Review: 2015 Honda City (base spec) - Excellent fuel economy

Disclaimer: This review was written by a man who drives a standard Proton Persona on a daily basis.

2015 Honda City (Grade S)

Engine: 16-valve SOHC In-line 4, NA with VVT

Year: 2015

Drive train: Front Wheel Drive

Transmission: G-Design Shift CVT Automatic

Second hand value (2017): At least RM60,000

3 Things the ECON Button Does

If you clicked the article link just for this, here it is. It would make more sense if you read the whole article, but if you're in a hurry, here they are. I'm not the kind of person to give clickbait titles.

  1. Softens the mid-range throttle response
  2. Keeps you in the low rev range
  3. Reduces the total time the air conditioning compressor is on.


Honda Production in Malaysia

Honda Malaysia’s first production line in Malacca started in January 2003, rolling out the CR-V. In January 2014, they announced a second production line, also in Malacca. With 2 production lines, Honda Malaysia has the capacity to make around 400 units a day (as claimed on their website). Having a production line in Malaysia helps Honda compete with the local car makers.

What is this?

This is a 2015 Honda City B-segment saloon that shares very similar traits with the Honda Jazz. What I’m reviewing today is the 6th generation. It comes with only 1 engine option and is only available with an automatic transmission. Having less variants in a production line does help to reduce overall cost. This was RM70k+ brand new with no frills - Steel wheels, no infotainment system, no reverse camera, and a few more features less than the top range models. Accessorised models could reach up to the RM80k+ range with more gizmos (Grade S+, Grade E, Grade V, Grade V with Modulo and premium packages). But like I’ve said before, these features don’t mean s**t for second hand value.

The City name has been around for a long time (Since 1981), lending its name to hatch back models in the earlier days. It was only from the 3rd Generation that Honda used the City name for their compact saloon model. The 4th generation was definitely not the best looking, but the 5th and 6th generation are considerably handsome. Even the Kia Forte and the Proton Preve try to emulate this sharp edged, modern-ish look.

4th gen City - Not so handsome City

The Honda City is a popular car for young executives and dads who simultaneously need a new car and put their kids through college. If you are capable of financing a B-segment saloon at this price, the more popular choice would be to go for it. It gives you peace of mind since there is a low chance of it breaking down and costing you a fortune.


What is it like to drive?

It certainly feels better than my own car (Proton Persona). Build quality is pretty good*, the engine is quieter than the Persona’s S4PH, the electronic power steering (EPS) is not too flimsy, and it cruises comfortably at 140km/h. Honda’s G-shift CVT feels like a rather intelligent 4-speed automatic. It stretches the last gear before overdrive for a torquier drive.

Through corners it doesn't feel as stable as my Persona. It is taller and the tires aren't as wide. After driving this for 200km and getting back into my Persona I realise just how low you sit in the stock Persona. The seats in the Honda also hug you better and the interior feels more bolstered. The rear view mirror does distort the image slightly (things appear wider) but I guess this is to give you a wider field of view.

The acceleration is decent even for a SOHC (Single Overhead Cam) Engine. I could recall previous adverts from Perodua (Pre-2009) claiming DOHC was better than SOHC using the analogy of one man rowing a boat versus 2 men rowing a boat. This probably holds true in some cases but for the City, I couldn’t really tell until I read the spec sheet. I guess they nailed the valve lift precision with only one cam shaft (and two cam profiles). Bravo.

SOHC is cheaper to manufacture (requires less parts) but compromises valve lift precision (one cam shaft controls both the intake and exhaust valve). The DOHC term was used as a selling point for certain car models and was popularised by stickers. Eventually the DOHC feature became standard that we just expect cars to have them. Most car buyers these days don’t actually give a damn anymore about engine features like this, but we used to. Now we buy cars based on resale value, after sales benefits, and financing services. I remember once when I asked to look under the hood of a car and the salesman asked me “Why do you even bother?”. The majority of us don’t care about engine features anymore. The industry is changing. We have electric cars and ride sharing apps. There is less need to own a car, especially if you live in the city.

We were so proud of DOHC we had stickers to let everybody know.

*To be confirmed in a few more years. The car is only 2 years old.

Fuel Consumption

The fuel consumption is fantastic. There’s the “ECO” sign that shows up on the dash when you are driving at low revs (or driving conservatively). I drove an automatic EK Civic (Manufactured 1995-2000) before and even back then Honda already had this feature. Once the "ECO" sign goes off, you know that VTEC just kicked in yo!

With the CVT Automatic on the 2015 Honda City, you barely go beyond 2500rpm, unless you drive aggressively, stretch it out in overdrive, stretch it out just before overdrive. You could actually drive this conservatively on the highway and the CVT would never actually never go beyond 2500rpm. That’s great for fuel economy. I drove this for 120km conservatively (without turning on the ECON mode) and managed 22.2km/l. That’s 5.4 litres of fuel only. When I added some (well perhaps a lot of) aggression, the number dropped to 16.8km/l. Conservative driving in my Persona could only give me 16.7km/l at best.

So thumbs up to the Honda City for good fuel economy. But that's not enough. To make fuel consumption even better, Honda introduced the ECON button. What is this? What does it do?


What is the ECON mode?

The ECON button is here to help you save even more fuel. For real? I had to test it first hand. I turned it on, drove aggressively, and managed 21km/l. What does the button do? Well according to forums and Honda distributors, it:

  1. Softens the mid-range throttle response
  2. Keeps you in the low rev range (Feels like short shifting, but it is a CVT)
  3. Reduces the total time the air conditioning compressor is on. (I certainly felt this one)

These are basically things that you could do by yourself if you are not an impatient and aggressive driver. The Econ button helps you drive more economically if you have a heavy foot. Seriously, you could consciously do these things as you drive. It's just an option so that the car does the thinking for you.

What do you get?

Some small things you notice along the way...

1. A normally hinged boot.

Was the Gen 2 Persona the only car that bothered with space saving gas hinges?

2. Alpine Stereo System.

No speakers behind the passenger seat though. There’s a hook for child seats instead.

3. A hot hood prop.

Make sure to grab it from the small rubber sleeve

4. No Make Up Mirror for your Passenger/Wife

You get one instead


More pictures..


Should you buy this Honda City? This model is no longer available new but a second hand model would set you about RM60,000 at least. Very good resale value. Good fuel consumption. However the one I drove had a whistling sound at high speeds. I still couldn't figure it out. It could have been the door seal, the side mirror, or the windscreen wiper. If you can afford the 2017 facelifted version, go for it. It still comes with the same engine so it's pretty much the same car to me. Need a new car, could afford one, and want to save on fuel? Honda City.

What do you think about this one?

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  • Sumana Soh

    04 April 2018

    ECON on or off better for fuel consumption? What about for city driving? On or Off? Thanks

    1 reply

    Arif Chan

    05 May 2018

    Better left on, especially if you have a heavy foot. The air-cond compressor control (from the ECON mode) helps reduce fuel consumption. The downside is the car will be less comfortable on hot days with the ECON mode on.