The Honda City has undoubtedly been a hit with Malaysians, and the response to the recently-launched mid-lifecycle facelift says so, the car managing to rack up 2,000 bookings in the first 10 days following its launch in March. Beyond the requisite cosmetic updates, the City is mechanically similar to its pre-facelift form. Is it, then, a case of leaving well enough alone? It would appear to be largely so.

Save for select detail updates, under the hood, the 120 PS and 145 Nm 1.5 litre i-VTEC naturally-aspirated inline-four cylinder petrol engine, which is paired with a continuously variable transmission with a torque converter, continue on unchanged.

Being a mid-lifecycle update, the facelifted Honda City retains the same overall structure, which means the cavernous (for a B-segment sedan) cabin and the 536-litre luggage compartment is untouched. Conveniently for reference, its Japanese competitors the Nissan Almera, Toyota Vios and Mazda 2 Sedan were present at the media drive, and the City’s best-in-class luggage capacity dealt with luggage duties effortlessly.

Ditto the front half of the cabin, where the dashboard architecture remains the same as before, and as is the case elsewhere on the car, detail updates aim to spruce up the proceedings. Paddle shifters for ‘manual’ override of the continuously variable transmission appears behind the steering wheel here, while the infotainment touchscreen unit receives a new trim surround, which matches that of the air-con vent.

At the back, the usual Honda City hallmarks of spaciousness and ease of use remain, along with its marvellous amount of rear legroom. There is space to stretch not just fore and aft, shoulder room remains as accommodating as when the car first appeared. All these come together with further detail improvements which, as we will explore later, make for a more amenable environment. Front and rear, so far so familiar.

It has been some time since the Honda City was driven at length by yours truly, however it was all very familiar as soon as the engine was started and the wheels were turned. No changes to report where the steering and suspension are concerned, and unsurprisingly the City drives exactly as it did like before.

The 1.5 litre i-VTEC mill is adequate in its assumed duty, and just as its name implies, the compact four-door’s skill set is skewed further towards handling urban environments rather than prolonged high-speed jaunts out on the open highways.

On the latter note, the City has actually been improved in a number of areas, chiefly with regards to its soundproofing. No empirical data was retrieved, however the purely subjective observation is that occupants will emerge from the facelifted model feeling less fatigued from a long journey than they might have in the previous car.

For the one behind the wheel, the experience remains largely the same as with the pre-facelift, with the same clear and simple instrumentation in view. Ditto the switchgear, which is easy to locate and use. Once on the move, steering the City is effortless, if rather numb.

Meanwhile, the power and drivetrain combination continues to be obliging rather than outright enthusiastic, though the torque converter-equipped CVT has been improved further with better lock-up for better engine drag, and the paddle shifter-equipped ‘manual’ over-ride now gives a more pronounced impression of stepped ratios.

Again, the clue’s in the name, where Honda’s updated B-segment sedan is rather more adept at navigating the urban hustle and bustle in a civil manner, rather than tackling the twisties with significant effervescence.

A trait of most, if not all cars in this segment is their susceptibility to crosswinds due to the generous overall height relative to its width, with the swaying effects just about discernible to its driver on longer stretches of highway. On the day, it was more noticeable, particularly through more wide-open spaces.

On this occasion, we were also given the opportunity to put the City through more vigorous paces. Its Japanese B-segment competitors were also present on a closed-off, touge-style twisty road course, where the City acquitted itself fairly well.

Here, the tighter torque converter lock-up plays to its advantage, allowing for more confident corner entries rather than the ‘runaway trolley’ sensation of cars with more freewheeling transmissions off-throttle.

Also present for this exercise were the Toyota Vios and the Nissan Almera. Given the whip on this stretch, the Almera turned out to be surprisingly entertaining in a slightly wayward manner, with its most pronounced body roll almost, but not quite nudging it into roll oversteer. The Vios fared slightly better than the Almera with better body control, and the Toyota also had the sportier, angrier engine note of the three here. The Mazda 2 Sedan was not present for this exercise.

In the end, the handling exercise, while offering a good take, seems almost peripheral to the concerns of the typical prospective buyer of Japanese cars, considering that many in that group will be upgrading from smaller vehicles.

Of greater concern will be practicality and accommodation, which the City has in very large spades, as well as the breadth of a strong service network, which Honda Malaysia of course has. These have been among the Honda City’s great strengths, and to that the update has brought further refinements and improvements to the way it drives, which is a nice bonus.

This facelift is a classic example of yielding a favourable result from a sparing approach to changes, and at RM92,000 for the top V variant, there little to count against the Honda City with.