Honda City sedan confirmed for Oz

words - Mike Sinclair
Honda will launch a new City entry-level sedan Down Under this summer

Honda will launch a new entry-level sedan into the Australian market. Priced to sit between Jazz and Civic, the new sedan will wear the nameplate City. It will go on sale Down Under in February 2009.

Based on the same platform as the new Jazz, the City was designed in Japan but will be built alongside its hatchback sibling at Honda's Ayutthaya plant, 70km north of Bangkok, Thailand. Sold in 39 countries across the globe, the new City is the third generation of the model and is not related to the original City minicar which was briefly sold in Australia in the 1980s.

Launched in its Thai home market in early September, the new four-door also went on sale in India last week. Honda will produce around 24,000 units of the City per annum in Thailand and a further 60,000 per year in India. Australian City models will all be Thai-sourced.

The City is powered by the same 88kW/146Nm 1.5-litre variable valve timing iVTEC four as the recently released VTi and VTi-S Jazz. It will be offered in five-speed manual and automatic versions.

Overall dimensions are similar to the new Jazz, but the City benefits from a 50mm increase in wheelbase and is lower overall. Rear legroom is said to rival that of the current model Civic.

Honda Australia has not confirmed pricing nor specification for the City Down Under, however, it has confirmed it will offer at least two City model variants. The base model will feature ABS and six airbags standard. Like the Jazz, stability control will not be offered at launch. Other confirmed differences from the Jazz specification include no paddle-shifts for the auto version.

The Carsales Network revealed Honda's plans to launch City in Oz in August (more here).

According to Honda Australia boss, Yasuhide Mizuno, the City will play an important role in Honda's range in Australia.

"The City is a new entry point into the Honda family", Mizuno-san told the Carsales Network in Thailand yesterday.

"Over the model generations Civic has grown in size and moved more upmarket. While hatch buyers have had the Jazz, City will give us a sporty, entry-level sedan – the sort of [market] position Civic used to fill," Mizuno-san said.

The local Honda boss says the City will target the other light sedans which make up around 14 per cent of the Aussie light car market -- Toyota's Yaris and Holden's Barina. He says, however, it will also likely attract buyers from the small car segment, due to its overall packaging. Mizuno says Nissan Tiida will also be a prime target.

Unlike the above trio, the City has some brio to its styling, not least thanks to its Type-R derived front end. Under the high rear deck hides a 506-litre boot… Larger than the Accord and Accord Euro, let alone Civic!

Honda Australia is still negotiating pricing for the City and has not set volume expectations. Understandably, the two factors are linked.

The entry-level manual City is expected to be offered at a "small" premium over the similarly-equipped circa $18K 1.5-litre Jazz VTi. With the top-spec auto Jazz close to $24,000, expect the top of the range City to significantly overlap the entry level $21,990 Civic VTi.

In contrast, in Thailand, the City is priced below Jazz -- model for model.

Mizuno says City will also be key to Honda's aim to attract younger buyers to the brand. To this end the company could offer a range of alloy wheel and accessory upgrades for the City.

Despite the fact the City's been launched already, the world premiere of the styling concept will take place at AIMS in Sydney, just over a week from now.

The Carsales Network will drive the Honda City in Thailand this week. Look out for our first impressions here soon.

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Published : Tuesday, 30 September 2008
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