will appreciate this.

• Spacious cabin! Good space behind my 5’10” laidback driving position. Rear passengers will be a happy lot.

• Low seating doesn’t make ingress or egress easy for my senior-citizen Mum. Crossovers have a distinct advantage here.

• Enough storage & cubby holes for the driver. I especially loved the thin, rectangular slots (on both sides of the handbrake) to park your smartphone. Very intelligent.

• Digital rev-counter works. Lots of data can be shown within. I like it simple & clean, so appreciate the provided option of displaying “just” the rev counter (with nothing inside).

• Scroller on the LHS of the steering wheel should have been for volume (that’s how most cars have it). Right now, it’s for the MID - a usability error. Most of you will inadvertently use it to adjust the stereo’s volume.

• I like this ORVM placement on the door because it reduces the A-Pillar’s blind spots. On the downside, these ORVMs are a size too narrow. You will feel this on wide city roads & highways. Have to admit that I almost missed a scooter coming up on the right side. Am surprised because I have usually seen Honda do well with ORVMs.

• Powerful air-con will chill you to the bone.

• Honda sure is learning its lessons! Cost cutting has been reduced. All 4 windows get auto-up & down. That said, yet another usability error = if you child-lock the passenger windows, even the driver cannot operate them (normally, they are still operable from the driver’s control panel)!

• Driver armrest should have been either longer or adjustable. In its current position, only taller drivers will find it useful.

• Practical boot. Size is enough for the driving holidays us BHPians love.

• Honda's beautiful, FANTASTIC, delicious 1.5L petrol engine. This is the BENCHMARK naturally-aspirated petrol in India, no matter what engine size. You will ENJOY revving it.

• Owners will need the willpower of God to not redline it to ~7000 rpm every opportunity they get. In particular, you’ll love the experience of shooting from 5000 – 7000 rpm in “full Vtec mode” (see how it shoots @ 5,000 revs in this video).

• Fast acceleration! You’ll hit 100 kmph in 2nd itself.

• Driveability is acceptable. Clears the 2nd-gear speed breaker test with no fuss. Chosen gear ratios are absolutely spot-on. 2nd & 3rd are simply perfect for the city.

• Mid-range seems flat, more so in this age of turbo-petrols (just before this car, I drove the Creta & Rapid turbo-petrols).

• The 1.5L petrol is silky smooth all the way to 7000 rpm.

• Sounds awesome at high revs. Very addictive aural soundtrack (including intake noise). I’d get a free-flow from Automech too. Honda petrols sound the best with a deep free-flow exhaust.

• Rev-limiter is horribly faulty. Honda needs to fix this ASAP with a software update before customers start complaining. Once you hit 7,000 rpm, the fuel cuts off and you drop to 6,500. Then, at ~6,400 rpm, the fueling starts again and you move forward, only to have it cut off and drop at 7,000 rpm. I felt like I was riding a wild horse – it was incredibly jerky! Have never driven a car with such a crazy rev-limiter. Problem is worse in 2nd gear than 1st. My 1st-gen City Vtec & 8th-gen Civic had a smooth cut-off & allowed you to stay at max revs. Honda better solve this today itself. It is a bug.

• Gearshift quality is smooth & slick. The MT is a joy to use.

• What’s more, the clutch pedal is also a nice short-throw unit. As far as MTs go, this combination is as good as it gets.

• Diesel is the same. Great driveability, noisy, strictly average performance by segment standards. Wouldn’t be my pick, unless they offered it with the CVT (like the Amaze).

• We haven’t driven the CVT Automatic yet. I liked the 4th-gen City’s CVT and expect this one to be as competent (if not better).

• Steering is a joy to hold & use. It’s super quick & responsive, perhaps the quickest to react in the segment. I can bet you that an enthusiast has tuned it.

• Steering & engine are both incredibly “eager”. That’s the term I’d use for them.

• Insulation is poor. Road noise @ 120 kph on the expressway was prominent. I pulled over to check and sure enough, the rear wheel well is lacking any kind of insulation while the front has only bits of it. This kind of cost cutting isn’t acceptable in a premium 17-lakh rupee sedan.

• Engine noise is audible, yet thoroughly enjoyable & addictive.

• Compliant ride quality. I never faced a moment of discomfort in my 2 days of driving the car within Bombay, and then on the Pune Expressway. Felt more mature than what I remember of the 4th-gen City. Lower variants with the 15” wheels and taller tyre sidewalls will be cushy.

• In terms of handling, the car is eager to turn & corner-friendly, but it’s no Rapid. I’ll say it handles just like you’d expect the Honda City too. Tyres give up before the car does, so again, upgrade to stickier 195 / 205 mm rubber straight from the showroom.

• Stability at 120 kmph & beyond is mediocre. Sure, straight-line stability is fair and there is no nervousness. But on any undulating sections of the expressway or dips on highway roads, it sure got bouncy with ample vertical movement. The bounciness is like that of any Asian sedan from even 10 years back. Or closer home, the earlier generations of the Honda City – this is something Honda needs to master as there’s clearly been no progress since the 4th-gen car in this area. Even city flyovers taken at speed bring that “light Asian sedan” feeling & bounciness. At high speeds, expressway crosswinds do affect it. I can tell you that the 2020 Creta has superior high speed manners (I recently drove it on the exact same roads).

• At high speeds, the chassis & suspension simply don’t match the potent petrol engine. Weird that Honda ends up in such positions = with the new Civic, the engine doesn’t match the chassis and here, it’s vice versa.

• Lovely in the city due to the friendly steering, good frontal visibility, short clutch and smooth MT. I thought this is just the right size of sedan for the city. It offers enough cabin space for the family, yet is narrow enough to squeeze through gaps.

• Within the city, the City & Rapid are both equally fun to drive. On the highway or at high speeds, there is no contest. The Rapid wins by a quarter-mile due to its superior dynamics. At the limit (or when approaching it), the City feels nervous at high speeds. The Rapid TSI, on the other hand, begs you to push harder & harder.

• I appreciate the safety kit (6 airbags, ESP etc.) and hope that the Indian car gets the same 5-stars as its international counterpart got in the ASEAN NCAP. But I don’t understand how you can give skinny 185 mm tyres in such a safe car?

• We’re going to try testing the ground clearance with a full load of passengers on bad roads.

• The 5th-gen City is overall an evolution….an improvement, but not a revolution. Equally, I’ll say that it’s bridging the gap to the Civic. Does most things right and it’s easy to see why brand “City” is the default choice among sedans for families.

Continue reading the discussion on the 2020 Honda City on our forum.

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