In this line of work, I’ve been asked this question a thousand times; what car should I buy? The honest answer is “I don’t know” . Really. I don’t. The only person who does know, is you.
Yes you. Let’s face it, I’m not going to use the car am I? You are, not me. So my usual response – depending on my mood, which fluctuates faster than our petrol prices – varies from ‘how the hell should I know’ to ‘buy what you like’. It’s the latter response that I’ll be delving into today…
It’s a broad and very non-committal statement to of course, one that leaves the door open to infinite possibilities, real and pure fantasy. Sure we’d all love a Pagani, but more often than not, a Proton will do.
In the great scheme of things though, while it likely won’t be a Pagani, your first car doesn’t necessarily have to be a Proton either. Recently, thanks to Honda Malaysia Sdn Bhd (HMSB), we attended a very long four-day test-drive of the new Honda City i-DCD and Jazz i-DCD, both of which you can read about more, spec and tech wise, in those hyperlinks.
It got me thinking, for less than RM90k, could these be the perfect cars for anyone starting out in working life? I’d have to wait four days, and many miles for the answer. But first I need to get a little bit technical…
There are many out there who still don’t know the difference between a hybrid, PHEV and electric-car, so let me sum-up. The new City and Jazz i-DCD’s are hybrids, which mean they have a combination of a normal internal-combustion engine (ICE), coupled to a hybrid-electric motor that is self-charging, and never needs to be plugged into a power socket.
In fact, you never need to do anything for the hybrid motor, and other than make sure there’s petrol in the tank, it’s an enclosed and hidden system that never needs your intervention.
And no, you cannot drive the car with zero fuel in the petrol tank, in case you’re thinking it’s okay because there’s an electric motor to keep you going. The electric motor is only an assistant to the ICE, not the other way around. Here’s a video to better explain it visually…
Both the City and Jazz are classified as ‘Sport Hybrids’, packing a 20% more compact lithium-ion battery (with an 8-year warranty) to power its electric motor, and is 1.5 times more powerful than a conventional nickel-metal hydrite battery, hence the ‘sportiness’ in the name.
Combined with the 1.5-litre DOHC i-VTEC engine, both the City and Jazz are able to churn out a respectable 137bhp and 170Nm of torque, channeled to the front wheels via a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission. If you need a refresher on what a dual-clutch transmission is, check out the video below:
So yeah, a 7-speed “intelligent dual-clutch drive” or i-DCD, with three driving modes, in a car costing less than RM90k, how cool is that? But why the need for a hybrid system in a small 1.5-litre car that doesn’t gulp fuel like a thirsty 5.0 V8 anyway you ask? Good question!
The answer is simple actually; you get the power of a 1.8-litre car but pay only 1.5-litre (1,496cc) road tax, you get better fuel-efficiency seeing as how the electric motor does take on some of the driving duties from the engine.
At 40kmh you can drive at least 2km on electric power alone, and up to 80kmh before the engine kicks in – and of course lastly, the ‘hybrid-tax incentive’ allowed the cars to be priced as such. Have a look at this video for a more visual explanation, done by one of our friends in the industry for HMSB…
Now let’s get to the nitty-gritty of it, the actual ownership experience, or rather, what’s it’s like to live with the new City and Jazz i-DCDs, What was initially planned as a drive to Tg.Jara in Terengganu via Kuantan, and fly back after a few days on the road, didn’t seem to sit too well with the car-gods, who deemed it necessary to intervene and alter our plans slightly on the last day. More on that later.
The drive to Terengganu comprised a good smattering of highway (the infamous LPT) as well as some very decent B-roads closer to the destination, and in all instances, both the City and Jazz behaved exactly as how I expected them to; in a nutshell they act and feel like a B-segment car in this category should, with one added benefit: they’re quick.
Many have balked at that little sound-byte by HMSB regarding the 1.5-litre that performs like a 1.8, but let me tell you, I personally own a 1.8-litre car, and yes, these new City and Jazz i-DCDs do indeed behave that way, and they do it seamlessly and effortlessly.
It’s almost imperceptible when the ICE is being assisted by the hybrid motor, and despite any misgivings you may have heard about dual-clutch transmissions from other makes, the ones in the City and Jazz perform brilliantly.
Honda engineers tested the i-DCD for two years on a variety of Malaysian roads, covering more than 7,000kms during that time, just to make sure it was suited for our road conditions.
By the way, I feel it important to mention that Malaysia is the first country outside Japan to get the Sport Hybrid i-DCD, and more than 865,000 units have already been sold in the latter.
If there were any negatives to be felt during the drive, I can recall only two, and one of which only afflicts the Jazz.
The Jazz is definitely not for anyone with a family. It cannot be a primary car for anyone with a family in tow, if for the simple reason that it’s a compact hatchback. Despite an abundance of interior space given its size, thanks to the Honda design philosophy of Man maximum, Machine minimum, it is more suited, interior size wise, for an individual, or a couple. That said, the Jazz does come with Ultra seats (see gallery) in the rear for added cargo carrying.
Of course on the flip-side, there’s always the City to opt for if you do have a family in tow, with its best-in-class boot space, as well as 60:40 fold-down rear seats (see gallery), but the one thing that I found a bit disconcerting in both variants was only to be found if you sit in the back, behind the driver. Kids, if you have them, are gonna fight to not sit there.
Because the lit-ion battery sits very near the underside of the rear seat, there’s a cooling vent that sucks in cool air from the cabin to cool it down, located between the right-rear seat-back and door jamb. You can see it clearly in the above photo.
It’s almost invisible with the door closed, but the downside is that the cool air that’s sucked in, is quickly turned into warm air, which seems to permeate through the right side of the centre arm-rest. Honda are looking into this as we speak, since I mentioned it during the Q&A and feedback session.
Apart from that little glitch, there’s very little else to fault the new Jazz and City i-DCDs. They perform and behave incredibly well for a car in this segment and priced as such. That other little sound-byte about a ‘B-segment car with C-segment features’ isn’t an empty boast either.
In addition to everything above, you also get 4-airbags, ABS, EBD, vehicle stability assist, brake assist, hill-start assist, and a 5-year unlimited mileage warranty (8-years unlimited for the battery), LED daytime running lights, smart-entry with push-start button, 6.8″ display audio with HDMI and USB, multi-angle reverse camera, rear air-con vents, as well as 82 3S centres nationwide to take care of them at.
So back to what I mentioned earlier about the car-gods had planned then. On the day of our departure from Tg. Jara after three days on the road, we learned in the morning that our flight back to KL was delayed for four-hours, and HMSB gave us the option to either wait it out, or drive back. I have to admit, if it wasn’t for the LPT highway, I’d have opted for the former.
A few of us decided (okay, almost all of us) that we’d rather drive the new City and Jazz i-DCDs back to KL, than wait at the airport, and here’s where it got interesting. You see, on the way up the day before were testing all the various aspects of the car, including of course its fuel-efficiency, which meant we were driving normally, sedately even.
Getting back to KL however, was a different story. We just wanted to get back as fast as possible. Pedal to the metal, the new Jazz which had been assigned to us for this impromptu drive back, was able to achieve speeds in excess of 180kmh quite easily, and all the while exhibiting the kind of handling as well as NVH (noise, vibration & harshness) that belied its classification. It felt and behaved like a C-segment car.
This was probably the most impressive time we had with the Jazz, my peers also had the same to say about the City, and like a scene from an old Top Gear UK challenge episode, we all managed to get back to KL even before the flight from Terengganu had taken-off….
We now get back to the question which started this article; what car should you buy…? Well, I’m not saying buy this, nor am I saying don’t buy this. I’m neutral. Think of me as Switzerland. I will say this though; if you’re in the market for a first car or second family car, you’d be doing yourself a grave injustice if you don’t check out the new Honda City and Jazz i-DCDs. You’ll probably be amazed, and perhaps never again will you have to ask anyone what car you should buy. – Chris Wee.
Honda City & Jazz Sport Hybrid i-DCD Photo Gallery (Photos by CW & Aaron Lee for HMSB)