Review: 2022 Honda City Hatchback RS e:HEV - The everyman's hybrid with an unfair price

CY Foong · Jun 18, 2022 12:00 PM

Review: 2022 Honda City Hatchback RS e:HEV - The everyman's hybrid with an unfair price 01

Life can sometimes be unfair and for longtime fans of the Honda Jazz, they might still mourn the loss of their favourite versatile hatchback. The Honda City Hatchback has some big shoes to fill and as my esteemed colleague Sanjay put it in his review, it’s akin to Adam Lambert taking over Freddie Mercury as Queen’s frontman.

Review: 2022 Honda City Hatchback RS e:HEV - The everyman's hybrid with an unfair price 02

After spending a few days with the top-of-the-line City Hatchback, the RS e:HEV, I must say that it’s mission accomplished because as good as the all-new Jazz is in the photos, the City Hatchback takes over the mantle very well in the flesh.

Exterior – It’ll win over you

Review: 2022 Honda City Hatchback RS e:HEV - The everyman's hybrid with an unfair price 01

The last time the City name was used on a hatchback was back in 1994

Before it was known as Honda’s success in developing markets all over the world, the City name was first used on a hatchback for two generations, the cult classic AA and the more obscure GA.

Also read: The missing link – The forgotten second-gen Honda City

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When the City Hatchback was revealed as the Jazz’s replacement for developing markets in 2020, the reaction was mixed. It had a bulbous shape with some commenting that it looked like a Mercedes-Benz A-Class.

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Fans and enthusiasts were haranguing Honda for the awkward design but unlike BMW’s Grillegate saga, the criticisms died down once people start to see it in person because it’s something you will get used to.

Also read: Think the 2021 Honda City Hatchback looks weird? There’s a good reason why

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Some might even call it a looker upon seeing it up close and being a Honda, there are also opportunities to dress one up. Still, there are some angles where it looked awkward in the rear but it’s not something that would ruin the perception.

Also read: Cooler than Yaris? Modulo bodykit jazzes up 2021 Honda City Hatchback!

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The City Hatchback RS e:HEV looks largely similar to its non-hybrid variants and shares the same treatment as its sedan twin in front like a high-gloss black front grille with honeycomb inserts and a front bumper trim with a carbon-look finish.

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This carbon-look continues in the rear bumper but at the back, there isn’t much that stands out. Yes, the glowing red RS badge may shout out something sporty underneath but this is no Si, let alone a Type R performance substitute.

Also read: Review: Driving the world's first 2020 Honda City RS with i-MMD in Malaysia

Interior – Functionality at its best

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Step inside the City Hatchback RS and you’re greeted with the RS logo on the digital display and the meter's red outlines. However, the dashboard design is overall like its sedan twin.

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The switches and knobs are well placed and easy to operate between driver and passenger. There is a compartment to put your smartphone right next to the USB ports for charging or Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity. It may look plain but it’s better than what’s on the Toyota Yaris.

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While we are on the subject of the Yaris, the City Hatchback is a lot roomier and has more storage compartments for all your necessities. It even has rear A/C vents which is something absent in the Toyota.

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The red stitching on the half-leather upholstery gives some sporty credibility as do the aluminium pedals but perhaps one of the most interesting design elements is the “easter egg” on the seats.

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They're supposed to be a honeycomb pattern but the three-pointed star's resemblance is uncanny

Remember how some remarked the City Hatchback’s design looks awfully like the Mercedes-Benz A-Class hatchback? Well, the fabric seats on the City Hatchback sport a design that resembles a three-pointed star.

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Besides that, there is another “easter egg” on the centre console with a small compartment that looks like a Honda logo. Speaking of compartments, the City Hatchback is quite generous in this department.

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Despite being smaller than the sedan, the rear space is very roomy with an ample amount of legroom. Yours truly is 173 cm and in the rear, there is enough space to really stretch out but thanks to the sloping hatchback roof, the headroom is only enough for one tennis ball.

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As generous as the front is in terms of compartments, there isn’t much in the rear with no centre armrest in the hatchback. This is sacrificed to accommodate the sole feature that made the Jazz exceptionally practical, the Ultra Seats.

Also read: This is how useful the Honda Jazz’s Ultra Seats are! Myvi what?

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Review: 2022 Honda City Hatchback RS e:HEV - The everyman's hybrid with an unfair price 16

Tall mode allows you to even put in a small bookcase or a potted plant

With the rear seats up, the City Hatchback has 289 litres of boot space but fold the seats down and it can swallow anything up from Ikea with ease. That practicality makes it a winner that some may emulate (Myvi, for example) but few can match.

Also read: The 2022 Perodua Myvi facelift's seating configuration almost rivals City Hatchback's ULTRA Seats

Driving experience – Sail away

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People might mistake the RS badge meant performance, like “Road Sport” or “Radically Super” but according to Honda, the two letters meant “Road Sailing” which isn’t quite as exciting as it sounds.

Though that might put a damper on some Honda fans like revealing to a child that Santa isn’t real, the RS’ definition sticks.

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Powering the highest variant of the City Hatchback is a 1.5-litre DOHC i-VTEC naturally-aspirated (98 PS/127 Nm) engine which is aided by two electric motors.

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We have given a thorough explanation of how the i-MMD sport hybrid system works in our review of the City RS e:HEV sedan but the important figure is the electric motors’ power output – 109 PS/253 Nm. The high torque was the main talking point when it made its global debut in 2020 which gives seamless acceleration and smooth confidence in overtaking.

Also read: Review: 2021 Honda City RS e:HEV – Hybrid perfomance for the common man

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In our 0-100 km/h test, we recorded a time of 10.3 seconds which is close to the time recorded for the sedan. It’s also not that far off from Honda’s claimed time of 9.9 seconds.

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Still, it's not like everyone does a century sprint from rest but what this means in the real world is the seemingly effortless acceleration, especially when overtaking. Torque truly does matter when you're passing some lane hogger or trying to fend off some impatient tailgater.

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While the RS might be perceived as a performance variant, the hatchback absolutely floats on the road. It absorbs road undulations very well and on smooth highways where we spent most of the time during the review, the City Hatchback is quite pliant.

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Note the rear vent to cool the battery

Ditto when you introduce the City Hatchback RS to the corners and Honda absolutely excels in this department. It is a bit firmer compared to the sedan and the hybrid’s 0.86 kWh lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery in the rear adds some weight compared to the petrol variants.

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But oh boy, can this hatchback take in the corners. Even if the RS badge doesn't mean much in performance, both the sedan and hatchback RS variants have the potential to be modern-day sleepers which is good enough for fans that long covet the H badge.

Refinement – Not exactly the best

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Still, despite the great acceleration and handling, the cabin noise level is quite loud. At 90 km/h we recorded 64 dB on our trusty decibel recorder and at highway speeds of 110 km/h, that is bumped up to 69 dB.

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Honda City RS vs City Hatchback RS sound test
Speed Honda City RS Honda City Hatchback RS
60 km/h 57 dB 58 dB
90 km/h 61 dB 64 dB
110 km/h 68 dB 69 dB

The readings we recorded are higher than its sedan twin, however, this is to be expected due to the hatchback’s two-box design. The boot and the interior cabin aren’t separated, so it makes sense for the noise levels on the City Hatchback RS to be on the higher side.

Also read: Deciding between the Honda City Hatchback and Sedan? These are the compromises needed

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Even though this is running on a hybrid system, you do get the occasional noise of the engine whirring away at idle to charge the batteries. So sometimes it would go from being silent to revving loudly when stationary. Yet, you might forgive the City Hatchback RS’ NVH levels once you see its fuel consumption.

Fuel economy – A sipper for sure

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For our fuel economy run, we drove the City Hatchback RS e:HEV 107.8 km on a mix of highways and regular stop-start city traffic and it takes 4.5 litres to fill up the tank.

This translates to 4.2 litres/100 km which puts it close to Honda’s claimed combined fuel economy of 3.6 litres/100 km.

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We also recorded similar fuel economy readings on the City RS sedan so the real-world figures on the Honda’s hybrid B-segment models are quite close to the claimed numbers. It’s impressive to see how fuel-efficient the i-MMD hybrid system is.

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Even when the car is pushed a little harder on the highways, the fuel gauge barely budged in the few days we had the City Hatchback RS. It’s as much as a fuel sipper as it is zippy car around the corners.

Safety – Comprehensive enough but not the most complete

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The City Hatchback RS comes standard with the Honda Sensing ADAS suite which includes:

  • Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC)
  • Collision Mitigation Braking System (CMBS)
  • Forward Collision Warning (FCW)
  • Lane Keep Assist System (LKAS)
  • Road Departure Mitigation (RDM)
  • Lane Departure Warning (LDW)
  • Auto High Beam (AHB)

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While rivals come equipped with front sensors, it's absent on the City Hatchback range

Despite having one of the best names in ADAS, the City Hatchback RS is still lacking in some passive safety features like having fewer airbags than the Yaris (City Hatchback – 6, Yaris – 7) and no front sensors.

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In lieu of blind-spot monitors, the City Hatchback RS gets Honda LaneWatch which is activated every time you switch on the left indicator. While this may be better than just having a light indicating something is on your blind spot, this can be quite annoying especially when you’re using navigation.

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At least you can switch it off by pressing the button on the indicator stalk which is more helpful than on some models that only disable the camera after a certain speed. Still, safety features are quite comprehensive on the top-of-the-line City Hatchback.

Price – Woe is thee

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The City Hatchback RS e:HEV starts from RM 107,783 (exempt from SST until 30-June 2022) which is RM 2,000 more than its sedan twin and more to the point, that sounds like a steep price for a Honda City.

Review: 2022 Honda City Hatchback RS e:HEV - The everyman's hybrid with an unfair price 36

Petrol-powered City Hatchback V shown

The City is the base Honda model in Malaysia and while petrol variants for either the sedan or hatchback start from the mid-RM 70k range, some might say that the efficient hybrid technology is well worth the RM 100k price tag.

Also read: Saying the Civic 1.8S is a better RM 100k car than the Honda City RS e:HEV is flawed logic, here's why

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However, most Malaysians are reluctant to consider getting a hybrid though the sentiment is slowly shifting. Besides, the Honda Sensing features that were once exclusive to the RS hybrid variants eventually trickled down to the highest petrol variant, the City/City Hatchback V which became a major success for Honda Malaysia.

Also read: Fast becoming a Malaysian favourite, 34% of buyers chose the Honda City V Sensing in Q1 2022

Conclusion

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So, why choose the Honda City Hatchback RS e:HEV over the petrol variants? Well, mainly it’s the effortless acceleration and the exceptional fuel economy. While quick bursts of power might be the exciting persuasion, in the days when the removal of fuel subsidies is being mulled, a hybrid makes even more sense.

Also read: Brace yourself for fuel subsidy cut; RM 4 billion worth of petrol subsidies paid as of March

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Yet, the government is shifting its focus and prioritizing on giving incentives to electric vehicles (EVs) which are still out of reach for many Malaysians. A hybrid car is a common man’s way of greener transport but instead, it’s the rich man’s EV that is getting all the incentives.

Also read: Rich man’s EVs are tax free, but common man’s hybrids are not – here’s why

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It seems unfair then that one of the most practical and efficient hybrids available in the market is still a bit out of reach for many Malaysians. The City Hatchback is a prime replacement for the much-beloved Jazz and the RS e:HEV is proof that performance and fuel efficiency go hand-in-hand, if you can accept the RM 100k price tag.

Also read: Review: 2022 Honda City Hatchback - X50 money for a 'small car', but it's big on value

CY Foong

Writer

Traded advertising for a career that fits his passion for cars. Enjoys spotting cars during his free time and has a soft spot for Japanese Kei cars but drives a thirsty manual sedan.

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