All-new 2021 Honda City debuts: Better late than mediocre

It has been more than six years since Honda brought in the fourth-generation City in the Philippines. Since then, several sedans have already entered the subcompact arena, while the class leader, the Vios, has already gone through a number of cosmetic changes to keep its styling fresh for the Philippine market.

But not the Honda City. Honda Cars Philippines, Inc. (HCPI) only gave it a facelift in 2017 but remains largely the same underneath the skin. Still, the revered three-box vehicle keeps its status as HCPI’s bestseller. 

Now, the all-new, fifth-generation Honda City is here and some may say that it’s a tad too late to the party, especially considering that it was revealed in Thailand last year. Well, not in our books as HCPI launches the 2021 City with the facelifted Honda CR-V in tow. Better late than never? No. Better late than mediocre.

Fashionably late, it seems, the 2021 City brings its A-game when it comes to styling. Built from the ground up, the all-new model hearkens to the bigger Civic and Accord sedans, especially in the metal. It retains the wheelbase length but overall size increased by a margin, though height decreased as compared to before.

The non-RS trims make do with a chrome grille and less intimidating corner intakes, but the City RS trim flag-bearer gets my thumbs up with high-gloss blacked-out accents and a full LED affair. The range-topper also gets a set of unique RS design rims, measuring 16 inches in diameter that’s standard in the lineup.

But the best part of the City’s styling is found at the rear — something that other motorists would enjoy while tailing the vehicle. The distinct LED taillights have a BMW-ish appeal, emphasized further by two dots that are found on the corners. Even better, this great-looking taillamp configuration is standard across the City range.

Inside, the updates are night and day, with the all-new City featuring a more symmetrical dashboard, as opposed to the outgoing model’s driver-centric layout. The City RS gets an all-black affair accentuated by red stitchings, with the black headliner going hand-in-hand with the leather/suede seats. The non-RS trims have light-colored headliners with black fabric upholstery.

Save the base S MT variant, the 2021 City range is equipped with an eight-inch infotainment with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. The top-spec RS produces sound from eight speakers while the entire range benefit from the push-start ignition system. Lastly, we just proved that Honda listens to reviews and criticism with the introduction of rotary knobs for the climate control system. 

Reviewers, such as myself, have pointed out the faults of the previous soft-touch system especially when operating so while driving, and I’m glad that Honda reverted to using more tactile knobs for this generation.

In the back seat, the City gains air-conditioning vents this year (for RS and V trims) — something that has become standard in most cars these days. As for the trunk, there has been a slight reduction from 536 liters of the outgoing model to the 519 liters of the all-new model, but that’s fine as the difference is quite negligible.

Under the hood, the 2021 City is now powered by a new 1.5-liter naturally-aspirated engine in DOHC setup, as opposed to the SOHC of its predecessor. Power output is quite similar, with the new model churning out 119hp and 145Nm of torque — up by just one horsepower. These figures are sent to the front wheels via Honda’s Earth Dream CVT (with paddle shifters for the RS) or through a six-speed manual for the base trim.

Other mechanical details include carried over McPherson struts up front and torsion beam at the back, while disc brakes are standard for the front wheels and drums for the rear. Safety and security features include dual front and side airbags (plus side curtain for RS), Hill Start Assist, Vehicle Stability Control, ABS with EBD, seatbelt reminders, speed-sensing door locks, and security alarm with immobilizer.

I had a quick drive with the unit to and from the shoot location. While I refrain to drop my judgment when it comes to power delivery (since the drive was quite short), all I can say is that the City’s steering felt really light, enabling easy maneuverability even in tight spaces.

The 2021 Honda City is available in four variants with the following price tags: City RS CVT (P1,048,000); City V CVT (P968,000); City S CVT (P878,000); and City S MT (P838,000).

Facelifted 2021 Honda CR-V spices things up

Along with the new-generation City, the Honda CR-V also gets a mid-cycle refresh for the 2021 model year. Most changes are aesthetic but the bulk of the updates come with the standard features.

Exterior-wise, you’ll know that it’s a new CR-V when you see a chrome strip seemingly underlining the front lower bumper of the compact crossover. That chrome strip is also found on the sides and at the rear. Inside, layout and theme are pretty much the same, including the faux-wood accents found on the top-spec SX trim.

Also new for 2021, the Honda CR-V introduces Honda Sensing to the S Diesel variant. Honda Sensing, which was previously exclusive to the SX trim only, adds value to the seven-seater CR-V by enabling Adaptive Cruise Control, Collision Mitigation Braking system, Lane Keep Assist, Road Departure Mitigation, and Lane Departure Warning. It also has a Low-Speed Follow feature that allows adaptive cruise control in heavy traffic – something that I thoroughly enjoyed when I tested the outgoing model.

One more thing, the new CR-V SX also gets a Qi wireless charging system – a nifty feature if your devices allow it. Beyond the updates, the Honda compact crossover is largely carried over, including the power unit and drivetrain options. 

The 2021 Honda CR-V is available four variants and price points, namely: CR-V SX Diesel 9AT AWD Honda Sensing (P2,158,000); S Diesel 9AT Honda Sensing (P1,888,000); V Diesel 9AT (P1,713,000), and 2.0 S Gasoline CVT (P1,678,000).

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