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January 4, 2021

Review: 2021 Honda City 1.5 S CVT

Honda has always pushed its City sub-compact sedan towards advancement. Throughout the nameplate’s history, there were hits and misses, but it was never afraid to experiment. Be it through its design or technology, it was always ahead of the curve, as far as its rivals are concerned.

However, there’s a change of direction over at Honda. Whether it’s deliberate or not, the latest City feels more evolutionary than revolutionary. This may not be to Soichiro Honda’s liking, but it does, at the end of the day, deliver a car that’s much more relatable to the masses.

Staring with the platform, Honda says it’s an all-new one. You can’t tell by the ingredients as it’s mostly identical to its predecessor—down to the same 2,600-mm wheelbase, but in terms of execution, its size is now the same as the ninth-generation Civic, imagine that.

The decision to grow it dimensionally has granted it not just the biggest interior in its class, but makes it comparable to sedans a segment higher. Its size aside, familiar City cues like the flat rear floor remain giving it the capacity not just to fit three adults comfortable in the back, but allow two of them to cross their legs at the same time. Over to the front, the horizontally themed dashboard liberates even more room, allowing even the bulkiest passengers to revel in its spaciousness.

While there are no complaints concerning the City’s space, there are still some missed opportunities here.

For one, there are some questionable ergonomics. The base 1.5 S may have a push-button engine start, but it still requires drivers to fumble for their key fob to lock and unlock the car (going for the 1.5 V upward solves this problem with its smart entry system). Also, the 8-inch infotainment screen can be navigated easily, but the absence of a rotary volume knob makes it a challenge to operate on the move.

Another problem is the absence of any lidded storage compartment, save for the glovebox. With the City touting smartphone connectivity as standard, there should have been at least one area where drivers can properly secure their phone. Instead, here there’s just a shallow bin that can barely fit a standard (non-Plus) iPhone.

The biggest gripe though is the plasticky dashboard. All the controls have a wonderfully crisp and solid feel to them, but because there’s not a single ounce of soft-touch plastic anywhere, it acutally cheapens the overall experience. And this is a shame, because the rest of the package is class-leadingly refined.

The City uses a new double overhead cam head on its 1.5-liter L15 engine. Power and torque—120 horsepower and 145 Nm of torque—remain the same as before, but peak torque does come in sooner—4,300 rpm (versus 4,800 rpm). Having said that, the 500-rpm difference can’t be felt subjectively. What can be felt though is the new engine’s newfound smoothness. There’s this tapping sound at partial throttle application, but aside from that, it maintains Honda’s rev-happy nature.

Paired to the engine is Honda’s Earth Dreams CVT. It makes for truly sensible motoring, preferring progressive application of the gas pedal, as opposed to gunnit style. Progress is smooth with minimal lag. Squeeze it hard though, and the drivetrain won’t be as obliging, though it’s probably because this particular unit’s not been broken in yet.

Oh, and speaking of break ins, fuel economy registers at 9.7 km/L—a figure which may given go higher once the drivetrain truly settles in.

Mechanical smoothness aside, the City is impresses with its suspension set-up. It doesn’t feel as pointy or agile as before, but the trade off has given it smoothness and refinement. Even better, it actually feels solid—be it through nasty bumps or small shimmies.

On paper, it has a precariously low 134 mm of ground clearance, but it never once scraped through any hump or driveway, so there’s no need to worry.

At P 888,000, this 1.5 S is the most affordable two-pedal Honda City available locally. It may sound like a lot of money for a sub-compact sedan, but putting that into perspective, it’s more affordable than its chief rival, the Toyota Vios that sports a smaller 1.3-liter engine. Plus, its list of features is much more solid. Perhaps, the only thing missing is any sort of parking aid.

In the end, the Honda City’s competitive pricing coupled with its solid set of features, refined driving dynamics, and class-leading space continue to make it an unbeatable all-rounder.

2021 Honda City 1.5 S CVT

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Ownership 2021 Honda City 1.5 S CVT
Year Introduced 2020
Vehicle Classification Sub-Compact Sedan
Warranty 3 years / 100,000 kilometers
The Basic
Body Type 4-door sedan
Seating 5
Engine / Drive F/F
Under the Hood
Displacement (liters) 1.5
Aspiration Normally Aspirated
Fuel Delivery EFI
Layout / # of Cylinders I4
BHP @ rpm 121@ 6,600
Nm @ rpm 145 @ 4,300
Fuel / Min. Octane Gasoline / 91~
Transmission CVT
Cruise Control No
Fuel Economy @ Ave. Speed 9.7 km/L @ 16 km/h
Dimensions and Weights
Length (mm) 4,553
Width (mm) 1,748
Height (mm) 1,467
Wheelbase (mm) 2,600
Curb Weight (kg) 1,106
Suspension and Tires
Front Suspension Independent, MacPherson Strut
Rear Suspension Torsion Beam Axle
Front Brakes Vented Disc
Rear Brakes Drum
Tires Maxxis MA-P3 185/60 R 15 H (f & r)
Wheels Alloy
Safety Features
Airbags 4
Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS) Yes, with EBD
Traction / Stability Control Yes
Parking Sensors No
Front Seatbelts 3-pt ELR with pre-tensioner x 2
Rear Seatbelts 3-pt ELR x 3
ISOFIX Child Seat Anchor Yes
Other Safety Features No
Exterior Features
Headlights Halogen
Fog Lamps No
Auto Lights No
Rain-sensing Wipers No
Interior Features
Steering Wheel Adjust Tilt/Telescopic
Steering Wheel Material Urethane
Seating Adjustment (driver) Manual, 6-way
Seating Adjustment (front passenger) Manual, 4-way
Seating Surface Fabric
Folding Rear Seat No
On-Board Computer Yes
Convenience Features
Power Steering Yes
Power Door Locks Yes
Power Windows Yes
Power Mirrors Yes
Proximity Key No
Climate Control Manual
Audio System Stereo
Apple CarPlay
Android Auto
# of Speakers 4
Steering Controls Yes


  1. Another thing missing as always: REAR DISC BRAKES

  2. Why cant thet include curatin airbags as standard?

  3. February 18th 2021

    Where the heck is the MANUAL transmission..?

    I want a manual transmission please...

    I was SURE i read that was an option...

    It is late february now , when will this car appear here in the philippines

    1. madaming nagsasabi na gusto nila ng manual pero pag tingin sa sales mas madami pa din automatic. halos patay na market ng manual

  4. I dont know how to be sure about this, but is it possible the new City is smaller in the front for the drivers seat compared to the older Citys 2013-2019.. because for some damn reason when i get in the car i seem to be struggling with the steering wheel. I have pushed back the seat entirely and i have also lowered the seat to the lowest position.
    Not sure if this is a "backwards" design by Honda or the Thailand variant?
    Its a real disappointment
    Does anybody know about this perhaps?

    1. It's down to the more sharply raked A-pillar. I had no problems with it, but I can imagine that for taller drivers (I'm 170 cm for reference) it could be a problem.

    2. I am describing my experience, yes, and i am checking if i am right. Its hard to be 100% , but i even remember my previous 2015 model being more spacious since i did not have hassle getting in and out. Not to say i really struggle, but i have to be mindful of the steering wheel. I dont know. The 2015 model i had, i never had to think about anything, its like getting up and down from a bed or a chair.
      Im just disappointed.
      One interesting thing is that the 2015 model i had was from South Africa , and assembled in India. The Philippine market is assembled in Thailand if i understand that right.
      Is it possible that the seat bracket on the floor was shifted more closer? or if it possible that the South Africa and Philippines variant is different?
      Obviously LEFT and RIGHT side drive will be different because South Africa adopted the British side of the road for driving.
      Im just curious.
      If i can try to find somebody with an older model City , then i can at least do the test and see...
      But anyways, i have settled for a cheaper car now since i am not happy to pay the price for a car which is not 100% comfortable.
      This was the only deal breaker for me.
      Sorry @Honda Philippines


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