The City was designed to meet consumer demand for a fuel efficient small car in Australia but has struggled in the sales department over its four years here.
The third generation City first arrived down under in February 2009 and was received moderately by Aussie buyers with 3400 sales for the year. Sales have declined yearly dropping by over half to 1584 in 2011.
This year Honda attempted to gain ground by releasing the fifth generation with a new look and a $500 price drop. It’s up against some high sales performers such as the Toyota Yaris, Hyundai i20, Holden Barina and Mazda2.
But small sedan buyers still aren’t impressed, with only a dismal 517 sold so far this year -- with only three months to go until the New Year -- compared to the top seller Yaris’ 5465 sales.
The price has been reduced to $18,490 manual ($20,490 auto) for the base model VTi. The top spec VTi-L tested here starts at $22,990 and is only available in a five speed auto.
It’s kitted with features like 12V auxiliary sockets, CD player, four speaker stereo, iPod and MP3 connectivity, speed dependant volume stereo, remoteless central locking, leather steering wheel, steering wheel controls, electric power steering and fog lamps.
The City is based on the Jazz platform and carries the same 1.5 litre four cylinder engine with 88kW of power and 135Nm of torque. The VTi-L has a five speed automatic transmission driven through the front wheels. And the official combined fuel economy is 6.6L/100Km but we got 8.0L/100km.
The City has often been nicknamed the “Jazz with a boot” with a spacious 506 litre capacity but there’s more to the design than that. Honda says the City has received a number of new features and styling, such as a new chrome grille and redesigned front and rear bumpers.
There’s also a new micro antenna that we found too large on the rear of the small car. However, the overall exterior look of the City is attractive and the silver 16 inch alloy wheels match the exterior chrome detailing well.
The interior styling gets shiny “aluminium-look” panels/trims and chrome audio and climate controls. The speedometer is blue and there is light blue stitching on the seats. But the seat upholstery picks up a lot of hair, so if you have a pet you’ll probably have to invest in some seat covers. The inside is spacious enough for five adults and would suit a small family well in the city.
It has a five star ANCAP crash rating with front, side and curtain airbags, ABS technology, electronic brake force distribution, brake assist, engine immobiliser, fog lamps and impact absorbing body coloured bumpers.
As the name suggests the City is made for city driving. It’s compact enough to manoeuvre through tight laneways, turn sharp corners with ease and fit into tiny parking spots around the CBD.
But the overall performance was disappointing and points to the reason behind the dwindling sales. From the first turn of the key the engine was noisy and only increased at higher speeds. The acceleration was poor and hill climbs were sluggish as the 1.5 litre engine struggled to drive the 1140kg weight.
We also took the small sedan onto a freeway to test the cruise control. While it held the 110km speed well, the rev-counter flew beyond four thousand and the engine revved loudly, forcing us to drop the speed. The lack of a sixth gear also contributed to the problem, as the extra gear would have reduced the revs and countered the problem.
The City isn’t a great drive but it’s practical for anyone living in the city. So if you’re looking for a small sedan that’s small enough to navigate city streets but big enough deal with your daily shopping and errands then the City is worth a look.
Honda City VTi-L
Price: from $22,990
Warranty: 3 years 100,000km
Engine: 1.5-litre 4-cylinder, 88kW/145Nm
Transmission: 5-speed auto, FWD
Thirst: 6.6L/100Km, CO2 156g/km