The Honda City was first launched in India in 1998 and has been a runaway success eversince. India has seen 4 generations of this mid-size sedan through the years. After taking Sales-charts by storm with the second gen City, popularly known as the Dolphin-version, Honda had a big task at hand with the 3rd gen for raising the benchmark. Also, with the increasing competition from the likes of Fiat Linea, Indigo Manza, Ford Fiesta, Maruti SX4 and Hyundai Verna, the 3rd Gen Honda City was going to be a crucial launch Honda needed to get right.
The 2009 Honda City is one good looking car. Honda calls this design language as the ‘Arrow Shot Form’. The design takes inspiration from an arrow. The front is aggressive with a low hood-line, chiseled grey grille and sleek, tapering headlights. All these give the City a very aggressive look. Moving to the side, the clean lines of the City, a low hood and compact boot give it a sporty stance. A crease line starting at the front fender runs through the length of the car to neatly merge with the tail lamp. Though alloy wheels weren’t initially offered, a new variant was launched which got 5-spoke 15 inch alloys. The rear is also a clean design. The boot integrates seamlessly with the rest of the design, much better than the previous Dolphin version.
The neat design of the City is carried to the interior as well. The two-tone black -beige interior gives it an airy look with sense of space. The multi-layer dash has curves and ridges in good proportions and give the dash a modern and sophisticated look. The brushed aluminium finish and piano black finish for the centre console are some great touches. The 3-spoke steering wheel, carried over from the bigger Civic, looks sporty and feels grippy to hold. The steering also gets audio controls. The instrument cluster gets three analog meters displaying RPM, Speed and fuel level. A small LCD screen at the centre displays other information like instantaneous average, trip, range. The front seats offer good support and are well bolstered. The driver’s seat gets 3-way adjustment including height adjustment. Moving to the back, the space is impressive. The seat is adequately soft yet supportive. You also get a foldable armrest with cup holders, which is a good touch. Thigh support and legroom are good too which make long travels very comfortable. Overall, the cabin is a good place to be in, the only niggle being the quality of plastics used, which feel a class below for a car of this class.
Engine and Performance
Under the hood sits a 1.5 litre SOHC engine which makes 116 horsepower @ 6600 rpm and 14.9 kgm of torque at 4600 rpm. Mated to a slick 5-speed manual transmission, power delivery is smooth and refined. 100 km/hr from standstill comes at 11.4 seconds, which is impressive. A great low-end torque and tall gearing make the City really quick. Though the low end torque is good, the engine really comes to life at the 2000 rpm mark. Pin the throttle down to the floor and the City pulls hard right upto 5500 rpm. Aside from a coarse grunt at high rpms, the engine is really quiet. The clutch feels precisely weighted and the engine responds really quick on engagement. This makes drives in traffic pretty easy and hassle-free. Mid-range torque is also good but tends to feel flat at higher speeds in higher gears. So, quick overtakes need a downshift. The baseball-top shifter and relatively longer throws make this car really fun to drive and you won’t mind frequent shifts just for the way the shifts happen and feel. Efficiency is good too, with 10.5 kmpl in city and 14.5 kmpl on highway being the figures.
Ride and Handling
Complementing the sporty stance of the City is the new lighter and more rigid chassis. Up front, it gets independent suspension with MacPherson Struts and stabilizers. The rear gets non-independent H-setup with Torsion Beams and stabiliser bars. The suspension is tuned to the stiffer side. So, potholes are met with a thud and low speed ride on bad roads translate quite some noise into the cabin. But all of it is handled well with suppleness. But, what the stiffer suspension also means is that the City remains planted and stable at high speeds. And it is happy to take on turns and tight hairpins too. Throw it into a corner and the well balanced chassis and stiff suspension keep the car composed with minimal body roll. The only downside here are the tyres. Shod by 175/65 R15 tyres at all four corners, the City surely feels under-tyred. Apply throttle mid corner and you can feel the front tyres working hard to grapple the road and seem to be tending to lose traction. Steering, though electronically assisted, offeres a lot of feedback and is very responsive. The brakes are 14 inch discs up front and Ventilated drum brakes at the rear. These offer good braking power and have a nice initial bite. The pedal also feels consistent and offers good feedback.
The 2009 Honda City brings the best of both worlds into it. With great space, large 506 litre boot, well laid interior, it is a great family sedan. And with that brilliant chassis and suspension setup, 116 bhp at tap amd great steering, it is also appealing to the driver in you. Be it family outings to the malls and groceries or weekend escapes to twisty roads, the City tackles it all very well.
All of these make the 3rd gen Honda City a great buy for you and a winner at hand for Honda.