Review: 2017 Honda City Hybrid - Sporting Intentions

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Review: 2017 Honda City Hybrid - Sporting Intentions

When you first lay your eyes on the new Honda City Hybrid, you’ll be forgiven if you can’t immediately identify it as a hybrid model. After all, the new hybrid version of the Honda City carries over most of its visual cues from the Grade E variant of the City it’s based on, with the addition of three hybrid emblems and LED tail lights.

But minor visual changes aside, the biggest difference lies under the bonnet of the City Hybrid.

The Honda City Hybrid signals the company’s re-entry into the hybrid segment, alongside the new Honda Jazz Hybrid. Honda Malaysia has previously offered various hybrid models, but discontinued them after the government retracted its tax incentives for fully-imported hybrid vehicles.

With the introduction of the new Honda City Hybrid, Honda Malaysia wants potential buyers to know that owning its new generation hybrid models is no different from the regular petrol variants, down to its maintenance and driving experience.

Specifications
Engine: 1.5-litre DOHC i-VTEC, 16-valve, transverse
Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, front-wheel drive
Power (Engine): 110 PS at 6,600 rpm
Power (Motor): 30 PS from 1,313 rpm to 2,000 rpm
Combined Output: 137 PS
Torque (Engine): 134 Nm at 5,000 rpm
Torque (Motor): 160 Nm from 0 to 1,313 rpm
Combine Output: 170 Nm
Safety: Four airbags, ABS with EBD, VSA, HAS, ISOFIX (2x, second-row seats)
Price: RM89,200 (on the road without insurance)
Origin: Locally assembled in Pegoh, Melaka

Overview
The new Honda City Hybrid is positioned as the company’s entry-level hybrid sedan after the Jazz Hybrid. Equipment level mirrors that of the petrol variant in E Grade, save for the earlier-mentioned exterior details.

Honda Malaysia currently only offers one trim level of the new City Hybrid, which includes the 16-inch alloy wheels, halogen headlights with LED DRLs, LED tail lights, Smart Entry with push start button, paddle shifters and a 6.8-inch Display Audio infotainment system.

As it is, the Honda City Hybrid has no direct competitors, with its nearest rival being the Hyundai Ioniq. Bear in mind that the Ioniq occupies a segment above the City, with prices starting from RM100k, making the RM89k City Hybrid look like a bargain.

Malaysia is the first country out of Japan to get the new Honda City Hybrid.

Exterior

There is nothing to shout about the exterior of the Honda City Hybrid. Changes are minimal at best, as Honda Malaysia decided that by not visually differentiating regular petrol variants of the City and the hybrid version, cost to manufacture the hybrid variant can be kept low as parts are shared between models.

Even with its minimal changes from the petrol variant, the Honda City Hybrid still looks modern and sharp. 

The main difference are the LED taillights that are shared with the range-topping Grade V, on top of its unique blue hybrid badges.

Interior

Moving inside, changes are a little bit more apparent. 

Out goes the traditional gear level, as the City Hybrid features a futuristic shift-by-wire-type gear lever. That aside, the Honda City Hybrid also gets its own meter cluster that is able to display energy flow, fuel efficiency and other information.

Other Honda City Grade E bits that are carried over include the touch panel air-conditioning controls, fabric upholstery, centre arm rest with storage compartment, rear arm rest and rear air vents.

Despite featuring lithium-ion batteries in its boot, the Honda City Hybrid’s boot space is not compromised, offering its same class-leading 536 litres as the petrol variant.

However, as the batteries are located in the spare wheel well, a spare tire is not included. Instead, the company bundles together a tire repair kit for both the Jazz and City Hybrid.

In case anyone was wondering about how safe the battery cells are in the spare wheel well, Honda assured us that the City Hybrid is able to withstand serious rear impact collisions without affecting its battery cells. In fact, Honda sold more than 865,000 units of its Sport Hybrid i-DCD models back in Japan, without a single unit catching fire as a result of a rear end collision.

Driving Experience

While the exterior and interior of the Honda City Hybrid bears some resemblance to its regular petrol siblings, things are completely different behind the wheel.

Upon starting up from a dead stop, we noticed how quiet the Honda City Hybrid actually is. This is due to the fact that the car starts from EV mode from idle, only starting the engine when additional power is needed.

Speaking of its engine, we especially enjoy the engine note of the new Honda City Hybrid. We noticed that the engine note of the hybrid variant is considerably sportier than the regular City, with a louder growl that fills the cabin. Don’t get us wrong though, the City Hybrid’s refinement is actually impressive for a car at this price point, but Honda engineers have managed to exhibit some sporty character out of its hybrid model, making it’s a very different animal from the Hyundai Ioniq.

Also different from the petrol City is the seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. Here, the City Hybrid’s shifts are more enjoyable than the CVT found on the regular City, as there are actual gears in the transmission, as opposed to the virtual ratios in the petrol City. Also worth noting is that the electric motor aids the City Hybrid when moving from a dead stop, thus reducing the DCT’s jerky-from-start behavior.

Honda Malaysia also mentioned that the City Hybrid gets additional strengthening at the rear bulkhead, on top of a more rigid A pillar. These work in conjunction with the retuned steering gear ratio and reworked suspension tuning to give the City Hybrid a more surefooted feeling than the regular City. 

Fuel Economy and Maintenance

Driving experience aside, we also appreciate how frugal the City Hybrid is when it comes to fuel consumption. With some careful driving, most drivers should be able to see a fuel economy upwards of 20 km/L, something the regular petrol variant struggles with.

More often than not when hybrid is mentioned, cost of maintenance is brought up. However, with the new Honda City Hybrid, maintenance is identical to the regular petrol variant, if not cheaper. 

Case in point is the dual-clutch transmission maintenance versus the CVT found in the petrol variant. According to Honda’s official service schedule, the City Hybrid’s DCT transmission fluid only needs to be replaced at the 96th month or 160,000 km mark, as opposed to the CVT fluid that needs to be replaced every 24 months or 40,000 km. 

Over a period of 5 years, it costs RM2,867 for owners to maintain the City Hybrid.

Whilst keeping on the maintenance topic, replacing the starter battery in the City Hybrid is considerably cheaper than the Hyundai Ioniq, which costs upwards RM1,000. For the Honda City Hybrid, owners just need to replace the 12V battery with any regular battery.

Conclusion

Now this is when it gets really tricky. 

On paper, the Honda City Hybrid is within Ringgits of the top spec Honda City Grade V, though with considerably less equipment.

Apart from its own sibling, the Honda City Hybrid also faces stiff competition from the Mazda 2 Sedan, though the Mazda loses out in terms of interior practicality and cost of maintenance.

However, versus its own sibling, the hybrid City might be a better purchase for those who really enjoys driving as the hybrid powertrain completely changes the behavior of the City. 

So is the Honda City Hybrid a good buy? In short, almost certainly. Honda Malaysia foresees that streets of the future will be filled with hybrid vehicles, so by introducing its new hybrid Honda City at an affordable price, the company continues to spearhead the future by making advanced powertrain technologies affordable for the masses.



Eric

Eric

Before he started covering events and reviewing cars, Eric was that guy you called when you had PC problems. Found his way into the motoring scene by chance and never looked back. For him, his ideal car is a hatchback with a manual.

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