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Honda City Hatchback in Malaysia – we ask LPL Rei Sakamoto on why not Jazz, no turbo engine and more

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Twenty-five years on from its debut, the ASEAN-market Honda City has finally gotten a hatchback variant. The five-door model replaces the evergreen Jazz in the region as the latter becomes more sophisticated (and thus more expensive) in its fourth generation. Building the hatch model off the sedan also allows Honda to offer a sportier-looking rival to the ASEAN Toyota Yaris, itself based on the Vios.

As far as hatchback conversions go, this is as straightforward as they come, but there are still some questions. Can the City Hatchback fill a Jazz-sized hole in buyers’ hearts, and are there more changes from the sedan beyond the deletion of a separate boot? We speak to large project leader Rei Sakamoto (who, like the e:HEV RS variant’s LPL Satoru Azumi, also had a hand in developing the S660 kei roadster) as well as his translator, Honda Malaysia executive coordinator Yujiro Sugino.

Question: What is the reasoning behind the City Hatchback replacing the Jazz in the region, and is there a concern customers will miss the practicality and brand recognition of the Jazz?

Yujiro Sugino: In the Asian and Oceania region, we have a well-built brand with the City, so [we are] cultivating the brand’s legacy. The development was designed to incorporate both sedan and hatchback in order to maximise efficiency and to build both sedan and hatchback variants based on the same platform. So it was a regional decision.

The City Hatchback replaces the Jazz for the ASEAN region

The City Hatchback exceeds the practicality that the previous Jazz used to offer, plus with the development of the new City, we think we can provide more value to customers.

We’d like to point out at this juncture that the City Hatchback actually offers less boot space than the outgoing Jazz, at 289 litres versus 363. This deficit continues with the seats folded down – the City’s maximum cargo room of 841 litres trails the Jazz by a full 40 litres.

Plus, the City’s 36 mm reduction in height will likely result in lower headroom and less space to fit taller items with the base of the rear Ultra Seats tipped up. However, the City is wider than the Jazz and has a longer wheelbase, which means it should provide more legroom and shoulder room.

Q: Was the hatch planned for the City from the beginning or did the idea of a five-door come later?

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YS: For the five-door development, it was incorporated from the beginning in conjunction with the four-door. Due to COVID-19, the roll-out and launch has been delayed, but the five-door has been in the planning from the beginning.

Q: Has there been any tweaks to the suspension and chassis compared to the sedan?

Rei Sakamoto: For the handling, first of all, the components we used for the sedan and hatchback are common, but the settings are different. For the hatchback, it is intended to make it [feel] more young and active with a sporty feel.

The hatchback [also] receives the centre [fuel] tank layout which makes the front a little bit heavier compared to the sedan.

Honda also confirmed that the body-in-white is 7.3 kg lighter than the sedan’s, although the addition of the large tailgate and the Ultra Seats means that the full car is actually slightly heavier spec-by-spec. The City Hatchback also benefits from a six-per-cent increase in torsional rigidity compared to the third-generation Jazz, but the sedan version is stiffer still.

Q: Why has Honda stuck with the LaneWatch camera for the ASEAN region, whereas markets like Japan, Europe and the United States are switching to blind spot monitoring used by other carmakers?

RS: For this City’s development, requests from all countries and regions were considered along with the price positioning. That is the reason why chose to apply LaneWatch for the City.

Q: Honda City models fitted with Honda Sensing come with an electronic parking brake, which usually enables Low Speed Follow functionality for the adaptive cruise control. However, the City does not get Low Speed Follow. Why is that?

RS: If there’s a market demand and need [for the system], it will be considered, but considering the positioning of the City, we determined we would develop it without Low Speed Follow.

Q: Hatchbacks usually have a sportier image compared to sedans, so a turbocharged engine – like the one offered in Thailand – would seem an ideal power plant for the car. Why do Malaysians get a naturally-aspirated engine instead?

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YS: The application of the powertrain [takes into consideration] each country’s government’s tax schemes, not only the output and performance. In Thailand we applied [the 1.0 litre turbo engine] due to the tax incentive scheme, whereas in Malaysia it was determined that the 1.5 litre i-VTEC would be best for the petrol variant.

Q: The previous City (and Jazz) Hybrid were fitted with the Intelligent Dual-Clutch Drive (i-DCD) powertrain. Why was the system discontinued after only one generation in favour of the Intelligent Multi-Mode Drive (i-MMD) for the new e:HEV model?

RS: Considering the cost and price positioning and to optimise efficiency, we determined that the two-motor hybrid system would be the [most suitable for the car].

Q: The new City gets an aftermarket touchscreen head unit instead of the OEM system found in the latest fourth-generation Jazz, which is shared with the Accord and soon-to-be-launched Civic. Was this done due to cost or were there other considerations for this?

RS: It is based on the consideration within the Asian and Oceania destinations where price is also considered.

The Honda City Hatchback was launched in Malaysia earlier this week, priced from RM75,670 to RM83,080 for the petrol variants. The e:HEV RS hybrid will be made available in early 2022, with pricing to be announced then. You can check out our video and written reviews, while full specifications and equipment can be found at CarBase.my.

GALLERY: Honda City Hatchback 1.5 V in Malaysia

GALLERY: Honda City Hatchback e:HEV RS in Malaysia

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