The Honda City is perceived as a fun, agile, and comfortable C2 segment sedan. It was introduced for the first time in the country in 1998. By now, Honda has introduced 4 generations of the City in the Indian market. Now in 2020, Honda has launched the 5th-generation of the City. With the generation change, it gets a new design, updated powertrain, a revised interior, and addition of some more features. But, will all of it help the City top the sales chart? To find that out, we drove the new City with all the engine-gearbox options it comes with, and here’s how it is.
2020 Honda City Review – Exterior
Sedans, in general, possess a 3-box silhouette, and Honda has stayed true to this philosophy while designing the 5th-gen City. It gets a long hood, followed by a proportionately long cabin and boot. There’s no coupe-like roofline here, thus it looks posh than being outright sporty. On the front, the new 9-segment all-LED headlamps are attention-seekers, and in between them, sits a thick-chrome slat that houses the Honda logo.
The new bumper boasts of sharp recesses and gets LED fog lamps without any chrome embellishments around them. Now in the new-gen avatar, the Honda City is the widest car in its segment with a width of 1,748 mm. Thus, the front facet of the car looks distinctive with a fair amount of bling on its side. Also, the bonnet gets two sharp creases, which help in hiding away the heft but adding a muscular touch to the front facet.
Moving over to the sides, the first thing that anyone would notice is its length of 4,549 mm. This makes it the longest car in the segment. In comparison to the last-gen model, the 2020 Honda City looks a whole lot different from the sides. The hood line is flat and does not merge with the pillars as cohesively as in the outgoing model. With a height of 1,489 mm, it isn’t the shortest either, therefore gets a large greenhouse area. It gets 16-inch dual-tone alloy wheels, which are borrowed from the RS trim that is offered in the international markets only.
The ORVMs are mounted on the doors and are of a decent size. The tail lamps are wraparound units; they extend all the way to the sides and serve as marker lamps as well. Also, there’s a strong and sharp beltline that connects the headlamps with the tail lamps, giving the side profile some visual drama.
From the rear, the new-gen City looks gorgeous. It gets a set of sleek tail lamps with a Z-shaped LED element inside them, which features a dotted-effect on the sides. Interestingly, Honda has not used chrome on the rear-end, which will have mixed reactions for sure. But, the overall design is wonderfully perceived. The rear bumper gets more creases than the front one and houses 2 reflectors on the extreme edges in a vertically-stacked layout. A roof-mounted shark-fin antenna can also be seen.
Overall, the Honda City has evolved into a car with a posh appeal than being flashy or sporty by the way it looks. The design as a whole will now appeal to a larger group of buyers. The stance it now gets has the perfect balance of form and flair. Some might find it like a grown-up Amaze or a smaller Accord/Civic, but that isn’t demeaning at all.
2020 Honda City Review – Interior
As on the outside, Honda has updated the City from the inside as well. It now gets a new design for the dashboard, which looks much better than that of its predecessor's. It features a faux wood trim that divides the dashboard into two. The dashboard also gets leather inserts at places. The AC vents are now redesigned and vertically stacked. The dashboard’s top is finished in black to avoid reflection on the windshield. Interestingly, Honda has not used the Digipad 2.0 from the last-gen model here. It gets a new 8-inch infotainment unit, instead.
This new head unit is mounted a little off the centre and features a host of connectivity and compatibility options. It gets Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility along with Alexa Remote Capability. It also works as the monitor for the LaneWatch camera, which is mounted on the left-hand side ORVM. While the touch response of the screen is great, its placement is not the best. Honda could’ve fixed it in a driver-centric fashion and with a volume control knob. In its current position, it is not the best screen to look at on a sunny day. As all that you see is glare and reflection.
Nevertheless, the sound output of this system is great, courtesy of the 4-speaker and 4-tweeter setup. Beneath the infotainment unit, now sits the HVAC controls. Thankfully, Honda has not used a touchpanel this time to operate the climate control unit. What you get is a set of physical knobs, instead.
The steering wheel is redesigned unit too. It now gets a hexagonal boss pad and a better layout for the controls. Right behind it sits the instrument cluster, which now gets a 7-inch multi-colour TFT screen along with an analogue speedometer. This configurable display showcases a host of data and information to keep the driver updated with all the stats.
Talking of the storage spaces inside the cabin, they are in plenty. Starting from the door pads, they can accommodate a 1L bottle with ease along with some other essentials. There’s a small coin holder in the dashboard on the driver’s side, whereas the passenger side gets a decent-sized glovebox, which misses out on the cooling functionality here. In the centre console, there are two cup holders along with some space to keep your belongings. Plus, the front-row armrest can also be used to store some small knick-knacks
The interior features a dual-tone black-beige treatment. It helps in accentuating the overall appeal and ambience of the cabin. Also, the seats here are big and supportive. While the squab feels nicely bolstered, the backrests should've had lumbar adjustments on the front seats. The rear bench, on the other hand, is the best in the business.
Moreover, there’s enough legroom on offer to let the tallest of occupant stretch his/her legs. The situation is similar in the case of the shoulder room and headroom as well. The rear seat occupants get their own AC vents too along with a charging outlet, which ironically is a cigarette lighter-type unit. To keep the sun away, the rear windscreen gets a sunblind, which we believe should’ve been present on the windows too.
Talking of the safety equipment, it comes loaded with 6 airbags, 3-point seat belts for all 5 occupants, ABS with EBD, ESC, hill-start assist, TPMS, automatic headlamps, rain-sensing wipers, auto-dimming IRVM, LaneWatch camera, seat belt alarm, rear parking camera, and more. On the whole, the interior of the 2020 Honda City has improved by a fair margin in comparison to that of the previous-gen model. In contrast to its rival, the cabin of the City feels luxurious for sure.
2020 Honda City Review – Engine & Gearbox
In the 5th-gen avatar, the Honda City can be had with 3 engine-gearbox options – 1.5L petrol with a 6-speed MT, 1.5L petrol with a CVT, and 1.5L diesel with a 6-speed MT. Interestingly, we drove all the 3 options on offer.
Starting with the 1.5L petrol unit, this 4-cylinder NA engine gets Honda’s i-VTEC technology, where the motor comes with a variable cam profile with varying valve lift. With this tech in place, it belts out a peak power output of 121 PS and max torque of 145 Nm. As known to mankind that Honda’s i-VTEC petrol engines are refined, fun, and rev-happy, the situation is very same here. This powerplant roars to life with the press of a start-stop button. At idle, it is silent with zero vibrations. Even at higher RPMs or around the mid-range, there are hardly any vibrations to complain of. Nevertheless, post 3,000 rpm mark, it does get audible, but the sound it makes is the typical inline-4 whine that would urge you to floor the pedal quite often.
Talking of the overall drivability, this motor is tractable at every point in the rev band. The low-end torque is adequate to get the car moving from speeds as low as 20 kmph even in the second gear. The mid-range has an equal amount of pull as well. But, this motor’s forte is the top-end punch. Around the redline, it is ballistic. Talking of the i-VTEC, it kicks in somewhere around 3,000 RPM.
Also, the 6-speed manual gearbox is a well-designed unit. The gates for the gearbox are smooth and gear ratios are well-tuned to bring the best out of this motor. One can ponder around town in the 3rd gear and do speeds in excess of 150 kmph in 4th-gear. The 6th-gear feels useless, as it boasts of a gear ratio higher than 1:1. Therefore, it is best suited for long hauls on highways with cruise control doing the job.
Moving over to the 7-step CVT, it has the CVT-typical rubber-band effect. The shifts between the steps are smooth. Also, we felt that it is tuned specifically for comfort. To make it feel sportier, it does get the steering-mounted paddle shifters but there’s a noticeable delay in the actuation of the shifts. Soiling the experience furthermore is the rev-happy nature of the motor. It loves to pull towards the redline, while the CVT 'box shows the signs of being sloth-like.
The oil burner here is the same unit that did duties on the last-gen model. It belts out a respectable output of 100 PS and 200 Nm. This motor is quite famous for its high NVH levels. But, Honda has pulled in some serious efforts to bring them down and has succeeded for sure. It feels much better here. Neither there are many vibrations to complain of at idle nor when revving it hard.
However, the diesel clatter is persistent at idle and even when the RPM needle climbs up the tachometer. With the 6-speed manual gearbox in place, this motor is better suited for those looking to clock more kilometres for a reduced quantity of fuel. The punch that it packs is not mind-blowing at all. It feels underpowered at times since the competition has a better and powerful motor on offer now.
2020 Honda City Review – Ride and Handling
In this aspect, the City has changed a fair bit from its last-gen iteration, although it uses the same underpinnings. Suspension duties are performed by McPherson strut up front with coil overs in place and with torsion beam with coil springs at the rear. The suspension setup is on a softer side, which gives it the capability to glide over rough patches of the road without breaking a sweat. On the flip side, it now has a fair bit of body-roll. Also, when braking hard, the nose tends to dive a little, making it a little uncomfortable for the driver.
The braking duties on the new-gen City are performed by ventilated discs at the front and mechanically actuated drums at the rear. They are good at stopping the City right in time, without making it lose its composure. But, this is only possible with the ESP working as the guardian angel in the background, since the City rides on a set of low-rolling-resistance Ecopia tyres from Bridgestone.
They are 185/55 R16 in dimensions but lack the grip that is required to enjoy the City’s direct steering, which also offers a lot of feedback. In an age of power-assisted steerings, it is tough to come across a precise and feedback-rich steering system, and the 2020 City gets one for sure. While it is surely light at slow speeds, it doesn’t show any tantrums to gain weight as the speed increases. On the whole, the new-gen City offers a great balance between ride comfort and agility. The only gripe that we had, was the tyres, as Honda could’ve used softer and gripper rubber for the nice-looking 16-inch rims.
2020 Honda City Review – Verdict
At a starting price of INR 10.89 (ex-showroom) lakh, the 2020 Honda City comes up as a great option in the C2 sedan segment. Even the base-spec trim comes generously loaded with a host of features. In terms of looks, it has undoubtedly evolved into a handsome-looking from the outside and as well as on the inside. It is one of the most spacious cars in its segment and offers a comfortable ride too. Moreover, it continues to offer a great petrol powerplant, which can be referred to as the best in the business. While the diesel motor is not the most involving participant in the competition, it should be praised for its existence. Since most manufacturers are keeping themselves away from the diesel engines now. But, we think that an option of an automatic gearbox with the oil burner would’ve attracted a lot more buyers towards the City, and a set of better tyres will aid it with a confidence-inspiring ride.