Jun 21, 2010

2010 Honda City

The Honda City is reborn

By Mark Cabilangan
Asian Dragon Magazine
May-June 2010
In 1997, Honda Cars Philippines was the first to introduce a utilitarian subcompact sedan to the domestic car market. Dubbing it the “City,” the car became very popular for its affordability, ease of use, and legendary fuel efficiency. 

While it had satisfied customers, the problem was its plain, boxy looks. It had no frills and even less pizzazz. The second Honda City that came out in 2005 was prettier, but still looked haphazardly designed, like a Honda Jazz with a trunk stapled on as an afterthought. The unwritten rule was, if you wanted a nicer looking Honda, you would spend the dough on the bigger and better-looking Civic.

Today, with this third generation City, the fairy godmothers at Honda broke the rules and finally gave the City a long-deserved transformation. Turning several pages away from its forerunners, the designers penciled the sleekest and most revolutionary City yet.

No longer just the salary man’s basic commute or a mutant Jazz, it now sports slit-styled headlamps and a fascia donned with a gun metal colored, six-point grille. The doors have dropped the beltline altogether to make it appear bigger than it actually is. It shares the sloping shape of the Civic, but it is equipped with updated, cutting edge visuals. Gone are the cutesy curves and bubblegum demeanor, replaced with sharp corners and edges that give the car an up-market appeal.

The attractive changes came just in time too, as the global recession is forcing changes on both carbuyers’ budgets and their preferred daily beasts of transport. The tide has shifted against middle tier compacts like Honda’s own Civic, Toyota Corolla and Mitsubishi Lancer. Instead, buyers now favor the more affordable, fuel-sipping, smaller sedans like the City and Toyota’s Vios. The segment is so rife with demand that even Mazda is joining the fray with a subcompact of its own - the Mazda2. But for now at least, Honda dominates this small car department, simply because this City attacks from a new angle: an entry-level sedan that doesn’t look like one.

Stepping inside, you will instantly be impressed with the classy build quality. No one does interiors like Honda, and the City is no exception. The designers painted the interiors with a minimalist’s brush, and everything from the door handles to the finish, exude a very well thought out theme. Only a few buttons, dials and knobs make up the dashboard, and the controls look rudimentary. There is the standard in-slot CD player, but if you have ever used an iPod or MP3 player, navigating your music on the auxiliary USB slot feels instinctive. The plastic silver treatment provides a very fresh, modern and vibrant feel that identify with the young folk.

 The seating fabric is an interesting new mesh of the Civic’s dark blue, but we long for the day that faux leather would make it to this increasingly popular car segment.

Our top of the line variant City E was equipped with paddle shifters, and it spelled the difference in what otherwise would have been a ho-hum drive. Delightfully becoming a standard even among basic cars nowadays, paddle shifters allow all the torque-filled joys of manual transmission in a clutch pedal-free environ. With the drive in standard AT mode, the car was capable, but manually controlling the gear-shift takes full advantage of the 120 hp generated by the 1.5 liter powerplant.

The City E retails for P806,000, but there are also regular City options equipped with smaller 1.3 liter engines that start at just P676,000.

The ride is remarkably solid for such a small car, aided no doubt by its front McPherson struts and rear H-torsion beams. Body roll has been reduced from the previous generation, probably because this new City has a lower, wider and more car-like stance than its predecessor.

Many wonder why the Jazz, the City’s shorter, hatchback twin, is more expensive than this City sedan. Try packing a balikbayan box in either car and the answer will be revealed. While the Jazz’s high ceiling and lift-back tail gate can swallow two passengers, and help a couple move out of their studio condo in one trip, the City’s cargo-carrying powers are limited to its tiny trunk, which can all but fit one large suitcase.

The old City had utility seats in the second row that fold up to accommodate cargo space, but the new, more elegant City has ditched that feature, preferring to be strictly a people carrier. 

And it is a job it does particularly well. With the same engine that famously brings 10-12 km per liter, trips to the petrol station will be rare and far between.

In traffic, the advantage of being half a foot shorter and narrower than most cars is maximum maneuverability. Gripping the thick but tiny-diameter wheel in hand, the steering feels light and toy-like, reminding the driver that the City was truly engineered for fun.

The Honda City has clearly gone through a renaissance period. Honda markets it with the slogan, “change the rules,” but in fact, the City is reshaping the automotive landscape.

1 comment :

Jessan Catre said...

I always wondered why I don't see any City traveling long-distance. Now I know...the trunk is so tiny!