By AZLAN RAMLI
ON Nov 9, Honda dealerships nationwide started taking in bookings for the eagerly-awaited new Honda City Hatchback.
With a stylish hatchback body, it is conceptualised as “energetic”, developed through a combination of cutting-edge styling with a sporty feel, best-in-class torque performance and advanced technological features.
A week later, Honda Malaysia treated the media to a teaser test drive session at the Sepang F1 Circuit, involving both variants of the City Hatchback, the “RS e:HEV” and “Petrol”.
I presented the Petrol variant here last Friday and why you should go for it – albeit without so much detail about the car, since Honda Malaysia will officially launch the City Hatchback this coming Tuesday, where only then will it reveal the car’s other (finalised) specifications, colour options, number of variants and prices.
Fuelled, electrified... in style
Before the City Hatchback is launched, let me tell you why you should go for the RS e:HEV. Unlike the Petrol variant, the RS e:HEV is powered by 1.5-litre Sports intelligent Multi-Mode Drive (i-MMD) powertrain that delivers a powerful and immediate response through two electric motors, for effortless driveability and efficiency. Yes, it is a hybrid.
The powertrain delivers 107.5hp and segment-revolutionary 253Nm of torque equivalent to a D-segment car’s (much larger displacement) engine’s torque performance, minus the consumption and emission.
Note that the RS e:HEV seems to have many horses less than the Petrol variant’s stable of 121, but much higher maximum torque (253Nm vs. 145Nm).
The 107.5hp is most likely only from the RS e:HEV’s petrol engine, while the car’s 253Nm maximum torque is probably from the whole powertrain. Still, why the less horsepower? Are the petrol engines used in both variants the same?
Again, Honda Malaysia declined to comment on those questions, for now. Anyway, you shouldn’t be too concerned about horses; it’s the torque that is more important.
Simply put, having higher torque allows for greater horsepower at lower rpms. This is also why some petrolheads talk about “low-end torque” being important for better power at slower speeds and in a car like the City Hatchback, that is very good.
With an energetic and outstanding all-new exterior design, the City Hatchback appears sporty yet premium and embodies a lifestyle concept for the younger target market.
For an exclusive appearance, the RS e:HEV sports a high-gloss piano black front grille, black solid wing and gloss black door mirrors, for a two-toned colour expression.
It will also feature RS-exclusive shape in its lower grille, fog garnish and rear bumper areas. The rear bumper is specifically designed for hatchback and equipped with a sophisticated diffusor, making the rear look lighter with an “active and young” impression.
There are also LED headlamps with LED daytime running lights, LED front foglamps, LED rear combi lights and attractive 16-inch alloy rims.
A much-coveted and popular feature synonymous with the Honda Jazz that is in the new City Hatchback is the four-mode Ultra Seats. This practical and versatile first-in-class feature allows the rear seats to be folded flat or flipped up in four configuration modes; Utility, Long, Tall and Refresh, to suit different needs of storage space by maximising the rear space creatively when transporting items.
Another advanced and first-in-segment feature is the added convenience of remote engine start, which enables the driver to remotely activate the engine and air-conditioning before entering the car.
The rear air conditioning ventilation provides added comfort and convenience for the backseat passengers, in addition to the electric parking brake – an exclusive feature for the RS e:HEV – that lets the driver to activate and deactivate the parking brake with a lift and push of a button.
Developed by Honda to meet the objective of “Safety for Everyone”, the new City Hatchback is the first in its segment to offer the most complete package of Next Generation Advanced Safety Technology – the Honda Sensing. Its advanced safety system utilises front wide view camera to better recognise road boundaries during day and night driving conditions.
The Honda Sensing’s other driver assistance safety systems in the RS e:HEV (but not in the Petrol variant) are:
1. Adaptive cruise control
2. Collision mitigation braking
3. Forward collision warning
4. Lane keep assist
5. Road departure mitigation
6. Lane departure warning
7. Auto high beam
An additional segment-first safety feature in the City Hatchback is the Honda LaneWatch, a camera-based advanced safety technology which reduces blind spots, by providing real-time visual in the infotainment system, when left turn signal is activated or LaneWatch button is pressed.
It was only a couple of laps around the Sepang circuit’s South Track, which is about 2.6km long and it wasn’t a pedal-to-the-metal, angry drive as it was just a “teaser drive” and not a track day. The purpose was not to see how quick the City Hatchback is, but rather for Honda Malaysia to demonstrate the Honda Sensing and LaneWatch, how the car feels under normal use as compared to its popular saloon counterpart and also the difference between the RS e:HEV and Petrol variants.
A segment competitor, which is very close in terms of price bracket, displacement and general specifications, was also used to further show how the City Hatchback is the one you should go for, be it the Petrol or RS e:HEV. The media representatives sampled all three and everyone agreed that as far as driving dynamics go, the City Hatchback of either variant is the better choice.
This one or the Petrol?
Simply put, if you prefer (more) stylish looks, more power, a hybrid system’s fuel-saving ability, the ease of using an electric parking brake and the peace-of-mind coming from those Honda Sensing systems – the qualities and features the Petrol variant doesn’t possess – the RS e:HEV variant is for you, then.