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City Runabouts

7 min read
Few cars are as sensible as four-door compacts that make urban commuting a breeze. Here are three new models that tick all the boxes


The City has come a long way since the oddly shaped urban shuttle from Honda was introduced in 1981. The fifth generation of this economically priced saloon has been upgraded leaps and bounds, charging into the 21stcentury with great aplomb in both technological performance and style.

The most noticeable change with the latest model is the effort put into the design of the car. What used to be a rather forgettable conglomeration of lines is now a concerted — and successfully so — effort at putting together a cohesive motif that combines sporty pizzazz and sensibility.

Whichever way you look at it, the new City boasts a muscular silhouette that is truly head-turning. From the new inline shell LED headlights, to the front fog lamps enclosed in angled grilles, to the new aerodynamic 16-inch wheels, the Japanese Katana blade influence has produced a car that has easily moved from the quirky to the classy without missing a beat.

Even though the City can be considered a compact in categorisation, in reality, it is highly spacious, seating four adults very comfortably. The increased overhang in the rear has also offered 519 litres of boot capacity, dwarfing that of cars higher up the value chain. The cabin is also longer and wider than previous models, and the new front seat frame design has also led to increased leg clearance for rear passengers.Honda’s i-VTEC engine has been famous for providing easy power and smooth transition through the gears, even for smaller cars such as the City. The 1.5-litre DOHC i-VTEC engine is a highly capable power bank that is also emission-conscious with a new ECON mode that maximises efficiency.

Honda’s inclusion of some of the finer touches of motoring further ups the ante for the City. The car comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability through a 7-inch display, as well as cruise control and Hill Start Assist for heightened driveability. Added features such as the G-control (which disperses G-force away from passengers in collisions) and Emergency Stop Signal (which activates the brakes and lights when the car senses an emergency stop situation) amply fulfil safety needs.

One cool feature is the Remote Engine Start, which allows the car to be started from outside the car so that the cabin can be cooled before you get in — just one of the many aspects that help the Honda City 1.5RS punch way above its weight.

PRICE  $94,999 (WITH COE)
POWER  121PS @ 6,600RPM
TORQUE  145NM @ 4,300RPM


Kia cars have been looking better and better of late, and its new Stonic follows along the contemporary lines of the brand’s efforts at filling the gap between premium European makes and functional but spiritless cars that focus on price.

This compact SUV is targeted at the active, young-in-mind set with its stylish lines and carry-all disposition. But in truth, it is a car for everyone who wants to drive it every day, anywhere, and for anything, given how well equipped it is. Kia touts the Stonic as sitting on the “graceful side of utility” — and we can’t argue with that.The zippy lines of the Stonic is striking; throw in the sunroof, hood rails, and sporty 17-inch machine-finished alloy wheels and there is little else to be desired from an exterior aesthetics point of view. All around the car, Kia’s designers have built a cohesively put-together car, with elements such as rear spoiler with high-mounted stop lamp, front and rear skid plates, and chrome belt line moulding that immediately puts the driver in the cool category without even stepping on the gas.

The 60:40 rear seat split affords convenience and versatility when it comes to carting your gear. With the entire rear seat down, you can even transport your racing bike to get to your favourite race with room to spare!

The 998cc Kappa T-GDi engine is capable of putting out a respectable 120PS of power and 171Nm of torque. As expected, consumption is a stingy 5.4 litre/100km while the 124g/km CO2 emission puts the Stonic in the A2 category of the VES Band. (With the enhanced VES Rebate in 2021, buyers will enjoy the $15,000 VES Rebates if the car is registered from 1 January 2021 onwards.)

Customary with many of Kia’s models, the features inside steal the show. The touch points of the leather-wrap gear knob and steering wheel, the satin chrome door handle and leather seats all exude a luxurious feel. Apple CarPlay is available and the six-speaker sound system with USB connectivity lets you cruise with your bespoke list of tunes.

The slew of safety and driving assistance features is commendable. There is an advanced six-airbag system, Parking Distance Warning-Reverse, Vehicle Stability Management (which ensures the car is stable when simultaneously braking and cornering), and Hill-Start Assist (useful for driving off from a stationary position on an incline). Furthermore, the premium Torque Vectoring by braking function is also available to reduce the spinning of the inside wheel when negotiating tight turns at speed.

Kia understands that drivers considering the Stonic have an individual streak; as such, it has provided a wide range of colours and two-tone combinations to meet this demand. The car hardly needs a flashy paint job to get notice, but the options certainly don’t hurt the Stonic’s proposition.

POWER  120PS @ 6,000RPM
TORQUE  171NM @ 1,500–4,000RPM
0–100KM/H  10.6 SECONDS


Mazda’s Skyactiv Technology and its Jinba-ittai philosophy of “connecting driver with automobile” run through the veins of all its models, even the compact Mazda 2. This human-centric approach attempts to reduce inefficiencies throughout the entire car in an effort to provide high levels of fuel efficiency and quality driving sensations.

This concept and more are available in the Mazda 2. The brand’s unique Skyactiv-Vehicle Dynamics’ G-Vectoring Control Plus further integrates control of the engine and transmission with the chassis and body of the car to improve the connection between car and driver.

This may sound rather nebulous, but an example can paint a clearer picture. For example, seats are specifically designed to hold the pelvis at the correct angle, control the body’s centre of gravity, and stabilise movement of the head. The intention is to minimise fatigue through this ergonomic endeavour.Driving comfort and performance is a key driver of the G-Vectoring Control Plus (GVC Plus) feature found in the Mazda 2. This new approach to controlling vehicle dynamics uses the engine and brakes to improve handling performance. GVC Plus adjusts the torque of the engine according to steering inputs. This gives the car control over the G-force created to optimise the vertical load on each wheel.

When the car enters a curve, GVC Plus momentarily lowers the engine torque to transfer weight to the front wheels and enhances the grip in the front tyres. Then when the steering angle stabilises, GVC Plus recovers engine torque and transfers load back to the rear wheels. This transfer of weight forwards then backwards increases vehicle stability through corners.

Cornering is further improved with Mazda’s Dynamic Stability Control with Traction Control System. The system electronically control the braking force to each wheel in order to prevent under- or over-steering, especially crucial on slippery roads.

Engineers have left few stones unturned when applying the Skyactiv-G direct-injection petrol engine to the Mazda 2. High-tumble intake ports, shape-optimised piston heads and high-pressure multi-hole fuel injectors have all been reconfigured to boost the car’s fuel efficiency. The car’s innovative structure, construction and materials result in a more rigid, safer and quieter ride as well.

Human-Machine Interface and MZD Connect help to shore up the software side of the Mazda 2 offerings. Controls, instruments, steering and shift lever are all ergonomically positioned to ensure that drivers can do everything necessary without undue discomfort and movement. When driving, the rotary controller allows toggling from one function to the next while keeping your eyes on the road. The seven-inch centre display on the dash also has a touchscreen function (when the car is stationary) to improve usability.

Infotainment in the Mazda 2 takes a step forward with MZD Connect, which provides Internet connection while on the road. Giving you access music, the radio, or communication services such as SMS, this unique offering by Mazda takes this car quickly into the future of motoring.

POWER  115PS @ 6,000RPM
TORQUE  149NM @ 4,000RPM
0–100KM/H  10.1 SECONDS
DISTRIBUTOR  MAZDA SINGAPORE (Tel: 6603 6118 (UBI) / 6395 8888 (LENG KEE))