My name is Roshan Chhabra. As a child I grew up looking at my elder brother as an idol, someone who I look up to. Most of the four-wheeler obsession I have is because of him. He was 22, when he started earning decent enough to buy himself a car. With the tuning passion in his head, he wanted to opt for a used car with a petrol engine which had a good reliability factor (Engine wise). His options were a Mitsubishi Lancer, Honda City 1.5 and a Honda City 1.5 VTEC. In his group of friends, there were people who already had a lancer or a regular City 1.5. After an extensive test drive of all three cars, he was totally sure about going ahead with the VTEC because it had a distinctive nature of its own and also the fact that it would be the first VTEC among his group of friends. As soon as he bought the car, we drove it down to Bangalore to his friend’s garage where he could add a few horses under the hood. My brother and I were never much into the exterior customisation of the car so we left it in the original Golden colour we got it with.
The Performance –
– Aftermarket air filter (for better air intake)
– Enlargement of the throttle body (to increase the volume of air being taken)
– Port-Polish (polishing of inner walls of the cylinder block to reduce friction)
– Custom half pipe exhaust (for a little gain in horsepower and torque)
– Upgrade to fully synthetic Mobil1 engine oil
– Race Dynamics ECU re-map (used only for race days, and not for city driving)
– Changed spark plugs and plug wires
– 195/60R14 Goodyear Eagle F1, later on upgraded to 195/60R14 Yokohama ES100
– Aftermarket alloy wheels
– Stiffened suspension, lowered 20mm front and 10mm at the rear
It was very exciting for me since this was my first personal car, and it was a Honda. I’ve been a huge fan of the NSX (unfortunately never seen one in the flesh) and Accord (All three generations). There’s a thing about Honda that makes them a delight to see and drive. I have a huge respect for them which is a very personal opinion. If a petrol car is your choice, a Honda would be the car that you can blindly go ahead with. I was so ecstatic with having this as my personal car that I didn’t go through any review for the car and I wanted to explore it myself so that I could write it by myself one day and here it is.
It’s been approximately 14 months now since I started using the car for my daily needs and let me tell you, it has been amazing! My girlfriend is not very happy with my car because she thinks it’s too ‘loud’ (women can never understand this part of a man). So, getting back to the car. I will try to be a person here who does not love Honda. The ODO has clocked a genuine 73,000 km and the car has now become 13 years old. Due to wear and tear inside the engine, the car would have lost a few horses by now from its default 105 HP, but the few performance additions have made sure it doesn’t feel any less.
The fun part about the 1.5 VTEC is that it has a very low centre of gravity and the car is not very heavy and it feels like a go-kart when I’m driving around alone, which is a very usual case. It’s not possible to see a sedan these days which weighs less than a ton. The engine is very rev-friendly and it doesn’t get loud until you cross the 5000 RPM mark, which goes ahead to nearly 7200-7500 RPM. The max fuel efficiency achieved was 16 km/l on the Hyderabad-Bangalore highway. The car still manages to return 10-11 km/l in the city with the A/C on when driven decently. There’s not much of a difference without it.
The seating is very low and comfortable which I feel is very good for long drives. It’s just that you have to get used to sitting in a car so low. In the first few months I’ve hurt my head couple of times while getting in to the car. The centre armrest for the front driver and passenger is a bliss. It comes with a small storage place which can easily fit a car charger and few more things of the same size. The gear shifts set in without much effort, and is good for people who have long arms because they can shift while using the armrest. There’s also a center armrest at the rear which is at an adequate height. The rear seats are very comfortable but can be a little problem for elderly people since the floor height is pretty low and will not help in good thigh support. The space at the rear is not much when drivers like me who is 6 feet tall sits in the driver or passenger seat. It becomes very much like baby seats for the rear in such a case.
The interior of the car is a feel-good factor. A few bits like the indicator and wiper stocks feel cheap. The fabric seats are of good quality. They’ve lasted all this while without being covered with any other seat covers. The front headrests have a hole in the middle (like a rectangular doughnut) which gives a sporty look to the seats. A tachometer is present in the gauge, which is not a common sight in many low model premium hatchbacks also. Somehow the fuel gauge does not seem to be very precise. It lowers down in a matter of seconds when you get onto a speeding mode. The boot of the vehicle is generous enough to gulp in 3 or 4 big sized suitcases. The boot hinges come in the way to obstruct the opening or closing of the boot when it is full.
The ride quality of the car is decent. The car also handles very well but the tyres would need an upgrade in width for that. Meatier 185 or 195 mm wide tyres would do the job. The stock suspension is just satisfactory. The car tends to under-steer when steered quickly into a corner. It soaks up most of the small abruptness on our Indian roads and gets louder when it is taken in larger potholes. When taken over a speed-breaker the car tends to rub its underbody when loaded with more than 3 people. I’m sure you can see a lot of negative points about the car, but this is not what the 1.5 VTEC is for. It’s not a chauffeur-driven vehicle for your office, nor is it going to be your family car. It’s a very driver-centered vehicle where you get 100+ horses. It’s made to be unleashed and not tamed.
Love It For –
– Silent Refined Engine
– Premium feel
– Rear Seat Comfort
– A few features which aren’t standard on many cars even now (electronically adjustable ORVMs, chrome finish inner-door handles, rear fe-fogger, driver window auto-down)
Hate It For –
– Lack of space at the rear
– Hardly any storage space
– Lack of availability for a few spare parts, since the car has seen two new generations thereafter.
A Honda is never disappointing. It may not be the winner in a segment of cars, but I’m sure it would leave you smiling. The 1.5 VTEC is a car whose goal is to satisfy the driver. It’s the car a bachelor would buy. Not really the right choice for a family car. It just manages to fit in 4 people comfortably. The car still looks brilliant. The engine would last more than a generation of a family if serviced on time.
– Roshan Chhabra