|Photos by Ulysses and Honda Press (Jam Ramos)|
Honda has always prided itself with producing environmentally-friendly cars. From creating CVCC in the 1970s to bringing VTEC in the 1980s to developing gasoline-electric hybrids in the 1990s, Honda has successfully broken the barrier between what’s possible and impossible. The Japanese company’s relentless pursuit of engineering excellence as well as its unconventional approach has put them in high regard when it comes to drivetrain design. Locally, their approach is no different. Apart from introducing variable valve timing to its products, Honda is the first car company in the country to be Euro-4 compliant across its entire line, a feat it has done as early as 2004.
Today though, it’s all about the Honda City. Launched some 6 months ago, it’s been very well-received by both critics and the public for its cutting-edge technology (Touch Panel audio and Smart Key push-button start/stop among a long list of features) and its practical interior space. However, the uptrend in gas prices coupled with increased environmental awareness have also pushed one major factor in car purchasing to the forefront—fuel efficiency. With a combination of i-VTEC technology and its new Earth Dreams CVT, Honda is touting that the City also excels in that very aspect. And now, this fuel economy run will put that very selling point to the practical test.
Having more than 15 years of experience in the motoring scene, I can personally attest that the City is no stranger when it comes to sipping fuel. Ever since I’ve taken test drive notes, it has always been top-of-mind when it comes to fuel efficiency. For instance, the second-generation 2004 1.5 VTEC (CVT) does 9.46 km/L in the city and 14.68 km/L on the highway while the third-generation 2009 1.5 i-VTEC (5AT) does 9.79 km/L in the city and 12.32 km/L on the highway. Driving the 2014 model in a non-fuel economy run setting, I did 10.82 km/L in the city and 19.58 km/L on the highway. For those keeping score, that’s an improvement of up to 10 percent in the city and a whopping 25 percent on the highway.
Even without doing a fuel economy run, those are very impressive numbers. The highway figures, for example, can almost put a gasoline-electric hybrid or a diesel to shame. The question is: how high can it go? How much more mileage can the City extract from a liter of unleaded?
Setting off from the newest financial district in the Metro, Bonifacio Global City, a fleet of 5 Honda Citys braved the mid-morning rush hour to EDSA, Congressional Avenue, Mindanao Avenue, and finally the North Luzon Expressway while having to keep an eye on fuel consumption. The rules of this fuel economy run were relaxed by motoring media standards, meaning we could opt to have the air conditioning on or off and set it at whatever temperature we found comfortable. Having exactly zero hours of sleep the night before (I blame the dog), my carmate, Martin Aguilar (a newbie in fuel economy runs from AutoIndustriya), did all the driving. Aiming to get realistic fuel economy figures, we decided to keep the climate control in Full Auto mode with the temperature at 24 degrees Celsius. After our 30.4-kilometer stint in heavy traffic, we managed to eke out 14.5 km/L, a marked 26-percent improvement from my personal figure. Opting not to switch drivers for the highway leg (hey, I needed by beauty sleep, ‘k?), Martin continued on for the 48.7 kilometer highway leg. Having to carefully dodge trucks and the occasional left lane hogs, we ended up with 21.7 km/L, a 9.76 percent increase over my non-fuel economy run figure.
With a combined fuel economy figure of 18.10 km/L, we honestly thought we had at least a shot in getting a podium place in this challenge. Alas, we were handily beat. Even compared to Honda’s internal tests, the City manages 17.8 km/L in the city and 22.7 km/L on the highway, enough for combined figure of 20.25 km/L. In this particular set of competitive folk, the best city figure was 17.1 km/L while 25.3 km/L for the highway set by two different teams. The eventual winner did 20.75 km/L combined, though the theoretical best would have been 21.2 km/L if the best figure of the two teams were combined.
While these fuel economy figures must be taken with a grain of salt (it’s hard to keep on staring at that fuel economy gauge all the time), the important takeaway in this exercise is this: through advanced technology, the Honda City is showing itself to be one remarkably fuel-efficient car. Even with its carryover 1.5-liter i-VTEC engine, it has proven itself to be much more fuel efficient than its predecessor. The secret is the new Earth Dreams CVT. With a new torque converter design, the transmission actually improves the engine’s response while eliminating excessing engine revving, a common problem with conventional CVTs. It’s also lighter in weight, down 16 percent from the previous 5-speed automatic.
Honda has long been a pioneer in the development and application of technologies that improve fuel efficiency and reduce vehicle emissions while delivering the performance and reliability that customers expect. Being a leader in internal combustion technology, Honda has always pursued the willingness to pursue new dreams. The company clearly expresses this as “The Power of Dreams”. The key is that “power” comes not only from new ideas, but the determination to make these ideas come true for the customer. The Honda City is certainly one such realization of that dream.