I am sure I’m not the only one that takes manufacturer claims of fuel economy with a slight pinch of salt.
With the claimed fuel economy of some Plug-In Hybrid Vehicles (PHEV) dipping below 3.0-itres/100km, it's understandable if some people think those figures are outlandish, and nigh-on impossible to replicate on a daily basis.
However, we recently ran a quick fuel economy test between a BMW 740Le xDrive and Perodua Myvi 1.5L and we were frankly astounded with the results. Though largely anecdotal, it did give us a good idea of how far along PHEVs have come.
But, PHEVs are largely reserved for the premium segment – the least expensive PHEV in our market is the MINI Cooper S E Countryman ALL4 which is priced at circa RM250k.
Therefore, they are not cheap, and there’s also the problem of weight, that is, though those high-capacity batteries are great for an electric range of 30-40km; which will despatch the daily commutes for most users with ease.
Once the batteries dry out, like on an outstation journey, it’s a challenge to recharge them substantially while driving, plus now the engine has to lug all the additional weight of the batteries; so it’s a law of diminishing benefits – with more drivetrain complexity, comes more weight, and more weight requires more power to move.
At some point, does it just make more sense to simplify the execution and just go with a more traditional Hybrid powertrain?
Case in point is the Honda City 1.5L Hybrid, because I just went from KL to Penang and back on three-quarters of a full tank. Superb fuel economy… you’re damn right!
Having tested the car before, the superb efficiency of its Hybrid drivetrain – which returned 6.7-litres/100km combined despite driving it enthusiastically – had me deeming it the best Hybrid powertrain on sale today. Nevertheless, I had to know just how good.
On a recent trip to Penang, Butterworth to be exact, I had an opportunity to put the City Hybrid through its paces to see just how much mileage can be extracted from a full tank of fuel.
The objective was to drive the City, just as any owner would, without any additional measures to save fuel. By this, I mean no turning off the air-conditioning, no over-inflating of tyres or retracting wing mirrors to reduce drag.
The City Hybrid was run at recommended tyre pressures – inflated at the start of the journey – and the air-conditioning (and infotainment) was turned on the entire journey with temperature settings between 23-deg and 25-deg. Just me and my wife, and about 30kg of luggage (and snacks).
The first leg of the journey took us from central Petaling Jaya to Icon City, Butterworth. I started my journey around 12.30 pm, blazing hot conditions were not the most ideal but on the plus side, traffic conditions were ideal. I experienced smooth-flowing traffic, which allowed me to keep my speed as constant as possible, hovering between speeds of 80-110km/h.
Driving economically requires steady throttle inputs plus a bit of planning while driving helps stretch your dollar every step of the way. Having completed the journey by around 5.00 pm. I parked the City Hybrid having covered a total of 336 km, averaging about 23.4 km/litre, or around 4.27 litres/100km. This equates to around RM8.90 for 100km of travel, which also means, I only spent RM29.85 for the entire first leg of the journey.
On my return leg from Butterworth, I started my journey around 4.00 pm. Again, conditions were not the most ideal given the intense heat and humidity; at higher ambient temperatures, air density drops, and so does overall power and efficiency of a vehicle.
The secondary issue is that my journey back wasn’t as smooth as the first leg. While my journey from Butterworth right up until Gopeng was smooth sailing, from then on, both lanes were chock-full of traffic making progress extremely slow. Waze swiftly redirected me to backroads, from Bidor right up to Tanjung Malim.
Though longer and more unpredictable, driving up backroads – which include low and mid speeds, traffic lights, and slow crawls – it does add to the objectivity of the overall test. Most users are after all going to encounter these types of driving scenarios, so this test does offer a fair and accurate representation of real-world fuel usage.
All said and done, after completing the entire journey back to my home, and inclusive of a bit more travelling the next day before returning the car to Honda Malaysia, I had completed a total of 698.5 km, with the car’s telemetry (which is very accurate in my opinion) still reading an available driving range of 61 km. Even if we take a conservative estimate – I’d wager the City Hybrid will cover a total of 750 km before the tank runs dry. Heck, maybe even more if road conditions and weather were better!
Overall efficiency still stood at 23.4 km/litre (4.27 litres/100km) over the entire journey, which totalled in excess of 11 hours of drive time.
Of course, all Hybrid drivetrains are efficient, but some are just better than others.
In my opinion, the City Hybrid returns amazing fuel economy figures simply because its drivetrain is so perfectly adapted to Malaysian road conditions and driving styles.
Much of this is down to the 7-speed dual-clutch transmission, which intuitively and intelligently interacts with both the engine and 22kW electric motor to provide seamless power and efficiency.
That and the fact that the battery, despite its small size, recharges very quickly to power ancillary systems such as the Air-Conditioning compressor, steering system, and brake servo system. Click here for an extremely detailed explanation.
In addition to being extremely thrifty at the pumps, the City offers superb practicality, occupant space, and a comfortable driving demeanour, which were excellent for a long journey such as mine.