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December 17, 2021

How Does The 2021 Honda City RS Hatchback Compare To The Sedan?

This is the perfect bookend to 2021. The Honda City 1.5 S was the very first test drive I did this year, so it seemed apt to end things with a test drive of the 1.5 RS Hatchback. As a refresher, you can check out my review of the sedans here and here. Gen also happened to cover a lot of ground with her take on the five-door as well. So, I plan to be brief and will try to condense my observations during the course of an 8-day lend out.

Better looks mean a compromise

It goes without saying: hatchbacks look sportier and more youthful than their four-door counterparts. The same can be said about the City RS Hatchback. The five-door’s long hood and short deck give it a sort of BMW vibe that a handful of memes have come up pointing that out.

With the City Hatchback not getting a roof spoiler, some say that the implementation of the RS package is more subdued here compared to the sedan, and they’re right. The high-gloss black elements remain, but they seem to blend in, especially since the 16-inch wheels were changed from a two-tone machine-polished type to a painted black one.

Compared to its spiritual predecessor, the Jazz, the City Hatchback’s roofline is more pronouncedly sloped to make it look sleeker. It does, however, come at a price. The roofline, together with the required mounting hardware for the ULTR equates to a lower rear headroom. Even at my modest 170 cm height, my hair is already started brushing against the headliner.

Smaller cargo space but still flexible

Unsurprisingly, Honda’s decision to go form over function also leads to a smaller cargo space. Even without a measuring tape, the difference is noticeable. Whipping out the spec sheet tells the whole story. The sedan boasts of 519 liters of trunk space, a number which goes down to just 289 liters in the City Hatchback with the rear seats up.

By comparison, it’s even smaller than the outgoing Jazz’s 384 liters. Drop the bench though and it climbs up to 841 liters—a great number, but it still trails its predecessor by a whopping 40 liters. Despite losing out in terms of cargo, the City Hatchback still keeps its trademark Utility Long Tall Refresh (ULTR) seats.

Like its sedan sibling, this sub-compact hatchback also boasts of interior space already very close to a compact car. And while headroom is a bit of a problem (my preferred driving position is with the seat height set at its lowest position), there are no qualms when it comes to leg- and shoulder room. Ergonomics are flawless, but the seating, particularly the front, feels awkward. Blame that on the centrally-mounted fuel tank.

It handles differently compared to the sedan

The City sedan and hatchback share the same basic chassis components, but surprisingly, it behaves slightly different on the road.

Honda says they’ve changed the tuning in the City Hatchback to give it a younger, sportier feel. Being north of 40, I can honestly say I don’t know where this younger and sportier feel comes is, but I can tell you that the five-door does feel more front-heavy than the sedan. This is evident when you take sweeping curves, where the Hatchback tends to understeer more. It also has less torsional rigidity than the sedan too, but at least this hasn’t affected the overall comfort and ride. The brakes bite well, though they feel more like an on/off switch thanks to the rear drums.

The City Hatchback shares the sedan’s 1.5-liter 4-cylinder engine. The new double overhead cam improves mid-range torque delivery, and while the difference isn’t night and day, it makes for decent progress in the city. Even with sensible throttle inputs, it doesn’t need that much revs to get it going. However, the heavier body does penalize its urban fuel economy with its figure dropping to 9.5 km/L compared to the sedan’s 10.4 km/L.

The AC doesn’t work

Living in a tropical country, the most common complaint when it comes to the AC system would be that it isn’t cold enough. Well, for the City Hatchback, like the City Sedan, the problem is the opposite: it’s almost always too cold.

Whatever temperature you set on the AC panel, be it 24 or 38 degrees, the City would just make up its own mind and blow frigid air around the cabin. This is great for people who prefer their ACs blasting with arctic levels of chill, but for those who’re searching for Goldilocks levels of “just right,” your best bet would be to manually adjust the settings—particularly the fan speed.

The City RS has a better interior than any Civic that’s not an RS

How’s this for a clincher? The City RS actually has better interior materials than the non-Civic RS models. Shocker, right?

There’s a shortage of soft-touch or plush plastics in both these models, but for some reason, the Civic’s interior plastics feel like a notch lower. In the City RS, the plastics and fabric seats don’t feel scratchy and the surfacing is far more upscale. In both, the stalks, buttons, and pretty all the controls operate with a nice, crisp feel.

Like other City variants, the City Hatchback has the same 8-inch touchscreen with the row of physical buttons located on the wrong side. It also doesn’t have a traditional volume knob which sticks out badly in an otherwise driver-friendly cabin.

Final Thoughts

The City is a great sub-compact car—it’s perhaps the most well-rounded one being offered in the market currently. However, if I were to go into detail, the City works least in this five-door form. It still drives reasonably well and all that, but in the end, it makes far too many compromises for the sake of making itself look more youthful and attractive.

Honda does have a point that people who’ll go for a hatchback will be drawn to it primarily for its looks. But for buyers looking for something much more sensible, it’s best to leave the City Hatchback to the Gen Zs and millennials of the world as the City RS sedan is actually the more well-rounded choice.


  1. Non-RS Civic?
    (As opposed to Non-Civic RS)

  2. Keeping my Jazz RS 2019 as long as possible - this seems like a step backwards, even if just a little.


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