Devotion to Function: You'd Want to Drive the Honda City Around the City, Too


Transport has always been functional. The idea is to get from point A to B in the quickest, less stressful way possible, and, hopefully, do it in comfort and style. And since its invention, the automobile has fulfilled those needs for an untold number of people across the planet through the years. 

Car companies understand this perhaps more than most, which is why they’re constantly improving and fine-tuning their models in the constant pursuit of efficiency and excellence. That’s also the reason you’re always hearing about unveilings and new car launches. It’s all about presenting the best version of a vehicle that it can possibly be.

Photo by PJ Caña.

Take Honda for instance. When it launched the City in the early 80s, it was a car intended for urban dwellers in the cramped, narrow streets of Japan’s gigantic cities, hence the name. Once the smallest in Honda’s lineup, the City has changed a lot through the years, so much so that what carries the nameplate now is virtually unrecognizable from its very first incarnation.


But the essence of the City remains the same: a carrier for people living life in the urban jungle. I certainly qualify in that demographic, so it was with anticipation that I accepted the key to the 2021 Honda City 1.5 V that I was to call mine for a few days.

Photo by PJ Caña.

The City is pretty to look at, for sure. A cursory glance might give off the impression of a generic subcompact sedan, one of many plying the streets of Manila. But closer inspection sets it apart from its contemporaries. There’s a line running along the lower part of the sides that adds a sense of depth and refinement, a new chrome front grille, and LED Daytime Running Lights (DRL) as well as LED taillights. Sleek and stylish.

It’s also a lot bigger than the first iterations of the City: the wheelbase measures 2,600 millimeters, which puts it at par with some versions of its big brother (or sister), the Civic. I had to wonder if it’ll still drive effortlessly in the small streets of Tokyo or Osaka, but we’re in Manila, and it doesn’t look out of place here, so I didn’t think that was an issue. 

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Photo by HCPI.

Besides, bigger and longer can only mean good things for its occupants. Space is not a problem for everybody in the five-seater. I didn’t have four passengers while I drove the City, but I imagine it can easily handle three people at the back and one in front and it won’t feel like the MRT at rush hour. The eight-inch infotainment system is idiot-proof and connected easily to my phone via Bluetooth.

There’s push-button engine start and you don’t even have to push Unlock on the key for you to enter the car. And speaking of engine, the City is powered by a 1.5-Liter 4 Cylinder DOHC i-VTEC. There’s a pleasant and satisfying growl when you turn the ignition on; it’s not loud or disruptive.

Throughout my time with the car, I drove it exactly where it was made for: the city. Through smooth paved roads and asphalted humps, over bumps and potholes, on wide avenues and expressways, and cramped pathways and tiny side streets, the City was a daily driver in the truest sense of the word. 

Photo by PJ Caña.

In many of those instances, I was driving to simulate the feeling of going through rush hour to go to the office in the morning and coming back home at night (because we’re still working from home, right). I went on grocery and fast-food runs, drove out to pick up a friend living on the other side of the city for a quick catch-up session, and made a quick visit to my folks’ place in a town just outside of Metro Manila. It wasn’t long before I was driving the City like it had been mine for years, and sliding behind the wheel felt as familiar as bumping into a close friend from high school at the supermarket or walking up to my own door. If I had that feeling just a few days into driving the City, imagine how it would feel like to have it for years, for real. 

Here’s the caveat though: the Honda City 1.5 V retails for about P968,000. Now, at that price, people might say you can go get yourself a nice crossover SUV. It’s bigger, higher, and perhaps even sexier. But will it be a Honda? Because, when it comes down to it, you’re paying a premium for the quality and durability of the brand, and the Japanese carmaker isn’t kidding around when it comes to all those things. I mean, they introduced the City in 1981 and spent the next 40 years trying to perfect it and make it to what it is today. 

Talk about devotion to function.

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Paul John Caña
Associate Editor, Esquire Philippines
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