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Driven: Honda becomes City-centric

City slicker: The new Honda City kicks off from $15,990 plus ORCs and features a reversing camera as standard across the range.

Sales boost expected for new City as Honda launched new-gen version from $15,990


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14 May 2014

HONDA Australia is hoping its new-generation City sedan can help spark flagging interest in the light-car market, outlining a “conservative” sales target of 250 units per month that would return it to the numbers its predecessor clocked up after launch in 2009.

Speaking at the launch of the new City this week, Honda Australia director Stephen Collins said the internal sales target was on the low-side and that the spacious Jazz-based sedan could buck the downward trend in a segment down 15.1 per cent YTD.

“This car comes out of our Thai factory and we have got plenty of production capacity so my view is I think we are conservative on the 250,” he said. “And if we take more orders, which I expect that we can do, then we can order more production and fulfill more orders.

“When the last-generation City was launched in 2009, our market share, particularly in that first year was around 28 per cent (of sedans), so we see no reason why this car won’t do at least that, if not better.”

Mr Collins said he was not concerned about the City taking sales away from the slightly larger Civic sedan that is also sourced from Thailand, despite buyers in that segment cross-shopping with vehicles a segment above.

“I don’t really see it eating into Civic sedan. I think buyers are similar.

These are buyers that buy small sedans but historically we have seen that it hasn’t eaten into Civic sedan so we are not anticipating that it will. Civic sedan tends to be a bit of an older buyer, I would say. We were talking mid 30s to 40s (City), it’s a bit different in demo so we don’t see it cannibalising Civic sedan at all.”

As previously reported, pricing for the new-gen City kicks off at $15,990 excluding on-road costs for the VTi matched with a five-speed manual gearbox, which increases by $2000 to $17,990 when replacing the manual with the new continuously variable transmission (CVT).

The range tops out with the VTi-L matched exclusively with the CVT for $21,390.

Metallic paint is a $495 option on both variants and rear parking sensors can also be optioned and fitted for the same cost.

The new entry price makes the City $500 cheaper than the outgoing model in VTi guise but $900 dearer for the top-spec VTi-L.

This pricing places the City at the lower end of the light sedan segment against the Nissan Almera, ($16,990 to $20,990), Hyundai Accent ($16,990 to $20,990), Toyota Yaris ($18,190 to $21,790), but it is undercut by the Holden Barina sedan ($15,490 to $20,190).

Honda has made improvements to the 88kW/145Nm 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine from the previous City and included a new CVT developed using the company's Earth Dreams technology.

This has improved fuel efficiency from 6.3 litres per 100 kilometres to 5.8L/100km on the combined cycle for the manual, while the CVT drops from 6.6L/100km with the old auto to 5.7L/100km.

The new City features 24 per cent improved rigidity over the outgoing model and Honda engineers have made changes to the steering, while the suspension has been tweaked for an improved ride.

The previous-gen City was notable for its cavernous boot and the new version has topped it with a 536-litre cargo capacity, up from 506 litres. This eclipses not only the Almera (490) but it also beats out the enormous boot in the Nissan Pulsar sedan (510 litres) which is a full segment larger, as well as the bigger-again Holden Commodore family sedan (496 litres).

At 1082kg, the Jazz-based City is just eight kilograms lighter than the outgoing manual variant and 22kg lighter for the auto in VTi-L guise that weighs 1107kg.

Measuring in at 4455mm long, the new City is 25mm longer, 7mm higher and 1mm narrower than the previous version, while the wheelbase has been stretched by 50mm to 2600mm.

There is 935mm of headroom in the front, down from the old model's 1000mm, and is also reduced in the rear from 940mm to 903mm. Front leg-room remains much the same but gets a boost in the second row from 910mm to 982mm.

The design builds on that of the previous model, but some sharper lines including a chiselled character line, Honda’s new “solid wing face” front end connecting the headlights and the grille, sleeker tail-lights, flared rear guards and a higher boot-line give it a more modern look.

Honda has upgraded the cabin significantly which it has designed around the theme “layered floating cockpit” with layers of different material including black plastic and brushed metal-look inserts.

Ambient blue lighting surrounds the dials with the speedometer changing to green when Econ mode is engaged and the Display Audio screen sits high on the centre stack with black and chrome surround that resembles a tablet.

Front visibility has been improved thanks to a narrower A-pillar and a lower external mirror frame.

Standard gear on the base variant includes cruise control, manual air conditioning, Honda's Display Audio system that includes a reversing camera with three modes – normal, wide and top down – Bluetooth phone and audio with steering wheel mounted controls, a USB port, two 12v power outlets in the front, sat-nav via an iPhone app (Honda is currently working on Andriod capability), power windows, cloth trim, height and reach adjustable steering wheel and eight cup holders.

The VTi features 15-inch steel wheels, while the VTi-L gains 16-inch alloys.

Both feature a space saver spare tyre.

The VTi-L also adds climate control with the same touch panel control as the Odyssey people-mover, two rear 12v power outlets for a total of four, electrically-folding external mirrors, chrome door handles, a touch boot release button, keyless entry with push-button start, paddle shifters, front fog-lights, and a leather wrapped steering wheel and gear shift lever.

Six airbags are standard, including curtain airbags, as is a seatbelt reminder, hill-start assist, Isofix child-seat anchors, electronic brake assist electronic brakeforce distribution and the usual acronyms such as ABS and ESC.

Honda's smallest sedan is one of just a small number of light sedans available in Australia, sitting alongside the Micra-based Almera while a number of car-makers offer booted versions of their city runabouts including the Toyota Yaris, Holden Barina and Hyundai Accent.

Tiny sedans have experienced mixed fortunes in the Australian market, with Mazda discontinuing the booted version of its Mazda2 in early 2011 after slow sales.

The City has also had mixed success in Australia, starting with strong sales in its first year on sale, 2009, when it averaged around 300 units a month for a year-end total of 3399 units.

In 2010, Honda sold 2526 examples of the City before sales took a dive in 2011 to 1584 units, marking a 37.3 per cent drop over the previous year. Sales halved in 2012 to 685 units for the year and in 2013 Honda’s contender was beaten by the newer Almera on 909 sales.

With the little Honda in run-out mode this year, the Japanese car-maker has sold 296 Citys to the end of April which is a 32.7 per cent improvement over the 2013 result.

More competition is on the way for the City with Mitsubishi set to introduce a sedan version of its reborn Mirage hatch later this year.

2014 Honda City pricing*
VTi (a)$17,990
*Excludes on-road costs.

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