It was that time of the year again where a vast majority Malaysians begin travelling back to their home towns to celebrate Hari Raya. Those who work and live in major cities like Kuala Lumpur will begin piling stuff into their trunk and brace themselves for a long journey to get together and celebrate the festive season with their loved ones. This year, I was rather fortunate that Honda Malaysia provided me with the Honda City for my ‘balik kampung’ trip.
Every year, I will travel to my folks’ residence in Negeri Sembilan. Although it may not seem like a long distance drive, the traffic going back to my hometown is always horrendous following the increased number of travelers on the road who are also doing the same.
Thankfully, my journey back to my hometown was a little bit of a breeze with lesser traffic compared to those who travel up North or to the West Coast. Out on the open road, the Honda City’s drive feels quite familiar to the rest of its bigger siblings. The Honda City seems to excel well in day to day driving with brisk performance and commendably low fuel-consumption. During my test run, I managed to cover a distance of 380 to 400 km on a full tank of 40-litres which is quite impressive for a vehicle in this segment. Meanwhile, my average fuel consumption on a combination of highway and city driving was 13.1km per litre.
The 1.5-litre 4-cylinder SOHC i-VTEC engine is the revised version of the previous generation model with the same output of 118hp and 145Nm of torque. Its Earth Dreams CVT (continuously variable automatic transmission) however is new and provides good pick up for a smooth and effortless acceleration.
As with all CVTs, the Honda City does create a loud engine noise when throttled hard especially when sprinting from standstill; it almost seems like it’s running out of breath. Nonetheless, once you’ve settled on a comfortable highway speed, the level of engine and wind noise is less intrusive enabling you to engage in conversation with your passengers with ease, provided of course their faces aren’t buried in their respective smart-phones!
The suspension setup comprising a McPherson Strut (front) and Torsion Beam (rear) fitted in the City provides a plush ride, capable of absorbing road imperfections especially when driving on kampung roads. Plus, Honda’s light and easy-to-maneuver steering wheel with 5.3m turning radius proves to be very helpful especially when the making U-turns or tackling corners, while its ventilated disc (front) and drum (rear) brakes provide excellent stopping power.
Although I would really appreciate it if more weight were added for greater confidence when driving at high speed, I still think that its ride quality is way better than any of its Japanese rivals in this segment.
One of the Honda City’s ‘rare’ feature not found in other vehicles in its class is the ECON mode button that optimizes the vehicles’ operation to maximize fuel efficiency. Upon engaging the ‘ECON’ mode, I noticed that the air conditioning blows lesser cool air so the car can save as much fuel as possible. Furthermore, the throttle felt less responsive to prevent the driver from over accelerating. It’s a good trick if you are running out of petrol and can’t find any petrol station nearby! Another distinctive feature found in the Honda City but not in other vehicle in its class is the cruise control that allows you to cruise along the highway on your desired speed without having to put your foot on the pedal all the time.
One of the things I liked the most when stepping into the City’s cabin is its plush seats and its best in class spaciousness where there’s an abundance of leg-room, especially for rear passenger to be seated in full comfort. And as I was told, this sedan also provides ample space for ladies to place their handbag next to their knee when sitting inside the car without feeling too cramped. Apart from that, the rear seat comes with rear air conditioning vents and its own 3 power sockets and USB ports that allow you to connect to your electronic gadgets to keep those sitting at back seat occupied on a long drive.
Thanks to Honda’s ‘man maximum, machine minimum’ design philosophy, I was able to haul two large suitcases, a couple of the recycle bags and even my nephew’s stroller in the boot while there’s still more room available to chuck in my pillows for the long weekend.
The spacious cabin and boot space is the result of the City’s 25mm longer and 7mm taller dimensions compared to the previous models, while width still remains the same. While it may seem arbitrary, I honestly think that Honda should also provide the City with an optional reverse camera or park assist as I’ve been having quite a troubling time trying to gauge the boot width when reverse parking the vehicle. Maybe it’s just me, but not everybody has the same height as my six foot tall editor especially if you’re a lady driver. Interestingly enough the rear view mirror and side mirror does not help either…
I also like the built-in 7-inch touch-screen that houses a myriad of functions such as audio control, Bluetooth connectivity for hands-free phone calls as well as automatic air-conditioning control. The touch screen multimedia is very easy to use but I think Honda should probably come up with a ‘child-screen-lock-out’ because my nephew can’t keep his hands off that thing! The USB, HDMI and Aux connectivity are labelled and located at the most easy to find position so you won’t have to spend so much time fumbling all over the place looking for a place to charge your mobile phone. Some carmakers these days hardly take into account its driver’s convenience like Honda does.
In terms of safety, one of the Honda City’s highlights is its Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA) that stabilizes the vehicle from skidding. This features was mostly felt on B-roads, where the Honda City proved to be manoeuvrable and able to steer itself away from harming livestock including my grandmother’s chickens when driving around village roads. Apart from the VSA, the Honda City also comes with 6-airbags; emergency stop signal that automatically flashes the rear brake light and hazard light when it detects sudden emergency braking. On top of that, the City also comes standard with Hill Start Assist that prevents it from rolling backwards on an incline; child’s seat ISOFIX as well as Anti-lock Braking System that helps prevent the wheels from locking in an emergency braking situation and on slippery road.
After spending a week with the Honda City, it is apparent that this compact sedan is spacious, fuel-efficient, easy to drive and reliable making it an ideal family sedan. Although it’s not the perfect B-segment sedan, the ubiquitous Honda City is still loved by many as serves its intended purpose well, on top of its good looks!