In the past, whenever the term ‘base’ was used to describe a car, it usually meant a no-frills, bare-bones ride. However, those days are long gone as today’s base cars—like the Honda City 1.3 S variant you see here—are brimming with kit that, a few years ago, could only be found on range-topping models.
This car has got power-everything (door locks, windows, side mirrors); an antilock brake system with EBD; an excellent and intuitive audio system that reads MP3 files and has both an auxiliary jack and a USB port; and, for this particular variant, a five-speed automatic transmission. Hard to believe but, yes, today’s subcompact economy cars are already being offered with an automatic tranny.
With that said, this City is a much better car than the previous model. The transmission is more responsive than the old one’s CVT. The arrow-inspired styling is definitely more gorgeous than the old one’s polarizing tadpole look. And the i-VTEC is a welcome addition as it ably puts out more power on the straights. The only thing that the new City loses out on compared to the old model, is the latter’s useful ULT seats. Good thing this third-generation City (fifth-gen globally, really) has a cavernous boot space that isn’t too obvious just by looking at the sheet metal alone.
As good as this City is features-wise, its on-road dynamics are a bit on the mediocre side. The throttle response lags quite noticeably, particularly from a standstill to around 20kph. In stop-and-go traffic, this could leave a sizable gap between you and the car in front as the City struggles to get itself going. And you, in your eagerness to move forward, end up stepping on the throttle harder, negating the 1.3-liter engine’s fuel-efficiency.
On the highway, the City’s throttle lag is soon forgotten as it can zip through expressway traffic quite fast. But with its small powerplant that’s only capable of pushing out 100 horses, you’ll soon discover that the City tops out at a mere 140kph.
So, the City is really supposed to see duty only in the city due to its small engine and limited top speed. Its slow throttle response, however, goes against the small mill’s fuel-efficiency as you often feel the urge to step on the gas pedal harder just to get you going. Its smallish fuel tank also gives you the feeling that you’re not driving a fuel-miser even if the City’s digital gauge is telling you that your average fuel consumption is 12km/L—which is what I was able to do in combined city-and-highway driving.
Despite these weaknesses, the City is a car that’s almost perfect for the city-dweller. Its size allows for some nimble maneuvering around urban obstacles, yet it’s still capable of carrying five people in relative comfort.
For its price, this base-model City gives you a lot more features and oomph than other cars in its class. The only reason you’ll look elsewhere is because you’re trying to save a few more bucks, but that could also mean you’d be getting a whole lot less.
Source: Top Gear Philippines, November 2009