Monday, June 11, 2012

Used Car Review - Honda City (2003-2008)

The search of the college car continues on, and you are interested on the common sedan. But, the requirement must be something small (Corollas and Civics are crossed out) in terms of vehicle size and engine displacement. Wait a minute!!?? Sedans are the antithesis of practicality no thanks to their trunks. But Myk Belmonte has one surprise for you which is buried somewhere in this article, especially if you want a sedan with practicality.

2003-2008 Honda City 

So, what are the requirements for a city car? Size must be cake, should have minimal fuel consumption, the ability of ferrying four bodies (unless you travel alone a lot) must be there, and maintaining one is friendly to the wallet. With a chassis of AA, the first Honda City was introduced in 1981. Its sub-compact size qualified someone's thinking of a city car (hence, the name). In Japan, the City nameplate is no more; with the Fit, the Fit Aria (essentially the Honda City there), and Airwave taking the baton.

Having its worldwide debut in 2002, the GD City saw limited availability outside the Asian market. Honda had the Asians in mind (specifically South East Asia, East Asia, India, Pakistan, and other related markets) for the factors of interior room, fuel efficiency, and price. It saw success in these markets and stayed in production with a facelift in 2005.

The Philippine market had to wait for a year just to have the GD City on our shores. Locally, the design was less received, which is said to have been inspired by a dolphin. But some would rave over its interior flexibility (more on this later) and for the wonder of the standard CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission).  Three variants where locally available; which includes the base A, the mid-level S, and the high level V. Produced and marketed until the end of 2008, with a minor model change in 2005.

Value and Costs
A second hand GD City is priced between P280,000-P470,000, and with that in mind, you will encounter different units in varying conditions and model years. Be careful with units that are in a destructive condition (worn out CVT belts, faulty spark plugs, stained interior) and with most Japanese sedans, rice or modified units. If possible, keep an eagle eye and stay away from these aforementioned City's

You'll be surprised that the cost of maintaining a GD City is similar to the same period Jazz (which shares the same platform). So, parts are nearly identical from the mechanicals to the exterior bits (but not all). Sore points are the Continuously Variable Transmission, and the i-DSI's eight spark plugs. For those considering a CVT variant, use CVT Fluid to replenish the transmission's chugging ability.

Exterior and Interior
If there is one word to describe the exterior design, it would be "bloated". Yes, it takes its inspiration from a dolphin, but there is a good reason for that. Think of it as a Honda Jazz that was "sinalpakan ng pwit sa dulo", with the word "pwit" referring to its trunk. Not much to say about it, honestly.

The functionality of the City is hard to beat, with the ULT seats (shared with the Jazz) being a strong point. Just fold the backseat and you can store anything (in a laid down position), and vola, you can enjoy a versatility of a van without the bulk. Interior layout is nearly identical with the Jazz, but the center console and glove box are differently styled. There is enough room for people inside and the rear seat isn't cramped, being true to its name as a city cruiser.

Locally, a 1.3 liter engine with i-DSI and a 1.5 engine with VTEC are the choice power plants. The one that carries the i-DSI is a L13A 1,339cc that has 82hp at 5,700rpm and 116Nm at 2,800rpm; while VTEC technology is available with the L15A1 1,496cc which possess 109hp at 5,800rpm and 142Nm at 4,800rpm. I may have shared this to you already that the i-DSI emphasizes efficiency while the VTEC (a fixture among Hondas) focuses on high end torque. The i-DSI became standard among Philippine sold City's from 2003, with a VTEC one added in late 2004.

Driving Impressions
The GD City behaves and feels similar to its hatchback counterpart, with the driving dynamics and engine feel being comparable. The surprise lies on this statement: If the Jazz encourages sporty and spirited driving, the City stays true to its namesake, being a comfortable city car. If other competitors would give you a choppy, back aching ride; the City is surprisingly comfortable. Handling is nimble and visibility is good; with the thick C Pillar being a bummer but the generously sized side mirrors make up to this shortcoming.

Beauty is skin deep, and there is more than looks. The City's dolphin inspired (or if we use a cartoon character to compare the City with, it would be Mrs. Puff in Spongebob Squarepants) exterior makes up for a comfortable ride and a versatile interior. One of the sedans available locally with a 60/40 folding rear seat, you can haul stuff without driving something huge and heavy. With prices in used car money, this is a bargain, especially for the ordinary college student.

The Good:
  • Gas sipper
  • Easy to park
  • Comfortable ride
The Bad:
  • CVT could be a liability
  • 1.3 i-DSI's higher maintenance cost
  • Hideous looks (for the earlier models)
The Pick: 1.5 V MT

Engines: 1,339cc L13A and 1,496cc L15A1 I4 gasoline
Power: 82hp @ 5,700rpm (1.3), 109hp @ 5,800rpm (1.5)
Torque: 116Nm @ 2,800rpm (1.3), 142Nm @ 4,800rpm (1.5)
Fuel Consumption: 8-12km/L (city), 12-15km/L (highway) (*estimated and varies)
Transmission: 5-speed manual, 7-speed CVT
Suspension: Front independent McPherson strut, rear torsion beam

Price (New): P529,000-P745,000 (range from 2003-2008)
Price (Now): P280,000-P470,000
Rivals: Toyota Vios, Kia Rio, Hyundai Accent, Chevrolet Aveo sedan
On Sale: 2003-2008

Honda Cars Quezon City - 712-6850
Honda Cars Kalookan - 366-5701
Honda Cars Pasig - 988-1288

Photos courtesy of


  1. Hi sir myk! Meron ka bang full specs ng 2008 idsi 1.3A m/t? Please send me link or send to my email. thanks sir!

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  3. Awwts me and my wife were planning to buy honda city 2008 cvt idsi model but seems it has issues with the cvt varriant?? I can i please now sir the issue? Thanks a lot

    1. We own a Honda Fit Japan (Converted) but never had a CVT problem.. depends on how we treat our vehicles, CVT problem is not an "issue" but please test drive the unit you are about to buy first... if continuous juddering is felt, it means CVT is not taken cared.. whole body vibrates or it cannot adjust revs to suit the best speed then that's the time to turn around and look for more.. Good Day sir