We all know electric vehicles are the future of mobility and picking pace in India and elsewhere. However, lack of infrastructure and high cost of ownership is pulling back the Electric car sales, at least in our country. This is the reason I feel hybrid vehicles, and not electric vehicles will do much better in the immediate run to counter rising fuel problem and also help reduce pollution.
But what are your options if you want to buy a hybrid electric vehicle? Sadly, all the hybrid vehicles in India are priced above Rs 40 lakh. Honda Car India, the Japanese carmaker who has given us cars like Civic Hybrid and Accord Hybrid in the past saw the opportunity and will soon launch the Honda City Hybrid e:HEV in India, making it one of the most important cars in the Indian auto market as it becomes the first mass hybrid car in the country.
Interestingly, the company decided to add hybrid tech to City, which is the most successful Honda in India, making it easy for City Hybrid to make inroads in India. We recently drove the upcoming Honda City Hybrid in Bengaluru to understand how the hybrid technology works and what new this sedan gets. Here’s our Honda City Hybrid first drive review-
The Honda City Hybrid e:HEV is an extension of the regular ICE-engined City and in that sense, is no different from the 5th-generation City at least in the design sense. There are few elements that look unique, with the front getting a newly designed grill, sportier fog lamp enclosures and Honda logo on the front and back with blue highlights to signify electric energy.
As for the overall looks, which includes the regular Honda City, the design of the car is very simple, nothing striking, looking a bit stately to some sense. There’s nothing much to take away from the design apart from the boot incorporated small spoiler, wrap around tail lights and carbon fibre type bumper lip at the rear.
Like the exterior, the cabin of the hybrid version is similar to the 5th gen Honda City with identical dashboard layout, and features. It gets Two-Tone Ivory & Black Interior Colour Theme with Soft touch pads on the dashboard and Glossy Dark Wood Garnish. There’s also use of piano Black material along with few chrome inserts. Features wise the Honda City gets 7 inch full HD instrument panel with the driver information interface, 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system and Honda Connect with 32 features along with the Alexa remote capability.
One problem I have with the Honda City Hybrid is the lack of features that most of the rivals are offering including ventilated seats and wireless chargers. Also, there’s no climate control at the back and only a vent is provided, while the screen is only 8.0-inch while most cars now offer 10 inch system. Having said that, I find the AC knobs fun to operate with nice click sound on rotation.
In terms of practicality, the car gets Electric Parking Brake that liberates space in the central tunnel and ample legroom and headroom at the rear seats. Being a hybrid, the City gets a battery pack that Honda has placed in the boot, reducing the volume from 503-litre to 306-litre only. This, however, won’t be much visible as Honda is offering a flatboard to place multiple bags. Only the height is compromised, while width and depth remains the same.
In terms of safety features, the new Honda City Hybrid debuts Honda Sensing tech which is the package name for ADAS technology, including Collision Mitigation Braking System, Road Departure Mitigation, Lane Keeping Assist System, Adaptive Cruise Control, and Auto High-Beam. There’s also a blind spot camera. To be honest, the system worked wonders in our brief drive, esp. the collision mitigation warning and lane keeping assist. These technologies are apart from airbags, TPMS, hill assist and all.
The highlight of the Honda City Hybrid, of course, is the hybrid powertrain, which is a combination of 1.5-litre petrol engine based on Atkinson Cycle and a self-charging battery system with a dual motor setup with a combined a combined output of 126 PS and 253 Nm. The engine is mated to an eCVT gearbox and the car gets a claimed mileage of 26.5 kmpl, best in segment.
To delve deep into the tech, the City e:HEV is not a mild-hybrid like most of the ‘so-called’ hybrids sold in India, although it also gets the same technology as the mild hybrid cars like idle start-stop, battery assisted torque among others. However, this one a strong-hybrid with a lithium-ion battery that self-charges.
Also, you can’t select the drive mode between electric or petrol energy, as we have done in some other hybrid vehicles. Here, the Honda’s tech automatically chooses between EV, Hybrid and Engine modes. What you get is an ECON mode for enhanced mileage driving. Having said that, the drive of the Honda City Hybrid remains uninspiring, and despite having a massive 253 Nm torque, you don’t feel much happening to keep you excited, because mileage!
Apart from that, the engine is very smooth and the NVH is very refined. The suspension is also on the plush side, soaking most of the bumps, while the steering is balanced for both city and highway drives. The only problem that remains with the City, as with all other Honda cars is the use of CVT gearbox (electrically couple, this time around), that stretches a bit while pushing the car hard.
The Honda City Hybrid e:HEV comes at a right time when fuel prices are touching sky high in India, giving some respite in terms of mileage, which is class-leading. However, this hybrid version is based on the top spec ZX variant of the 5th-gen City and then the technology like Honda Sensing won’t come any cheaper, so be ready to shell out at least 20-30 percent over and above the petrol City. Having said that, the Honda City e:HEV Hybrid continues to be the non-nonsense mid-size sedan, but with better mileage and added safety.