The updated small family car might be dull to drive, but it is practical and good value,
Road test: 2018 Honda City
Sometimes it is difficult to review a new car with complete objectivity, especially if the model in question is little more than mobile white goods. Sometimes it doesn’t need to be an exciting steer to be considered worthwhile. Sometimes it just needs to do what it says on the tin, offer space, reliability and safety for its occupants.
In this respect, the refreshed Honda City has much going for it, if you see it for what it is: a car for families on budgets who don’t want to break down on the way to the supermarket or the office. It isn’t a machine for pounding around Yas Marina Circuit, you may not be surprised to learn.
To be critical, there isn’t a great deal new about this City. The exterior has been lightly nipped and tucked, with new LED lighting and a “honeycomb” grille, while there are restyled bumpers and a spoiler (of sorts) on the boot lid edge. Inside, it is a similar story, with a smattering of new charging outlets for smartphones and the like, as well as a new colour scheme that appears to be what is commonly known as black. Unfortunately, what is carried over from the previous model are the nasty, scratchy plastic trim sections that feel cheap and do the overall ambience no favours whatsoever. It all looks nice enough, though.
There is plenty of room in the cabin, which goes some way to explain the rather awkward looks – it is nearly as tall as it is wide, which the design team has obviously had a struggle with, and those 15-inch alloys look quite lost in the mass of swoopy metal body panels. Once again, though, perhaps this isn’t really the most important facet to the market demographic being targeted with this model. The City, coincidentally, is this Honda’s natural habitat. At relatively low speeds, it is perfectly fine, with light controls, good visibility and a half-decent stereo that looks like it was sourced from an aftermarket accessory shop. Its CVT slush-type gearbox goes about its business with barely a murmur, and while the seats can be a bit firm for more than half an hour at a time, the suspension is pliant enough to make up for any discomfort.
It is on the open road where the City’s shine gets dulled, which is probably predictable. That tall profile means the car can be blown about quite alarmingly during strong gusts, and the engine, once above 100kph, sounds like it is being thrashed. Bizarrely, there are paddle shifters behind the wheel that are supposed to mimic a twin-clutch auto, but all they do is make the revs (and noise levels) jump. Even stranger is the addition of a “sport” mode. When I press the button, I half expect the dashboard to flash “LOL” at me because it is so out of place and, truthfully, unnecessary.
This thing is as sporty as a pair of fleece-lined slippers, but then it doesn’t need to be. It just needs to be everything its buyers want out of a Dh57,000 car, and in that respect, there is absolutely nothing wrong with it. Keep the City in the city – it is much happier there.