Third time's the charm
The current third generation City, introduced back in 2008, builds upon the lessons learned by Honda from its previous incarnations, and is an improvement of the popular sub compact in most aspects. It has grown quite significantly, to address market demand for more space. And in the process, the City has become better looking.
An angular mecha-like front fascia replaces the odd looking blob-like theme of its predecessor, giving the City a pleasantly masculine and subtly aggressive aura that makes it one good looking chunk of sheet metal. This new persona also lends itself very well to addition of aftermarket bodykits, which made it an instant hit with the tuning crowd.
The City's added girth has increased interior space to the point where it easily rivals compact cars of the past decade. Trunk space has also grown proportionately, and can be described as no less than cavernous. Sadly, the ULT seating that I've grown to love is gone, perhaps to enable the bean counters to achieve a more competitive price point. In its place is a more mundane fixed-back non-folding rear seat that rides just as comfortably. Those wanting the flexibility of the ULT seats will now have to go with the Jazz.
In general, the interior is a huge improvement from the previous generation City. They've also improved all around visibility for occupants, especially the driver. A welcome addition to the cockpit is the telescoping steering column that compliments the standard tilt adjustment. As simple as this feature may seem, it greatly aids in finding the perfect seating position for the driver. And sitting behind the wonderfully chunky steering wheel are the paddle shifters for the 5-speed conventional automatic transmission.
Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on which perspective you're looking from, the CVT from the previous City was deemed too fragile for a significant number of ham-footed drivers. It's a feature that I personally miss as it allowed for better fuel economy than the current 5-speed transmission does, not to mention its uber-smooth scooter-like shift characteristics.
With the 120 horsepower 1.5L i-VTEC engine, the current 5 speed slushbox can easily deliver over 8 to 9 km/L in urban driving conditions for most people, or upwards of 15 km/L on the highway. I just can't help but imagine how much higher those numbers would've been with a CVT.
Beyond the City Limits
At P836,000 for the range-topping 1.5E AT, the Honda City may cost nearly as much as some entry-level automatic compacts, but it offers compact-level space along with subcompact frugality. Better yet, driving the face-lifted City is very much like driving almost any other Honda. Surefooted, predictable, capable, and most importantly, fun. How much fun and capable? Well, it's so good that budding rally driver and son of rally legend Vip Isada, Ivan has chosen to use it as his rally weapon for the local RallyEKross and Hillclimb series. And it comes as no surprise that he and his City have achieved a number of victories both on tarmac and dirt. If that's not a testament to how good the City is, I don't know what is.