December 18th 2008. Honda Malaysia launches the new Honda City for the Malaysian market finally giving me the chance to check the car out in real life after months reading about it on the net and discussing it with TOVA readers. Honda Malaysia's new model media launch events are now attended by almost every journalist in town. As a result, it is pretty certain that regular details of this new City has been covered to death in numerous publications, dialies and internet sites. And so, this 'First Look' of mine at the new 3G Honda City will best be served by looking at it TOVA-style.
|Official Honda City Lineage|
First, we need to do a quick clarification to realign ourselves with the official Honda definitions for the 'heritage' of the Honda City. In my previews for this model thus far, I have been referring to the old outgoing City as the '3rd Gen' City and this current newly launched City as the '4th Gen' City. I take into account the famous JDM Honda City and especially the Honda City Turbo and Turbo-2 of the 1980s, a model which still have a lot of fans today. To me, and to many long time Honda enthusiasts, that JDM City will always be the '1st Gen' Honda City, eventhough it was a strictly JDM model. So, the '2nd Gen' Honda City was the new Asian regional model designed by HRT in the mid-1990s. Consequently, the GD-City was naturally the 3G and this new one, the 4G. However, Honda's official definition for this new City is actually the '3rd Gen Honda City'. So in Honda's literature (or rather in HRT's point of view), the lineage of the current Honda City is a distinct and difference lineage from that of the 1980s JDM Honda City Turbo. So the 1990s Honda City, with the D13B and D15B was the 1st Gen. Consequently the outgoing GD-City with the L15A i-DSI and VTEC engines were 2nd Gen. And this new Honda City with the L15A i-VTEC engine is now the 3rd Gen. As this is the official Honda definition, thus I will be correcting my own references and will now call this newly launched Honda City the new '3rd Generation Honda City'.
In the press conference, HRT made much emphasis of the fact that they conducted exhaustive surveys and interviews with owners and fans of the previous (2G) City during the R&D of this new (3G) City. Presumeably this might include enthusiasts as well (as fans can rightfully be taken to mean mostly enthusiasts). This is similar to the case with the Civic, as supposedly over 50 R&D engineers were then assigned to understand what Civic fans find lacking in the 7G Civic and take them into account when designing the 8G Civic. I am not sure how many R&D engineers were assigned for the City nor how many surveys they did but just like the case with the Civic, I actually have not heard of any such surveys being conducted in ASEAN (the main market for the City). Certainly if there are any big-scale survey, at least a few TOVA readers should have gotten involved. But I have not heard of any at all. Nevertheless, this is what HRT says. Therefore, I think it is also very fair for me to look at this new 3G City from the -critical- eyes of the enthusiasts, successes and failings and all that; i.e. the good and the bad, no-holds barred.
Honda's (HRT) technical presentation for this new 3G City lists a set of design objectives comprising Style, Performance, and Practicality. Honda's survey results showed that 2G City owners wanted a unique and stylish car - looks are very important. Then in terms of performance, it was also unanimous that more performance than what was available from the 2G City would be very desirable. Finally the 2G City's biggest strength was its practicality - exemplified by the huge boot, Ultra-seats and other such unique features and this practicality needs to be retained in the new 3G City.
On the enthusiasts side, broadly speaking, there are generally 4 main areas of importance to us; exterior, interior, the all important performance, and finally the last area encompassing a mix of elements - practicality, reliability, price, ownership cost and so forth. So actually there is a pretty tight match between Honda's objectives for the new 3G City (especially if we lump exterior+interior into the term 'style') and the enthusiast's own set of criteria. Let's take a look at each of the areas in turn, focussing on things which are important to the enthusiasts.
The exterior design of the Honda City... ah... let's be brutally honest here. The outgoing 2nd Gen City was, even to the most hardcore of Honda fans, never a very good looking car (to put in mildly). In fact, many really do consider it to look ugly, especially the rear 4/5 view. Yes, it shared the same platform as the hugely popular and fantastic looking Honda Fit/Jazz. But somehow Honda stylists from HRT have managed to turn an elegant swan into an ugly duckling. There were some who liked the looks but they were far and few in between. Despite their silence, Honda really did recognized that. And they put in an extra special effort to correct this in the mid-term MMC. A new grille, longer nose and most importantly, a significantly re-styled rear helped the City's looks to no end. Yet, despite all that was done, the truth was that the MMC 2G City could at best, be called 'pleasant looking' and nothing more.
This new 3G City then is the exact opposite of the 2G City. HRT seemed to have been taking lessons on how to make good looking cars. You have probably already read it elsewhere that the new 3G City's exterior is designed on the concept of the 'Arrowshot Form'. What Honda means with this is that the car's exterior design is designed to mimic the feeling of that of an arrow drawn fully across the bow. There is a great feeling of power as the arrow is tensed against the bow, ready to be unleashed forward with great speed. The whole of the exterior of the new 3G City is designed along this concept. The exterior features a low stooping front profile, like that of sports-cars. So the suggestion is that of an animal, usually one of the great-cats with head and shoulders stooped and griping the ground ready to pounce. Or like the track & field athelete on the starting blocks of the 100m or 200m dash, waiting for the starting gun before they pounce forward. The roof line actually slowly rises as we move towards the rear of the car and the rear boot/trunk lid stands taller than the front bonnet/hood.
The rear is also designed to enhance this 'Arrowshot form'. While the front design suggests the arrowhead of an arrow flying forward, the main feature of the rear - the rear-light cluster - carries the shape of arrow tail feathers. The boot/trunk is purposely made very short to complement this which means that the rear cabin of the car actually encapsulates most of the trunk space - the rear windscreen being almost on top of the rear wheels.
That of course is from the official hand-outs. Despite all the talk of the Arrowshot-Form, many enthusiasts continues to see the new 3G City as taking the design cues of the Euro-Civic (which is actually a good thing). The front design for e.g. practically shouts "Euro Civic !" to the enthusiast. Likely HRT took the Euro-Civic's front design and then apply the Arrowshot Form guidelines to derive the new City's front end. Interestingly, the large grille reminds many people of the Accord (which has a similarly large squarish grille). And the whole side profile looks very similar to the very well received 8G Civic.
I continue to feel the rear end design is pinched off the previous 2nd generation Toyota Vios (TOVA reader 'Lingwu' corrected me that the previous generation Vios is the 2G. While some countries like Malaysia and Singapore did not get it, others like Thailand and Indonesia had an even earlier generation Vios, then named the Toyota Soluna. That was rightfully the 1G Vios). It is not meant as a criticism in any way actually. The mark of a good designer is that he/she recognises what is good and what is bad and do not hesitate and let ego get in the way of learning from others and adopting what is clearly a superior design. Of course HRT modified or improved the design. The short boot/trunk lid cover to enhance the Arrowshot-form is one aspect. The rear tail-light cluster besides suggesting the arrow tail feathers, is also designed to be so distinctive that apparently when stuck in a line of cars, one just needs to catch a glimpse of the tail-light cluster and will immediately recognize the car to be the new City. This is the concept of 'style' in action.
Cars have been steadily growing larger and larger as they evolve through their generations. For the City however, it's smallish external size is one of its strengths as it makes the car nimble and is a boon on the congested city roads. HRT has smartly resisted the urge to make the new 3G City very much larger. It is only 5mm longer and wider than the 2G City, which is trivial. Importantly, HRT has also made the 3G City 15mm shorter (in height) than the 2G. That is of course only half and inch but coupled with the imperceptibly longer wider stance, it makes the City a lot less K-car like now, which also helps with the sporty profile a lot.
The two different Grades (introduced for Malaysia) differs in only a few items on the exterior - front integrated fog-lights, side mirrors with integrated turn signal, chromed tail pipe finisher, and most significantly the larger 16inch wheels (15inch for the lower Grade-S). The last item is a huge change from the early days of the 2G City where Honda actually threatened to void warrantees of owners who wanted to change the 14inch wheels of the City i-DSI to larger ones. Their rationale then was that the EPS was designed to work with 14-inch wheels and larger wheels have larger rotating inertia which might over-stress the EPS motor and shorten its lifespan. Interestingly, the City VTEC launched later came with 15-inch wheels, though HRT did say they changed the setting of the EPS (which presumeable includes accomodating for the larger wheels). Now, the new City comes with even larger 16-inch wheels. In the real-life however, I have never came across any case of EPS system or component failure from TOVA readers and 2G City owners as a whole. Perhaps this was what gave HRT the encouragement to give it larger and larger sized wheels, something desirable to car buyers.
And now on to the interior. The interior of the new 3G City continues to offer more of Honda's trademark 'more from less' - larger more spacious interior cabin from practically the same exterior dimensions. The standard 'tricks' of higher roof-line, lower floor line and thinner (but stronger) chassis members all contribute to a longer and wider interior cabin, with the same roof clearance. A key change is the 100mm (4inch) longer wheelbase. As the rear seats usually sits more or less just forward of the rear wheel arches, this means the rear seats can now be pushed back from the front seats - giving 25mm or 1 inch more leg space for the rear passenger, especially important for the one sitting right behind the driver. There is also 16mm wider space. All these with a trunk/boot that is now 6 litres larger than the 2G City !
Like the exterior, the interior too has its design concept, in this case a 'Cool Lounge' concept. The idea is to create a cabin with a relaxing atmosphere, an island of calm and comfort admist the dog-eat-dog traffic conditions outside. I can match this concept with the feelings of many enthusiasts City owners I have met. Some of the custom-jobs I have seen (of 2G City interiors) are downright amazing, including one owner who made a mini-bar out of his dashboard.
Visibility has been an important focus for the HRT engineers. I am not sure if Honda actually read my review of the 1G Honda Jazz where I complained about the rather large pillars obscuring visibility but the technical materials for this new 3G City actually features photos seen from the same angle as my photos in the Jazz review, illustrating the drastically thinner A-pillars. The triangular window has also been eliminated which remove yet 1 more pillar, resulting in significantly better visibility for the driver. The side mirror is now more squarish and features a 15% increase in mirror size while the rear seat headrests are similar to those on the new 2G Fit/Jazz which of course significantly improves rear visibility.
An unusual item with this new 3G City's is my concern about its interior. It's not normal for me to be so uptight about the interior of a Honda. Being the hardcore, my primary concern has always - and will always - be the car's performance and safety. However, for this new 3G City, I was very concerned with checking out the interior and I even put in a rare question during the launch press conference, asking how many percent of the interior materials are sourced locally (i.e. from Malaysia suppliers). The reason for this has to do with the new (2G) Honda Jazz (Fit). As explained in my preview earlier this week, the interior of the new 2G Fit/Jazz, while looking good was very dissapointing in terms of the quality of the materials and fittings. During the customer preview event for the 2G Honda Jazz (an event held in conjunction with the launch, for current owners of the Fit/Jazz), opinions were rather unanimous about how the quality of the materials and fitting had dropped compared to the 1G Fit/Jazz, especially against the first batch of Jazz VTEC which were imported by Honda Malaysia from the Honda Suzuka plant in Japan.
So one big concern of mine is whether the new 3G City will have the same issue. My thoughts are that since the City and Jazz shares the same platform, it is highly likely they share similar interior as well, especially the matarials. So if the interior materials of the new 3G City are all sourced from Thailand, then there's little hope for the interior of the new 3G City. However, I am happy to say that my fears are unfounded. Quite a bit of the interior of the 3G City were sourced locally, though I talked to two different persons and got two different figures. More crucially however was that the interior design of the City and the Jazz is quite different which means different materials as well. The steering of the City for e.g. is clearly a clone of the one on the Civic. The instrument panel is brought over from the previous 2G City but without the individual meter hoods and so is a more traditional design. The dashboard too is a simpler (slightly ungainly) slab-like design unlike the 2G Fit/Jazz more futuristic version. Not so stylish but with better quality materials and (fit and finish) workmanship then.
A big area of contention in the new 3G City is the removal of the Ultra-Seats. Perhaps HRT took offence to the numerous disparaging comments about how the Ultra-Seat resembles 'van-seats'. But the 3G City no longer offers the Ultra-Seat. Surprisignly, HRT insisted that surveys with owners showed that they don't appreciate the Ultra seats and that merely having a 60:40 split rear folding seats is good enough. I totally DON'T agree because I have met thousands of City owners and most of them loved their Ultra-Seat, even if not all of them uses it everyday. The issue is a rear folding seat might offer space enough for bulky items but without the folding seat cushions, the ability to carry TALL items, - those that MUST be transported vertically (like pots of plants for e.g.) is now lost in the new City. Perhaps Honda thinks that enthusiasts are not DIY fans, or maybe they didn't survey a lot of enthusiasts. Or the right ones. But I also find it quite unlikely (to say the least), that regular car owners too don't like the Ultra-Seats, as it is also not what I have seen as well - and I have also met huge numbers of regular, non-enthusiasts, 3G City owners.
Actually HRT did experiment with the removal of the Ultra-Seat even in the 2G City. The first version of the City VTEC also did not come with the Ultra-Seat though Honda did put it back during the MMC. I find it very strange that Honda treated something which they put so much effort to designing and which was so well received in this way - discarded like it was the unwanted appendage. If it is really true they took offence to references to the Ultra-Seats as 'van-seats', I am sure Honda R&D engineers could easily have refined it. One other reason HRT gave for the removal of the Ultra-Seat was that they wanted more solid and comfortable rear seats in this new 3G City. And that the Ultra-Seat's contruction interfered with this objective. And which I also find not fully acceptable. I have very high regards for Honda's R&D engineers and I don't think such things are of much hinderance to their creativity. Actually to me, it would be a big embarassment for them if failure to make the Ultra-Seats comfortable was the actual reason for their deletion.
Nevertheless, in its place, the Grade-E variant do offers reclining seat rests which is a first in a car of the City's class. Below the seat is also an integrated open-sided lower seat drawer. This is actually quite nice as it allows the storage of umbrellas and shoes, and the open sides means that wet umbrellas or shoes won't stink due to lack of ventilation. Still, a poor replacement for the Ultra Seat.
OK, enough of the looks and comforts. Its time to look at the most important aspect of the new 3G City - its performance. HRT says their surveys showed that 2G City owners were unanimous in that all wanted more performance from their City. Now, THAT I will not dispute ! To meet this demand, the new 3G Honda City is equipped with the latest L15A SOHC i-VTEC engine, the exact same engine as used on the new 2G Fit/Jazz (those from Thailand). Featuring SOHC i-VTEC on a 1.5l long-stroke block, the engine offers 10 ps more power and 0.2kg-m more torque. We have a full Tech-Overview of this engine in conjunction with the 2Gen Fit/Jazz launch and readers interested to read a little more on the technology of this engine can refer to it.
Honda Malaysia made claims that the new City is the most powerful in its class. This statement could be contentious because the Suzuki Swift Sports features a 1.5l DOHC VVT engine that outputs 125ps or 5 ps more. However the Swift is a hatchback so if one wants to draw fine-lines, the Honda's claim can be said to be accurate. It all depends on the individual's point of view. Also, usually enthusiasts cross-shops between the Swift and the Jazz, not the City. So personally I would re-phrase Honda's claim to be that the new 3G City being the most powerful sedan in its class. This statement would be more accurate.
Mated to the L15A SOHC i-VTEC engine is the same 5AT gearbox which equipped the new 2G Jazz. An important note is that HRT programmed this 5AT for 'fast kick-down'. I am not sure what 'fast' means in this case as there are two aspect to kickdown. One is how fast the gearbox downshifts after we 'kicked' the throttle pedal 'down', i.e heavy throttle or WOT. The other is the threshold point at which kickdown occurs. Some automatic cars have a 'S' mode which is very 'trigger happy'. Meaning that just light-ish prods at the throttle will cause the gearbox to downshift. Others are downright 'lazy', like some earlier generations of Honda for e.g. where one literally has to bury the throttle pedal hard into the floor carpetting for several seconds before the gearbox decides to downshift. In this case, unfortunately language barrier prevents me from getting further explanations from the R&D engineer, despite the best efforts of the Honda translator so everyone agreed that I should wait for the media drive event to get a clear picture.
Irregardless of how 'fast' the new 5AT kick-downs, eventually it will still be a machine's interpretation of what we, the driver, want. This is why a sequential shifter is one feature highly appreciated by enthusiasts and serious drivers in general. It offers us, the human, the ability to override the programming of the gearbox (which in all honesty, can never be perfect) and to activate a downshift or upshift at our command. In the new 3G City, this is activated via paddle shifters on the steering wheel and available on the Grade-V. Apparently, like the (latest) Civic 2.0S and the Accord 2.4/3.5, sequential shifting is available in both D and S mode, with the D-mode sequential being a 'temporary override', i.e. the gearbox goes back to normal automatic mode when not required. The S-mode sequential is 'shift and hold', meaning the gearbox holds the selected gear even at the rev-cut. By the way, the new City's 5AT also comes with GLC (Grades Logic Control) which means that even if we decide to leave the shifting to the ECU, it is supposed to have fuzzy logic style intelligence and change downshift or upshift behaviour according to load or driving behaviour.
Honda's stated objective for the new 3G City's performance is for it to offer "Class leading performance". This is characterized by 1) powerful starting acceleration and 2) superior passenger comfort at cruising speed. The HRT City LPL made numerous references to a gutsy but relaxing feeling when driving the new City.
The first part, 'powerful starting acceleration' is exactly what I was referring to when I talked about the 'soft' take-off with the CVT-7 gearbox in my preview article for this City just before its official launch. As I explained there, mainly because Honda wanted to avoid that 'rocking horse' effect, the 2G City had a 'slow' take-off from stationary. The CVT gearbox feels 'lazy' and anaemic from standstill, even with throttle buried hard against the floor. I think this is also to avoid too much stress on the start-up clutch as starting off from standstill is when the greatest stress occurs.
So, the new 3G City should offer a more forceful 'surge' upon throttle kickdown from standstill or low speeds. This is also partially a property of the torque converter which the new regular 5AT uses. For in-gear in-speed pick-up like for overtaking, etc, the more 'fast kick-down' should also enhance this feeling by downshifting for greater acceleration. This is what HRT calls the 'gutsy' feeling though as I mentioned in my preview, this can give a false sense of 'good power' from the car because it can quickly fall flat when the car is asked to sustain that 'power'. It remains to be seen whether my expectations will be true in the upcoming media drive.
For myself (and a number of enthusiasts), the replacement of the CVT-7 gearbox with a normal 5AT is a big dissapointment in the new City. As I suspected, Honda's official reason for the use of 5AT versus CVT is to get more 'grunt', like what I explained above (and in my preview). The 5AT can also be more representative of sporty driving to many drivers, as the ability to shift thru gears is more reminscent of a manual transmission.
Still, I don't fully agree with Honda - that the disadvantage of 5AT versus CVT is only in terms of loss of 'smoothness' as they insisted. With the same power, over long WOT runs, a CVT gives a superior method of delivering engine power to the driving wheels and ultimately the car will be faster. In this case, the new L15A i-VTEC engine is more powerful and more torquey while the new 3G City is also around the same weight. So over short and quick WOT sprints, say in gear 2nd to 3rd or 3rd to 4th, then the superior power and torque of the new L15A i-VTEC might give better short-term straight line performance over the CVT. It is clear Honda tries to enhance this by tuning of the gearbox behaviour - the faster kick-down to WOT as mentioned above. But once we go into the realm of sustained WOT runs, the ability of the CVT to hold rpm at max power point while adjusting gear ratio for optimal acceleration is something the 5AT might not be able to overcome, even with 10ps more from the engine. Just like the opera singer who can hold a very high pitch note and sustain it for seemingly forever, the old 2G City will scream at max power rpm for as long as the throttle is floored. And while normal singers will have to stop often to take deep breathes, the 5AT too will have to often change gears once the rev-limit is reached. Which will be ultimately faster is quite an open question at this point and I look forward to being able to settle this question in the near future.
As the new L15A i-VTEC features Drive-By-Wire and paddle shifters, this also means two characteristics which many enthusiasts have minor complaints about with previous Hondas employing this technology. DBW as implemented by Honda introduces a little bit annoying 'rev-hang'. This is the engine sustaining its rpm for a short while after the throttle has been released. However, this rev-hang is annoying mainly when used with manual gearboxes. With the 5AT, it should not be that much of an issue as the gear-change is coordinated by the ECU so I think this might be a trivial point.
The more crucial point would be the 'response lag' of the paddle shifter. For e.g. in spirited driving with the FD2 Civic 2.0S, I frequently hit the rev-cut in sequential mode. The thing is there is a rather long lag between when I squeezed the paddle shift to the time the gear-change actually happens. This is most apparent during the standing-start acceleration tests I have conducted (the reports for many Honda models will be out soon, I promise). In 1st gear, I have found I have to shift as early as 500rpm or more before rev-cut if I don't want to hit the rev-cut too hard (which will slow the acceleration time as well). 2nd gear is better but I still had to shift around 300rpm early. Luckily this delay is not so apparent once I got into 3rd gear and higher. Still, it can be annoying -and occasionally dangerous- like when overtaking crawling heavy vehicles in narrow twisty roads against on-coming traffic. In 1st or 2nd gear, something like the Civic 2.0S or Accord 2.4 VTi-L and especially the Accord 3.5 V6 will have very quick acceleration. If I mis-time the paddle upshift, I will find the engine banging against the rev-cut and it feels literally like hitting against a brick wall, just like how the 'hard' artificial 180kph speed-cut behaves in older JDM Hondas (like my DA6 Integra used to for e.g., before I had the HONDATA). This can add a delay of a few seconds to the overtaking manuveure and consequently extends the time exposed to danger.
At the launch press conference, I tried to ask for clarification about this from the R&D engineer. Unfortunately language barrier again interfered despite the best efforts of the Honda translator. I wonder if the 'fast kickdown' in this new City also means a faster response to paddle shifter input. I will find out soon.
Brakes are frequently the weakest area of performance in Honda cars, even the sporty ones. Here, again as I expected in my preview, Honda talks about better brakes, especially in terms of 'linear feel'. I hope this translates to proper progressive braking which all Honda stock brakes lacks badly. In terms of mechanicals, the new City has a longer narrower brake cylinder with a larger brake vacumn assist pump. The thinner cylinder and larger vacumn assist gives higher brake fluid pressure for a given brake pedal pressure. Consequently, Honda can shift the fulcrum point of the brake pedal lower, reducing brake pedal travel but yet still giving the same braking force. In theory, this should give significantly better braking and brake pedal 'feel' in the new City. I wonder if they have also changed to a better brake pad supplier as Honda brake pads often squeal and worse, fades too quickly after hard braking. So it is an area I am eagerly waiting to check out.
One issue that seems likely to go unresolved is the minor complaints of surface rust not only on the brake rotors but also on some of the suspension arm components, especially the lower arm where the front strut connects to. These continue to be casted from iron and so surface rust should continue to be a concern amongst the more fussy enthusiasts who would have (valid) concerns of rust weakening the arm.
Handling is a major importance As mentioned in my preview, a new generation (what Honda calls an FMC or 'Full Model Change') also means a new suspension geometry for the new 3G City. Coupled to new up-rated suspension components, the new City is certain to offer different, hopefully better handling. For e.g. front caster has been increased and as caster has a big impact of the straight line stability of the car, thus the straight line cruising stability should be improved. The old 2G City has an unusual caster setting and at the extremes of steering turn, the steering/wheels will not straighten itself. I wonder if the new caster setting will correct that.
The EPS, another sometimes contentous point in the old 2G City has also been upgraded, mainly with a larger EPS motor with 50% more capacity (from 40A to 60A). Honda says the benefit is a more steady and direct steering feel. While I have never had any issues with the EPS steering feel, it is quite dead compared to the normal Honda hydraulic power steering system so I will have to see how the new EPS feels. Note also that this new 3G City now offers 15 & 16inch wheels so the uprated EPS motor might possibly also be partially for it to work the larger -and heavier- wheels.
Overall, the new 3G City promises quite a bit in terms of improved performance, especially with a more powerful engine, better brakes and improved handling. Unfortunately I do lament the dissapearance of the CVT but it could possible not be as significant as I make it out to be. The more important thing is how fast the new City actually is and that can only be decided by driving it so I need to reserve my comments until then.
In this time of economic uncertainty, it is gratifying that Honda took great pains to come out with as good a pricing as they can give. Prior to the launch, they have been asking. For e.g. during the recent massive Honda clubs gathering I organised. The feedback generally has all been that RM90k represents a make or break price point, rather like the RM150k for the higher end models. In this case, RM90k is more of a physological barrier, where the perception once getting into the 90-100k range is that it is too near the 100k price point. And HMSB shocked many and delighted me by actually pricing even the TOP variant of the new City just below RM90k ! The base version, the Grade-S is actually CHEAPER than the outgoing City VTEC ! Actually with the sole exception of the new 2G Jazz, all new models from Honda Malaysia have always featured the most competitive pricings indeed. This really is a good testimonial to the hardwork by the Honda Malaysia product planners.
The difference between the base Grade-S and top grade Grade-E is in terms of options and finishing. The Grade-E offers features that the enthusiasts and more discerning owners demands - paddle shifter, steel tailpipe finisher, leather steering wheel and so forth. Some nice options are also fitted - a side mirror with integrated turn signal, rear seats that can be reclined and of course larger 16inch wheels compared to 15inch for the Grade-S. All these for barely RM5k more which resulted in many people opting for the higher Grade-E.
Other than a few areas of dissapointment, the new 3G City is actually a much improved car over the outgoing 2G. The looks is now truly class leading, easily as good looking as the best there is out there. Performance too would now be more in-line with what the general market is used to, sacrificing smoothness and overall superior power delivery in favour of greater 'grunt' in take-off and the early part of the WOT run. It might not be universally appealing, especially to some of the more discerning enthusiasts, but it should be a lot more compatible with the experience of regular car buyers.
Take all my less than positive comments in the right context - the new 3G City is really an excellent car, just that no car can be perfect, especially in this class/price-range and so I am just telling things as they are - a permanent feature of articles from the (hopefully) improved back-to-basic approach for TOVA.
Again, the media drive event for the new 3G City is only end of this week itself and I will again try to publish an early first-drive report. Stay tuned.