Beyond the City – A scenic encounter with Honda’s subcompact

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I won’t lie – getting holed up inside the house amid the pandemic has taken its toll on me. Even for an introvert like myself, a little socialization beyond computer and smartphone screens goes a long way.

That’s why I was pretty ecstatic when my editor asked me to join Honda Cars Philippines, Inc. (HCPI)’s invite to drive its newest car in the lineup – the fifth-generation Honda City.

The destination? The winding roads of Tanay, Rizal and the Pinto Art Museum in Antipolo. I figured it would be a scenic drive, a needed whiff of fresh air.

Eye-candy range

Admittedly, I was staring at the City’s rear most of the time during the daytime drive – and that isn’t a bad thing. Actually, those BMW-ish taillights are my favorite design element of the new-generation City. Despite the German brand reference, they look sharp and classy; much of the credit goes to the LEDs that illuminate them.

The front comes with another set of LEDs under broad daylight, accentuating the redesigned wing grille. The S and V don a chrome nose, while the RS comes with a piano black appointment partnered with an aggressively styled bumper.

While I’m inclined to like the RS for its sporty appeal, the classiness of the S and V grew on me. And they will on you, too.

More than the essentials

Much to my chagrin, initially, I was assigned to the City’s base S variant, so I wasn’t really expecting a lot. And that’s the thing about expectations – there will be times that they won’t be met. And that’s what exactly happened with the Honda City S, but in a delightful way.

Despite being the entry-level trim, the car I drove had seat height adjusters, perfect for those who prefer sitting tall. It also had tilt and telescopic adjustments, so finding an ideal position on the fairly soft fabric seats was a cinch for me. Side mirrors were electronically adjustable, as well, plus the speed-sensing door locks were very much appreciated. While a center console box wasn’t present, it’s replaced by very usable cubbyholes complementing the numerous storage areas under the HVAC controls.

And yes, an 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system crowns the dashboard, which came with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity and two USB ports.

Probably the most underrated thing in the City is the presence of safety features such as dual front and side airbags, stability control, agile handling, assist, ABS with EBD, and hill-start assist – uniformly present from S to RS. 

Conquering twisties

While the City’s mentioned driving nannies won’t really matter within the, err, city, a brief and aggressive stint at the infamous Marilaque twisties proved their worth. We were attacking corners at speeds, maximizing the 121 metric horses and 145 Newton-meters of pull – and there wasn’t a time that I felt displeased with the way the subcompact handled the winding paths. Yes, there were some moments of understeer, but they weren’t hard to correct.

It would have been more enjoyable, though, if the lower S and V variants come with at least a default manual mode by the gear lever. The RS does come with paddle shifters, so I envy my colleagues assigned to those two RS testers amid the convoy.

Then again, the S and V variants came with S mode, which practically keeps the engine in high RPMs so it’s more sensitive to engine braking. Yes, the Earth Dreams CVT had its limitations on mountain passes, but it can still deliver when it needed to.

Thrifty mill

After covering over a hundred kilometers of driving – combined city and winding road driving – the City I drove yielded an average fuel consumption of 12 km/l. That’s an impressive number, considering that I was in S mode half of the time.

Personal favorite

During the launch of the 2021 Honda City last year, the new RS variant easily snagged the spotlight, and rightfully so.

But this media drive reminded me that there’s more beyond good looks. The City S that I drove for several hours instantly became my favorite across the range. At P888,000, it has all the things that I was looking for at this price point, and more. 

I couldn’t wait to have a go at these testers for longer periods of time, especially the RS – but those would be stories for another time.

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