Honda City e:HEV Hybrid Review – carandbike

The bestselling and very popular Honda City has sold over 850,000 units in India over 5 generations, since 1998. It remains the benchmark in the compact sedan space. And that benchmark is set to grow. Meet the Honda City e:HEV – or hybrid electric vehicle. India finally gets the hybrid variant of the City, which was introduced in the last generation in markets like Japan and South East Asia. This variant also drives in Honda Sensing safety and driver-assistive system – which is Honda’s ADAS – a first for the compact sedan segment. More on that later. Timing has worked out for Honda, as we are seeing unprecedented fuel prices. And so besting even diesel sedans on fuel efficiency is a definite cause for attention, as I am sure you’d agree.

Look at this car from a distance and it looks like the regular Honda City.

Photo Credit: Pawan Dagia









Fuel Efficiency in kmpl

Petrol

Diesel

Petrol Hybrid

Honda City

17.8 (MT)/18.4 (CVT)

24.1

26.5

Hyundai Verna

17.8 (1L/MT)/ 17.1 (1.5L/MT)

21.4

Maruti Suzuki Ciaz

20.65 (MT)/20.04 (AT)

Skoda Slavia

19.5 (1L/MT)/ 18.07 (1L/AT)/ 18.72 (1.5L/MT)/ 18.41 (1.5L/AT)

Volkswagen Virtus

19.40 (1L/MT)/ 18.12 (1L/AT)/ 18.67 (1.5L/AT)

Design

Look at this car from a distance and it looks like the regular Honda City (the 5th generation as Honda calls it in India since the previous City is also still on sale). On the one hand that’s a good thing, as you don’t really want it to be weird or different. But on the other, if I am a hybrid buyer, I might want people to know that I have the hybrid – from a mile! It’s a little disappointing that Honda chose not to bring even a signature paint colour exclusively for this variant; that could have been nice. You do get a little bit of a blue highlight in the Honda badge – and that’s typical of most Japanese manufacturers when it’s a hybrid or an electric. The lower section of the front grille is also new with a honeycomb mesh-like pattern in black sitting below the fat horizontal chrome slat. The claw pattern housing for the fog lamp is also specific to the e:HEV, and you also get a different pattern on the two-tone alloy wheels. The LED array headlight cluster is the same as the regular City ZX trim. At the back, it’s a trunk lid spoiler, a carbon fibre look diffuser, and the e:HEV badge that sets it apart. But for the most part at first glance, this looks just like the Honda City ZX.

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You also get a different pattern on the two-tone alloy wheels.

Photo Credit: Pawan Dagia

Honda could have chosen to give this car a slightly edgier look by ditching the chrome and adopting more of the RS badge look. You see, the hybrid system makes this the most powerful City yet anyway, and so having that standout look would have helped with differentiation. I’m talking about a blacked-out-front grille, black alloy wheels, and maybe body-coloured or dare I say black door handles.

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At the back, it’s a trunk lid spoiler, a carbon fibre look diffuser, and the e:HEV badge that sets it apart.

Photo Credit: Pawan Dagia

Cabin and Tech

Being based on the top-end ZX variant of the City, the cabin is fully loaded. But there are a few subtle differences in the e:HEV variant. The dual-tone ivory and black theme is new, and the seats maintain their well-bolstered, comfy feel. The 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system is updated and is compatible with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, but graphics and interface remain an Achilles heel for the Japanese manufacturers. The screen also houses the display for a 360-degree camera view, but the pixelated poor resolution output is a let-down. Apart from this, there’s automatic climate control with three rotary switches, USB slots, a 12V charging socket, a sunroof, and even a smart utility space large enough to fit a smartphone. The Honda City e:HEV misses out on wireless charging, wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, and ventilated seats.

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The dual-tone ivory and black theme is new, and the seats maintain their well-bolstered, comfy feel.

Photo Credit: Pawan Dagia

Engine and Performance

There are a lot of different drive modes to take you through – and these are hybrid-specific. So these are not the modes that you can change manually; it is the car that is doing that on its own. That is the whole point of this two-motor system. So when you start the car, it can pull away in pure EV mode (and you get that nice hum and largely silent operation that EVs are known for). Start to move a little faster, and that’s when it goes into hybrid mode, meaning that is when the 1.5-litre engine also kicks in. The engine actually kicks in to send power back to the battery, and not to power the wheels. The electric motor is still doing that at this stage. And so you could slip in and out of pure EV driving too. But as you start to accelerate more and get to cruising speeds, well that’s when you go into hybrid-only mode. At higher speeds is when the car may switch to engine mode – meaning the car gets all its power and propulsion from purely the petrol heart. At this stage, the electric power only kicks in to provide you with a little extra boost when needed.

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The 1.5: iVTEC petrol engine is slightly tweaked to become more fuel-efficient than before. 

Photo Credit: Pawan Dagia

Now you see all this and track it if you like, courtesy of the digital instrument cluster – which is hybrid-specific, and well-executed. You get plenty of options to see the flow of energy in the hybrid system, track real-time mileage, and driving range, achieve optimum fuel efficiency, and the trip computer. Our test car came with a full tank of fuel and showed about 700 km of range, while the real-time fuel efficiency was close to the 20 kmpl mark, thanks to some heavy-footed driving on my part! But I’m sure this can be bettered quite easily, to get closer to that claimed 26.5 kmpl, by driving efficiently. The City e: HEV is the most fuel-efficient compact sedan in the market, besting the likes of the Maruti Suzuki Ciaz, Skoda Slavia, and Hyundai Verna, and that’s across both fuel types mind you. The City hybrid is now also the most powerful offering in the segment.

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And since the permanent magnet electric motor does most of the driving, it means you have all that torque available almost all the time!

Photo Credit: Pawan Dagia





Motor

Power (Petrol Engine)

Power (Electric Motors)

Combined Power

Peak Torque

Transmission

Top Speed

1.5L iVTEC + Dual Electric Motors

98 bhp @ 5,600 – 6,400 rpm

108 bhp @ 3,500 rpm



124 bhp

253 NM @ 0-3,000 rpm

e-CVT

176 kmph

The car is definitely more powerful than the regular 1.5 City i-VTEC. While that car gives you around 119 bhp of power, the hybrid gives you a solid 124 bhp. The electric side gives you 108 bhp, and the engine gives you 98 bhp. But this dual-motor approach does not mean you fully achieve a combined power output of both motors. And that is because regardless of which mode you are driving in, the system gives you optimum power and performance balanced with efficiency. So the peak out possible is 124 bhp, and you get a solid 253 Nm of torque. And since the permanent magnet electric motor does most of the driving, it means you have all that torque available almost all the time! So it has grunt and goes! And in EV mode, the car’s response is great too.

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So the peak out possible is 124 bhp, and you get a solid 253 Nm of torque.

Photo Credit: Pawan Dagia

Ride and Handling

The overall road manners of the eHEV are not much different from the i-VTEC. While the obvious power is there, the steering and handling are very similar. The battery does create a little more dynamic feel given it affects the centre of gravity somewhat. It corners quite well, and while fatter tyres would have been nicer, the ride quality is also quite comfortable – as you’d expect from a Honda City anyway.

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Now you see all this and track it if you like, courtesy of the digital instrument cluster – which is hybrid-specific, and well-executed.

Photo Credit: Pawan Dagia

Safety

Also expected from Honda is a safe car. And so the City hybrid has everything from 6-airbags to ISOFIX, 3-point seatbelts for all passengers to stability & traction control, and antilock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution – are all standard. The car also gets tyre pressure monitoring, and hill start assist. But that is not all. Advance driver assistance systems or ADAS makes an appearance at Honda with this new variant. More and more manufacturers are bringing that into India and I couldn’t be more pleased because of course it is great to enhance safety when you are driving. Honda has brought level 2 ADAS, which is called Honda Sensing. It has a collision mitigation system that includes automatic emergency braking and visual/audio alerts to first get the driver to respond. Then there’s road departure mitigation (that is basically a road runoff avoidance feature), where the car will not let you swerve off the road. Again, it will alert you or there will be an intervention. The same system helps you to keep within your lane while driving, and Honda says that works even when lane markings are faded or partly rubbed off. I found it worked well enough for the most part. Adaptative cruise control, and auto headlamps that dip the high beam when they sense approaching traffic, round things off. Honda has traditionally offered good levels of crash safety, and the company says that its internal tests show a healthy 5-star crash rating. But we have no Global NCAP score for the made in India hybrid model.

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The screen also houses the display for a 360-degree camera view, but the pixelated poor resolution output is a let-down.

Photo Credit: Pawan Dagia

Expected Pricing

The top-spec ZX CVT petrol is priced at ₹ 15.04 lakh (ex-showroom), and the diesel ZX manual is priced at ₹ 15.24 lakh. So I reckon Honda will offer the e:HEV hybrid variant at around ₹ 17-18 lakh (ex-showroom), so that the on-road price doesn’t go beyond the ₹ 20 lakh mark. Anything higher will be a put-off for more. Of course, sources say the City e:HEV is already booked out for its first 6 months of production allocation!

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The car is a potential gamechanger and if early indications are anything to go by, is already raking in substantial bookings for Honda.

Photo Credit: Pawan Dagia

0 Comments

On the whole, I am really glad Honda finally chose to bring the hybrid City to us. The car is a potential gamechanger and if early indications are anything to go by, is already raking in substantial bookings for Honda. Pricing could be tricky since the two motor kit comes in from Japan. But I do hope global supplies and allocations will allow Honda to subsequently also offer the hybrid in the V or VX variant. But for now, the ZX is all we will get, but I hope Honda looks to play a volumes game with the new hybrid.

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Honda City e:HEV Hybrid Review – carandbike

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