Turn on the lights

Honda’s starter sedan stands out in a far from crowded seg­ment

Herald Sun - Motoring - - FIRST DRIVE - CRAIG DUFF craig.duff@news.com.au

THE City lights are calling … but few peo­ple will no­tice the al­lure. That’s just the way it is for sedans in the light car class, where they fail to match the hatches and SUVs in at­tract­ing the in­ter­est of buy­ers.

In the case of the new Honda City there’s a lot to like. The up­graded in­fo­tain­ment comes to you via a seven-inch touch­screen, the boot is big­ger than a Com­modore’s and rear seats will com­fort­ably cope with two adults. So it’s like a mini-SUV with bet­ter road man­ners.


A mid-pack price of $15,990 for the base VTi model with a fivespeed man­ual gives the City the sticker price to fight with the few sedan ri­vals re­main­ing.

Stan­dard gear on the City in­cludes re­vers­ing cam­era, 15-inch steel wheels, cruise con­trol and Blue­tooth con­nec­tiv­ity. Con­tin­u­ously vari­able trans­mis­sion adds $2000, metal­lic paint bulks the bill by $495.

The range-top­ping VTi-L costs $21,390 with CVT and steer­ing wheel-mounted pad­dle-shifters, adds four speak­ers for a to­tal of eight and adds cli­mate con­trol air­con and 16-inch al­loy wheels.

Com­pe­ti­tion in­cludes the Holden Barina ($15,490$20,190), Toy­ota Yaris ($18,190$21,790), Hyun­dai Ac­cent ($16,990-$20,990), Nis­san Almera ($16,990-$20,990) and Kia Rio at $21,690.


The touch­screen will im­press technophiles. It pairs with An­droid and Ap­ple de­vices, though for now only iPhone 5 and newer Ap­ple prod­ucts can be phys­i­cally con­nected to the dis­play to “mir­ror” ges­ture com­mands.

The in­ter­face is easy to use and sig­nif­i­cantly de-clut­ters the dash. Another wel­come fea­ture is the re­vers­ing cam­era’s switch­able image modes, so the driver switch be­tween nor­mal, wide and top-down views.

As in most mod­ern ve­hi­cles, op­tions ex­tend to apps. The head­liner in the City is the $49.95 Honda Satel­lite Nav­i­ga­tion with three years of free up­dates.


Full marks for oc­cu­pant and cargo space, though the boot’s goose­neck hinges in­trude into the cargo space — but with such vol­ume it won’t mat­ter un­til you’re mov­ing house.

The plas­tics are durable but there are no soft-touch patches where el­bows tend to rest and the seats aren’t the most sup­port­ive in the class.

Er­gonomics are first rate with easy-to-read di­als and stalks and the view from the driver’s seat is ex­pan­sive.

The ex­te­rior styling is char­ac­terised by the big “H” front grille and the scal­loped char­ac­ter lines run­ning un­der the door han­dles. It’s not ground­break­ing but the lit­tle Honda is far from of­fen­sive.


ANCAP has yet to of­fi­cially rate the new City. It’s safe to as­sume it will earn a five-star rat­ing given Honda’s fo­cus on pro­tect­ing its cus­tomer base. Stan­dard kit in­cludes six airbags, sta­bil­ity and trac­tion con­trol with hill start as­sist.


Light steer­ing and fru­gal fuel use make this a true city car. Honda’s 1.5-litre en­gine claims 5.7L/100km with the CVT. Cars­guide got down to low sixes with slightly more en­thu­si­as­tic driv­ing, mak­ing the cited fig­ure real-world cred­i­ble. Even ur­ban cy­cle thirst is of­fi­cially 7.3L.

As a small sedan in a big city, the Honda is a smart choice. Ex­cep­tional car­ry­ing space is com­bined with a stylish and ac­com­mo­dat­ing cabin, ur­ban-tuned sus­pen­sion and a bet­terthan-av­er­age CVT.

Steer clear of sus­tained, heavy ac­cel­er­a­tor ap­pli­ca­tions and the CVT is a smooth op­er­a­tor. Go be­yond mod­er­ate loads and the driv­e­train feels stressed and front oc­cu­pants must deal with a fair amount of en­gine noise.

The sus­pen­sion is an all­round com­pro­mise, mean­ing small ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties are vaguely felt while big hits mid-cor­ner will un­set­tle the tor­sion beam rear end and make the car twitch through the turn. Re­peated shocks can cause the car to un­du­late and generic un­der­steer pegs it at the safe rather than sporty end of the mar­ket.

The feath­er­weight steer­ing is still rea­son­ably pre­cise and the pro­gres­sive brake pedal

means all stop­ping isn’t done in the first 5mm of travel. It takes a minute to read­just to the brake mod­u­la­tion but ul­ti­mately makes the City a very smooth car to bring to a halt.


The City’s all-round ci­vil­ity and smart pric­ing should build a fol­low­ing in the light sedan mar­ket. The only pos­si­ble caveat will be its even­tual ANCAP star rat­ing.

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