Buying a first car is crucial. Whether as a parental gift or the fruit of labor from several years of hard work, it’s undeniably a huge investment. At least for most car buyers. That’s why it’s very important that your first car offers great value; one that’s sulit, so to speak.
Out of all the vehicles I’ve reviewed, the Honda City E CVTis the only car that spoke to me and presented itself as a perfect first car. Now, did I believe what the car told me? Yes, and if the car could really talk, it would have really been an interesting conversation.
The City E CVT has a few differences from the VX Navi trim that had been tested before when it comes to exterior toys. In fact, you’ll only have to compromise three things: side mirror-mounted turn signals, LED lights, and the smaller 15-inch aluminum alloy wheels. The LED daytime running lights are still intact, although door handles are body-colored instead of chrome, but that’s okay (I’m not a fan of those shiny stuff).
The halogen headlamps and smaller, less-appealing alloy wheels aren’t hard to live with. Considering all that, it isn’t really a huge demerit if you choose to go for this variant. You can use this to your advantage, as there will be space for customization like changing the rims and upgrading the lights to LED, if you’re into that.
Inside, the Honda City E gets the same materials as what you’ll get from the top variant, except for the leather seats and steering wheel. There are some hard plastics on the dashboard and by the door panels, but majority are well-executed soft types that don’t look cheap. Overall, the interior finish isn’t the best out there, but it’s better than most.
The cabin is also full of tactile buttons and switches. I’m not fond of the A/C soft-touch panels present in higher variants, so it’s great that it’s replaced with knobs. Although, I wish I could say the same for the touchscreen infotainment system that’s doesn't have a volume control knob. Good thing the steering wheel has audio control buttons and the head unit can read my Apple device for music. Props to the decent-sounding speakers, too.
On the driver’s seat, the feeling’s relaxed and surprisingly not cramped even with the car’s small size. The not-so-bolstered seats support the back just fine, while the fabric feels nice to the touch. The lack of bulky console to house the gear shifter is the trick to the openness feeling inside the front cabin.
It helps that you can set the height of the driver’s seat, aside from the default slide and recline. The steering wheel is also telescopic and tilt-adjustable. With these, it’s easy to set your driving position no matter what your size is.
As a base variant, you will need to settle with less driver-convenient features. A lot of things would need to be done without any aid, like unlocking/locking the doors, folding the side mirrors, turning the wipers and headlights on, and looking at the mirrors when backing down. There’s no cruise control as well, and you have to get by without parking sensors and cameras. But that’s the beauty of this City, especially for first-time drivers, as you need to learn how to handle a vehicle manually first before you spoil yourself with high-tech features found on higher-priced cars.
At the back, there’s nothing much to play around with. There are no A/C vents, power outlet, nor foldable center armrest with cupholders. The space is ample, though, with more than enough wiggle room for three average-sized Filipino adults. There are also huge pockets on the door and behind the front seats to use. As for the trunk, it’s big enough to fit five to seven overnight knapsacks, but the rear seats don’t fold 60/40 flat, so you’re limited to just that.
While the City’s relatively extensive cabin space makes the car comfortable, its McPherson/torsion beam suspension setup makes it more livable. As you would expect, it’s tuned more for comfort rather than sporty, so going through different types of roads isn’t painful for the passengers. And oh, body roll? Almost none. In fact, it’s so comfortable, I was able to drive for five hours, including Metro Manila traffic, without any complaints of body pain at all.
The City E CVT is powered by the same 120-hp 1.5L SOHC i-VTEC gasoline engine found in other Honda cars that it shares platform with, such as the Mobilio, BR-V, and Jazz. Since it’s almost as heavy as the Jazz RS that I’ve driven before, the car behaves the same when you talk about road performance.
The engine responds spontaneously to every accelerator input, whether when flooring it or changing speeds. Even from standstill, the car doesn't take time to react and move forward. That’s the beauty of Honda’s Earth Dreams Technology CVT. It transmits power almost like a conventional non-CVT, and it doesn’t need much time to get the needed throttle. It’s smooth and quiet, too, even when bordering legal speeds, which add to the car’s overall comfort. The brakes and NVH isolation could still be improved, though.
As the car’s lighter than the VX Navi, it naturally gave out better fuel economy figures than before. An hour on EDSA gave out 8.2 km/L, while traversing light traffic at 60 km/h clocked in 13.5 km/L. Highway runs at an average speed of 90 km/h registered 19.8 km/L.
It also felt like that the City E CVT handles better than the heavier VX Navi. The car follows any directional input with minimal understeer from the front-wheel-drive sedan. The steering wheel is also of the right size and thickness, which heightens the awesome feeling behind the wheel. The light steering and unimpeded driving visibility makes it painless to maneuver in tight spaces and busy streets. However, it would be better if it would tighten a little at high speeds for better stability when cruising and a more connected feel with the road.
The Honda City, in its E CVT trim, takes me back to loving my time behind the wheel. The car’s less driver-convenient features bring a nostalgic feeling of that time I enjoyed my first drive; when I concentrated more on the drive itself and learning the basics of being the one controlling the vehicle. That’s something first-time drivers shouldn’t be missing because, really, driving is a lot of fun.
No, it isn’t the best car out there. There’s actually a number of things it can improve on. But it’s definitely worth its P857,000 price tag, especially when you consider its build quality and essential offerings, along with passive safety features such as front airbags, ABS with EBD, and ISOFIX child seat tethers. Factor in its impressive driving dynamics, the City might as well be the perfect first car you could buy today.