Honda City is a subcompact sedan that is quite popular in the Asian, South American, Australian and few European markets. Initially the City was introduced as a small hatchback during the 80s to compete against the likes of Nissan Micra. However the first two generations of ‘City’ were unable to create problems for its rivals hence it was retired by early 90s.
In 1996, the City was brought back to life as a sedan specifically to be sold in ASEAN markets. This City became so popular that it gave Honda a strong foothold in possibly every market where it was introduced.
Related: 21 Years of Honda City in Pakistan
The City was first introduced in Pakistan in January 1997, and since then each of its model have seen tremendous success likely every other market. Although initially the City was being updated either with a facelift, or a new generation model every third year of its life, however after 2009, because of the absence of competition Honda Atlas in Pakistan has never introduced the newer 6th generation City that was introduced in international markets back in 2013.
Since 1997, we have seen 3 generations of City all of which have seen great success here. Let us take a brief look at different Honda City models sold in Pakistan.
Third Generation (1997-2003)
The third generation was introduced in January 1997. It was available with 1.3 liter carburetor and 1.5 liter fuel injected engine. Even the base 1.3 EX trim was fully powered, however there was no automatic transmission available.
Related: Honda City SX8- The Game Changer
This City became an instant hit in our market cutting Suzuki Margalla’s sales in half, which prior to the launch of Honda City sold at an average 6,000 units a year managed to sell only around 3,000 units in 1997 and 98 before being replaced by the Baleno. One of the primary selling point was the price factory, as the fully loaded base version City EX was way cheaper than the base Corolla XE which came without power windows, tachometer, matching bumpers, power locks etc.
Three years later in January 2000, the third gen City received a major facelift with revised and more aggressive front and rear end, updated interior with better instrument cluster, new 4-spoke steering wheel, updated door trims and upholstery and a fuel injected 1.3 liter engine under its hood. While an automatic transmission variant was now available, Honda dropped the 1.5 liter engine for the City facelift.
Fourth Generation (2003-2008)
In August 2003, Honda introduced the 4th generation City in Pakistan. This generation was an entirely different car from the previous model in terms of design, engine and the overall characteristics.
Related: The City Has Become Honda’s Cultus
While the 3rd gen was primarily loved for its handling and road grip, the 4th gen was focused towards fuel economy & comfort. It came with a twin-spark, lean burn 1.2 liter ‘i-DSI’ engine primarily designed to provide exceptional fuel economy. The 4th generation City was unique in numerous ways. It had 8 spark plugs instead of 4, a rear flat floor allowing tremendous legroom and comfort for the rear passengers. The fuel tank was located underneath the passenger compartment which resulted in quite a generous cargo space. The interior came in beige color for the first time in a Honda City. It had two glove boxes, which Honda called as His & Hers…
It was also the first locally assembled vehicle to come equipped with a CVT gearbox in Vario version, as well as the first to come with an electric power steering (EPS). The 4th gen City in 2003, was also the first local assembled car in Pakistan with a Euro III compliant engine.
In 2006 the Honda introduced the 4th gen City facelift along with a 1.5 liter Vtec version called as the Steermatic. Apart from engine, the Steermatic offered other improvements such as center arm rests and 15” inch wheels and a 7-speed transmission. However despite all the good, the Steermatic was unable to make a mark and was soon discontinued.
Still the regular iSDI variants did extremely well in terms of sales. Honda sold more than 61,000 units of 4th gen City during its production lifespan from 2003 to 2008.
Fifth Generation (2009 to date)
On 31st January 2009, the 5th gen City made its way in Pakistan. Visually the 5th gen was a great deal of improvement over its predecessor. It was sharp looking, bold and aggressive. It came equipped with a 1.3 liter i-VTEC engine with manual as well as automatic transmission option.
Related: The ‘City’ That Never Arrived..
In May 2012, after a brief hiccup in production due to massive flooding in Thailand, Honda Atlas resumed the production of 5th gen City with the introduction of new version called Aspire. The Honda City Aspire was visually identical to the standard City however it offered various improvements in configuration. Later in April 2013, a 1.5 liter i-VTEC engine was also added to the offerings.
In a span of 9 years, the 5th gen City in Pakistan has probably received the most number of facelifts. Even last year (2017), Honda Atlas released two facelifts for the City sedan as it continues to be sold despite having been in production since 2009, the longest period for any locally assembled Honda model.
The Absence of Competition
Honda’s tradition in Pakistan has been to launch a new model or a facelift after every 3 years. The Honda City SX8 which was introduced in January 1997 was updated with a facelift in January 2000. 3 years later in August 2003 the new City iDSI was launched, and was updated with a facelift in 2006, again maintaining the 3 year cycle. On 31st January 2009 the City iDSI was replaced with the new City iVTEC. Since then however Honda lost its tradition to be pioneers in updating their models in Pakistan. The facelift City iVTEC that was supposed to launch in 2012 arrived in 2014 and continues to sell here since 2009.
One of the core reasons is the absence of competition. The City has been in competition with a Suzuki rival ever since, however the 5th gen Honda City never saw a real competitor. As Suzuki Liana was out of the competition by 2010, the City remains the only choice in the entry level sedan segment. It’s obvious that since there was no competition in the segment, Honda seems to be not interested in updating to a newer 6th generation City and is happy to continue selling the current model.
I am sure most of you have kept and owned different generation of Honda City during these years, so based on your ownership experience which generation will you rate as the best? Click to cast your vote below and let us know with your comments.
A 3d animation professional with over 20 years of industry experience having served in leading organizations & production facilities of Pakistan, an avid car enthusiast and petrolhead with an affection to deliver writings to help shape opinions. Formerly written for PakWheels as well as major publications including Dawn. Founder of CarSpiritPK.com