Cars > Driven

Honda City Hatchback RS: Is the trunkless formula better?

Is it a worthy replacement for the much-loved Jazz?

The City Hatchback does look better than the latest Fit/Jazz. PHOTO BY SAM SURLA

Honda Cars Philippines killed off the ever-popular Jazz in favor of the City Hatchback a few months back. This move was met by two wildly different reactions. Either you were excited about the hatchback, or disappointed that we did not get the latest generation of the Fit/Jazz. True-blue fans of the brand will know that the City’s first generation (from the early 1980s) was a hatchback, so you can say that the model has gone full circle with the (re)introduction of the body style.

The hatchback treatment looks a little rushed. PHOTOS BY SAM SURLA

Whichever camp you fall into, there is one common force working against both sides. The writing has been on the wall for the hatchback because of the ever-popular crossover. Not only does the City Hatchback have to convince buyers that it’s a worthy successor to the Jazz, but it also has to contend with subcompact crossovers for your hard-earned money.

These days, sporty means black or dark-colored trim. PHOTOS BY SAM SURLA

The City Hatchback is a traditional hatchback, sporting proportions that are reminiscent of cars like the Audi A1 and the Civic EG. There’s no denying that Honda’s designers did well to make the vehicle look a notch above its price range.

There’s LED lighting at the front, and a single character line on the side that meets up with the U-shaped taillights. Being the RS (and only) variant, this has sporty bits like a gloss-black grille, a faux carbon-fiber splitter, two-tone 16-inch wheels, and a small roof spoiler.

Some of the Civic Type R's touches are applied to the RS. PHOTOS BY SAM SURLA

A racy black-and-red motif adorns the cabin, as seen in the front seats, the gauge cluster, and the stitching found on the leather steering wheel and interior trim. Bonus points go to the metal pedals. The seats have an interesting combination of fabric, suede and leatherette. The material cools your rump on a hot day, but keeping it clean might pose a challenge.

Getting into a suitable driving position is easy. The front seats are only manually adjustable, but comfortable enough for long drives. The tiller has tilt and telescopic adjustment, the switchgear is within easy reach, and visibility is good up front. Rearward vision is decent, but parking might be an issue with the large C-pillars and the small back window.

A hatchback allows you to stock your rear cargo. PHOTOS BY SAM SURLA

Rear passengers have generous legroom and a decent amount of headroom. They’re also treated to climate vents and two 12V sockets for charging. I would’ve preferred USB ports, but the sockets should allow for some flexibility with whatever you plug in.

The cockpit comes with an eight-inch infotainment system that supports Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. But the screen is positioned a little too high, making it hard to see even at maximum brightness on sunny days. Also, the cabin has eight speakers that sound good after some adjustments.

A remote engine starter (great for cooling the cabin before you enter), cruise control, smart entry, and a reverse camera come as standard. However, there are no parking sensors and blind-spot monitoring. Antilock brakes, traction control, and hill-start assist are all the electronic nannies you get.

Not even SUVs and crossovers have upward-folding seat cushions. PHOTOS BY SAM SURLA

The City Hatchback’s cabin is versatile because of Honda’s “ULTR” seating system. First is Utility mode: The rear seats fold down, expanding 289L of cargo space to 841L. Carrying something long? Recline the front passenger seat until it’s flat so you’ll have an extended cargo bay in Long mode.

Tall mode is something I wish more cars had. The rear seat cushions can fold upward to accommodate tall items like a potted plant. Lastly, with the rear seat backs down, you can recline both front seats until they’re flat to get into Refresh mode. This will allow you to stretch your legs out inside, or even catch some quick shut-eye on longer trips.

The City Hatchback's cargo area is very flexible. PHOTOS BY SAM SURLA

As its name suggests, the City Hatchback is perfect for the city. Small dimensions, light steering, and a 5m turning radius make it easy to navigate narrow streets and tight parking spaces. Just be aware of the car’s 134mm of ground clearance if you live in a place that gets flooded easily. It’s a comfortable highway cruiser, being one of the softer-riding vehicles in its class.

The rear aircon vents are pretty useful even in a small car. PHOTOS BY SAM SURLA

When it’s time to overtake, you’ll have to exert a little more effort to pass slower cars. The 1.5-liter naturally aspirated in-line-four has 119hp and 145Nm, but the CVT holds it back in favor of efficiency. You’ll find yourself shifting to ‘S’ or using the paddle shifters just to get more oomph. Revising the ratios (or a manual-transmission option) would make the powertrain more confidence-inspiring when overtaking.

Honda claims that this car can get fuel-economy figures as high as 25km/L on the highway under specific conditions. From my testing, I was able to get 19.3km/L on the highway, 9.6km/L within the city, and 10.5km/L in mixed conditions. It has a dedicated Economy mode if you want to squeeze more out of the car’s decent fuel efficiency.

A manual transmission would've been a better match for the i-VTEC engine. PHOTO BY SAM SURLA

There’s no doubt that the City Hatchback has the same practicality and versatility as the Jazz. We’ll see if it can charm the market just like its predecessor. With a price of P1,115,000, this is positioned on the pricier side of the subcompact car market. It’s already cutting it close with entry-level subcompact crossovers and larger compact sedans.

It’s also offered only in the RS variant. If Honda eventually decides to bring in lower trim levels, these may prove to be excellent value for buyers who can live without the sporty add-ons.


Engine1.5-liter four-cylinder gasoline
Power119hp @ 6,600rpm
Torque145Nm @ 4,300rpm
Dimensions4,349mm x 1,748mm x 1,488mm
Drive layoutFWD
UpsideAll the versatility and interior space of the Honda Jazz in one handsome-looking hatchback.
DownsideThe price puts it up against entry-level crossovers and compact sedans, and the CVT holds the engine back at times.

Sam Surla

Sam is the youngest member of our editorial team. And he is our managing editor (believe it or not). He specializes in photography and videography, but he also happens to like writing about cars a lot.