The ASEAN specific Honda City hatchback is the answer for Malaysia, not the fourth-generation Jazz.
The news that Honda in Singapore has opted for the all-new Honda Jazz instead of the Honda City hatchback is a surprising one. It shows that demand for the ever-popular hatchback is still strong, despite its crazy price tag (RM300k) in the Lion City.
For us, however, it just isn't feasible to fully import the Jazz into Malaysia due to the ASEAN trade bloc. Because of where it is made (Japan), it will demand a high price due to higher taxation, compared to the Honda City hatchback, which is currently being assembled in Thailand.
So let's forget about the Jazz and concentrate on the City hatchback. The Honda City hatchback follows the same formula as the Toyota Vios/Yaris concept. It's bigger than the current generation Honda Jazz as well as the all-new Jazz which just made its debut in Singapore.
Much of the City hatchback is similar to the current Honda City sedan sold in Malaysia, but from the central pillars to the back it is all different. The rear doors are unique to the hatchback, and the roof is longer. The taillights, integrated tailgate spoiler, and rounded-off bumpers are also all unique to this model.
On the inside, it's all familiar and pretty much carried forward from the City sedan. The dashboard, all the way to the front door panels are the same. But Honda is not lazy because they have changed things where it matters. Being a hatchback, it's supposed to have added practicality, which is why Honda has re-engineered the rear seats and the floor.
The 2021 Honda City hatchback will come with the Jazz's much loved ULTRA seats which means you can turn the hatchback into a cargo-carrying monster by folding the rear seats flat. This makes it as practical as the Jazz if not even more so.
The Thai Honda City hatchback that premiered last November came with a turbocharged 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine with an output of 122 PS and 173 Nm of torque. It's mated to a continuously variable transmission, but a six-speed manual option is also available.
We think Malaysia will not be getting this powertrain because a naturally aspirated 1.5-litre, and 1.5-litre hybrid is available in Honda's arsenal of engines. But then again, Honda Malaysia likes to spring up surprises, so maybe a turbocharged 1.0-litre three-pot will be on the cards after all.
Safety-wise, we can expect the Honda City hatchback to have all the same safety gear as the sedan, which includes, four airbags, anti-lock braking system with electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist, vehicle stability assist, hill start assist, emergency stop signal, reverse parking sensors, and rear isofix points.
There are strong rumours that the City hatchback will be launched in Malaysia and Indonesia this year, but the Honda City hatchback will have to get in line as Honda Malaysia has yet to launch the Honda City RS. When the Honda City RS does eventually become available, then we can start to accurately predict the arrival of the Honda City hatchback.
As far as pricing for the Honda City hatchback goes, we can use Thailand as a guide. The Honda City hatchback is priced from RM81,000 and tops out at RM101,000 for the highest variant. Interestingly, the hatchback is more expensive than the sedan in Thailand which has a price range of RM78,000 - RM100,000.
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