CITY ON THE ROAD

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WHAT’S in a name? Well, usually a clue on what a particular thing is all about—of which the Honda City’s provides much. After all, this subcompact sedan, in all its previous model renditions, has proven to be quite a sweet car for tackling city streets.

The latest, fourth-gen model is no exception. In top-spec VX+ and VX variants, the new car brims with kit that once was the province only of vehicles costing around twice as much. Taking the center stage among the fancy bits is a touch-screen panel for the multimedia system, which plays various formats, is wallpaper-configurable, and links with digital devices via auxiliary, USB and HDMI ports, as well as through Bluetooth. The touch-screen thingie ups the game by adding in the car’s climate controls. Obviously, Honda thinks dials and buttons are so 10 minutes ago.

The seven-inch screen also displays images beamed by the car’s rear-view parking camera in clear def, taking guesswork out of the equation when slotting in spaces.

Which should be good because that will help spare from dings the new City’s bodywork, whose styling has turned softer and more upscale as it loses the somewhat truncated, definitely angular shape of the old car’s. And while the new model is bigger—almost breaching compact sedan dimensions—it still manages to pull a younger, more fashionable vibe than what the Honda Civic struts.


In a car that grew only marginally outside, the new City’s cabin offers up living room-like space for four (or even five, if this quintet is touchy-feely). Knees of taller-than-average humans would rarely touch the front seatbacks even if the same-sized couple on the front perches settles in as comfortably as so desired. The latest car has one large cabin, as well as an equally sizeable cargo bay, despite its subcompact tag.

All this means the City, more than ever, has become a suitable ride for the urban landscape. But Honda Cars Phils. Inc. obviously thinks the new model is not merely a traffic-bound contraption: The City’s capacity for highway cruising and tackling twisty trails was pitched in a blast that took off from Bonifacio Global City to a La Union resort, and then back the next day.

Held following the car’s local debut program, the road trip bared that the things that make the new City a perfect urban shuttle—digital connectivity, parking camera, handy size inside and outside—are also the same things that make the car comfy on long drives. There’s plenty of space no matter which seat one ends up on. Entertainment is limited only by the amount of megabytes one packs. Luggage that can be accommodated in the trunk depends on one’s common sense.

What can’t be experienced on traffic-clogged Metro streets are the City’s relaxed, totally refined manners when it’s driven on the open stretches of expressways. The extra “cogs” of the seven-speed CVT let engine revs stay low at high speeds. Slot the CVT in Sport mode and get more response when the throttle is floored—particularly useful when passing.

Off the expressways, the CVT’s paddle shifters also came in handy for more passing moves, making good use of the 118hp, 1.5-liter engine—which is a carryover from the previous City. And while 118hp isn’t really much, it’s adequate for the City’s poundage, three passengers and a weekend’s worth of luggage for each included.

When the road started to get twisty, like that skirting the base of the mountain, on top of which Baguio City sits, the City’s suspension—a tweaked version of the previous car’s—found a balance between control and comfort. It kept the car agile and planted but cushioned against bumps and ruts. The car’s electrically assisted steering, a system that usually numbs response, is surprisingly communicative and quick—nothing to snipe at, really.

Guess this goes for the new City in general, which, by any function, is just as sweet.

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