The Honda City was designed in “Arrow Shot” form, meaning that the City would appear to be going forward even when staying still. There is some truth to that claim from certain angles it must be said. Sharp head- and tail-lights, plus a Transformer-like grille are incorporated to create an arrow-like profile. The changes brought about by the 2012 mid-life facelift are minimal, restricted to a redesigned chrome grille, modified front and rear bumpers, and revised tail lights. The cabin upgrades are subtle too, counting a new fabric seat design, and an instrument cluster with blue illumination.
The 2012 Honda City still has one of the best-sorted ride-and-handling compared with key rivals, which of course count the Toyota Vios. That said, the Ford Fiesta remains the dynamic benchmark in this segment. While the previous Honda City felt tall and narrow, it now drives sportily, thanks to a taut chassis, good grip levels and well-controlled body movements. The steering also gains a fluidity not seen in its predecessor. In fact, the steering provides almost as much feel as the sporty Suzuki SX4's, though the 2012 Honda City has more grip and less body roll through corners.
Despite being on the firm side over rough surfaces, the ride is pliant enough for comfortable progress over most Malaysian roads. The engine sounds raucous when pushed, but overall the 2012 Honda City's cabin refinement is better, albeit just marginally, than key rivals'. Drivers get a tilt/telescopic steering column and seat-height adjustments. The front seats are supportive, and the rear seats are plush for the segment too. The simple dash layout and Honda's well thought-out ergonomics ensure everything feels intuitive to use.
Quality + Reliability
The 2012 Honda City may be the least expensive Honda model, but its cabin quality is of a high standard we are used to from Honda. The fit-and-finish are as good as they come at this price level, while controls including the column stalks feel tactile to operate. A mixture of hard and soft-touch plastics is in use, which is perfectly within expectations. Reliability-wise, this is a Honda, and we expect any car with the Honda badge to be extremely trustworthy in the longer term even if this is a CKD model.
With 120 HP at 6600 rpm and 145 Nm at 4800 rpm, the 1.5-litre i-VTEC engine produces a good power/torque level which is ably distributed by the standard five-speed automatic gearbox. On the road, the accomplished powertrain is quick, punchy and flexible, and the paddle shifts (Grade E only) lend an extra dimension of control if you get into the mood. Quite surprisingly, the revvy nature and smoothness of previous Honda City powertrains are lacking in this iteration of the City.
The Honda City's wheelbase has been increased by 100 mm over its predecessor's, and that translates into more rear legroom. Rear headroom is ample too, while room for the front two is expectedly generous. The boot is also larger than before, now boasting 506 litres of loading space. Cabin storage compartments are everywhere, but the Ultra Seats, which gave the previous Honda City much versatility, have been sacrificed for plusher rear seats. Both Grade S and Grade E come with 60:40 split-fold rear seats that also recline.
The 2012 Honda City is one of the cheapest to run by class standards, thanks to a highly efficient powertrain, affordable servicing and repair costs, and class-leading resale values associated with Honda models. For 2012, the introduction of a five-year unlimited-mileage warranty coupled with six times of free labour service up till 100,000 km further lower the running costs.
Value for Money
Now in its mid-life cycle, the 2012 Honda City still looks fresh with a distinctive appearance in the small sedan segment. Compared with the Suzuki SX4, the Toyota Vios and the Ford Fiesta, the Honda City still provides the best package after all these years, leading with a stylish exterior, a roomy, quality interior, and fine ride-and-handling. But losing the sweet i-DSI engine, CVT gearbox and Ultra Seats that gave the Honda City its identity seems like a questionable move to us. Overall, the 2012 Honda City remains our pick of the segment, just.
The Grade S comes with 15" alloy wheels, reverse sensors, 4-speaker audio system with USB/AUX inputs, dual front airbags, Anti-lock Braking System (ABS), Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD), Brake Assist (BA) and front seatbelt pretensioners. For RM 5K more, you get extra items on the Grade E such as one-inch-larger 16" alloys, front fog lights, power-retractable side mirrors with turn signals, chrome exhaust tips, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls and paddle shifters, a rear armrest with cup holders, a rear-seat under tray, two extra speakers, and, importantly, Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA). ISOFIX child seat mounting points are new for 2012, as is a centre rear seat now equipped with a headrest and a three-point ELR seat belt.
On the 2012 Honda City is a new ‘ECO’ indicator that lights up when you are being kind to the environment. But what really makes the Honda City one of the most efficient and least polluting car in the B-segment is a frugal 1.5-litre engine paired to five well spaced-out gear ratios, the combination of which contributes to improving fuel economy while limiting carbon emissions.