Liveability is often bandied about to describe the quality of being comfortable and convenient to live in, especially when defining towns and cities. The word could well be applied to Honda's new City.
The new City is a stylish light sedan that delivers value for money through fuel economy and top-line specification, the latter the result of the Japanese manufacturer trawling the world to discover how owners use their vehicles, what they like and dislike, how they live and what are their future plans.
A common theme emerged: their reliance on smartphones, which travel with them constantly, hence the truly integrated experience on offer with the new City.
The car comes powered by Honda's upgraded 1.5-litre i-VTEC petrol engine in three versions – Vti manual and automatic and VTi-L automatic – coming to market from $15,990 to $21,885, plus on-road costs.
The City follows fashion with the sedan curving front to back in a way that copies coupe shapes. The nose-down front emphasises the vehicle width with an aero-style bumper and incorporated air inlets.
A strong so-called character line connects front and rear and is distinguishable, says the maker, equally in bright sunlight or cloudy conditions. Flared rear wheel arches add substance to the profile, while the rear lamp clusters are brought together by a chrome licence plate surround.
The spacious passenger cabin is a place where the latest technology takes a prominent position in the form of Honda's state-of-the-art Display Audio and Multi Information Display. Here connectivity is king.
Central to the Honda Display Audio system is the 7-inch colour touch screen, centrally located on the dashboard in easy reach of the driver and front-seat passenger.
It enables Bluetooth connectivity for Apple and Android smartphones, including audio streaming, plus HDMI audio and video playback, the latter with the vehicle at a standstill and the handbrake on.
Display Audio also integrates Apple's Siri reducing the time the driver needs to take eyes off the road. Compatible iPhone users, via Bluetooth, can operate Siri with voice command by holding down the Talk button on the steering wheel.
By downloading an app, satellite navigation can be stored on a smartphone as opposed to the hardware of an in-car system. This sets the user free to have a navigation system in the car or elsewhere, providing more mobility.
Engine / transmission
Honda has upgraded its 1.5-litre four-cylinder i-VTEC petrol engine and mated it with a five-speed manual or continuously variable automatic transmission to reduce fuel consumption and improve performance.
Producing maximum power of 88 kW at 6600rpm and maximum torque of 145 Nm at 4600rpm, fuel economy, says Honda, has improved by 12 per cent over the outgoing model for the CVT and eight per cent for the manual.
An Eco Assist function helps the driver keep fuel consumption to a minimum by monitoring driving style using the outer ring of the speedometer. A blue light changes to green as fuel efficiency is increased by the driving mode.
Further help comes in the shape of an Econ system which is connected at the push of a button. This remaps the drive-by-wire throttle system to maximise fuel economy.
Active safety is covered by ABS braking, Electronic Brake-force Distribution, Emergency Braking, Vehicle Stability Assist with Traction Control and Hill Start Assist. An emergency stop signal flashes the rear lights under hard braking, warning following drivers.
Honda's long established ACE (Advanced Compatibility Engineering) body structure provides occupant protection in a variety of crash conditions, along with six airbags and front seat whiplash mitigating head restraints.
A reversing camera has three modes – normal, wide angle and plan view, and is available with dynamic or static guidelines.
A roomy cabin put occupants at ease for the test vehicle take-off, which was smooth enough in Normal mode. However, the engine struggled in Econ under hard acceleration. Up to speed the engine appeared to be holding back, which, of course, it was in a bid to save fuel.
Under test the City recorded fuel consumption of 4.5 litres per 100 kilometres on the motorway, 10 litres per 100 kilometres around town. In Econ consumption was 6.8 in the suburbs and, again 4.5 on the open road, so the Econ mode certainly works well.
According to Honda, at 536 litres, the new City boot is larger than that of the preceding model (506 litres) and is larger than many large sedans including the Holden Commodore. Big enough to take large objects, the boot opening is not, making loading and unloading some objects awkward.
When open, the hatch leaves its lower edge in a horizontal position just above eye level. More than once on test the lid was given a nudge by the noggin while dropping stuff into the boot.