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First Oz drive: Honda City adds light-car spice

High priced light: New Honda City is priced from $20,490.

Honda finally gets its hands on the Jazz's four-door sibling - the City sedan


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9 Feb 2009

HONDA Australia hopes the third-generation Honda City sedan – a $20K light-car based on the Jazz – will lure 4000 buyers a year away from competitors such as the Toyota Yaris, Hyundai Accent and Holden Barina.

Honda says City – new to Australia in sedan guise – will “create its own space” in the market, aside from taking on the logical light-car competition. Apparently, one way it will do this is via its fulsome rear-end.

The “mine’s bigger than yours” claim always has potential to backfire. While Honda says the City “has a bigger boot (506 litres VDA) than the Accord (450 litres), Accord Euro (467 litres) and even a Holden Commodore”, this also serves to highlight the lack of boot capacity of Accord and Accord Euro, which the City’s competitor, the Toyota Yaris sedan, also surpasses with its 475-litre boot capacity.

When the Japanese build a sedan version of a small hatch, it appears they clearly prefer the added appendage to be large.

While its $20,490 opening price pushes City over the psychological $20K barrier and thus makes the City look expensive for the light car category, it is only $700 more than the Toyota Yaris YRS when similarly equipped with the ($750 option) side and side curtain airbags.

Yet when casting an eye further afield, the Honda is placed at the premium end of light-sedan pricing. The Barina ($16,290), Accent ($16,990) and even Tiida ($18,490) are much cheaper.

Honda is targeting motorists aged between 20 and 40 with a “relatively high income”, plus empty nesters.

Being based on the Jazz hatch, there are no surprises mechanically or in most dimensions. The City is nearly half a metre longer than the Jazz, but is slightly shorter. Width and wheelbase are identical to Jazz, while the “big brother” Civic sedan is 140mm longer and 55mm wider than the City sedan.

Honda says the City employs advanced passive safety technology, such as Honda’s Advanced Compatibility Engineering body, which according to Honda offers better occupant protection and better compatibility in collisions with other vehicles, and its pedestrian-injury reduction body design helps protect head and leg areas, says Honda.

No independent crash safety test has been published for the City yet, but given Jazz’s four-star New Car Assessment Program (NCAP) performance Honda is confident of a similar result for City. Until City has electronic stability control (ESC), it of course cannot achieve a five-star Australian NCAP result.

Just one engine is offered for City sedan: 1.5-litre SOHC i-VTEC transversely mounted four-cylinder that has a claimed output of 88kW at 6600rpm and 145Nm at 4800rpm. It is identical to the unit used in the Jazz.

Claimed fuel consumption is 6.9L/100km (manual) and 7.9L/100km (auto) for the city cycle, 5.3L/100km (for both manual and auto) in the extra-urban cycle and 6.3L/100km and 6.6L/100km (auto) for the combined cycle. C02 emissions are 148g/km (manual) and 156g/km (auto).

While a five-speed manual is standard, an optional five-speed automatic is offered on both the VTi and VTi-L models. The auto has a shorter final drive ratio than the manual but taller gear ratios. Honda claims that changes to the torque converter lock-up improve efficiency, and perhaps this goes some way to explain why extra-urban efficiency is equal to the manual.

Like the Jazz, the City has a MacPherson strut front suspension and a torsion beam rear. Electric power steering is fitted and the turning circle is 10 metres.

Two City models are offered: VTi and VTi-L.

The VTi has power windows (with driver’s door one-touch up and down) and mirrors, cruise control, central locking, keyless entry, tilt-adjust steering wheel with cruise and audio controls, passenger seat back pocket, full size spare wheel and an iPod-ready single in-dash CD stereo with MP3 compatibility.

Safety features include four-wheel-disc brakes (ventilated front, solid rear) with ABS including electronic brake-force distribution (EBD) and brake assist, dual front, side and curtain airbags and front seatbelt pre-tensioners.

For an additional $2500 over VTi, the VTi-L adds fog lights, 16x6.0-inch alloy wheels with 185/55R16 tyres (in place of 15x.55-inch steel wheels and 175/65R15 tyres on VTi), telescopic adjustment for the steering wheel, chrome door handles, chrome exhaust tip, driver’s seatback pocket, rear seat under-tray, rear armrest with cup-holder, upper grade seat trim and interior panels, leather steering wheel, centre console armrest, boot lid lining and rear micro antenna.

The key ingredient missing from City is ESC. None of its key competitors (except Accent) offer ESc either, but at least the Honda will have it available when it is developed by late next year. According to Honda, most Asian markets that the City calls home do not place a high value on stability control.

While the only interior colour offered is black on both models, the exterior colour palette includes Taffeta White, Alabaster Silver (metallic), Crystal Black (pearl), Deep Lapis Blue (metallic) and Hananero Red (pearl).

2009 Honda City range pricing:
VTi $20,490
VTi (a) $22,790
VTi-L $22,990
VTi-L (a) $25,290

Read more:

City launched from $20,490

First drive: Honda City makes good urban sense

GoAuto can help you buy a new City

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