Posted on March 15, 2012 at 12:00 am
Less than a month has passed since UMW Toyota Motor introduced the Toyota Prius c as the cheapest hybrid model in Malaysia and that title has already been taken over by the new Honda Jazz Hybrid launched this evening. Priced at RM94,800 with insurance (RM2,200 cheaper than the Prius c), the Jazz Hybrid is the third model Honda Malaysia has introduced following the Insight and the CR-Z.
Were it not for the government’s willingness to fully exempt hybrids from import duty and excise duty (at least till the end of 2013), the models could not be priced the way they are. In fact, according to Honda Malaysia’s MD & CEO, Yoichiro Ueno, Honda hybrid model prices in Malaysia are unique in the world as everywhere else, they cost more than their petrol-engined equivalents.
And as the saying goes, ‘strike while the iron is hot’ and Honda Malaysia is certainly take full advantage of this rare concession to get its numbers up in 2012. With local assembly having been suspended for many months following the floods in Thailand, Honda Malaysia has relied largely on models imported from Japan. In total, the company is aiming to sell 10,000 hybrid cars in Malaysia this year; the Insight and CR-Z are expected to account for about 3,000 units each while the Jazz Hybrid will make up the rest. With a price like that, it’s a sure bet that the order book will swell and Honda dealers will be smiling in coming months, which would be a change from the distress they must have experienced with virtually no stocks of locally-assembled models to sell.
The Jazz Hybrid was introduced in Japan in the fourth quarter of 2010 and has also gone on sale in Europe but not America where the Insight and CR-Z are more popular. As can be seen, it is largely based on the current Jazz but much effort has gone into making the body more aerodynamic because that’s a crucial factor for hybrids. The front end, in particular, has been reshaped though you might not notice it and the grille area is designed to reduce the force of air going into the engine bay. This reduces the resistance and therefore allows the car to slip more easily through the air.
Under the car too, a lot of openings are blocked off, again to prevent unnecessary entry of air which will cause turbulence and drag. At the rear, the bumper on the Jazz Hybrid is different from that of its conventional brother not for aesthetics but also to manage airflow more efficiently. Compared to the conventional Jazz, the hybrid variant’s aerodynamic efficiency is said to be about 3% better.
There are some cosmetic differences to differentiate the hybrid variant. The headlights are different and the grille is also unique, while the rear lighting units have clear plastic covers and blue highlights. An exclusive colour – Lime Green Metallic – is also offered for this variant, though customers have a choice of four other colours.
|Openings in front of Jazz Hybrid are designed to reduce entry of air into the engine bay
||The conventional-engined Jazz has different bumpers
With the addition of an electric motor and nickel metal-hydride battery pack that are part of the Honda Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) system, there’s a 70-kg weight increase. But this is more than offset by the improvement in aerodynamics as well as reduction in rolling resistance and of course, the significant gains in fuel-saving enable by having a hybrid powertrain.
Two areas where rolling resistance has been reduced are in the tyres which have a special compound and the brakes. The calipers have been specially designed so that the pads do not come in contact with the discs when there is no pressure; in conventional brake systems, the pads maintain a very slight contact which creates a very slight amount of resistance. It could not be ascertained if this is the first time Honda is using such brake calipers.
The chassis layout is the same as the conventional Jazz which is also the same as the City. The rear suspension uses compact H-shaped torsion beam which is more adept at absorbing bumpy and uneven road surfaces and also allows the cargo floor to be kept low for maximum capacity.
The basic chassis of the Jazz Hybrid is identical to that of the standard Jazz, however, the anti-roll bars and damper tuning have been optimized for the weight increase over the petrol car. (Included in this article are some insights into the Jazz Hybrid provided by S. Nagamine, Honda’s Large Project Leader for the model)
As for the hybrid powertrain, this is pretty much the same as that found in the Insight and CR-Z. It’s not exactly the same as the one Toyota has because Honda’s hybrid system operates on different principles. The Jazz Hybrid’s IMA system builds on the pioneering technology Honda first unveiled in the original Insight, launched in 1999. Over the years, it has evolved and become more compact and lightweight. The fifth generation system used in the Jazz Hybrid is said to be 24% more compact than the fourth generation system was and more importantly, it’s also less expensive to produce.
The petrol engine is a 1339 cc i-VTEC unit with PGM-FI and on a 10.8:1 compression ratio, it produces 88 ps and 121 Nm of torque. While the 1.3-litre i-VTEC unit may sound familiar to many, the one in the Jazz Hybrid is actually a more advanced engine because it has Variable Cylinder Management (VCM). This is a concept which other manufacturers have tried to develop but only Honda seems to have managed to perfect it to run seamlessly. During deceleration, when the engine’s four cylinders have no load on them and combustion in them is stopped, each cylinder is sealed shut by the VCM system. Thus absolute no fuel is burnt, contributing to fuel economy.
It also decreases resistance to allow the electric motor to operate more efficiently and increases energy recovery to charge the battery. The sealing of the cylinders means the air trapped inside is compressed slightly and can be used like a spring, increasing the efficiency without the need to decouple the engine. VCM is also used to shut all four cylinders when only a very little amount of torque is required, for example, during low-speed cruising. In this mode the Jazz Hybrid is powered by the electric motor only, with the pistons running idle, again meaning no fuel is used and no carbon dioxide is produced.
On its own, the 1.3-litre engine uses a 2-stage VTEC process for flexibility but the key to hybrid systems is the assistance given by the electric motor. At maximum output, it can provide an extra 14 ps and 78 Nm. While the combined output certainly enables performance levels to be comparable to something with a larger engine, the great thing about the hybrid system is that the electric motor generates maximum torque from 1000 rpm. That means zipping off the line and strong acceleration at the low end where it matters to most motorists.
For maximum fuel-efficiency, the driver can select ECON mode by pressing a switch on the lower right side of the dashboard. This instructs the engine management system to adopt specific settings to improve fuel consumption. These settings include longer Idle Stop times when the engine shuts down while waiting at traffic lights and a 4% reduction in torque (except when the driver presses the pedal to the floor). The CVT shift pattern is also optimized for fuel-saving and there is increased regenerative braking. Fan blower power is reduced more frequently to limit the system’s consumption of energy.
During our testing in Thailand, we were able to achieve fuel consumption 25% to 30% better than the conventional Jazz with a 1.5-litre petrol engine
Before the power goes to the front wheels, it passes through a CVT and not a conventional automatic transmission like the conventional Jazz. The CVT complements the hybrid system in reducing fuel consumption as it keeps the engine in the most efficient rpm range for a given speed. It is similar in design as that found in the Insight as it uses starter clutches instead of a torque converter.
The engine and motor are installed in the engine bay at the front while the intelligent power unit (IPU) and battery pack are at the back. The small 40-litre fuel tank is positioned under the middle of the car so it does not take away boot space. However, the presence of the IPU and battery pack mean that a spare wheel cannot be carried and owners get an inflation kit for emergencies.
As the battery pack generates heat and it needs to be kept at a reasonable temperature, there’s a fan in the compartment and vents on the sill just adjacent to the small glass panel at the right rear side of the car. The fan is said to operate quietly and only those with very sensitive ear will hear it.
We have tested the Jazz Hybrid in ‘extreme’ real-world conditions in Thailand and found that the hybrid system does not have any problems with the high temperatures, humidity and congested driving conditions. The battery is also kept cooler because it is basically inside the cabin where there is air-conditioning. There is no risk of electrocution if the car encounters deep water and should there be any case of water entry, there will be an automatic shut-down of electrical systems.
The Jazz Hybrid also has Hill Start Assist (HSA). When pulling away from standstill on an incline, HSA continues to apply the brakes for a moment as the driver moves his or her foot from the brake pedal to the accelerator, preventing the car from rolling back.
|This is the ‘Tall Mode’ where both seats are folded up to allow for a tall storage space which can
accommodate a potted plant nicely. And those four round things are actually teh tarik hooks, believe it or not!
One of the impressive things about the interior layout of the Jazz Hybrid is that it is virtually identical in space as the conventional Jazz. This includes the ability to fold up the rear seats to accommodate tall items like potted plants. It was one of the more innovative ideas in the first-generation Jazz and continues in the second generation.
Like other hatchbacks, the rear backrests can be folded flat (either one or both) and a small bicycle can be carried in the 1,321 litres of space created, with a floor length of 1720 mm. Or if you need to take home a Persian carpet, you can even fold the front passenger’s backrest completely flat which gives you a 2400 mm long load area from the rear hatch all the way to the dashboard. And you can still have one adult sitting behind to hold on to that carpet!
When we developed the current Jazz, we already had the intention to produce a hybrid variant as well. The interior packaging concept took into account the installation of the IPU and battery pack at the rear which is why you find that there is no difference between the space inside the conventional Jazz cabin and the Jazz Hybrid.
The dashboard is similar to that of the conventional Jazz but the hybrid variant has some differences in controls and instrumentation which distinguish it as a more environment-friendly model. The air-conditioning system is also an automatic type and the temperature setting dial in the conventional variant is replaced by a blue display. The audio system is the same and you can plug in your thumbdrive to play your own music, and control the settings using switches on the steering wheel.
There are paddle shifters on the rear of the steering wheel which allow manual selection of ratios in the CVT. When used in “D” mode, the paddles can bring the car into a lower ratio for a “kickdown” effect with the box returning to automatic shifting afterwards. When the paddles are used in “S” mode, they give full manual control over the selection of ratios, for acceleration or engine braking.
The instrument panel has three pods, the rightmost showing the IMA operation – whether the battery is recharging or discharging to run the motor. The centre meter for the speed changes colour from blue (uneconomical driving) through blue-green to green (fuel-efficient driving). It’s one of the ways that a driver can be ‘guided’ to save fuel. There’s also a horizontal bar which has the same purpose and with some people, it can help because it can create a ‘challenge’ to do better.
The driver will get rewarded for economical driving, not just in real terms, but also from the car. An eco-scoring feature monitors driving characteristics and consumption over a long-term period and if you improve, you get ‘leaves’ on a plant displayed. If you do very well, you eventually get a trophy! Maybe Honda Malaysia should enhance this feature by giving owners who get the trophy an additional reward.
For a small car, the Jazz Hybrid has a lot of storage areas and exclusively for this variant is ducting of cool air into the glovebox. This will keep your canned drink cool and your chocolates from melting though it won’t be cold enough to keep ice cream!
The Jazz Hybrid has similar safety levels as the conventional Jazz. Its Advanced Compatibility Engineering body structure, used in all Honda models provides a protective cocoon for occupants in a variety of real-world crash conditions. These may include a frontal collision between vehicles of differing heights, weights and frame construction. A front polygonal main frame helps to prevent misalignment between vehicles of different sizes and construction and multiple energy-absorbing pathways disperse impact energy to prevent cabin deformation.
The Jazz Hybrid also incorporates many of the pedestrian-protection design features already installed in other Honda models, eg windscreen wiper pivots designed to break away on impact, energy-absorbing front wing mounts and bonnet hinges, as well as an unobstructed area beneath the bonnet allowing greater space for deformation. Honda says that research has proven such features dramatically improve a pedestrian’s chance of survival if struck by a moving vehicle.
The Jazz Hybrid has more airbags than the conventional variant sold in Malaysia – six in total. There are side airbags for the front occupants which work with an Occupant Position Detection System and also curtain airbags which drop over the windows during side impacts. Yaw rate sensors are fitted to detect secondary vehicle movement after an impact. The sensors trigger the appropriate airbags protecting the driver from impact with the B-pillar and reducing the severity of head and temple injuries that can occur.
For the Jazz Hybrid, attention was also paid to the IPU and battery pack at the rear. Their position is within the cabin space so they are better protected during rear impacts. The rear tyres also help to provide additional protection during impacts.
For extra security and peace of mind, owners can also install Honda Connex SVR, a recovery system in the event the car is stolen. This is an option costing RM3,600 and includes the subscription fee for the first year. Owners will have to pay annual subscription fees after the first year if they want to continue using the service. If you add in the Connex SVR option and take the five Honda accessories available (alloy foot pedals, spoiler, etc), the price will go up to RM98,460.
On battery issues, Mr. Ueno said that the company is offering 5 years (or 140,000 kms) warranty on the hybrid battery. It’s an indication of the company’s awareness of the cost of the battery being high on the list of buyers’ concerns. It is known to be a very expensive item (somehow when asked about the price, both Honda and Toyota usually give vague answers) and understandably, people worry about having to buy a new one.
Battery life, on the other hand, is unpredictable. Even from the early hybrids, the claim was a service life of up to 10 years and since then, battery technology has advanced a lot, so it could be potentially longer. However, battery life is affected by a number of factors which can’t be controlled by the manufacturer. Driving style, operating temperatures, and recharging cycles are all variable from owner to owner. It’s the same as your handphone or laptop battery life – why is it your office colleague might be able to get 48 hours but you get 24 hours and you both own the same devices? Maybe you are on the internet more and that drains the battery faster whereas your colleague only uses his device for work and doesn’t make long calls.
As for scheduled maintenance, the Jazz Hybrid has to go into the service centre every 5,000 kms or 3 months. That’s rather short by today’s standards and some manufacturers even specify up to 20,000 kms. Mr. Ueno explained that the interval is necessary due to the climatic conditions in Malaysia and Honda wants to avoid any issue with reliability, so owners need to have their cars serviced so frequently. Nevertheless, he said, Honda Malaysia is aware of customers asking for longer intervals and is looking into the matter seriously.
Local assembly of a Honda hybrid has been rumoured but Mr. Ueno said that it is just something that may be considered in future. He said that it’s only been a year since hybrid sales reached such high volumes and the company will be watching how the market grows as a certain volume must be reached to justify local assembly. Furthermore, special production processes are needed to assemble hybrids and that also needs consideration.
To know more about the Jazz Hybrid, visit www.honda.com.my
Honda Malaysia also offers a sportier hybrid model with a 6-speed manual gearbox. Click here to read about it!
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