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Honda City Diesel : First Drive

  • Dec 29, 2013
  • 9903 Views
 



The Honda City has been the definitive benchmark in the Indian mid-size segment owing to its refinement, reliability, performance and quality. That said, soaring petrol prices allowed rivals with diesel engine options to surge past. Now though, Honda is all set to take on the mid-size segment with the fourth generation City that will have the option of a diesel engine. And that’s not all, Honda has made the new City larger from the inside, lighter, stiffer while packing in more equipment as well.

Lets take a look then, at the new Honda City diesel.



Exterior

The new Honda City has the same profile as its predecessor as its predecessor and has the same length and width of 4,400mm and 1,695mm respectively. Although, by reducing overhang Honda has increased legroom by 50mm to 2,600mm while the height of the car has gone up by 10mm to 1,495mm.

The new City gets an angular front bumper with flat sides while the front slopes outwards towards the centre, there is a centrally located air dam while the fog lamps are housed in black plastic recesses at either end. The grille has a thick strip of chrome that is in sync with Honda’s new design philosophy. The head lights maintain a similar look to those on the earlier car while the bulbs have been rearranged to place the indicators on the outer edge. The bonnet has V shaped grooves to accentuate a power dome.



Around the sides, a prominent crease runs from the lower section of the front doors to the tail lights giving the car a sporty profile that is further enhanced by a rearward sloping coupe-like roofline featuring a shark fin radio ariel, the lower section of the doors feature a curve stretching from the top of the rocker panel at the front to the rear wheel arch thereby lending a visual break, while new five spoke alloy wheels complete the new side profile. Although, I feel Honda should have given the car a different set of alloys as these ones look like they are from the decade gone by.



At the back, the new Honda City gets new tail lights that are sleeker and longer and flow on to the boot lid. The tail lights are connected by a strip of chrome located over the license plate holder. The boot lid and bumper slope out from under the tail lights to give the car a bigger look. The rear bumper gets a curve at the lower section to break the monotony of the otherwise flat contour with a faux rear skirt incorporating reflectors. The tail pipe is mounted under the right side of the car while the rear tow hook is located centrally under the bumper.

 

Interiors



The dual tone interiors of the new Honda City are truly a generation ahead of its predecessor. While the quality of plastics and switch gear are the same as that of the previous generation model, the dashboard is finished in black and sliver with piano black inserts that gives the dash a contemporary appearance. The seats on the top end VX variant that was tested come trimmed in leather, the car also gets a leather wrapped steering and gear knob. The roof, A-pillars, B-pillars, C-pillars, seats and carpets are beige in colour and so are the fabric inserts in the doors. The beige colour does definitely make the already large cabin feel even larger and makes for an airy ambience.



The seat cushions at the front are large and cushioning is just right, the driver’s seat as expected gets height adjust and finding a good driving position is easy with the adjustable steering. At the back, the rear seat is massive for this segment, it can seat three adults in complete comfort, the seat squab is large and there is plenty of under thigh support. The back rest is inclined perfectly and like the front seats the cushioning is just right for adequate support on those long journeys. The best part is that even with the front seats set all the way back there is plenty of legroom for rear seat passengers. The high roof allows tall passengers to be seated without the rearward sloping roofline interfering with rear headroom.



The fourth generation Honda City gets a range of equipment such as a double din audio system with Bluetooth, USB and AUX connectivity along with steering mounted controls, it is hooked to eight speakers. The only flaw here that I see is that the relatively small screen looks lost in the vast piano black trim on the centre console. The car also gets cruise control, sunroof, power windows all around, a 12V power outlet in the centre console, electric folding ORVMs and climate control with first in class touch controls for the HVAC unit. And despite initial pessimism, I’ am also happy to report that the touch controls for the air-con unit are intuitive to use on the go. Although, it leaves me wondering if the touch controls will be as responsive in our dusty Indian conditions and whether scratches on the screen will impede sensitivity. 



Practicality is further aided by bottle holders in all four doors while there is a fold away cup holder for the driver on the right corner of the dashboard. Rear seat passengers get a/c vents, two 12V power outlets and cup holders in the rear arm rest.

 

Engine and Gearbox 



The new City diesel is powered by the company’s four cylinder 1.5 litre i-DTEC diesel engine that does duty in the Amaze compact sedan. The engine develops an identical 100PS of power @ 3,600 rpm and 200Nm of torque at 1,750 rpm in the new City as well. Although, the new Honda City is 45 kg lighter than its predecessor, it is 90 kg heavier than the smaller Amaze. Despite this, the City diesel has reasonably strong acceleration from initial revs and once the turbo comes on song the motor pulls with even more might and the power keeps coming in strong to 3,600 rpm and tails off once you hit the redline at 4,000 rpm.



Acceleration is brisk for its segment and even though there are more powerful rivals for the City diesel out there, the engine is mated to a six-speed manual gearbox that gives the car good cruising ability with the tall sixth gear which allows the car to achieve a claimed fuel efficiency figure of 26 km/pl, making it India’s most efficient car!

Although, no matter where you are in the rev range in sixth gear, you will need to engage fifth gear for those overtaking maneuverers. That said, in fifth gear the car pulls strongly all the way to 150 km/h post which the engine and inertia aids the sixth gear to give the car reasonable acceleration. The six-speed gearbox in the Honda City diesel has accurate shifts and right from the first time you drive the car allows you to engage all six-ratios spot on. The clutch is light and driving under heavy traffic conditions should be no problem at all.



Honda has made a good compromise between efficiency and performance with the powertrain. The only grouch here is the NVH level inside the cabin. Right from the time you fire up the motor the diesel engine clatter is evident and is always prominent at initial speeds. And it only gets louder as you head towards the redline. Its at faster speeds that the engine noise of the 1.5 litre i-DTEC motor settles down in the City diesel and in my opinion Honda should have resorted to more sound dampening to keep NVH levels in check inside the cabin.



Ride and Handling

The steering on the City is well weighed for an electronic unit and its accuracy provokes confidence. As mentioned earlier, the new City is more rigid than its predecessor which complimented by the MacPherson strut suspension upfront with coil springs and torsion beam axle with coil springs at the rear that give the car positive road manners. High speed stability is extremely good and even at speeds above 170 km/h the car remains unsettled by minor dips and crests while inspiring confidence.



However, we have not had a chance to test the car over poor roads to judge ride comfort. That said, initial impressions are that the suspension had good cushioning over slightly broken tarmac surfaces although there was a fair amount of road noise while dealing with the surface.

While the 175/65 R15 section tyres may appear skinny they provide good traction around corners and its only when you push the car hard around corners is there tyre squeal.



Safety

The new Honda City diesel comes equipped with dual airbags at the front, anti-lock brakes, impact beams and crumple zones. The brakes provide good bite and the ABS kicks in late thereby allowing a little bit of a margin for some confidence inspired fun.



Verdict

The Honda City diesel with its frugal and responsive powertrain combined with commendable drive dynamics makes for a great urban run about and highway cruiser. Although, the downside here is clearly the NVH levels which allow more than acceptable levels of engine noise inside the cabin with the diesel clatter evident at initial speeds and at high rpm.

However, one simply cannot ignore the sheer amount of cabin space inside the new Honda City along with good build quality and lengthy equipment list. The final ace up the new City diesel’s sleeve is its price. Ranging between Rs. 8.62 lakh to Rs. 11.10 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi) the Honda City diesel is a tough nut to crack in its segment.  

 

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