The Honda City Hatchback is not the Jazz, but that’s okay*

*Really, it is
by Dinzo Tabamo | Apr 20, 2021

“When you first meet the City Hatchback, it begins to make sense”

There’s a strange connection between Top Gear editors and the Honda Jazz. At one point in our publication’s timeline, no less than three of our staffers owned this subcompact hatchback: former editor-in-chief Vernon B. Sarne, former managing editor Stephanie de Castro, and editorial consultant Sharleen Banzon.

I thought I would become the latest Top Gear editor to carry the torch for this internal car club. In late 2019, two things happened: I thought it was time I bought a car for myself, and I saw the quirky fourth-generation Honda Jazz at the Tokyo Motor Show. It was an enigmatic beauty, with its big eyes and smooth body. I was already wondering how it drove, how much it would cost, how much I could allot for a monthly payment, and when it would arrive in our market.

The Honda City Hatchback Rear View

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In the months after the fourth-generation Jazz’s launch, I kept my eyes open and asked Honda Cars Philippines (HCPI) for clues to its arrival. No information was given, officially and unofficially. I did some research and realized why: The next-generation Jazz would not be built in Thailand, where we source our Honda stock (except for the Civic Type R). It would only come out of factories in Japan and China. If HCPI were to source from Japan, it would be too expensive; to get stock from China is too complicated at this point because of manufacturing timelines.

The exterior design isn’t as polarizing as that of the latest Jazz. PHOTO: Sharleen Banzon

The nail in the coffin came in the form of an email from HCPI on April 9. The Japanese carmaker officially announced the end of an era—the third-generation Jazz would be the last to bear the name in our market. For many car enthusiasts, it was as if Honda had declared the Jazz to be COVID-positive. Many mourned and lamented the discontinuation, but at the same time celebrated its glorious run.

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No, you didn’t click on the wrong story. This is still our Launch Pad feature on the City Hatchback. As you can tell from the preceding 312 words, Honda’s new subcompact hatch has big tires to fill. It’s almost unfair that a new product has to live up to the popularity garnered by its older sibling. But we have come here not to praise or bury the Jazz, but to meet its unofficial replacement.

The Honda City Hatchback Profile

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When you first meet the City Hatchback, it begins to make sense. The front end is grafted from the City sedan, the visual connection unmistakable. We have long considered the Jazz as the City’s hatchback version because they shared a platform and parts. But the City Hatchback is the, er, true City hatchback. You get it. Hood, headlamps, foglight housings, grille—on both cars, they’re practically the same.

Anyone planning mods and upgrades at this very moment? PHOTO: Sharleen Banzon

Past the A-pillars, their looks diverge. The flanks and the rear end of the City Hatch have unexpected echoes of BMW 1-Series and Audi A1 designs. I even see a hint of the previous-generation Mazda 3 back there. At the back are twin carbon-fiber-esque bumper grilles.

It’s a handsome five-door overall. It just looks a little unbalanced when you compare the front and back ends. Although I don’t know if that’s my brain still thinking this is a pure Jazz replacement and expecting symmetry in the design. Design is all about taste, and I’m sure many potential customers out there won’t encounter the mental hindrances I’m having.

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If you look at the body, it feels more like a City wagon than a hatchback. The rear end slopes at an angle instead of ending abruptly like on many popular hatchbacks. There’s even a black buttress on the City Hatchback’s rear door, as if it’s trying to smoothen its look to be more hatchback-y. Also, I actually like the wheels here more than the ones on the City sedan. The dark color complements the gray paint quite well, and the red RS badges add a nice pop of color to the body.

Honda cabins are well-designed, as always. PHOTO: Sharleen Banzon

Inside, the dashboard is basically the same as in the four-door. The racy leather steering wheel I first saw in the all-new City is also here. There is more red trim than in the City sedan—a slightly sportier marketing angle, perhaps? At this stage we haven’t seen HCPI’s official advertising campaigns for the City Hatchback, just the unique selling point of being ‘Sporty and Active.’

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A similar cabin means the large eight-inch infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is here. This RS variant—the only one we get at launch, with an asking price of P1,115,000—also packs eight speakers, two USB ports, and automatic climate control. You also get rear A/C, which is a godsend for rear passengers in Philippine summers. The rotary knobs controlling the A/C give off something of an old-school vibe, but they’re a welcome retro-ish feature. Digital controls are just gimmicky most times, and poor tactile substitutes for twisting knobs.

The Honda City Hatchback Trunk Space

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I glance at the rear bench and notice empty space under the cushions. Hmm. I flip a switch at the top of the seats and the whole thing folds flat into the floor. Whoa. With the seats folded down, there’s 841 liters of space. It’s deep and wide. You can have a picnic back there, or even turn it into a small bed. It brims with possibilities, especially in this seemingly endless -CQ cycle where our cars become our second sanctum after our homes.

I only get limited driving time behind the thick steering wheel. But from what I can tell, the City Hatch handles and performs like the City sedan. It gets the point A to B job done competently, but don’t expect too much excitement. That being said, the City Hatchback is about 200mm shorter than the sedan version, so a more thorough test drive might reveal something. (For a full overview of the specs, here’s everything you need to know about this model.)

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Is it growing on you already? PHOTO: Sharleen Banzon

And now we come to one of the last Jazz references: How will Honda lovers react to this? The Jazz and most Honda models have fervid followings. I’ve seen Civic car clubs segregated into generations and geographical chapters. Before tuners got addicted to pickups and SUVs, Honda basically built the aftermarket scene.

I’m not saying no group will be formed for this model; I’ve seen car clubs organized for car models their manufacturers would rather forget. And a hatchback shape is still one of most fun things to modify. It would be interesting to see how the fandom and the aftermarket scene for the City Hatchback will develop.

The Honda City Hatchback On the Road Front View

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So, here’s your new Honda hatch. Again, it’s not a Jazz, nor is it trying to be. It’s a versatile vehicle created by one of the most reliable carmakers on the planet. By its shape alone, it’s already a viable alternative to the millions of vanilla sedans out there. Whether you’re a fan of the Jazz or not, the City Hatchback deserves your consideration if it catches your eye.

Honda’s former hatchback is gone. Long live the City Hatchback.

Photos of the new Honda City Hatchback 

The Honda City Hatchback Grille Close Up

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The Honda City Hatchback Grille Close Up

The Honda City Hatchback Head Lamp

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The Honda City Hatchback Tail Light

The Honda City Hatchback Engine

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The Honda City Hatchback Front Passenger Seats

The Honda City Hatchback Dashboard Detail

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The Honda City Hatchback Start Engine Button

The Honda City Hatchback Odometer

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The Honda City Hatchback Infotainment System

The Honda City Hatchback Shift Stick

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The Honda City Hatchback Power Outlet and USB Slot

The Honda City Hatchback Steering Wheel Detail

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The Honda City Hatchback On the Road

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PHOTO: Sharleen Banzon
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