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Honda City 2018 review

EXPERT RATING
6.8
The Honda City is a small, affordable, fuel-efficient four-door sedan... but has it kept up with the times?

Honda built its four-wheeled automotive empire on the back of small cars, flying in the face of 1970s convention that bigger was better. As the ubiquitous Civic grew larger and larger, a niche for a smaller car appeared, and that niche was subsequently filled by the City in sedan guise, and the Jazz hatch that sits alongside it.

The buying public, however, is simply not as interested as it once was in small hatches and sedans, and Honda, along with other importers, is feeling the pinch when it comes to slumping sales for its smaller models.

But are we all missing out on something here? After all, the Thai-built City is priced from a rock-bottom $15,990 in base manual form – which is not a lot of money for a Honda.

We’re trying the range-topping, $21,590 VTi-L to see what we may have been missing.

Honda City 2018: VTi-L
Safety rating
Engine Type1.5L
Fuel TypeRegular Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency5.7L/100km
Seating5 seats
Price from$16,610

Is there anything interesting about its design?   8/10

The City does a good job of disguising the fact that it’s a micro-sized sedan; at first glance, the revised front bar and grille that’s meant to mimic the one on the new Civic does such a good job that some people will need to look at the bootlid badge to find out it’s not a Civic.

The City VTi-L comes with 16-inch alloys as standard. (image credit: Tim Robson) The City VTi-L comes with 16-inch alloys as standard. (image credit: Tim Robson)

A high waistline and a solid yet stylish sweep over the roof keep the City from looking overly twee, and even though the 16-inch wheels look a bit narrow, the overall impression is one of a larger car.

The interior, too, is spacious and airy, while the controls and steering wheel give the City an upmarket feel. There’s a little too much grey plastic inside, and hard plastics aren’t difficult to spot, but the City presents well, on the whole.

How practical is the space inside?   7/10

Up front, the City is a great fit even for taller drivers, and its height-adjustable seat also means that the, err, less vertically inclined pilot can find a comfortable position behind the tilt-and-reach adjustable wheel.

A regular gear shifter and manual handbrake means the two cupholders are squashed under the centre console, but there are bottle holders in all four doors, as well as two more cupholders in the rear centre armrest in the VTi-L.

  • Up front, the City is a great fit even for taller drivers. (image credit: Tim Robson) Up front, the City is a great fit even for taller drivers. (image credit: Tim Robson)
  • Rear seating has adequate headroom – just – for taller teens. (image credit: Tim Robson) Rear seating has adequate headroom – just – for taller teens. (image credit: Tim Robson)
  • Boot space measures 536 litres - which is actually 12 litres bigger than that of the new Camry. (image credit: Tim Robson) Boot space measures 536 litres - which is actually 12 litres bigger than that of the new Camry. (image credit: Tim Robson)

The VTi-L also gains two extra 12-volt accessory power points in the rear to complement the USB and a third 12V point up front, while the keyless entry system is not something you’d usually find on a car at this price point.

Sadly, the City’s multimedia system lets the side down - big time. Try as we might, we couldn’t connect a phone to our tester, no matter what we did, and it’s just utterly unintuitive to use in most situations.

It’s a bit of a rude shock, actually; most manufacturers have media systems sorted, but there’s simply not a even a half-decent one in any Honda that’s currently on sale. And there's no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, though you can find those mirroring systems in the larger Civic.

Rear seating has adequate headroom – just – for taller teens, and there isn’t a lot of compromise required from front seaters to comfortably accommodate four people. Five? That’s getting crowded, but it can be done.

  • Each door in the City gets a bottle holder. (image credit: Tim Robson) Each door in the City gets a bottle holder. (image credit: Tim Robson)
  • The VTi-L gets two more cupholders in the rear centre armrest. (image credit: Tim Robson) The VTi-L gets two more cupholders in the rear centre armrest. (image credit: Tim Robson)

Two ISOFIX baby seat fixtures are present, along with three top-tether mounts. Boot space measures 536 litres - which is actually 12 litres bigger than that of the new Camry - while both rear seats fold flat(ish) to increase load capacity further.

A good point; the seats can be unlatched via boot-mounted buttons. A bad point; you still have to reach in and push the seats down by hand. A space saver spare nestles under the boot floor, as well.

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?   6/10

The top shelf VTi-L is the best of a two-model lineup, and costs $21,590 plus on-road costs. It comes with an 88kW 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine and a continuously variable transmission driving the front wheels, as well as LED daytime lamps, a part-leather interior, push-button start and smart key, climate control air conditioning, 16-inch alloys and a 7.0-inch touchscreen multimedia system with sat nav and Bluetooth phone and audio streaming.

The gear leaver on the VTi-L is bound in leather. (image credit: Tim Robson) The gear leaver on the VTi-L is bound in leather. (image credit: Tim Robson)

It also has a leather-bound steering wheel and gear shifter, and map pockets on both seat backs.

It does miss out on a lot of other stuff, though, including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability, automatic lights (remember when a car last beeped at you to turn off the lights? Me neither...) and automatic wipers, and it also misses out on driver aids like auto emergency braking (AEB).

  • The VTi-L spec gets a smart key and push-button start. (image credit: Tim Robson) The VTi-L spec gets a smart key and push-button start. (image credit: Tim Robson)
  • The City’s multimedia system lets the side down - big time. (image credit: Tim Robson) The City’s multimedia system lets the side down - big time. (image credit: Tim Robson)

It starts to look a bit dear when you look at similarly priced cars - even from the next size sector up - that do offer inclusions like AEB and automatic headlights, though the small sedan is a bit of a rarity in the Aussie market now.

Its only like-for-like rivals in the space are the Mazda2 sedan and the Hyundai Accent sedan. Other potential competitors like the Ford Fiesta sedan and, more recently, the Toyota Yaris sedan have been deleted from local line-ups after years of declining sales, while the subsequent rise of the compact SUV will continue to have an impact on the so-called 'light car' market.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?   5/10

The i-VTEC four-cylinder 1.5-litre single cam engine is naturally aspirated, and it makes its 88kW at a high 6600rpm, while its modest 145Nm of torque peaks at 4600rpm.

The 1.5-litre naturally aspirated engine is a carryover unit from the previous generation. (image credit: Tim Robson) The 1.5-litre naturally aspirated engine is a carryover unit from the previous generation. (image credit: Tim Robson)

It means the CVT gearbox needs to work pretty hard to get the best from the engine, which has been superseded by a twin-cam version in other markets.

How much fuel does it consume?   8/10

The underdone performance does offer a benefit at the petrol pump, with the City returning a claimed 5.9 litres per 100km on the combined fuel economy cycle.

A 320km test loop netted us a dash-indicated figure of 6.3 litres per 100km, which is impressively close.

The 40-litre fuel tank is happy to accept standard unleaded petrol, too.

What's it like to drive?   4/10

Weighing just 1100kg, you’d expect the 1.5-litre powered City to have a bit of get up and go… but unfortunately it’s already gotten up and left by the time you drive off.

The 1.5-litre naturally aspirated engine is a carryover unit from the previous generation, and it feels like it, too. It’s also teamed with a CVT gearbox that isn’t a patch on more up-to-date trannies from the likes of Subaru and Toyota.

There’s a big initial motion at the front wheels when you start to turn. (image credit: Tim Robson) There’s a big initial motion at the front wheels when you start to turn. (image credit: Tim Robson)

On any sort of incline, the CVT ups the revs of the engine to a point between bloody annoying and mildly painful, too. The VTi can be ordered with a manual gearbox, which has to be better than the CVT in this example.

The underdamped suspension tune is adequate for light duties around town, but the electric steering feel very odd underhand, especially at the very beginning of a turn.

A space saver spare nestles under the boot floor. (image credit: Tim Robson) A space saver spare nestles under the boot floor. (image credit: Tim Robson)

There’s a big initial motion at the front wheels when you start to turn which then quickly tapers off, meaning that you have to be ultra precise with your steering to prevent the City from lurching into the corner and falling over its soft suspension.

On light throttle, with no hills and few corners, though, the City is just fine…

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

5 years / unlimited km warranty

ANCAP Safety Rating

ANCAP logo

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?   8/10

As mentioned, the City misses out on AEB and other driver aids, but does offer emergency brake assist and emergency flashing brake lights, as well as hill-start assist.

Full-length curtain airbags are offered along with dual front and front side 'bags, and there's a reversing camera. The City holds a maximum five-star ANCAP rating, which it has had since it was tested back in 2014.

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?   8/10

Honda sells the City with a five-year, unlimited kilometre warranty, while a no-catch seven-year, unlimited kilometre warranty is occasionally offered with its cars, along with premium roadside assistance for the life of the longer warranty.

Both warranties are also transferable to the next owner, should you sell your car before the warranty expires.

A fixed-price servicing regime is in place for the City, too, starting at $259 and peaking at $297. But Honda asks for the City to be serviced every six months or 10,000km, which does add to the cost of running the car.

Verdict

Small sedan sales are on the wane, and as a result, the cars that remain in the market often aren’t the best in a brand’s lineup.

This is the case with the Honda City. While it’s got plenty of space for passengers and it’s economical, the performance of the drivetrain in terms of composure leaves a lot to be desired.

The underdone steering, too, makes the car uncomfortable for passengers more often than not, while the buggy, hard-to-use multimedia system is unforgivable in an almost-$22,000 car.

Put it this way… the larger, newer, more refined base model Honda Civic is tantalisingly close in price to the top-spec City, and we know which side of the dealership we’d be walking towards.

Are small sedans off your shopping list, or does the Honda City still hold appeal?

Pricing guides

$16,436
Based on 4 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$14,481
Highest Price
$17,888

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
VTi 1.5L, ULP, CVT AUTO $11,550 – 15,400 2018 Honda City 2018 VTi Pricing and Specs
VTi-L 1.5L, ULP, CVT AUTO $16,610 – 21,340 2018 Honda City 2018 VTi-L Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
6.8
Design8
Practicality7
Price and features6
Engine & trans5
Fuel consumption8
Driving4
Safety8
Ownership8
Tim Robson
Contributing Journalist

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Pricing Guide

$16,610

Lowest price, based on third party pricing data

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