Honda City e: HEV First Drive Review: A smart car without a gearbox!

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Honda City e:HEV: What is it?
Honda launched the fifth-generation City in India back in 2020 and now Honda India is about to introduce the Hybrid version of the same called the City E: HEV. It will be the third Hybrid model from the Japanese carmaker for the Indian market after Civic Hybrid and Accord Hybrid.

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Over the past few years, the City secured its dominant position in the premium sedan segment in India and for the longest time. It independently drove sales for the brand in India before the introduction of the Amaze. Taking a leaf or two out of the City’s success story, this sedan is one of the best equipped in this segment and is offered various segment-first features and ADAS tech. We have now driven it and put it through our comprehensive tests to know how it performs in the real world.
Honda City e:HEV: How is it on the outside?
The Honda City e: HEV is not a very different car to look at. In order to differentiate it from the standard petrol and diesel versions Honda has made some subtle changes to the car. The City e: HEV gets blue highlights on the Honda logos, a new fog lamp garnish, a lip spoiler on the boot and a diffuser at the rear but that’s about it as far as the exterior is concerned.

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Honda City e:HEV: How is it on the inside?
The cabin of the new City e: HEV is the same as the Petrol and diesel counterpart except for the dual-tone ivory and black theme which gives it a sporty outlook. There are some new buttons that have been added to activate the additional features such as E-brake and Honda Sensing safety features.

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The Honda City Hybrid is based on the top-end ZX variant of the 5th generation City, which means it gets all the bells and whistles. It gets an 8-inch infotainment system with Apple car play and Android Auto, but the interface could have been better.

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The car now also gets a new set of cameras and an updated 7-inch digital instrument cluster, which displays an informative energy flow pattern that tells you where the power is coming from and how it’s going to the front wheels among other details.

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It also gets features such as digital automatic climate control, a sunroof, two USB slots, a 12 V charging socket, rear AC vents, steering mounted controls and many more.

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The Honda City e: HEV misses out on features such as wireless charging, wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, Type-C USB connectors and most importantly the ventilated seats.
Honda City e:HEV: Engine and Electric motor

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Just Like the standard City petrol, the City Hybrid gets a 1.5 L DOHC, four-cylinder petrol engine, but this makes a lower 98bhp and 127Nm (121bhp and 145Nm in regular City) because this engine operates on the Atkinson cycle. Hence, there are a few numbers of parts that have been replaced to improve the efficiency. There are two electric motors (AC Synchronous) which work in tandem with the engine. The electric motors produce 108 bhp of power and 253 Nm of torque. The combined output from both electric motor and engine is 126 bhp.
Honda City e:HEV: How does the Hybrid system work?
There are three driving modes and these are not the modes that you can change manually, it is the car that is doing that on its own based on the driver’s inputs. The car starts off in the Pure EV mode with complete silence just like EVs. When you increase the speed that’s when it goes into hybrid drive mode. The 1.5 L engine starts and acts as a generator to send power to assist the motors but does not power the wheels. The electric motors are the ones which are still powering the wheels. When cruising between 80 to 120 kmph the engine takes over and starts powering the wheels. It’s worth mentioning that the transition from electric to the engine is very smooth. When the engine kicks in you will be able to notice but not to an extent where it disrupts the refinement levels inside the cabin.

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Talking about the gearbox system, one interesting thing is the fact that there is no gearbox at all. It does not use any planetary gears or a CVT, It uses a single gear with a fixed ratio that is optimised to give the maximum efficiency. Now let’s talk about efficiency, Honda claims that the City Hybrid gives out 26.5 Km per litre and within our driving cycle the real-time fuel efficiency was more than 22kmpl which is 35-40% more than the regular petrol City.
Honda City e:HEV: How does it Ride and Handle?
The Honda City has always been a car with great ride quality and that just continues with the e: HEV. The steering feedback and handling are very similar to the ICE counterparts. With an added weight from the electric motors and the battery, the suspension has been tweaked to cope up with the same without sacrificing comfort at low and highway speeds.

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In terms of handling, it continues to be a car that goes where you point it. As long you are driving the City e:HEV in a sane manner, it is a great car to drive. It also gets all-wheel disc brakes which gives you the confidence to push the car a bit more.
Honda City e:HEV: Honda Sensing!
Now let’s talk about the next big addition to the City and that’s the Honda Sensing technology. This is the suite of active safety features that add to the overall safety of the car.

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The first one here is the collision mitigation system that includes automatic emergency braking. If there is an imminent collision that’s about to happen it will first give you a visual and audio warning to first get the driver to respond. If the driver still doesn’t pay attention, then the system will apply hard braking and try to come to a complete stop. The car gets a road departure mitigation system that will help you to not go off the road and gently bring the car back to the road. Then there’s the Lane departure assist which helps you to keep within your lane while driving. The car also gets the Auto high-beam assist that lowers the high beam when they sense approaching traffic. The last one in the Honda Sensing list is the Adaptive cruise control which helps on long highway runs by automatically reducing and increasing speed to a set limit.
Honda City E:HEV: Safety
As mentioned earlier, the City hybrid is based on the top-end ZX trim, which means it gets all the standard safety equipment such as 6-airbags, ABS with EBD, Traction control, TPMS, Hill-start assists, and ISO FIX anchors.

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Honda City e:HEV: Price, Variants and Rivals

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Honda will offer the City e: HEV in just one trim level – top-spec ZX. It is expected to be priced between 19-20 lakh (ex-showroom). Honda City Hybrid will not have any direct competition. However, in the mid-size sedan segment, it will compete with Skoda Slavia, Hyundai Verna and the upcoming Volkswagen Virtus.
Honda City e:HEV: Conclusion

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If you’re looking to buy a premium sedan which is smart, powerful, efficient, safe and has a ton of features the Honda City Hybrid (e:HEV) is the car you’re looking for. It is a comfortable car, looks good, it’s got a lot of first-in-segment features. Now though, with the Sensing technology, it is a lot safer not just for you and your family but also for the people around you. Now that we know everything, the only missing link now in the entire puzzle is the price which has not been announced yet. If Honda can price this at around Rs 19 lakh (ex-showroom) it will be a great move by the company. Most people still don’t find EVs suitable for their requirements but want to get the EV experience. For such buyers, the Honda City e:HEV can be the best bridge in the present market scenario as long as Honda doesn’t outprice itself.



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