Products January 29th, 2021

Urban Treasure: The Honda City’s Journey From Classic to Contemporary

7 mins read

Through trials and tribulations, the All-New Honda City faced many challenges but ultimately turned out to be a revolutionary game-changer.

One would hardly recognise the New Honda City that we all love and know in its original form. The world around has changed invariably from the 80s when it was first created, having lived through technological advancements over the years

Like everything else, the Honda City has also transformed like a blossoming flower. The journey of the Honda City is an intriguing/fascinating/gripping tale of resilience and innovation.

The Start

A humble beginning for a humble car, the idea for the Honda City came when the development associates were ordered to produce the ‘ultimate fuel economy car for the 1980s’. The 80s saw low domestic demand for Japan, even though the country had surpassed the big wig United States as the number one producer of cars in the world. At that time, the Honda City’s role was to open the doors to a whole new category in unconventional ‘light vehicles’.



Toru Arisawa, who was at the time in charge of advertising in the Head Office Sales Promotion (SP) Division, was visited by two of his colleagues from Research and Development in 1980 with a plea.

He followed them down to the centre’s modelling station and it was where he first laid his eyes on what would one day be the Honda City. At the time it was merely an unconventional clay model named SA-7 by its creators. However, an awestruck Arisawa saw that the SA-7 would stand the test of time as a solid hardware capable of projecting a positive return to Honda’s philosophies.

The Developers

Young minds were needed for a car aimed at their own generation. The key concepts that drove the development of the Honda City were mostly aimed at a new wave of drivers. It needed to fit the demand for better resource and energy conservation as well as have a fresh design that was fun, one-of-a-kind and would attract attention. Even the average age of the fine engineers for the SA-7 model was 27, which was the perfect match for the project.

But there was a worry that Honda Motor’s top executives would want to change the shape of the SA-7. The development group hoped that Arisawa would be able to use his vast expertise in sales to help safeguard their design.

Through hard work and preservation, Arisawa managed to convince upper management to let the development team keep the original design. It was a grand win for the young team.

Selling The Honda City

There needed to be fanfare for a car that would turn the game on its head. Arisawa pushed to get British ska band Madness to create the music that would sell the Honda City in the media. The video, which can be found on YouTube even today, was so immensely popular that the Honda-Honda-Honda tune is famous nationwide.

Alongside the music was the funky Centipede Dance included in the video that became a hit at festivals and parties across the country. The next two years saw nearly 150,000 Honda City cars sold after the glitzy launch, with monthly sales hitting a peak of 16,000 units.




In Malaysia, the Honda City was first introduced by Honda Malaysia in 2001 and quickly became a favourite car for many. Since then, the model has accumulated a total sales of 351,000 units with the most sought-after fourth Generation Honda City, launched in 2014, contributing more than 205,000 units and upholding its no.1 position in the B⁠-⁠segment.

In a survey by internal customers, Honda found that ‘more than 50% of the 3rd Generation Honda City owners considered their purchase decision as part of the progression in life’.

The New Kid On The Block



Today, 39 years after the first release of the youthful, cool and popular Honda City that sent Japan into a frenzy, Honda is back again but this time with the All-New Honda City RS e:HEV.This 5th Generation All-New Honda City is set to be another game-changer with its World Premiere i-MMD powertrain, a system globally known as e:HEV.

Ensuring that those who favour the Honda City are not missing out on any of that tech, Honda’s engineers have adapted it to create a more compact system. The All-New Honda City RS has the i-MMD powertrain, delivering best-in-class high torque of 253Nm for powerful and smooth acceleration. Performing better than a C-segment and equivalent to a D-segment or a 2.5L Naturally Aspirated engine torque, this means smooth sailing across the highway for everyone.



Now the All-New Honda City combines avant-garde exterior design with spacious comfortable interiors and tucks in advanced technology fit for young working adults, fresh executives and budding families.

To Infinity and Beyond

What started as a tiny clay model that took Japan by storm swiftly morphed into an internationally beloved sedan. So many customers turn to Honda for reliability and the Honda City is a favourite for so many because it’s a dream within their grasp. Be it the 1981 City with its 80s charm or the sleek and super-powered City RS i-MMD of the new century, this game-changing car will be one remembered by many.


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