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For over 20 years now, the Honda City has ruled the roost, but with SUVs encroaching on its segment, does the fifth-generation City have what it takes to fight back?

Like with the previous generation, Honda has taken a more evolutionary approach to the upgrade. The new car is instantly recognisable as a Honda City, without looking like a mere facelift. A new chrome bar greets you up front, flanked by brilliant LED headlights. There is a familial resemblance to the Civic, which is a great thing in our books. Moving on to the side, there is a strong shoulder line that extends from the headlight all the way to the back and some additional flame surfacing at the bottom to break up the monotony. The new car shares its wheelbase with the outgoing model, but it is longer overall. Certain hardpoints are also shared with the outgoing model, because it does ride on a modified version of the fourth-generation City’s chassis.

At the rear, slim LED tail lights round out the package. The new City is shorter than the outgoing model, bucking the trend of rising beltlines.

Inside, you get a dual-tone, beige and black interior with wood accents. The leather seats are extremely comfortable and power assist on the driver’s seat, along with a steering wheel that’s adjustable for tilt and reach, allows you to get well settled in behind the wheel. Under the instrument binnacle is a new digital-analogue gauge cluster with clear, easy-to-read fonts and white backlighting. It is customisable to a certain extent, but it’s probably best to just leave it uncluttered.

The 20.32 cm touchscreen infotainment has the usual suite of Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity, with the addition of Amazon’s Alexa to control vehicle functions remotely. On our test car, we managed to get Alexa to lock and unlock the car, albeit with a few seconds delay.

The City also comes with Honda’s LaneWatch camera on the left ORVM. When you indicate a left turn, the camera displays your blind spot on the screen. This is a brilliant feature, but we wish Honda had included a camera on the right side as well, for symmetry and safety.

The City doesn’t get features like ventilated seats, but rear seat comfort is top notch. A flat floor, increased knee room and shoulder room mean that it’s arguably the most comfortable car in its segment.

The City is powered by the familiar 1.5-litre petrol engine, but this time around, it gets DOHC heads, increasing power to 119 bhp and 14.3 kgm of peak torque. It’s now the most powerful car in its segment, and yes, that includes the turbo-petrol Hyundai Verna. The engine doesn’t make too much torque down low, but once you’re past 2000 rpm, it really comes alive, singing all the way to its 7000 rpm redline. The 6-speed manual transmission is our choice of the two on offer. It has positive engagement and a light action which, combined with the equally light clutch pedal, won’t make you regret buying a manual over the CVT variant. The CVT comes with an Eco mode and paddle shifters, and the rubberband effect has been all but tuned out of it, with simulated gearshift – but the City is a car where you’d want to row through the gears yourself.

Ride And Handling
The City retains its great ride quality, even with sportier handling. As a result, while it does go around corners with confidence, there’s plenty of body roll. The ride over bad roads is great, with the suspension soaking up all but the nastiest of potholes. There was one instant where it scraped its belly over a particularly high speed breaker, though. We couldn’t replicate it over the same bump, but it’s worth noting that it is quite softly sprung.

Overall, save for the Amazon Alexa integration, the Honda City skips gimmicky features in favour of a comfortable and satisfying driving experience. It continues to be the segment leader in performance and practicality if you ask us. If priced competitively, there are few reasons why you would want to consider the competition over it.

Honda City 1.5 i-VTEC

Displacement: 1498cc, I-4, petrol
Max power: 119 bhp@6600 rpm
Max torque: 14.3 kgm@4300 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed, manual/CVT

F/R: 185/55 R16

L/W/H (mm): 4549/1748/1489
Wheelbase: 2600 mm

5-speed Manual – Rs 13.15 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi)
CVT – Rs 14.45 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi)