Like the iconic, testosterone-infused song “Hot in the City” by Billy Idol in 1982, from which this article’s title derives inspiration, the hatchback design has been played around by Japanese carmaker Honda since the early ‘80s, most notably with the 5-door Civic Hatchback.
That hatch was a hit in the Philippines, gathering a strong following with the largely youthful set due to its sporty styling, impressive driving dynamics, versatility and practicality. Through the years, Honda Cars Philippines Inc (HCPI) introduced successive hatchback models that were loved by Filipinos: The 5th Generation Civic Hatchback (EG), the Jazz, Brio, and the Civic Type R.
Now comes Honda’s newest iteration of its tried-and-tested hatchback design, as embodied in the City Hatchback. But there’s a plot twist in this story, because the current poster boy for Honda hatches—the Jazz—has been discontinued for the City Hatchback to fill up. Needless to say, the City Hatchback has some big shoes to fill, and perhaps only time can tell if Honda’s winning streak in hatches continues with the City.
But why the need to discontinue the Jazz in order to make room for the City Hatchback? HCPI executives replied: “Honda studied the market needs and demands on a global, regional and local scale and determined the need for a sporty hatchback. In the Philippine market, the B-segment hatchback category has been a niche market, and we carefully selected the model most suitable for the needs of Filipino hatchback car buyers.”
The City nameplate has carried itself exceptionally well, being part of HCPI’s model lineup since 1996, and managing to consistently remain among its top-selling models. Since the launch of the most-recent 5th Generation City in October 2020, over 1,700 units have been sold in the Philippines, contributing 30 percent to HCPI’s sales this year to date.
With the new City Hatchback, this successful nameplate attempts to expand its market territory, targeting a uniquely different set of customers. As HCPI puts it, the City Hatchback would be eyeing “those who have an active, youthful life and mainly values their vehicle’s sporty design and versatility,” while the sedan appeals to “those who prefer a sporty sedan that they can use in their daily drives.”
HCPI also told this writer that the all-new City Hatchback provides another option for City sedan owners “to suit their needs and preference.”
HCPI President Masahiko Nakamura said of the new City Hatchback during the April 20 online press conference held after the virtual public launch: “With its sporty hatchback body styling, advanced technology features and ultra-versatility, we believe that the all-new City Hatch will be a worthy alternative to the iconic Honda Jazz, but moreover, it will be a model that will make its own mark in the automotive landscape.”
HCPI General Manager of Sales Division and Spokesperson Atty. Louie Soriano stressed the dominance of Honda in the B-segment of the hatchback market, and that HCPI brought in the City Hatchback to elevate the City’s image. He also said that HCPI would also be targeting a bit of the crossover market, as well.
With motorists now considering their cars more as personal mobility transports that serve as active bubbles of protection during the pandemic, the City Hatch has been touted as a versatile, adaptable vehicle able to excel in a variety of lifestyle needs—the way Hondas have long been known for.
The City Hatch comes equipped with Honda’s signature Ultra Seats (ULTR), allowing the rear seats to be folded flat or flipped up. For motorists, especially for healthcare workers or front liners who are in for the long haul and would need a safe place to take a breather or a quick power nap, there’s the “refresh mode”. When the front seat is slid all the way forward and the head restraints are removed, and the backrest tilted all the way back, the refresh mode allows the front and rear seats to be ergonomically aligned, providing a comfortable place to literally lie down.
Apart from the refresh mode, there’s the “utility mode” (two rear seats folded flat) wherein the hatch can still accommodate two persons and carry large cargo occupying the rear passenger and cargo areas; “long mode” (the front passenger seat fully reclined and rear right passenger seat folded flat), so that the vehicle can carry three persons and take in long items such as surfboards; “tall mode” (rear seats folded up), so that tall items that need to remain upright, such as potted plants, can be safely transported.
Heavier but more fuel efficient?
HCPI disclosed that the City Hatchback is 21 kg heavier than the City Sedan, yet overall, the engine of the new City has exhibited a 3-percent fuel efficiency improvement compared to the previous generation.
“However, as for the fuel efficiency difference (between the sedan and the hatchback), we have yet to acquire the official comparative figures for both models,” said HCPI.
The all-new City Hatchback rests on the same 2600mm wheelbase of the City sedan. However, the hatch is 21mm taller and 204mm shorter, due to the absence of the rear overhang, giving the hatch a sporty look while still offering a spacious interior.
The City Hatchback is available only with a lone RS variant., and shares RS design elements with the sedan, providing a stronger impression of its sporty characteristics.
Powering the all-new City Hatchback is a 1.5-Liter 4 Cylinder DOHC i-VTEC engine that produces a maximum power output of 121ps at 6,600 rpm and 145 Nm of torque at 4,300 rpm. The engine is mated to a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) that comes with paddle shifters for a more engaging drive experience. Honda’s Eco Assist System, which consists of the ECON mode and Eco-Coaching Ambient Light is still available to help promote fuel efficient driving.
Nakamura told the media that “various economic factors and lockdowns have slowed down our growth, making 2021 another challenging year. Nevertheless, we at HCPI remain optimistic as we continue to navigate through these challenging times.”
He continued, “To date, HCPI continues to be one of the top 10 leaders in the automotive industry in 2020 with more than 11,700 units sold. Last October, HCPI introduced two new models, namely the new CR-V and all-new City. The all-new City has sold more than 1,700 units since its introduction. Today, as you have just witnessed, we are further expanding the City model line-up with the introduction of the all-new City Hatchback.”
And just in time for the summer season, bringing us back to Billy Idol’s song, where he mouths, “Don’t be afraid, of the world we made, on a hot summer night.” If you’re lying inside the new City Hatchback, you are at liberty to change that last phrase to “a hatch summer night,” and afterwards listen to some soothing jazz music to finally lull you to sleep.
The all-new Honda City Hatchback is now available at the suggested retail price of P1,115,000. Safeguard duty has been included.