Honda City hatchback has raised the bar for B-segment cars

I like a good hatchback; whether it’s the first generation Myvi, which I used to own, or even the GR Yaris we test drove in Sepang, they all have an inherent characteristic that just injects more fun into a drive.

Having been a fan of the Jazz, and spent time with it (through an ex-girlfriend), I was convinced the Jazz was the car to get when I retire the BMW Project EJ36 to serve as just a weekend car. You can imagine my reaction when it was announced that the Jazz will be no more and instead, replaced with the City hatchback.

It doesn’t look anything like the Jazz but the City hatchback promises to be every bit as good, if not even better. So we went to the Sepang Circuit recently to find out just what the City hatchback is all about and if it’s as good as a Honda hatchback should be. Remember, this is a car company with a long and illustrious history of producing immensely quick hatchbacks that have since gained cult status.

There were three cars on the chopping block that day; the City hatchback RS with Honda’s new E:HEV system, the petrol-powered 1.5 V City hatchback, and lastly the City hatchback’s direct competitor, the Toyota Yaris.

We first set off in the Honda City RS hatchback and instantly, its E:HEV system makes an introduction. The system makes the RS get off the line just like an electric vehicle – smooth, effortless, and a complete surprise.

In a nutshell, the E:HEV system essentially makes the City RS hatchback a semi-electric car with the 1.5 engine only serving as an assistant. The latter only kicks in upon hard acceleration, on uphill climbs, and when the car is on the highways. Otherwise, the car is running mostly on the electric motor.

Truthfully speaking, it didn’t feel like much on the wide-open Sepang circuit but the difference in acceleration became more apparent when we got into the Toyota Yaris and 1.5 V City hatchback.

The “oomph” from the RS may not be drastic but definitely noticeable, especially when moving from a standstill, uphill sections of the track and speeding up while the car is moving. Its CVT gearbox also comes with “simulated gear changes” for a more natural experience.

What I liked most was how composed both the City hatchback (RS and 1.5 V) felt and how communicative the steering was. Honda said the City hatch comes with stiffer engine mounts, improved suspension, and a more rigid body. Interestingly, it’s also lighter.

All that translated to a more communicative steering which felt engaging but not cumbersome. It felt more responsive too, making the car feel nimble through the slalom course prepared for us.

As we were speeding down the main straight of the circuit, the additional insulation to the body and floor of the City hatchback came into effect. Granted the surface of the circuit was smooth as butter but even at speeds well above 120 km/h, the cabin was undisturbed with annoying wind noise.

The improved suspension was also noticeable when compared with the Yaris. Through a series of long swooping bends, the City hatchback felt more composed and stable with less effort needed to keep the car in the right direction.

The additional weight in the City RS, due to the batteries it carries, did have an effect on the handling of the car but the suspension was still up to the task. It merely felt a little heavier through the slalom but without any adverse effect.

Personally, what I liked most was how supportive the seats were in the RS especially in the rib section – something that would really appeal to all the young Honda enthusiasts.

Could this be the new hot property in the B-segment? How will it fare in the real world? Will it be as spacious as its sedan sibling?Only time will tell but for now, based on what we experienced on track yesterday, it has ticked all the right boxes.


Honda City hatchback


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