2009 Honda City First Impressions

This is a quick report on my first experience with the all-new 2009 Honda City. I will have to wait until next week to actually drive the car, just as all other ordinary people in Thailand who are looking forward to their test drive, but I have had a chance to look at the new City up close, get behind the wheel and push, pull, wiggle, open, close, and slam, everything that could be pushed, pulled, wiggled, opened, closed or slammed.

2009 Honda City rear image

So, I'd like to share some notable observations with you.


The first thing that struck me about the car was not just how much better looking it is than the previous generation City, but how much better looking it is than the Jazz that was parked next to it. The 2009 City might not be popular with some people, but it will probably have a wider appeal than the slightly quirky looking Jazz.

2009 Honda City Image

While the Jazz is "cute" from some angles, from others there are very awkward aspects, for example when you look at the front quarter when standing beside the car. In contrast, I walked around and around the 2009 Honda City, and found it easy to behold, regardless of the angle, or perspective.

The next thing that didn't seem to be so obvious from the pictures is that front grille. It's big! Perhaps too big. But it does work well to distract from the headlights, which look like they were taken from the Altis.

The exterior of this City would look at home with a "T" rather than an "H" on the nose. It would pass perfectly as the next generation Toyota Vios.

But it also works well as the new City!

Everything is very well put together, as you would expect from Honda.

Any criticism of the exterior would end up being dismissed as being subjective, but there is one thing that I could fault about the design, and I think this is a valid complaint: The rear bumper. For whatever reason, Honda seems to think that rear collisions are a thing of the past. The rear bumper is almost flush with the boot lid. Honda did the same thing on the Jazz, and the Freed. It looks like the boot lid and probably the tail lights, would suffer damage in even the slightest of rear-end collision.

Interior Space

For this 2009 model, the Honda City has grown in every dimension, and this is clear when you get behind the wheel. I'm 185 cm tall, and I was able to find a comfortable position for driving, albeit with the drivers seat at the back of the rails. Everything is laid out nicely, and there is a quality feel to all the controls. The plastics are hard, but in a solid and chunky sort of way. You get the impression that this is going to wear well over the years.

Honda City Interior Image

The steering wheel is now adjustable for reach as well as height, which is a really excellent feature for this segment of the market. It allowed me to position the steering wheel exactly where I needed it to be. On the SV model that I was looking at, the steering wheel also features paddle shift controls for manual cog changes, and neat integrated audio controls.

Another nice touch is the iPod compatible USB connector. Although the Jazz already has this, the City has a very nicely integrated system. The display section of the audio system is hinged, opening to reveal a short USB cable which will accept your iPod cable. There is a little felt-lined compartment for your iPod. Once installed, you can control your iPod via the car's audio system.

Honda City Advanced Audio Image

The City doesn't have a CD player, so you need an iPod, or other compatible MP3 player to take your songs with you. Still, it's nicely done.

The back seat legroom is okay for this segment, although it is not as roomy as the Nissan Tiida. Headroom is on-par with the Vios. I know this because my head touches the roof in both cars. The City SV does have another trick to offer here too though. The back seats can recline a few degrees in a 60/40 split.

The rear seats also fold down, again, in the same 60/40 split. However, they don't fold flat like the "Magic-Seats" in the Jazz. But the opening to the boot area is big, largely unimpeded by framing.

The middle passenger will have to live with the floor being raised in the centre. This is unfortunate since the Vios has a completely flat floor, and Honda even mastered this with the Civic over the last 2 generations.

2009 Honda City boot image

The boot is claimed to be 506 litres. Honda claim that this makes it the largest in the class, and I believe them. Upon opening, you notice straight away how deep it is, and every effort seems to have been made to maximise useable space. Quite impressive. In fact, Honda claims that it can hold four sets of golf clubs.... in their bags of course. Not that too many City owners will be using it for this purpose.

Engine and Transmission

The 2009 Honda City shares the 120 hp i-VTEC with the Jazz with the 5-speed manual or automatic also on offer. Apparently the manual version, available only on the S MT model, has slightly higher ratios than the Jazz for the upper gears. This should make a slight difference to fuel economy if properly employed.

I have driven the Jazz, and was impressed with the engine's responsiveness. It's a very peppy little unit. Honda managed to squeeze 10 hp more than Toyota out of the 1.5 litre capacity. I expect the new City to perform identically to the Jazz. This means that we can expect a lot of fun, but a little bit of noise and complaining when you push it harder. But that's fun too!

Expect this to be confirmed when I submit a test-drive report within the next week.


This is an area where Honda are simply unbeatable right now. Let's start with cup holders and bottle holders. There are two in the centre in front of the gear lever, one to the back of the drivers armrest, two integrated into the fold down armrest in the rear, and one in each of the front doors. That's 7, in a car that can hold 5 passengers.

There is a large recess under the centre console, behind the drinks holders, and a smaller one under the driverside airvent, suitable for holding a mobile phone.

The armrest lifts to reveal a storage box, which has a card and pen holder integrated into the lid. The glove box is not as large as the one in the Tiida, but it's okay when you factor in all the other places that there are to put your stuff. There is also a little "money box" on the drives side.

In the rear, for V and SV models, there is a storage compartment under the rear seats. It is designed to hold an umbrella and a few pairs of shoes. This is very neat, as it is lined in plastic, and finally offers a place to put your wet umbrella! How do we live without this?

2009 Honda City underseat storage image

And then there is the aforementioned iPod storage compartment.

Build Quality

Quite remarkable for a car in this price bracket. I pushed and pulled on the plastic panels in the door and on the dash in an attempt to make something creak, but to no avail. This car is very very very (I think you get where this is going) solid.

There is a cheap feel to some of the plastics, and there is a general "hardness" to everything, but this isn't necessarily a bad thing. There is a sense of utility about it, without coming across as cheap.

Although priced slightly lower than the Jazz, in my opinion the new City manages to look richer, particularly in terms of the interior design. While the Jazz dash layout looks like it was designed in sections by 8 people, each working in isolation, and then finally coming together to glue their work together into a Frankenstein's monster (..... okay that might be a bit harsh, but few will argue that the Jazz isn't a bit on the busy side) the city is more consistent looking, and sometimes simple is better.

Some parts look like they were robbed from the Accord parts bin. The hazard light button, and the control stalks for the lights and wipers for example. I'd need to look closer to be sure.


This is a fantastic looking little car. Okay, so the grille might not be to everyone's liking, and there are a few awkward lines, but the overall package is likeable at worst, and Civic beating at it's best.

Things get even better when you climb inside, with generous space, lots of utility and neat design.

If the 2009 Honda City drives at least as well as the outgoing model it is going to be the best car in this price bracket. Considering that the Nissan Tiida, Toyota Vios, and Chevrolet Aveo are the only other models on offer in this segment, there is really only one serious threat to the City.

Even those not fussy about driving manners and sporty engine performance will be likely to choose the City over the Vios. It is just a better overall package.

Just don't get one if exclusivity is your thing, because these are going to sell in big numbers. Honda's target of 35,000 in the first year is very conservative considering the current economic climate. With more and more buyers turning towards small cars, the 2009 Honda City is going to be the perfect choice.

I'm really looking forward to taking it out on the road.

Related : 2009 Honda City Detailed Preview