The new Honda City is a small family sedan with surprisingly good performance
Slicker city A BETTER RIDE: The motion-adaptive electric power steering comes with the Vehicle Stability Assist system which constantly monitors all four wheels and together with the steering wheel angle sensor, automatically counter-steers.

FIRST, the bad news. The new Honda City isn't much to look at. The stubby sedan is ungainly, to say the least, with a design that looks like something someone using a 3D printer at home came up with.

But the good news is that the City is a great drive. It may have only a 1.5-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine to power the front wheels but the unit is super responsive and, like most Hondas, the car has impeccable handling.

The fourth-generation City has a brand new platform which is based on a modular design that the shorter Jazz and other Honda models will also share.

The suspension, which comprises MacPherson struts in front and a torsion beam behind, is on the firm side but still sufficiently damped for ride comfort. Together with the new Earth Dreams continuously variable transmission (CVT) and electric power steering, it is set up for a surprisingly high level of driving fun.

The CVT is a brand new transmission with smaller-diameter pulleys for a wider range of ratios. The high-friction CVT fluid used also reduces slippage under acceleration.

This makes the CVT more direct without the rubber-band effect usually noticed in such transmission. Hence, there is less power loss and a smoother drive.

All this enables the City engine to seem bigger than 1.5 litres. Drive the sedan hard and it takes off like a pocket rocket. Never mind that the noise from under the hood is louder than galley slaves being flogged - the responsiveness of this heavily modified i-VTEC unit is impressive, thanks to new pistons and friction reduction measures to make it more efficient. A low kerb weight of 1,100 kg is helpful too.

As a result, the new City is more potent than its predecessor, which had a conventional five-speed automatic and whose transmission ratios were not as wide as the new CVT, which can have much shorter ratios when accelerating and taller ones when cruising. The seven-step CVT can also be manually "shifted" using steering wheel-mounted paddles, with crisper shifts than a conventional car.

The electric power steering (EPS) is also new and it is both precise and well-weighted. It is light at low speeds but immediately becomes meatier at highway speeds.

The motion-adaptive EPS also comes with the Vehicle Stability Assist system - first seen on the previous generation Odyssey - which constantly monitors all four wheels and together with the steering wheel angle sensor, automatically counter-steers if the car is under or over-steering in a corner.

That means constant correction for the optimum cornering line with positive steering feedback. Throw the City into one fast corner after the other and it will reward the keen driver with its composure and well-controlled ride. It is that good.

Inside, the City boasts a new seven-inch touchscreen that can be synced with a smartphone so that Honda-approved navigation and music apps can be used. Even the Siri function can be accessed through the multi-function steering wheel. At 4.4 metres long with a 2,600 mm wheelbase, rear legroom is good and so is boot space. But rear headroom is only adequate.

Best of all though, fuel consumption is stated at 5.7 litres per 100 km or 17.5 km per litre. Few volume models promise such economy with so much driving fun.

CAR INFORMATION

Honda City 1.5 i-VTEC (A)

Price

:$112,999

Engine Type

:

4-cylinders in-line SOHC i-VTEC water cooled

Engine Cap

:

1,497 cc

Horsepower

:

118 bhp

Torque

:

145 Nm

Transmission

:

CVT (A)

Acceleration

:

11 sec (0-100 km/h)

Top Speed

:

192 km/h