Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Brazil: Honda City

Honda's subsidiary has just launched the City, its third model produced locally. It's a Fit-derived compact four-door sedan. According to the automaker, this is the third generation of a model range introduced in 1996, followed by the second one in 2000, but both restricted to Asia-Pacific markets. The third generation is focused on those markets and Latin America as well.

Power comes from the flexible-fuel 1.5-liter i-VTEC rated at 113 horsepower, mated to either a five-speed manual or the exclusive Hondamatic with helical gearsets instead of planetary gear. Sequential gearchange is provided, and the top version is fitted with paddle shifters. A torque converter locks up from 2nd to top gear.

Although not spectacular in terms of design, the City is a pleasant-looking car. Interior room and trunk space are outstanding for a vehicle this size, with a 100.4-inch wheelbase and 173.2-inch overall length. Rear seating is admirably spacious. Under the rear cushions are two useful, sizable drawers, made possible by the somewhat small 11.1-gallon fuel tank located up front under the front seats. Rear 40/60-split seatbacks are adjustable within a range of 8 degrees, a rare offer in the category. The trunk holds 17.9 cubic feet of luggage, considerably more than the sister Civic sedan's 12 cubic feet.

The Honda City is produced northwest of São Paulo at Honda's Sumaré plant, which opened in 2008 and also builds the Fit and the Civic sedan. Honda ranks 5th in the Brazil market, closely followed by Renault.

The LX retails for $30,800; the EX, $33,275; and the top EXL, $35,340. Automatic transmission adds $2,054 or $3,090 for the EXL, which has paddle shifters. For comparison, the base Civic LX M/T sells for $37,500. Market repositioning is expected soon to move the City away from the Civic's price territory.

Honda of Brazil forecasts selling 4,000 units monthly. The first exports will go to Argentina and Mexico, where it could eventually cross the border under NAFTA trade rules. Exports will wait for later, though, says Honda

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