Honda City

Honda City Review & Road Test

Rating: 6.0
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2009 Honda City VTi-L Review & Road Test

The name suggests where the car should remain.

Model Tested:

  • 2009 Honda City VTi-L; 1.5-litre, four-cylinder, petrol; five-speed automatic, sedan - $25,685*


  • None fitted

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By Paul Maric

Honda has long been yearning for a stop-gap between the Jazz and Civic and now it seems that they’ve found it; it’s called the City.

As the name suggests, the City has been tailor built for city use. The small, 1.5-litre engine is versatile and flexible during low speed manoeuvres. 88kW and 145Nm are the two numbers you need to know, as is 6.6-litres per 100km (the combined fuel use average for the five-speed automatic being driven).

Inside the cabin, there’s a surprising amount of room. While the exterior of the car looks meagre, it’s inside where it excels. 506-litres worth of boot volume, along with leg-stretching rear seat passenger ability makes the City flexible for short city trips and long distance trips away – or so you would think.

While the City does a commendable job, in the city, it’s when you head to the open roads that it really begins to show its flaws.

First there’s the gearbox. Our test vehicle was fitted with the five-speed automatic and it simply couldn’t manage to remain happy when meeting varying grades of road.

The slightest incline would have the gearbox shuffling through gears to make the 1.5-litre work for all it was worth. Then there’s the noise when the revs head north of 3000rpm. It’s an alarmingly loud sound that resonates through the cabin; it’s entirely unpleasant and leaves you cringing at the thought of yet another hill.

The lack of power is exacerbated when there is a full complement of passengers. The already compact 88kW motor doesn’t have what it takes to keep the load moving.

Although it only weighs in at 1160kg, there’s nowhere near enough torque for hilly roads and overtaking.

Despite the lack of power and torque, the City handles nicely for a car of its size. It remains flat through corners and the steering feedback is superb. The ride is also a point of praise; it’s soft and accepting, while also remaining taught while driving over wavy B-roads.

Back to the cabin. The top spec VTi-L model being tested seems a bit lacking when it comes to features; alloy wheels, power windows, power mirrors, cruise control and central locking about top the feature list off. A single-disc CD player and average sounding four-speaker sound system leave a lot to be desired. Although, it does offer MP3, USB and iPod integration.

The high boot line makes parking a bit tricky at times, especially with the lack of parking sensors, while visibility out the front is good, likewise with the sides.

Airbags are featured throughout the cabin with the driver and front passenger receiving front, side and curtain airbags, while the rear seat passengers receive curtain airbags. One severely lacking feature is Electronic Stability Control (ESP), or VDC as Honda calls it.

It’s a severe deficiency for this sector and it’s totally unacceptable that Honda hasn’t included it in the City, especially the top spec VTi-L model, although we understand it is being engineered for both the City and its sibling the Jazz.

City pricing has been a hotly debated issue among the motoring media and in my opinion, the City is just way too expensive.

I’ll often quiz my passengers with regards to their guesses on the car’s value. Everyone I asked picked the City at around $20,000, not the $25,685 RRP tag attached to our test model.

Honda has attempted to squeeze the City in between the Jazz and Civic. The problem is that they are already close in terms of pricing, thus making the City range limited and intermingled with Jazz and Civic pricing.

For example, City pricing begins at $20,490, overlapping with at least nine Jazz models. It then finishes at $25,685, again overlapping with some four Civic models.

I must admit, I enjoyed driving the City in its natural stomping ground – the city. It was easy to park, easy to manoeuvre and managed to carry shopping, people and cargo over short distances with relative ease.

It was only once I ventured out of the city that things started going downhill for the latest arrival from Honda. There’s no excuse for the amount of noise emitted at high revs and the engine simply doesn’t have enough squirt to pull the City through inclines and overtakes.

If you’re in the market for a car which has the looks and will predominantly be used in the city, it’s certainly a viable and acceptable option. But for anything else, its glaring engine deficiencies can’t be overlooked and leave the City well behind the eight-ball.


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