After a three-year hiatus, Honda Malaysia has reintroduced the Honda Jazz Hybrid, which will now be sold alongside the facelifted version of regular Honda Jazz models. Apart from Japan, Malaysia is the only country in the world to introduce (and locally-assemble) the new 2017 Honda Jazz Hybrid.
At the sidelines of this morning’s launch of the new Honda Jazz and Jazz Hybrid, we also had the opportunity to sit down with three key members responsible for the development of the new Jazz Hybrid – Project Leader Takahiro Noguchi, Assistant Large Project Leader Yoshihiro Akiyama and Chief Engineer Technical Research Division (HRAP-MA - Honda Research and Development Asia Pacific, Malaysia) Shinichi Watanabe.
Before we relay our two hours’ worth of learnings here’s a quick recap on the new Jazz Hybrid.
Unlike the previous generation Jazz Hybrid that ran on a mild-hybrid Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) setup, this new generation model uses a full-hybrid system, which Honda refers to with a rather mouthful name - Sport Hybrid i-DCD, which is short for Intelligent Dual Clutch Drive.
Without going too much into the details, the benefits of the new full-hybrid system can be summarized in two key points – ability to start off in electric drive mode for a smoother stop-go traffic driving, and an air-conditioning that will still run even when the engine is shut down, as all hybrids will when the car is stationary.
The Jazz Hybrid and its regular internal combustion engine powered siblings are priced at:
- Jazz S, RM74,800
- Jazz E, RM81,000
- Jazz Hybrid, RM87,500
- Jazz V, RM88,400
The Jazz Hybrid will follow a similar list of features as the Jazz E.
What’s Under The Bonnet?
The new Jazz Hybrid is powered by a 1.5-litre engine i-VTEC engine (110 PS at 6,000 rpm, 134 Nm at 5,000 rpm) paired to a 22 kW/ 160 Nm electric motor, producing a total system output of 137 PS and 170 Nm – the numbers are less than the numeric sum of the engine’s and motor’s outputs because the two peak at different rotational speeds.
The motor is powered by a 0.86 kWh lithium-ion battery located under the boot. In a compact B-segment car like the Jazz, it also means that there isn’t any space for a spare wheel. Drivers will have to make do with a tyre repair kit.
Compared to the previous model's 1.3-litre SOHC i-VTEC+IMA hybrid powertrain, this new Jazz Hybrid uses a new DOHC engine – a high efficiency (but low torque) Atkinson cycle engine (LEB-H1). The LEB-H1 engine is different from the more powerful (but less efficient) Otto cycle L15B engine (132 PS at 6,600 rpm and 155 Nm at 4,600 rpm) used in the regular new Honda Jazz, but both engines share the same block.
Claimed fuel consumption is 4.0-litre/100 km, but of course, how close you are to achieving this in the real world depends on your driving habits and route.
It’s worth noting that the Jazz Hybrid’s performance is very close to that of a non-turbo Civic 1.8S. As the little Jazz is also 93 kg lighter (1,158 kg), it also has a slightly better power-to-weight ratio on paper. Of course, it will be quite a stretch to say that the Jazz Hybrid is a faster car in real-world driving, as the Civic’s longer wheelbase and wider track will deliver a more surefooted drive, but the point here is that the little Jazz Hybrid is no slouch.
Drive is transferred to the front wheels via a 7-speed dual clutch (dry-type) transmission (DCT).
One key difference in the layout of the new model’s Sport Hybrid i-DCD over the previous model’s IMA is the location of the electric motor.
In the previous IMA Jazz Hybrid, the electric motor is installed within the crankcase, positioned between the engine and the CVT transmission. In this latest i-DCD Sport Hybrid, the motor is moved away from the engine, and is now integrated into the far end of the DCT-7 gearbox.
Interestingly, the electric motor only drives the wheels via the odd-numbered gears – 1st, 3rd, 5th and 7th – all of which are fixed to the main shaft. The even-numbered gears are fixed on a secondary shaft.
The 1st gear is part of a planetary gear set, integrated into the electric motor. This allows the first gear to alternate between input/output functions within the electric motor, depending on whether the driveline’s energy is to drive the front wheels or reversing the energy flow to run the motor as a generator to recover energy via during regenerative braking.
This was a key breakthrough in allowing Honda to reduce the size of electric motor, integrating it within the tight dimensions of a DCT gearbox.
If you are accelerating from standstill, the car will take off in electric power alone, and assuming there is enough charge in the hybrid battery, and you are not accelerating hard, the car will continue to drive in electric mode, shifting from 1st gear straight to 3rd gear and 5th and so on, skipping the even-number gears on the secondary shaft.
In some situations, both the main and secondary shafts are engaged, and two gears are actually driving the car - the even numbered gear transmiting power from the engine while the odd numbered gear transmitting power from the motor.
When the car is being driven in hybrid mode (electric+petrol power), the Jazz Hybrid will shift through all the gears sequentially, like any regular car.
During braking, when speed has been reduced enough, the clutches will disengage from the engine (which has already shut down anyway) to minimized energy loss, but the motor/generator remains connected to the front wheels via the odd-numbered gears along main shaft, thus explains the momentary shift to Neutral in the illustration below.
The braking system is still hydraulic (not brake by-wire) but the servo is electric so it keeps working even when the engine is shut down.
Can I start the Jazz Hybrid if the hybrid (traction) Li-Ion battery fails?
In a comparable Toyota hybrid model, say the now discontinued (in Malaysia) Prius C, you won’t be able to start the car if the hybrid battery, for whatever reasons, no longer works. This is because Toyota’s complex Hybrid Synergy Drive system uses two large, powerful traction motors – MG1 and MG2 – with the former doubling as a starter motor (there isn’t any regular starter motor). This motor is too big to be spun by the 12V battery. Without power from the hybrid battery, a Toyota hybrid simply won’t start, even if the 12V battery is working fine.
The new Jazz Hybrid uses only one traction motor and it retains a regular starter motor that’s spun by the regular 12V auxiliary battery. So in theory, and the keyword here is in theory, you will still be able to drive a Jazz Hybrid even if you have a failure with the hybrid battery.
We stress that this is only in theory, because if you have a serious issue like a failure with the hybrid battery, there could be other related failures within the system that will trigger the car to shutdown to prevent any further damage.
Remember that the hybrid battery powers not just the electric traction motor, but also the electric brake servo and electric power steering.
How much does it costs to replace the hybrid battery?
It will cost you about RM5,500 to replace the Li-ion hybrid battery, after discounts from Honda Malaysia, but unless if you have been very rough with the car, hybrid batteries are generally quite reliable, and are designed to last the lifespan of the car – which is about 15 years/200,000 km.
We should also add that the hybrid battery is covered by an 8-year/unlimited mileage warranty, which runs concurrently with the car's 5-year/unlimited mileage warranty.
If you are interested to know further, the battery is supplied by Blue Energy Co, Ltd., a joint venture between Honda and GS Yuasa.
How reliable is the dual-clutch transmission?
Dual-clutch transmissions don’t have a very good reputation here, especially those that use twin dry clutches, which is exactly the type of dual-clutch transmission that this new Honda Jazz Hybrid use.
Any mention of DCTs will trigger many Volkswagen and some Ford owners into a frenzy to type out hate-filled responses on social media.
Honda doesn’t hide the fact that DCTs are difficult to work with, and they too had their fair share of problems when the DCT-equipped Jazz Hybrid was first launched in Japan.
Problems with transmission jerking and juddering were serious enough for Honda to suspend production of all i-DCD Sport Hybrid equipped models (in Japan this includes the HR-V Hybrid, which is sold there as the Vezel) and delay those models’ overseas launch by two years.
Malaysia was one of the casualty of this delay, and this was why the previous generation’s IMA Jazz Hybrid did not have a successor when the all-new Jazz was launched in 2014.
It is also common knowledge that Malaysia has one of the highest rate of DCT failures in the region - something about the combination of driving habits of local drivers, and our hot and humid climate.
However the potential benefits of DCTs in delivering sporty performance and exceptional fuel efficiency was too good for Honda to simply abandon the technology, so the company persevered to find a solution.
While Honda suspended introduction of DCT-equipped models outside of Japan (the temporary fix rolled out in Japan was good enough for Japanese driving conditions, but it just won’t do for Malaysia), a small group of engineers were dispatched to Malaysia to test out their proposed permanent fix, evaluated under the toughest driving conditions that urban Malaysia has to offer.
For a period of slightly over two years, a prototype Jazz Hybrid was actually driving around on Malaysian roads, disguised as a regular Jazz. Throughout those two years, the little prototype Jazz Hybrid was intentionally driven into some of the worst traffic conditions that Malaysia has to offer – it was driven on highways during Hari Raya traffic, everyday morning and evening rush hour traffic, and even going up and down Genting Highlands.
The test car covered a total distance of 7,000 km, which at a glance seemed nothing much, but keep in mind that the intention was to subject the car to very severe stop-go traffic conditions under our punishing heat and humidity. As DCTs work very well in long distance highway driving there was little point in clocking high mileage in the shortest possible time.
The data gathered from Malaysia was then sent back to Japan and today, all Honda Jazz Hybrids sold in Japan have been updated with a permanent fix developed from their learnings gathered in Malaysia.
Honda won’t be drawn into specifics as to how they managed to make their DCTs work in our climate while other car makers couldn’t, they did suggested that it has to do with adjusting the gear ratios and engagement points to minimize clutch slippage between gear changes.
Of course, only time will tell if the updated DCT will work as well as Honda claims, but at least the Japanese marque’s response is a lot more confidence inspiring than the dismissive attitudes of the Europeans at Wolfsburg and Cologne.
The new Honda Jazz Hybrid isn’t the only hybrid to use a DCT, as the Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid that we tested recently also uses DCT, albeit with one less ratio.
Does the DCT require a different automatic transmission oil?
Being a DCT, you obviously can’t use the same transmission oil for the Jazz Hybrid as the ones used by Honda’s other CVT-type automatic transmission equipped models like the City, Civic and HR-V.
However it does use a similar type of transmission oil as regular torque converter-type automatic transmission Honda models. It may or may not be exactly the same transmission oil as used by a Honda Accord, but it’s similar.
Any differences in chassis/suspension between Jazz Hybrid and regular Jazz?
The 1,158 kg Jazz Hybrid is about 60 kg heavier than the top of the range Jazz V (1,099 kg). The additional weight will certainly have an impact on the Jazz Hybrid’s dynamics but this is compensated by a retuned suspension and a strut bar that’s specific for the Jazz Hybrid and a tighter steering ratio (14.7 versus the standard Jazz’s 16.7).
Why isn’t this tighter steering ratio applied on a regular Jazz? Because achieving this tight ratio requires a more powerful electric power steering motor that’s beyond the limits of the regular Jazz’s electrical system but in the Jazz Hybrid, which has a larger capacity battery, it is possible.
There are also additional sound proofing materials installed behind the dashboard. While the additional insulation is only available for the Jazz Hybrid, it doesn’t make the hybrid variant any more quieter than the regular Jazz.
The reason why the Jazz requires additional sound proofing is because being a full-hybrid, there will be a lot of time when the Jazz is coasting/driving in electric power alone. Without the engine noise to mask out certain harmonics range, some noise that are not apparent in a regular Jazz will become quite obvious, hence the need for additional sound proofing.
More information on the list of features for all four variants of the new Jazz can be found here.