The 1.5-litre car has the features and the feel of a bigger, mid-sized sedan
Hot in the City BIG CAR FEEL: With 120 hp, it is the most powerful naturally aspirated 1.5-litre Engine available here. If you think that sounds good on paper, it is even better on the road

TWO things about the new Honda City are likely to surprise you. The first is that this compact Japanese sedan feels like a bigger, mid-sized model and it's not just the cabin. The second is its price.

The third-generation City may be Honda's entry-level model but because it is pitched at a global market, the carmaker has had to make it bigger and more sophisticated, both in terms of its design and its engineering. This means that for a 1.5-litre car, the City has features which would only be found in two-litre models or larger.

One is its five-speed automatic transmission with steering mounted paddle shifters - the first in its class. The previous City's continuously variable transmission was replaced with the five-speed auto for more powerful acceleration. Harnessed to the drive-by-wire technology for the accelerator, the result is immediate and linear response from the new Euro IV iVTEC engine.

With 120 hp, it is the most powerful naturally aspirated 1.5-litre engine available here. If you think that sounds good on paper, it is even better on the road. The City has that great 'big car' feel even though it shares the same basic platform as the Jazz hatchback. The steering wheel has the right heft and the competent chassis inspires confidence when taking a fast corner. The car feels very well-balanced for a 1.5-litre model.

The only drawback is the lack of insulation because the amount of road and engine noise permeating the cabin are not in keeping with the overall sophistication of the car. But that may not be important as far as the City's list price is considered. This is the second surprise because the model starts from $50,500. Thanks to the current low COE premium, this marks a $10,000 fall from when it was first introduced late last year.

Another worthwhile point to note is the typically frugal nature of a Honda engine. The City's fuel consumption is rated at 14.7 km per litre (in ECE combined mode). In these tough economic times, this surely has to be a big advantage.