June 10, 2021 By Kevin C. Limjoco Photos by Andréas N. Delos Reyes

2021 Honda City RS Hatchback

The Utilitarian Micro Road Warrior

The array of high-quality and desirable vehicles priced from P800k to P1.2M has never been this plentiful in our Philippine market ever. The Honda Jazz used to rightfully lord over the subcompact segment until the competition caught up. In the last Tokyo Motor Show in October 2019 the whole Philippine media contingent got to see the all-new 4th-generation Honda Jazz and were thrilled with what we saw. The promise of building on the winning formula combined with a modern design, new technologies, and electrification was exciting and we all looked forward to the all-new Jazz entering our market when it was ready to be imported. Our concern at the time was whether the cost of all the comprehensive updates would drive the retail price restrictively too high for Philippine consumers. But Honda Headquarters had other clever plans.

What our region received alternatively, when the time came in 2021, was a masterstroke. The 6th generation Honda City was replaced with a considerably more superior 7th generation sedan model, while the Jazz got replaced with this all-new hatchback City model! While the 2021 Honda City RS sedan has clearly emerged as the new standard in its class, I did have some reservations about the hatch before I finally got to test it for myself. To vastly improve on the sedan City was one thing but to replace the fantastic Jazz (Fit) is a whole different situation.

Unlike with the previous segment title holder, the Mazda 2, which has the same pricing and equipment for both the sedan and hatch variants with the most distinguishing factor being the choice of design, with the Honda City there are more tangible alterations between the multiple variants, four for the sedan and one for the hatch, hence also the understandable price differences. Having said that, if you are not looking at choosing between the top model Honda City RS sedan and the RS hatch, I would recommend looking at alternative mobility solutions. Both top models of the all-new City are absolutely fabulous as real-world daily drivers, but the lower equipped sedan models are not as compelling, I strongly believe that the RS sedan and RS hatch give their potential owners more pronounced values for their money.

The all-new Honda City RS hatchback seen here in Meteoroid Gray Metallic, is a proper replacement for the outgoing 3rd generation Jazz. It uses a 70-mm longer wheelbase, is longer by 249 mm, wider by 53 mm, but with a 41 mm lower roofline for better aerodynamics.  The previous model Jazz and City shared the mostly same underpinning and drivetrain but they looked completely different. With the 2021 City hatchback and sedan, that optimal cost-saving strategy with the chassis and drivetrain was applied but the aesthetics and equipment are consistent except for the obvious rear end treatment, the fully painted black wheels instead of the two-color treatment on the sedan, and the critical hugely versatile ULTR seats. To be clear, compared to the old Jazz, the new City hatch is larger, more spacious, more equipped, more comfortable, and more dynamic. And it looks great! It is actually also more capacious than the all-new 4th generation Jazz!

In order to maximize the ULTR seating and accommodate the nice rear design without increasing too much weight, the hatch actually has a shorter body than the sedan by a whopping 208 mm (8.2-inches) and weighs 21 kg. more than the sedan. To help make up for the weight increase, the rear seats actually have more passenger legroom than the sedan and the rear hatch has its own unique signature LED light assembly. By the way, for those who are not aware of the variable seating ULTR Honda acronym each letter stands for the following; Utility for maximum load capacity in a fully flat trunk, Long for folding the front passenger seat flatly forward to accommodate a long object lengthwise horizontally, Tall to accommodate a vertical item like a plant by folding the second row seat upward to liberate the space, and Refresh mode to create flat surfaces for a nap by reclining both front seats completely while removing the headrests.

The City RS hatch’s load capacity volume is smaller than the sedan when the rear seat is not folded, 289 liters compared to 519 liters but it can handle more upright items and when the rear seat is folded the number swells to 841 liters. The Honda City RS hatch cabin is bit more inviting than the sedan even if the seat materials, interior equipment, and interior features are the same because of the trunk’s rear design that includes a standard Tonneau cover. The tasteful and comfortable combination red-stitched leather and suede seats, full LED front headlights and fog lamps, six airbags, smart key, push button ignition, excellent analog instrumentation, sporty aluminum pedals, cruise control, rear climate control vents with additional power outlets, 8-inch infotainment system with Android Auto and Apple Carplay connectivity, and multi-view rear camera backed up with the excellent segment-first 8-speaker system are all the same as with the sedan. The Honda City model range has a 5-Star Top Safety rating by the ASEAN NCAP.

In the City RS sedan, I would prefer the Platinum White Pearl, which costs an additional P20,000.00, which subtly accentuates all the neat design details like the carbon fiber-esque trim on the front and rear diffusers, honeycombed dual segment front grilles, and the shark fin antenna. But for the City RS hatch I would get it in the new vibrant Brilliant Sporty Blue Metallic exterior color for all the same reasons without paying more. The black ceiling and pillars in the City RS hatch cabin are excellent and help make the cabin feel more upscale. The angular climate vents are elegant and tasteful. The generous red stitching on the steering wheel, center armrest console, front and rear seats, gearshift boot, and door panels are all also well executed. Even the start/stop ignition button has a nice piano black finish that contrasts nicely with the red backlight! The instrumentation is also well done with crisp details with the additional Eco-Coaching ambient meter feature. The steering wheel remote buttons are very good. The paddleshifts work well when engaged though I think they help most with aesthetics rather than functionality.

I am very pleased that Honda installed the better dohc version of the 1.5-liter engine on the new City. The North American market used the same L15B1 engine for 8 years before Honda removed the Fit (Jazz) from the model lineup beginning in 2021. However, their engine tuning was rated at 130 bhp and 114 lb-ft so their hatchbacks always felt livelier than our market’s Jazz. The performance gains on paper may look very inconsequential but at this level of weight and size, the results are real and immediately rewarding. For perspective, the older sohc 1.5-liter L15Z1 (118 bhp @ 6600 rpm / 107 lb-ft @ 4600 rpm) engine is still used in the multi-passenger Honda Mobilio and BR-V and they weigh as much as 130 kg more (286 pounds) than the new City RS sedan. So, to have that extra overachieving horse and peak torque arriving earlier by 300 rpm, the City RS hatch feels sprightlier with a new level of maturity and refinement that is only assisted further with the more useful power arriving sooner.

I would have wanted rear disc brakes, an independent multi-link rear suspension, a smartphone charge pad, a bit more power or better, the alternative power using the Honda factory available Sport Hybrid i-MMD system. In Thailand and in other markets, the City e:HEV RS is available with adjustable regenerative braking too to help feed the battery because that model uses rear disc brakes. So, I hope with the success of the all-new Honda City family range that other variants may enter our market. But as it stands now, the all-new Honda City RS hatchback is a great and versatile small car with strong values, is built exceptionally well, and for the very first time in seven generations of the City model, I genuinely want one!

Specification – 2021 Honda City RS Hatchback

Engine: Inline-4

Location: Front, Transverse

Displacement: 1498 cc

Cylinder block: Cast Aluminum

Cylinder head: Cast Aluminum, DOHC, 4 valves per cylinder, i-VTEC

Fuel Injection: Direct Programmed Fuel Injection, Normally-Aspirated

Max power: 120 bhp @ 6600 rpm

Max torque: 107 lb-ft @ 4300 rpm

Transmission: CVT, Front-Wheel-Drive

Drag Coefficient: .30 cd

Front suspension: Independent MacPherson strut with anti-roll bar.

Rear suspension: Torsion-beam with Dampers & Coil Springs

Fuel Capacity: 40 liters (10.6 gallons)

Load Capacity: 841 liters (2nd row folded) / 289 liters (2nd row up)

Ground Clearance: 134 mm

L x W x H: 4349 mm x 1748 mm x 1488 mm

Wheelbase: 2600 mm

Brakes: Front 10.3-inch (262 mm) ventilated discs with 1-piston calipers / Rear 9-inch (229 mm) drums, ABS, VSA (with Agile Handling Assist), EBD, HSA, and ESS.

Wheels: 16”x 6J Multi-spoke Black RS-Spec Aluminum Alloys.

Tires: P185/55R16 87H Dunlop Enasave EC330

Weight: (kerb) 1141 kg. (2510 lbs.)

0-100 km/h (0-62 mph): 9.4 seconds

Top Speed (mph): 200 km/h (125 mph)

Fuel Mileage: 31 mpg City / 36 mpg Highway (15.3 L/100 kms. Overall)

Price as tested: PhP 1,115,000.00

C! RATING 10/10

+ The new class standard, attractive, versatile, very full-featured, best NVH in its class, thoughtful packaging, properly better than the great Jazz.

– Rear Drum Brakes, I wish it had more power combined with the Sport Hybrid “i-MMD”, or 122 bhp/128 lb-ft 1-liter turbo or the US-spec tuning (130 bhp /114 lb-ft). Does not have Mazda’s brilliant free 5-year service plan. Additional Safeguard bond tax deposit cost of P13,000.00.

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