Fluidic Verna faces acid test : A closer look at the new Honda City

The Amaze maybe the best thing to have happened to Honda in the last 5 years and in the coming years there would be other more significant products to hit the roads but the City will always hold an important emotional position. Almost like first love.

And there are reasons galore for that. It will not be unfair to say that the City made Honda what it is today — a company that is synonymous with quality and clutter breaking design. An image that many other companies like Volkswagen, Skoda, Hyundai and Nissan would like to have.

It has been a 15 year long story of almost unabated success. Designed in 1996 taking into consideration the preference of the South Asian markets for cars smaller than the Civic, the City’s clout and success in India has been unrivaled. In short City found a ready market in India, which accounts for 4.3 lakh of its global tally of 22 lakh sales, next only to Thailand.

A large chunk of City’s success is due to the radical makeovers Honda has given it every 5 years. From the first to the second and then to the third, the change in design language has been so substantial that it dwarfs the life cycle roll overs in some other cars. In fact City’s dominance forced Hyundai to go for a complete makeover of the Verna.

All this while it played with traditional market dynamics that says you don’t fiddle around with a popular product. The first generation City was in great demand when Honda decided to launch the 2nd generation in 2003. And it was deja vu in 2008 as well. On each of these occasions, the brand has only become stronger.

The introduction of the 4th generation of City however is of even greater significance. Despite all its success, it is no longer the king of the mid size sedan segment but one that is trying to wrest the initiative from Verna. And it finally comes with a diesel engine — borrowing the same cylinder head that has worked magic for the Amaze.

The expectations then were high and when Honda unveiled the car on Monday it looked underwhelming at the first glance. Rather anti climatic. The new car doesn’t look that new after all and there are tell tale signs of where it was coming from.

From the front, it is actually very similar to the outgoing version barring the broader strip of chrome on the grille and sleeker headlamps. The dimensions too remains largely the same. The rear end gets more treatment with wrap around tail lamp cluster that flows into the boot lid. But it does not look path breaking and there is a sense of having seen bits and parts of it in some car or the other.

A lot of work has been done inside too and thanks to a larger wheelbase space is generous. Honda claims rear legroom is so good that it can be compared with cars a segment above. The dashboard and instrument cluster have also been redone. I always liked the quality and simplicity of the dashboard in the current City but in the new one it looks more funky.

And at long last, it is loaded with equipment which is critical as Hyundai is a master at freebies. So the new City gets touch screen multimedia interface, rear air con vents, key-less push button start and reverse parking camera.

It comes with the same 1.5 litre 4 cylinder iVtec petrol engine which at 118 ps power is still the benchmark in the segment. The City still commands an eye popping 67% share of all petrol sedans sold in the country. That percentage is here to stay with them.

And like I mentioned there will be the 1.5 litre iDtec diesel engine from the Amaze which would be marginally bumped up for higher power and with it a little compromise on the fuel economy. It should still be the most frugal in its category. The success of this version will decide the potency of Honda’s counter attack on Hyundai.

How well the car really is, I will only know when I drive it. The proof of the pudding is in the eating. For now, enjoy the aesthetics of the new City. For all that it is worth, Hyundai should better watch out. Verna’s days at the top may well be numbered.

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