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The Honda City is a relative newcomer to Australia – having been launched here in February this year – but is well-known overseas. It first appeared there in 1996, and since then has sold more than a million units in 39 countries around the world; a success rate that Honda hopes will be repeated in the Australian market. In our market, the little sedan aims to bridge the gap left by not having a hatch in the popular Civic range except for the hot Type R.
We tested both variants available here; the five-speed automatic VTi and the five-speed manual VTi-L, both of which are powered by a single overhead cam i-VTEC, in-line four-cylinder engine that develops 88kW of power at 6600rpm and 145Nm of torque at 4800rpm.
Combined fuel consumption and emissions figures are the same again for both vehicles at 6.3l/100kms and 148g/km CO2 for the manual and 6.6l/100km and CO2 156g/km for the auto.
The Thailand-built City sits on a stretched version of the Honda Jazz platform, gaining 50mm at the wheelbase and allowing for a sizeable boot capacity of 500 litres. The car has been given the family’s `arrowshot’ face, with a strongly defined grille design set off by slim-line headlights.
The City is a smart-looking sporty number with a gently tapering slope up from the nose to the B-pillar and a short, squared-off rump that owes its styling to Honda sedan DNA, but is also a shape that is useful and becoming more common as compact sedans grow in popularity. The only real difference between the two City variants is that the VTi-L weighs 15kg more, has slightly bigger wheels and has chrome-plated door handles and exhausts.
The City comes with most of the cabin features you’d expect from a new small Honda these days. Air conditioning, power windows, cruise control a multi-information display and plenty of compartments for storage – including seven cup holders, are all standard.
The front seats are fully reclinable and the rear seats split 60/40 and you also get a leather wrapped steering wheel and premium cloth trim in the VTi-L.
As well as a comprehensive air bag package, the City offers advanced compatibility engineering, anti-lock brakes, central locking, electronic brakeforce distribution and Honda’s G-con technology.
Pricing for the Honda City starts at $20,490 for the VTi manual and tops out at $25,685 for the VTi-L automatic with metallic paint.
The Honda City does an adequate job for what it is but we haven’t rushed out to tell our friends about it yet. It feels more substantial than its slightly slimmer brother the Jazz, but at least the quirkiness of the Jazz gives it a small amount of X-factor. The City just doesn’t have much to crow about. It’s airy inside and has enough head and leg room, and the higher level trim pack with leather wheel and gear knob adds a bit more comfort.
Cornering quickly was hairy at times as it doesn’t feel like they got weight distribution down pat given the substantial body roll. But vision is great all around the car, and the engine, although not a beast, does give you enough grunt to push past a lane hogging truck, or merge quickly, if the need arises.
Stop-start city driving - as you’d hope given the name of the car – is easy and the steering is light. Obviously the manual is more of a pain than the automatic in a bumper to bumper situation but that extra control makes it easily the best choice when you have a bit more room.
The City is a capable, well built car and there’s no real complaints about the way it drives, but there’s nothing about it that gets you searching for excuses to grab the keys and head out.
Before it arrived, we were thinking of the City as being a ‘Jazz with a boot’ but it’s a bit more than that. There’s no doubt the boot space – in a car this size – is very useful, and while you’re not going to be carting wardrobes home in it, there’s enough capacity to accommodate most average family loads.
But there’s a surprising amount of room inside the car as well, with head and legroom enough for reasonably tall people. The interior is comfortable, well-styled and a little more elegant (or a little less funky, depending on your age and attitude) than the Jazz. And apart from a couple of stretches of cheap-looking plastic on the dash and doors, the finish is good quality.
The visibility in the front row is great, helped by the higher seating position that accommodates the fuel tank under the front seats. Both the manual and automatic transmissions are easy to use, but for crowded town driving we’ll happily go for the auto’s set-and-forget.
The light steering was great around town, but lacked feedback in anything above urban speeds or twistier than a sedate city corner. But let’s be honest, it’s close to pointless to look for track ability in a car like this. City by name, city by nature, and well-suited to that job.
Verdict: 7.8/10 in town, 5.5/10 on the highway.