The Honda City may have a problem. It’s the same problem that most people have, which is the stigma that comes with the names their parents came up with — Brandos are macho and masculine; Sarahs are meek and feminine; LaShekas are African Americans; and JunJuns are Filipinos. But as we all know, this has always been a prehistoric idea that we learned to correct (thankfully) over the years.
The same goes with the City. With its nameplate—that you don’t need Google to know the meaning of—one can’t help but think that this car is only made for the urban jungle. However, is it really just meant to be driven in the city? Honda Cars Philippines lent us the City 1.5 VX Navi CVT variant to find out.
In case you missed it, the Honda City was refreshed recently. For starters, the differences with the old one are mainly up front — the bigger mesh grille, the shape of the headlamps, the bumper form, and the shape of fog lamp casings.
The best addition is the sharp LED daytime running lights (DRL) that are present throughout the entire City lineup. It’s like an exclamation point to this car's design, although, the combination of halogen headlamps and LED DRLs isn’t what I exactly prefer. Nevertheless, when combined with the new set of 16-inch diamond-cut alloy rims and wide stance, it makes the new Honda City one of the best-looking subcompact sedans out there.
When it comes to size, it’s the same as the pre-facelift model but it’s important to take note that it’s bigger than its competitors in the segmentlike the Toyota Vios or the Mazda2 Sedan. The Honda City is at least 30mm (1.2 inches) longer in overall and wheelbase length, which says a lot about its legroom inside the cabin.
Speaking of the cabin, the new Honda City’s dashboard is seamless, sleek, and driver-oriented. Although, we’re on the limbo when it comes to its soft-touch buttons — yes, they’re stylish and effortless to press, but that ends when you start to drive. It’s a bit hard to operate the settings without looking at them while you’re driving.
This works the same for the touchscreen head unit, which also lacks real switches and buttons, especially the volume control. Good thing you can control the latter on the steering wheel, along with call functions and the segment-first cruise control (more on that later). This head unit is also compliant to the Anti-Distracted Driving Act, with easy device connection via USB/HDMI and perfectly-working call function via Bluetooth.
Another interesting feature that’s available with the VX Navi variant is the built-in navigation system powered by Garmin. It uses the brand’s GPS to give you directions without the need for internet connection. The downside is it doesn’t have data for traffic conditions, which makes apps like Waze and Google Maps better alternatives when trying to avoid heavy traffic in the city.
For a subcompact sedan, the Honda City is roomy inside, enough to cater 4 passengers. Leg- and head-room are enough for individuals with 5’6” of height however, taller (and healthier) passengers would need to compromise. Also, passengers at the back should pass on getting drinks from drive-thrus as they won't have any cupholders to use.
We’re also missing the 60:40 folding seats at the back, which is available in the higher VX+ variant. This can be a selling point for some sedan buyers as it further maximizes its already huge 536L trunk capacity of the City.
It’s easy to find the best driving position with the City with its height adjuster and telescopic steering wheel. The seats are also comfortable even on long drives, and its fabric upholstery feels nice to the touch. The gauge clusters are also well-lit and visible to the driver even in direct sunlight.
The best thing about driving the City is its almost non-existent body roll. The suspension also leans on the comfort side, as it can effectively absorb road bumps and uneven pavements. Along with noise, vibration, and harshness (NVH) insulation, these traits give the driver and passengers a pleasant ride.
The refreshed Honda City VX Navi is still powered by the 4-cylinder 1.5L i-VTEC gasoline engine of the outgoing model. It produces 120 hp and 145 Nm of torque, which were transferred to the front wheels via a continuously variable transmission (CVT). We felt that these figures were just enough to pull its own size and weight, even without the availability of hill start assist on uphill climbs.
When needed, paddle shifters were available, which turned the CVT into a seemingly 7-speed transmission. Basically, with faux-gear shifting, this allowed us to control the car’s RPM — downshift for more pull (great when overtaking) or upshift for less fuel consumption (best for cruising).
There’s also the presence of a green ECON button, which made the engine stay longer on lower RPMs for a much economic fuel consumption. This was best used during heavy traffic (like in the infamous EDSA) as we didn't really need that much power at an average speed of 15 km/h. With the ECON button on, we got a 6.1 km/l fuel consumption reading. Light traffic at 60 km/h consumed 12.4 km/l.
The City also handled tight city maneuvers effortlessly because of its light steering. Although, we could use a heavier steering feel on the highway for a more stable cruise. Still, it felt planted on higher speeds.
Its cruise control came in handy during the highway stint. This is a segment-first feature, which gives it a huge advantage over its mentioned competitors. Of note, highway speeds at an average of 90 km/h gave out 18.9 km/l fuel consumption.
After our driving experience with the City, we definitely answered our question — it’s not just a city car. With its driving dynamics, towering engine ratings, ride comfort, more-than-decent fuel economy, and overall interior space, it’s a small sedan that has big capabilities. This makes it a good choice for individuals who spend most of their week in the city, but like to go on long drives during the weekend. Plus, with a price tag of P913,000 for the City 1.5 VX Navi CVT variant, it’s at the median when up against its rivals, which is a great deal considering all the features that come with it.