The Honda City is a name that needs no introduction. It's been on the market for over 25 years, and during that time, not only has it outgrown many of its rivals but also defined what a premium C-segment sedan should be. Fast, fun, spacious, practical, reliable, and above all, aspirational. Sure, SUVs might have made life difficult for this swanky sedan in the past decade, but the City is still soldiering on, flying the sedan flag high.
In its fifth generation now, the City continues to be the segment leader in the C-segment sedan category, and that's quite an achievement. However, there's no denying that in the past few years, its title has come under threat from the likes of Volkswagen Virtus and Skoda Slavia. And now, with the all-new Hyundai Verna coming out very soon, the City will have its work cut out if it wants to stay at the top of the sales charts. Now, in view of all of that, the City has received a mid-life update. What's new? Edgier design, more features, ADAS technology, and a more affordable price tag for both petrol and e:HEV versions. The question, then, is this – will the updated City continue to lead the pack? Or does Honda need to do more?
2023 Honda City Design: On the Edge
Honda claims they’ve made the City look more aggressive than the previous iteration. How have they done that? By incorporating sharper and sporty design elements, obviously. At the front, the chrome bar at the top is now slimmer, while the LED headlamp design is unchanged. The bumper has a flattish appearance in the new version and the lower section gets a new mesh pattern grille along with a faux front splitter. When it’s parked, the new City doesn’t look all the different, but on the move, it definitely has a more hunkered-down appearance.
The side profile is unchanged, and that’s because this is just a facelift of the fifth-gen model. That said, you do get new 16-inch diamond-cut alloys in top-spec variants. Unlike the front end, the alloys still are on the elegant (or boring) side of things. At the back, the changes are more prominent. There’s a new bumper, a faux carbon fibre diffuser, and a boot-lip spoiler. I must say these updates don’t look cheesy or over-the-top. In fact, Honda’s done a decent job in terms of refining the exterior design. There’s also a new Obsidian Blue Pearl paint scheme on offer (the one you see here), and it looks smashing on a bright and sunny day.
2023 Honda City, The Most Affordable ADAS-Equipped Car
Inside, the changes are minor, especially in the petrol version, which we were driving for the test. The cabin layout and design are more or less unchanged, meaning that the City’s interior is not only practical and sturdy but also looks contemporary. The touchscreen infotainment is the same as before, albeit the camera quality is now better, says Honda. It sure is of marginally better quality than before but still not the best in business. Among other new features, there’s wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, rain-sensing wipers, and a wireless charger in top models. The charger is detachable in the petrol version, and it takes up the cupholders’ space, so it comes across as a bit of an afterthought and isn’t integrated seamlessly as it’s in the hybrid or e:HEV variant.
The biggest highlight in the refreshed City is the introduction of Honda Sensing ADAS systems in the petrol version. This includes Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Keeping Assist, Road Departure Mitigation System, High Beam Assist, and Collision Mitigating Braking System. What’s more, ADAS is now available on all variants except the base SV variant. This makes the City the most affordable ADAS-equipped car in India, and also the only one that's available with a manual transmission.
We’ve tested all these systems in the hybrid version previously, and they work well on our roads. However, since it’s a camera-based technology, it may not be as effective in bad weather conditions as a radar-based system found in other cars.
In terms of space and comfort, the City still reigns supreme. The seats are wide, supportive and sofa-like comfortable, both at the front and back. The rear bench is spacious, the floor is flat, and you sit in an upright and comfortable posture. The headroom is a little tight for taller people though, although passengers below 5’10 won’t have any complaints.
VTEC Still Kicks In Yo!
On the mechanical front, the City is unchanged, except that there’s no diesel on offer anymore, thanks to the new RDE rules. You get the same 1.5-litre VTEC petrol version as well as a strong hybrid powertrain in the e:HEV version. Both are available with a CVT automatic transmission, while the petrol also gets a 6-speed manual. On this occasion, we were driving the petrol manual. It’s an absolute delight!
The driving experience is largely unchanged, meaning that the VTEC motor is still a blast. It’s got this old-school charm where most of the performance is concentrated towards the top end of the rev band. It’s a free-revving motor, which loves to be thrashed. With the engine redlining at nearly 7,000rpm, it’s a proper screamer. The best part is that it’s very flexible in daily driving conditions, and there’s enough grunt to potter around even at low revs. The manual gearbox, with its short and precise throws, is equally gratifying to use. It’s a truly remarkable engine-gearbox combination, something that we also concluded when we compared the best petrol powertrains under Rs 20 lakh in 2022.
However, what’s not so great is the NVH levels. The sound insulation isn’t that great, and the engine noise starts entering the cabin from as low as 3,000rpm. If you’re driving it normally, it does bother you a fair bit.
Although Honda says the new City is more edgy and sporty, it’s only on the surface. In terms of ride and handling, the City continues to prioritise comfort over driving pleasure. The suspension is soft, and with thin ‘green’ tyres, getting it out of shape is quite easy around corners. However, that’s only when you mistake this family sedan for a Type R Honda. It’s a perfectly capable platform if you drive it like a sane person. What’s more, the platform is quite rigid, so it doesn’t feel floppy when you throw it in bends. If you’re a driving enthusiast, you should consider putting in a stiffer set of springs and wider tyres, and then you will see the true potential of this platform.
On the other side of the spectrum, the ride quality is simply stellar. There’s nothing on the road that upsets the balance or composure of the City. The ride is supple and cushy on bad roads, and it just gliders over potholes. If you’re looking for outright comfort, none of the other cars in its segment does it better than the City, period.
2023 Honda City Review: Verdict
The updates have only enhanced the City as a package, and now, it is an even better value proposition than before. Not to mention, there are more creature comforts along with advanced driver assistance systems – at an affordable price, it has to be said. The facelift retains the stunning VTEC powertrain, bullet-proof Honda reliability, and the segment-best ride comfort. And if you want more fuel savings, there's always the e:HEV version, which has become more affordable with this update.
All in all, the City still does what the City has always done – be a do-it-all sedan for everyone. And, that is precisely why it has been at the top for so long and will probably continue to remain there for a long time.
- Honda City Petrol
Engine: 1,498cc / Inline-4 / VTEC
Transmission: 6-Speed Manual & CVT
Power: 119bhp @ 6,600rpm
Torque: 145Nm @ 4,300rpm
Price: ₹11.49 - ₹15.97 Lakh (Ex-Showroom)
X-Factor: A no-nonsense sedan that does it all & is also great value for money.
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