|Photos by Ulysses Ang|
The Honda City is a nameplate synonymous with technological advancement. Next to its rivals, the City has always gone the extra step further. For instance, the first-generation model was the first to introduce VTEC and even featured all-around independent suspension. Succeeding models were no less sophisticated debuting technology such as a twin-spark engine, CVT, five-speed automatics, and even standard iPod integration. Yes, there were hits and misses, but all in all, it was always ahead of the technology game as far as cars are concerned.
The 2014 Honda City is no different, though you honestly can’t tell by just looking at it. At a glance, it can be easily mistaken for a heavy facelift of the previous generation. However, look carefully or better yet, park it next to a 2009 one, and the differences are huge. The all-new City takes the same design language, the same angular and sleek profile as before, but it’s been cleaned up and modernized. The silhouette alone is sharper with a windshield and rear glass that’s so aggressively angled it imbues a fastback shape. The City’s rear glass is so acutely angled that it’s hard to squeeze a cleaning cloth behind the rear headrests. The rest of the City’s design echoes this sharpness with the aero-cut bumpers blending onto the fenders and a heavy crease at the side running just below the door handles. The frontend is just as aggressively styled with the squinting headlights, solid wing grille, and angular lower air intakes. Though minor, the rear could have been designed better. As it stands, it’s too fussy. However, the biggest weakness is the wheels. Although they’re 16-inch rollers, they simply look to small; as if they’re pushed in. Perhaps an increase in size or a lower offset would work wonders.
Opening the City’s doors (no need to fumble for keys since it’s got a Smart Key entry system), and you’ll be wowed by one of the most high-tech cabins you’ll ever experience. Subjectively, it looks to have gained some styling cues from the Honda CR-Z sports hybrid. It’s very easy to settle in the driver’s seat with the right amount of hip, back, and lumbar support. The steering wheel, though on the anorexic side, is the perfect diameter and features adjustments for both reach and height. The instrument panel, often an overlooked item, is slightly canted towards the middle, aligning itself to the driver’s eye level.
The City’s marketing tagline, “Touch Tomorrow” actually stems from the large, 7-inch touch screen that serves as the nerve central for the entire user interface. Not only does it control the audio system but it also accesses other functions such as Bluetooth hands-free, the multi-function trip computer, and even vehicle settings. Thanks to clearly marked icons and some degree of personalization, it’s easy to master the touch screen controls. The climate control needs a bit of work though. If you’re fine leaving it in ‘Auto’, then it’s no problem. However, if you do minute changes on the fly, like adjusting temperature or fan speed, some physical buttons or knobs would be welcome. Plus, if you’re obsessive-compulsive about cleanliness, fingerprints on the touch screen can’t be avoided.
Compared to the previous City, the all-new model is almost toe-to-toe in terms of exterior dimensions but the longer wheelbase (just 70 millimeters why of the Civic) means a surprisingly cavernous interior. With a dashboard that’s sweeping up and away, the front passengers are treated to a wide and unobstructed foot well. At the back, the newly designed front seats with curved backs and the flat rear floor translate to excellent space to either cross legs (if there are two at the back) or travel with their personal space intact (if fully loaded). And yet, that wealth of space doesn’t mean shortcuts when it comes to storage bins. The City features more than enough cubby holes to keep all your smart phones, iPods, e-passes, and other techie stuff. The trunk, though lacking any sort of split-folding flexibility, is flat, huge and deep. Indeed, the City’s sub-compact designation is purely by definition alone. In terms of spaciousness, this is close to an executive sedan.
If your inner Captain Kirk isn’t satisfied by playing with the City’s touch screen controls, then it’s time to buckle up and push-start the engine. The triple-gauge instrument cluster comes to life including the green ambient lighting and a little plant icon that announces the Honda ECON system (standard issue on almost all new Hondas). It’s a mix of the familiar and the new with the 1.5-liter SOHC i-VTEC engine mated to an Earth Dreams CVT. With 120 horsepower and 145 Nm of torque, the City is actually one of most powerful in the sub-compact segment, so it spritely performance’s already a given. For those worried about Honda’s previous foray into belt-driven transmissions, don’t worry. The new Earth Dreams CVT is actually good. Being linear in your throttle application, progress is smooth with considerable amount of thrust and minimal lag. Floor it, and the CVT keeps the ratio virtually eliminating the ‘rubber band’ feel. In the rare occasions you need instant boost, the City has steering wheel paddle shifters. Thanks to the excellently matched drivetrain, the City returned a mixed total of 13.2 km/L (10.8 km/L city, 19.6 km/L highway).
More than just the drivetrain, the City is equally impressive with its suspension set-up. For instance, the NVH isolation is excellent, with none of the crashiness and hollowness commonly associated with sub-compact cars. It does feel somewhat softer than before (with more pronounced body roll) but it counters this with better stability. The steering is surprisingly quick, turning the City into an agile car though there’s no feedback. The City also has an excellent ride, absorbing any sort of road imperfections from potholes to undulating pavement. The body structure is tight, isolating the cabin from any and all forms of shimmies caused by poor road conditions. There are only two criticisms you can level against the City’s driving dynamics. First is the limited visibility especially in the front and rear three-quarters. Designers seemed to have prioritized aerodynamic efficient over a clear view of traffic. Second are the brakes which have a spongy feel. Though there’s a good bite, the stroke is mushy.
Priced at P 935,000 for the VX Aero Sport Modulo, the City isn’t exactly on the affordable end of the sub-compact genre. And even if you opt out of the aero kit (and personally, it looks all the more better without it), you can shave some P 55,000 (P 880,000) that can go to a nice set of 17-inch wheels and tires. But, you do get what you pay for and the City is kitted with features considered unimaginable for this class. More than just the technological features though, this is a sub-compact that manages to get even the basic ingredients right from a smooth drivetrain to a capable chassis to a spacious interior. In fact, it actually makes the marginally larger Honda Civic a frivolous and unnecessary upgrade. And ultimately that’s the deal here. Honda is asking for a bit more than what you’re used to, but in return, you get something that’s truly ahead of the game.
2014 Honda City 1.5 VX
|Ownership||2014 Honda City 1.5 VX Aero Sport Modulo|
|Vehicle Classification||Sub-Compact Sedan|
|Body Type||4-door Sedan|
|Engine / Drive||F/F|
|Under the Hood|
|Layout / # of Cylinders||I4|
|BHP @ rpm||120 @ 6,600|
|Nm @ rpm||145 @ 4,800|
|Fuel / Min. Octane||Gasoline / 91~|
|Dimensions and Weights|
|Curb Weight (kg)||1,107|
|Suspension and Tires|
|Front Suspension||Independent, MacPherson Strut|
|Rear Suspension||Torsion Beam Axle|
|Front Brakes||Vented Disc|
|Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS)||Yes|
|Traction / Stability Control||No|
|Parking Sensors||No, Reverse Camera|
|Fog Lamps||Yes, Front|
|Steering Wheel Adjustment||Tilt/Telescopic|
|Steering Wheel Material||Leather|
|Folding Rear Seat||No|
|Power Door Locks||Yes|
|No. of Speakers||4|
|Steering Wheel Controls||Yes|