|Imagine a Honda Civic of just seven years ago. Give it a modern 1.5-litre super-economical IVEC engine, and the biggest boot in its class, and what do you get?
The new Honda City, based on the Jazz but with super styling that avoids the “booted hatch” and gives Honda a starter pack model that could eat into sales of more expensive competitors.
Cars continue to grow as they are updated, and the Civic is no exception. The original Civic was a small dumpy hatch with a 1-litre engine, and later developed into an equally tiny four-door sedan with 1.3-litre and 1.4-litre power.
Now it’s a powerful medium segment competitor, and that means an entry level space has opened up in the Honda lineup for a roomy but still compact four-door saloon.
And that’s where the new City fits in, offering a particularly modern, well-built and surprisingly spacious car that’s suitable for both fleet and private buyers – as mentioned, about the same length and width as the Civic was in 2002.
That said, Honda says this City delivers more power, space and fuel efficiency than all previous model Civics, with the exception of the latest generation.
The City is based on a completely different platform to the current four-door Civic – which shares its underpinnings with the Accord – and with a different set of parameters.
As the starter four-door sedan model for Honda it comes in two trim levels, S and E, with the former available with either 5-speed manual or auto ‘boxes; the latter only as an auto, and keenly priced at $26,900, $29,500 and $31,900 respectively.
A leather-trimmed E version is available at $35,200 and a Sport version with aerodynamic add-ons for $35,200.
Alloy wheels can be specified for the S model for an extra $4,700.
Motive power is the same on all models, a similar 1.5-litre SOHC i-VTEC as found in the Jazz, but with slightly different mapping on both the engine and the Civic-derived auto gearbox to allow for the City’s different drive characteristics.
Unlike the Civic the City doesn’t get SportShift sequential manual mode, but it does have Honda’s Gear Logic Control which takes into account road conditions to cut out unnecessary gear changing and more control in hard driving conditions.
Engine power output is 88kW at 6600rpm and 145Nm of torque at 4700rpm, with average ADR fuel figures of 6.3L/100km for the manual and 6.6 for the automatic.
The cars come well equipped, but thanks to a rationalisation issue don’t get electronic stability programme – and won’t for about a year.
The problem comes about because Honda NZ has to take the same models as ordered by Honda Australia, and the original specification did not include ESP. Although the hardware is available – ESP relies on the same systems as ABS braking – the software development will, according to Honda NZ, take about a year.
That said the City DOES get ABS with electronic brakeforce distribution and emergency brake assist, as well as dual front, side and curtain airbags, and front seat belt pre-tensioners.
One area the City doesn’t scrimp on is space, and it is a full five-seater. It’s also got a huge boot, its 506 litres on a par with many big luxury cars and well above average for this segment. In fact Honda says you can get a full-size mountain bike with its front wheel removed into the boot – and we’ve seen the pictures to prove it!
Styling is upbeat and even slightly aggressive at the front, and you definitely don’t get the impression that this is a “hatch with a boot” – it’s a fully integrated design which doesn’t remind one of the Jazz at all.