It was a decent car, but unfortunately, it looked too much like it was meant for the man in the street.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m no elitist. But you kind of expect a bit more in the physical attraction department from a marque with a reputation for combining reliability and looks in an affordable package.
The next generation Honda City introduced several years later sported improved visual appeal over its predecessor – that is, if you were the sort that were only concerned with how the front half of the car looked.
To put it mildly, the rear end was something else.
But (no pun intended) all is forgiven with the new third-generation City. It as if the designers suddenly realised they had much to atone for, and how they have. Here finally, was a City I wouldn’t mind being seen driving.
The feature that almost immediately catches the eye is the City’s front grille. Now, where have I seen that before? The grille gives the car a futuristic and aggressive look, and goes well with the “garang” halogen headlights.
Together with the muscular bonnet and bumper, the external features up front provide strength to the overall appearance of the City. This is a car that is pleasing to the eye from the side too, with flowing lines that stop at a taut rear end.
Ah, the rear-end. No, I’m not fixated with these things, but you have to admit the City looks miles better now when viewed from behind.
In fact, with the large rear light clusters, some say it reminds you of a certain continental car that I shall not name here.
Open the boot lid and you’re greeted with a good-sized cargo space you wouldn’t have guessed lurked underneath. The 506l trunk should have no problem accommodating weekend travel bags for a family of four. Indeed, Honda claims you can fit in up to four nine-inch wide golf bags in there. You can also fold down the rear seats (60:40 split) for more cargo space.
Inside, the City keeps up with the promise of its exterior. The interior has a contemporary appearance, from the sweeping dashboard to the design of the seat fabric upholstery, which is water repellant.
Passengers will have little complaint with the seat comfort on offer. There is decent legroom at the back and rear passengers can recline their seats slightly to make those long-distance journeys a bit more bearable.
Cup holders and pockets abound in the City. The centre console has cup holders front and back; more can be found on the rear armrest. The Grade E-spec City that I test drove also has an under-seat tray in the rear for you to store items like umbrellas and shoes.
Up front, the adjustable driver’s seat and the tilt and telescopic adjustable steering make for a good driving position, and the seat holds you in place when you hit the corners. The triple meter cluster on the dash provides the driver with added information on fuel consumption and range, beside the usual details. In car entertainment comes via a six-speaker CD player/tuner with USB and AUX inputs.
It’s pretty and comfortable indeed inside the City, but how does it drive?
The car handles well, and corners can be navigated with confidence. Comfort is maintained throughout, with the City taking in bumps and holes in the road decently enough. The electric power steering is on the light side but on the whole, the City gave a good account of itself in the ride and handling department.
Now, the looks of the City might imply that the car is just waiting to be unleashed on the road, but looks can be deceiving.
This is a car that provides a stable drive at speeds well in excess of the limit, but you get there in a deliberate manner. Power from the 1.5l i-VTEC engine, with its 120bhp and maximum torque of 145Nm, is not exactly on tap and this is noticeable when you want to quickly zip past the guy in front, especially with a full load of passengers. Plus, the engine gets rough when you hit the high revs.
The Grade E model comes with paddle shifters, but I wouldn’t bother using them, as there was a clear lag in shift response. You’re better off letting the car do the work for you.
The City is best driven in a smooth and sane manner, and it shows. But then, most of us are smooth and sane drivers. And that’s where the City offers a solid value proposition.
At RM89,980, on the road with insurance, for the Grade E model (Grade S goes for RM5,000 less), and with its undoubtedly great looks, the Honda City has truly arrived.