The all-new City is the best birthday treat Honda can give

In most cases, the best Honda is the one you can rely on
by Dinzo Tabamo | Oct 22, 2020

“It’s fitting that the best Honda for most people accompanies the celebration of the brand’s 30th anniversary in the country”

I still remember the first Honda I saw on Philippine streets. Back in my high-school senior year, my classmate Howard drove a 1994 Honda Civic EG hatch to school. Being older than us for, er, certain reasons, he was legally of age to drive.

The Civic was a beautiful thing—a cute hatchback in a sea of bland Japanese sedans. Then in college, I got to ride in my blockmate Ernest’s sleek Civic ESI. And how could I forget Dette-dette’s white Civic with the Rockford Fosgate setup and Pioneer head unit?

For the longest time, the Honda City had none of those positive associations for me. It came out when I—and everyone else—was still enthralled with the Civic and the CR-V. Over the generations, the City grew and became more refined, but so did the rest of the lineup. This subcompact sedan was great for going around, but—sorry, Honda—its siblings offered more character.

Continue reading below ↓

PHOTO: Sharleen Banzon

Something happened, however, when I drove the sixth-generation City in 2014. It was an out-of-town drive and I was driving the car down from Tagaytay. There was no more media convoy and we could go at our own pace. Photographer Mikko David and I plotted a special route going down, passing through the old Marcos mansion and exiting in Nuvali.

Continue reading below ↓
Recommended Videos

The roads were quite challenging, with unpaved portions and dirt sections. It was here that I marveled at the City’s chassis and how it cosseted me from the harsh conditions outside. There was nothing spectacular about the powerplant, but it got the job done. By the time we were on SLEX, I was slightly leaning back and the cold A/C was blowing my cares away. That day changed my perception of the City from a basic mode of transport to a real Honda.

The seventh-generation 2020 City we met for a sneak preview continues this tradition. The all-new model is also being introduced in the same month as the 30th anniversary of Honda Cars Philippines (HCPI), and it’s fitting that the best Honda for most people accompanies the celebration. After all, HCPI began its operations in the country under a people’s car program in the ’90s.

Continue reading below ↓

PHOTO: Sharleen Banzon

The latest City synchronizes with the design language of the Civic. It now incorporates that bold prow above the grille. The new City RS variant is the top spec, and it gets the bulk of visual improvements: new wheels, a small black spoiler, and a racy honeycomb grille. In this launch color, an interplay of red and black can be seen, proof that Honda added a little more flair to the top variant. Black side mirrors and shark-fin antenna complement the red body paint.

In the cabin, this racy color combination continues. Red stitching can be seen sprinkled tastefully throughout the space. The interior is more streamlined, with A/C controls neatly arranged under the infotainment system. Honda is a pioneer in Apple CarPlay connectivity, having had it since it launched the all-new Civic in 2016, and the tradition continues here. The RS does get a fascinating new remote start function, although we weren’t able to test this.

Continue reading below ↓

My eyes—and yours, most likely—are drawn to the steering wheel. Unless you’re in a German car, most tillers are forgettable spheres of plastic and buttons. The City has a leather wheel with red stitching, of course, and big thumb hooks. It tickles my inner gearhead and invites me to do fun things with the car. There was a time when red stitching was reserved for Hondas with red badges. The seats are well-bolstered yet still promise comfort for long drives.

PHOTO: Sharleen Banzon

Unfortunately, the engine options bring me back to earth. None of the exciting diesel or turbocharged powerplants are arriving, and we get basically the same 1.5-liter four-cylinder mill as the previous generation, good for 118hp and 145Nm. I suspect cost considerations prevented HCPI from bringing in the more powerful engines.

Of course, having the ‘old’ engines mean we can expect the same level of fuel economy from the new City. Honda’s subcompact sedan and its hatchback twin, the Jazz, are famous for just sniffing gasoline and setting record fuel-economy runs. You have to prod the CVT to get a bit of excitement from the 1.5-liter engine that now has dual overhead cams, but for going around the metro and cruising on highways, it can more than deliver.

Continue reading below ↓

Indeed, the driving experience around the Honda compound premises felt familiar—that same sensation of just-right power and comfort. After a few minutes behind the wheel, my mind stopped trying to discern what’s different between the new and outgoing City. Cold Honda air-conditioning enveloped the cabin, making me forget I was in the middle of sweltering Laguna heat. The more refined and improved NVH also encouraged relaxing thoughts.

PHOTO: Sharleen Banzon

I’m also glad to see that the rear seat, which was already as cavernous as a ’90s Accord, is now even roomier. There are even A/C vents for the second row, albeit only in the RS variant. That said, all the new toys that the RS has doesn’t mean the other variants are less compelling. In fact, they may even be better bargains as they have the same powertrain and NVH improvements, not to mention that roomy back seat.

Continue reading below ↓

Guys like me will always lament what isn’t in the new City because I’ve seen the best of what Honda can offer. Where’s the turbo, the diesel, or the hybrid? Is its platform twin, the Jazz, still coming? (I’ve been trying to get an answer to this for months.)

Maybe when schools open again, some lucky college kids will get a City and bring it to campus. And some of their classmates will ride and be impressed, and they will get to know Honda like I do. Maybe they’ll also be dazzled by the Civic Type R, or be drawn to the HR-V. But if they’re practical and just want a reliable, well, city car, this Honda fits the bill perfectly.

Continue reading below ↓

Continue reading below ↓

Continue reading below ↓

Continue reading below ↓

Continue reading below ↓

Continue reading below ↓

See Also

PHOTO: Sharleen Banzon
  • Quiz Results

  • TGP Rating:
    /20

    Starts at ₱

    TGP Rating:
    /20
    Starts at ₱