City Slicker
Richard Augustin 
The Honda City Sport Hybrid offers great value.

When it comes to affordable hybrid cars, there are only a handful to choose from. Toyota was one of the first to the game a decade ago with its Prius and later Prius C. Honda followed soon after with the Insight, Civic Hybrid, Jazz Hybrid and the CR-Z.

In 2014, however, tax incentives were withdrawn for fully-imported hybrid cars, and this market segment folded overnight. Nevertheless, things took a turn for the better when the Energy Efficient Vehicle (EEV) incentive came into play, leading to the setting up of local assembly workshops by the automakers for such vehicles. The hybrid segment has never been more vibrant.

In the past year alone, we have seen the arrival of the Hyundai Ioniq, Honda Jazz Sport Hybrid and Honda City Sport Hybrid, all of them enticingly priced below RM100,000.

Of the three though, it has to be said that the City Sport Hybrid offers one of the best overall packages. It has a proven and reliable badge, a roomy interior and a good design. In addition to its affordability, the lower monthly fuel bill, now more important than ever no thanks to fluctuating fuel prices, is a definite plus. Car owners also get preferential parking in selected malls and other public spaces.

Honda’s best-selling B-segment sedan is easily identifiable by its popular design. There is nothing significantly different about the hybrid over its petrol-powered siblings, except for the blue hybrid emblem on the side and rear of the car.

Inside, however, there are noticeable changes. The dashboard now offers an updated instrument panel with an advanced 3D meter cluster that relays information such as drive, energy flow and Eco display. The cool futuristic gear shifter is also a dead giveaway that this is a different breed of City.

The futuristic gear shifter more commonly found in higher-end models

Technologically-advanced engine

The most significant change is under the hood. The car is powered by Honda’s new hybrid system with i-DCD (Intelligent Dual-Clutch Drive), a 1.5L DOHC i-VTEC engine with an integrated electric motor, a lithium ion battery, an electro servo brake system for energy regeneration, and an electric-driven compressor. The system is paired with a seven-speed automatic transmission. The performance is pretty decent with a power output of 137 PS and 170 Nm of torque. Honda claims it has a fuel efficiency of 3.9 litres per 100km.


Overall better drive

With improved power plant and dual clutch drive, the City Sport Hybrid is actually a step up over its siblings. After all, the regular City only delivers 120 PS and 145 Nm of torque.

Power delivery is swift and smooth with the electric motor kicking in during acceleration. The Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) drone, which was a sticky issue with a lot of drivers, has also been done away with. The model also feels more rooted, no doubt a direct effect of the lithium ion battery tucked in the boot.

Despite the addition of the ion battery, cargo space remains at 536 litres like the other City cars. However, there is no spare tyre but it does come with a useful, if only temporary, tyre repair kit. Overall, the drive is a definite upgrade; coupled with lower engine noise and vibration, this is one car that is just a pleasure to get behind the wheel.

For its asking price, you do get quite a lot. Premium features like LED taillights, smart entry and push start button, rear parking camera, auto folding wing mirrors, rear air-conditioning vents and paddle shifters are included. Its safety features are equally impressive what with anti-lock braking system (ABS), vehicle stability assist (VSA), hill start assist (HSA), ISOFIX child seat points, reverse camera and emergency stop signal (ESS) as well as four airbags.

The issue of the battery, which is often the biggest concern for hybrid buyers, has also been addressed by Honda Malaysia with an eight-year warranty for the lithium battery. With all the bases covered and the added advantage of an automotive badge with an excellent track record, the Honda City Sport Hybrid is frankly the best value model in this segment right now.

Engine: 16-valve DOHC, hybrid motor assist
Capacity: 1496cc
Transmission: 7-Speed Dual-clutch Automatic
Max Power: 137 PS at 6000 rpm
Max Torque: 170 Nm at 5000 rpm
Battery Type: Lithium-ion
Fuel Consumption: 3.9L/100km
Price: RM89,200 (OTR without insurance)

This article first appeared in Focus Malaysia Issue 263.