At low revs, let’s say in urban conditions, the torque comes to the rescue and you can accomplish your daily commute without much of an effort. But if you do get an opportunity to floor it between traffic signals and want to overtake other cars, then a downshift through the paddles is a must. And yes, before you ask, you can use the paddles even in D mode. Driving in S mode only translates to quicker shifts, and for the commute, that’s my mode of choice. The quality of the paddles is much better than the Civic automatic, and the accompanying click-click when you are in a mood to floor it enhances the driving experience. There is linear power delivery from the new motor and the lag from the automatic gearbox is barely noticeable. The engine is of course a gem and plasters an instant smile on your face every time you stomp on the pedal. So as regards the drivetrain, there are no cribs except for the fact that it takes a bit too long when overtaking without downshifting – so the paddles have to be used. Or else you need more power than what’s on offer here.
But my main grouse is not with the engine/gearbox combination, but the steering feedback at low revs. In such situations, the Civic-like steering’s feel is surprisingly lifeless; it is over-servoed (mainly to help you park easily) and it is vague. For a moment I felt that the EPS from the last-gen City had come back to haunt the new one. Misplaced fears, thankfully. Because when the speeds increase, it tightens up so well that you can hardly believe this was the same steering in the same car; the feedback is vastly improved and it offers more driving precision. Between 80 and 100 kph, the City is at its best. The steering is taut, the engine is just ticking over at barely 4000 revs and you know that there is more juice inside there when you want it. There is no doubt that this car would be happy going fast rather than slow!
The underpinnings also help it do just that. With McPhersons at front and a torsion beam at the rear and with a quartet of 175/65 R15 tubeless rubber all around, the new City is a much improved handler than its predecessor. It is much more confident and feels more planted across the board. The unsure handling of the previous generation is now a distant memory, as the new City attacks curves with a degree of precision and confidence not known before. The ride too is not as harsh as the last-gen model, and does a good job of keeping away the rough stuff from intruding into your bottom. My only recommendation is that Honda should provide alloys wheels in the top end versions at least, and that will take its handling prowess a notch up. Oh, and the brakes commensurate the performance on tap. They stop brilliantly and with ABS and EBD as standard (plus airbags too!), Honda has finally made up with the new City.
So, as expected, the new City automatic is as accomplished as a car in its category can get... well, almost. But the important thing is does it manage to be as frugal despite being more powerful, heavier and safer? I have good news. Despite repeated flogging, the City automatic gave us an overall figure of 12.4 kpl. If you are conservative in your driving habits, I can well imagine fewer visits to your favourite fuel pump. That aside, it is worth the
Rs 9.2 lakh Honda is asking for the automatic variant. Still, a bunch of alloy wheels would nicely sweeten up the deal. But anyway, you’ll know you’ve got a bargain when you are eventually ready to sell it a few years down the line.