Monday, August 5, 2013

Used Car Review - Honda City (1996-2003)

Myk Belmonte: Bored of the usual compact choices at budget prices? Then add this one to your shopping list.

1996-2003 Honda City

While the Philippines and the rest of South East Asia get the City in 1996, the Japanese and Europeans get the early City that rivaled the Nissan March/Micra. The first generation model was first made available in 1981 under the AA chassis and the second model was launched in 1986 with the model designated as GA1 (GA2 in its 1989 update). The first Citys are hatchbacks (and a convertible model was only offered in the first generation one), so the City discussed in the article isn't related in many ways except in the name.

Based on the EF Civic platform, the City nameplate was resurrected in 1996 under the chassis code SX8. It was developed and sold in developing markets (South East Asia, India, Pakistan) and to complement the EK Civic but at a lower price. Bet you didn't know this generation was sold in Honda Clio dealerships in Japan, as with the model it succeeded.

Honda Cars Philippine's cash cow during 1996-1997 was the Civic EK, but with some marketing efforts done locally including a song played in radio stations, this generation of City - together with the next generation models - found success in the local market. Initially available with a 1.3 engine, a 1.5 model was later added in 1998 and an update was done in 1999. You can buy the SX8 City until 2003, which the GD City replaced it. Available variants include the base Di (renamed as GL in 1999), LXi, and VTi; with the latter only be purchased with a 1.5 engine paired with a manual transmission.

Value and Costs
We all know that when buying a car under 200k, the usual suspects are the Corolla, Sentra, Civic, and Lancer. But for now, I have a secret to say; the SX8 City is also priced within that range and it can be yours between P145,000-P230,000. To say that the 1.3 engines of the four popular rivals are living in the carburetor era, and the 1.5 VTi competes with the Lancer GL (or GLX from 2000 onward), Sentra EX Saloon, and even the Civic LXi to fiddle with. What shall you pick then? Either engine is great but for the variants, forget about the Di/GL since they lack power amenities (except steering) and the price difference between units are narrow.

Parts can be procured at any Honda specialist shop, and maintaining one is on the affordable side. While hunting for your City, be careful with units with rust especially if the vehicle got in an accident and the body repair was poorly done. Fuel economy is wallet friendly, and there is no carburetor to worry about.

Exterior and Interior
While the Civic has elegant curves, the City makes do without any flashy design cues. But remember, it is a low frills vehicle that can transport you from point A to Z. To differentiate a 1.3 to a 1.5 City, the former gets black door handles while the latter has color coded ones.

You get a roomy cabin good for four of your friends (or family members) to hop in, but interior quality is very disappointing but you shouldn't since they say "you get what you pay for". Front footwell isn't that great, but you get a comfortable driving position that is complemented with large windows and a low hood. Power windows for the 1.3 LXi are only available in the front, with the rear occupants have to crank the windows down.

Two options can be had, with the most common one is the D13B4 1,343cc which spits out 95hp at 6,400rpm and 121Nm at 4,700rpm. Fitted among VTi models is the D15 1,493cc that carries 115hp at 6,800rpm and 142Nm at 4,600rpm. These engines are lively when reached at 4,000rpm and for a low price, you get something that is enjoyable to drive thanks to a light body and well spaced gear ratios.

Driving Impressions
Being a budget car does not mean a punishment, which the City debunks that notion. Thanks to the sub 1,000kg body weight, it handles well despite using McPherson struts rather than the double wishbone utilized by the Civic. Getting a manual transmission model means you have to live with a rubbery shifter and a unpleasant clutch, but you'll forgive them especially with the fuel economy it gives you.

This may have some faults, but it gives you more for less money. This overlooked option in the used car market gives you lively engines and a roomy cabin that others don't.

The Good:
  • No carburetor engines
  • Handles great due to light weight
  • All around visibility
The Bad:
  • No safety kit
  • Not imaginative looking
  • Rust problems
The Pick: 1.5 VTi

Engines: 1,343cc D13B4 and 1,493cc D15 I4 gasoline
Power: 95 @ 6,400rpm (1.3), 115hp @ 6,800rpm (1.5)
Torque: 121Nm @ 4,700rpm (1.3), 142Nm @ 4,600rpm (1.5)
Fuel Consumption: 8-10km/L (city), 11-13km/L (highway) (*estimated and varies)
Transmission: 5-speed manual, 4-speed automatic
Suspension: Front and rear independent McPherson strut

Price (New): P350,000-P580,000
Price (Now): P145,000-P230,000
Rivals: Honda Civic, Nissan Sentra, Toyota Corolla, Mitsubishi Lancer, Kia Pride
On Sale: 1996-2003

Fertes (supplier of genuine Honda parts) - (02) 371-5443

Photos from

1 comment:

  1. thanks for the very informative and simple presentation...