The Honda City Hatchback is a premium-feeling small car that'll make you forget about the Honda Jazz and possibly its main rival, the Toyota Yaris.
When Honda Malaysia announced that they would be phasing out the much-loved Honda Jazz to make space for the City hatchback, there were a lot of sad Honda Jazz fans making a lot of noise about it.
After three generations, nine years, and over 100,000 units sold, we can see why they were unhappy about this move - because the Jazz can be considered a very successful and loved Honda model in Malaysia.
We too were skeptical about the City Hatchback's capabilities of filling in the void left by the Jazz - until that is, we got behind one.
We recently had the opportunity to spend nearly a week with the Honda City Hatchback, and boy, oh boy did it make us forget the Honda Jazz!
The variant that we had is the City Hatchback 1.5L V. It's the top variant without going hybrid, as it has pretty much everything you need except Honda Sensing. If you want to add Honda Sensing to the V variant, you would need to add another RM4k to the price, as Honda offers the V variant with their full suite of safety features, called the Honda City Hatchback 1.5L V-Sensing.
As a person that prefers an aggressive and sporty-styled hatchback, it pains me to say that the Honda City Hatchback looks like a big softy. Everything from its front end to its side profile is a bit too round for my liking, but the rear end in my opinion has a good blend of sportiness and elegance.
Some buyers might not share my view on this, and I can see why because not everybody wants an aggressively styled hatchback. However, in hindsight, the roundness of the exterior design can be considered an elegant bit of body design, one that would appease fashionistas and trendy people.
But if you prefer a bit more aggressiveness in regards to body styling, luckily, Honda offers the Modulo body kit, which adds a bit of spice to the cutesy look of the City Hatchback. For RM3,825, you get to add some sharpness to the round hatchback as Honda will install a front under spoiler, side under spoiler, rear under spoiler, and tailgate spoiler.
While the exterior is more a case of my beauty is your ugly, I believe everyone would agree that the interior of the City Hatchback is pretty darn lovely. It's definitely a step up from the Jazz and makes its main rival, the Toyota Yaris feel like its interior was designed by a pick-up truck designer.
Everything from its Apple CarPlay and Android Auto friendly 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system to black leather seats with white pipings just oozes class. Of course, there are soft-touch materials where it matters, but even the hard plastics don't look or feel cheap. That infotainment system by the way is now one of the snappiest infotainment systems we have experienced, which does make the system feel way more expensive than it really is.
Speaking of expensive, the hatchback's interior is well insulated from NVH. As a result, you don't feel any vibrations from the engine and driveline, and the car is quiet on the move. The insulation and refinement almost make you forget that you're in a small hatchback instead of a deluxe sedan.
I took a Jazz owner out for a drive, and they can attest that everything is much better in the City Hatchback. He said although headroom is not as good as the Jazz, everything from the materials used, interior design and NVH is day and night compared to the dropped Jazz.
But we still have to be thankful to the Jazz, as the famed 4-Modes ULTRA Seats from the Jazz have been equipped in the City. This gives the City Hatchback great versatility, especially when needing to carry tall or weird items such as plants. These ULTRA seats are actually a godsend cause the 289-litre boot is a bit small, so you'll probably be using them a lot.
All City Hatchbacks except for the RS hybrid variant gets the venerable 1.5L DOHC i-VTEC powertrain, which produces a healthy 121PS of power and maximum torque of 145Nm. It's actually the most powerful engine in its class and probably one that is most eager to rev.
As soon as you press the accelerator pedal, the City lurches forward without delay. This sharp and eager-to-rev engine helps the City feel sporty and predictable. But all this instant power delivery isn't the doing of the engine alone, as it is combined with a refined and equally smooth operating CVT transmission.
The City hatchback feels like it has all the right attributes to be a fun city car. Moreover, its fuel consumption isn't bad either returning a 5l/100km fuel economy reading during our mixed driving test. Yes, that was on eco mode, but we drove the car normally without trying to be cautious about wasting fuel.
Our favourite part of the powertrain however was its noise. It didn't sound rough with a lot of treble, but instead, you get this lovely bassy VTEC note which kind of reminds us of those awesome VTEC noises from Hondas back in the nineties.
The ride and handling of the Honda City Hatchback is a chameleon. Although it is on the slightly stiffer side, there's plenty of comfort being offered in the hatchback. The suspension soaks up all road imperfections without effort, and the car finds it easy to go over speed humps without slowing down. Because of this, we did think it'll be a bore around corners, but the hatchback proved otherwise and was fun to drive.
We even did a little slalom test with the City Hatchback. The combination of precise and eager power delivery with sharp handling made the City Hatchback a fun car around the course. We'd rather be in the City Hatchback rather than of its main rival when it comes to tight city roads.
There's only one downside to the Honda City Hatchback 1.5L V, but that's only if you consider its safety equipment when compared to the Toyota Yaris G.
For RM4,000k less, you get a Yaris with Toyota's full suite of advanced safety features, while the City 1.5L V only comes with Honda LaneWatch. To get it on par with the Yaris's safety features, you will have to pay RM4,000k extra and get the 1.5L V-Sensing.
However, if you're not too concerned about having extra safety features, then you're pretty much set. Still, we're pretty sure you'll appreciate the Honda LaneWatch on the V variant as it helps with lane changing.
After experiencing the City Hatchback for nearly a week, we can safely say the Jazz will not be missed. Yes, there is less headroom in the cabin when compared to the Jazz, but everything else is pretty much better in the City Hatchback.
While the price of the car might seem pricey to some, you get what you are paying for. If you want a small car that is premium in feel with a refined powertrain and is fun to drive, then don't bother looking elsewhere, this is the car for you.
But if you want a small car with more safety features, then perhaps the Toyota Yaris G is a better proposition, but even then, you could just top up another RM4k and get the 1.5L V with Sensing.
Wants to live the simple life, especially when it comes to cars and bikes. That's what tech is for he reckons, to make motoring simpler