In its default form, the Honda City has always been known to feature a naturally aspirated 1.5-litre i-VTEC engine, and such is the case here with the newest version in hatchback form. It’s method of propulsion is now main differentiator between RS e:HEV and the rest of the range.
So, how does it stack up against the flagship City Hatchback? There’s no need to speculate, to be honest, as we’ve seen this all play out quite recently with the non-hatchback City. In sedan form, the dichotomy between the 1.5V (along with the 1.5S and 1.5E) has already been explored and left to settle.
For the majority of buyers, the winds of change might not be so welcome with the prospect of the innovative i-MMD hybrid powertrain adding a layer of unwanted complexity alongside its promises of improvements in pretty much every other aspect.
We drove the City Hatchback in 1.5V form (without SENSING, which is worth noting) right after getting to grips with the RS. It was a very short 2 laps of the half track around the silky smooth Sepang International Circuit, so both cars won’t exactly have the most gruelling test of road imperfections.
Sitting inside this petrol-only-powered variant felt instantly familiar, so did the whirr from that plucky engine. The cabin feels airy and spacious given its B-segment categorisation, so upgrading Jazz owners won’t be skimping on practicality or versatility - Honda even assured us this would be the case.
We managed to review the City sedan in 1.5V form for our 2021 B-segment shootout where it narrowly lost out on objective points to the newcomer Almera from Nissan, but the Honda was clearly the most accomplished all-rounder. Discerning any real difference between that and this Hatchback is nearly impossible given our very brief tryst with it around Sepang, but then again nothing stood out that would be an obvious compromise either.
So far at least, the City Hatchback 1.5V seems just as strong a contender as the sedan. Visibility is great, as is the revised cabin over the previous-generation City with a much-improved mix of materials and dashboard ergonomics.
The ride is expectedly smooth and the response from that atmospheric four-cylinder is rather crisp despite being somewhat masked by the CVT’s infinite ratios. Honda says that the hatch is actually slightly more rigid than the sedan, though that improvement didn’t make itself felt during our (brief) time on track.
It handled the slalom test admirably, though expectedly so, and acceleration along the circuit’s back straight was smooth, drama-free, and brisk as far as B-segment hatchbacks go. Even here, which is the last place the average Honda City driver will expect to find themselves, the car demonstrated its most valuable asset: the ease of its drive.
From getting situated, to pulling away, to actually navigating corners and even tighter maneuvering, there’s something gracefully fluid about how all Citys (Cities) and Jazzes excel at this. They’re all easy cars to get in and drive, no matter the situation, and this quality is carried into the new City Hatchback, and especially so with variants fitted with the 1.5-litre engine.
Of course, we’ll need a much longer test period to really reveal anything truly worthwhile about the car, but the (again, brief) time we spent with both this and the RS revealed enough about its newfound place in the Malaysian line-up and how it stacks up as the Jazz’s local successor.
There's just something about cars. It's a conveyance, it's a liability, it's a tool; but it can also be a source of joy, pride, inspiration and passion. It's much like clothes versus fashion. And like the latter, the pursuit of perfection never ends.