Text and photos by Aries B. Espinosa

Cool runnings

Posted on August 02, 2017

SAME engine, different expressions. This was what Honda Cars Philippines, Inc (HCPI) highlighted in a ride-and-drive activity for its big three sellers.

HCPI on July 25-26 brought out seven units of the refreshed versions of the subcompact sedan Honda City VX+ with Navi, subcompact hatch Jazz RS, and the compact MUV Mobilio RS for the over two dozen participants that took the trip from Bonifacio Global City in Taguig City up to Baguio City, the “City of Pines” (when it’s the rainy season; otherwise, Baguio is the “summer capital”), then back the next day.

The 34-hour “loop trip” that started early morning was ably managed by the team of Georges Ramirez, who made sure that each participant was able to try his or her hand on the wheel of three of Honda’s best-sellers in a safe and orderly manner. The route also made the new City, Jazz and Mobilio perform in various road conditions -- from the congested, stop-and-go traffic of city streets (Metro Manila and Baguio City); the three expressways (North Luzon, Subic-Clark-Tarlac and Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union); the open yet unpredictable country roads of Pangasinan and La Union; and the steep climbs, rolling terrain, twists and tricky descents of the Cordillera mountain range (via Marcos Highway, Baguio City, and Kennon Road).

The designs of the three vehicles may vary widely (depending on categories, functions, and target markets), the drivers and passengers would have constantly changed places, the road conditions would have shifted without warning, but there was one constant: The 1.5-liter SOHC i-VTEC engine purring contentedly (albeit, sometimes with high-revving urgency) under their hoods, the potential 119hp and 145Nm output competently governed by Honda’s Earth Dreams Technology-developed continuously variable transmission. Indeed, the only thing left for the drivers to do was to shift to “D” or “S,” play with the paddle shifters, and just enjoy the scenery whizzing by and the banter with their fellow occupants.

This isn’t saying, however, that all the changes to the new Honda vehicles were merely cosmetic in nature. Apart from the power train, the design and tech tweaks and additions were both subtle and obvious.

For the new Mobilio RS, besides the new aggressive exterior (which exudes hints of fellow seven-seat SUV crossover BR-V) and LED position light, it comes with new wheel designs and Smart Entry system. The interior boasts of a new dashboard and instrument panel cluster, front seats with adjustable headrest and fabric decorated with orange stitching, push-button start, paddle shifters, touch screen with audio navigation system, and interior trim. For safety, the new Mobilio also comes installed with vehicle stability assist, hill-start assist (which was particularly useful in the congested, steeply inclined roads of Baguio City), and reverse camera with guide lines. All of these, according to HCPI product planning head Sherwin Y. Kuan, packaged the “manly elegant” seven-seat Mobilio as the “progressive private jetliner” for Filipino families.

For the new Jazz RS, the featured exterior changes include the RS parts, LED headlight, and Phoenix Orange Pearl body color exclusive to the RS Navi variant. Interior highlights include seats with orange stitching, new touch screen display, navigation system, cruise control, power folding side mirrors, and speed-sensing auto door locks. Mr. Kuan said the new Jazz RS just put the exclamation point on the Jazz’s brand reputation as “the world’s best functional compact,” making the triumvirate of versatility and spaciousness, innovative technology, and design and performance work together seamlessly.

For the new City, which was launched in May, the exterior design changes were also seen with the more aggressive front and rear, and 16-inch alloy wheels. Inside, new interior trims added comfort for passengers and driver, while the VX and VX+ variants used for this ride were already installed with cruise control. Notably, the new City’s trunk offers a cavernous 536 liters of cargo space.

Vehicle stability and hill-start assists are now also standard in these new variants of the Jazz and City. For flexible seating configurations, the new Mobilio offers folding second and third row seats, while the new Jazz RS provides more space to stretch with its Utility-Long-Tail-Refresh (ULTR) option for different types and sizes of cargo.

At the Grand Sierra Pines Hotel in Baguio, HCPI president and GM Noriyuki Takakura revealed his favorite of the three: “Personally, I like the ride and drive of the new City, and it has lots of legroom and trunk space.” He was quick, however, to extol the strengths of the other two. “For the family, however, the Mobilio is the best because it seats seven, and the Mobilio RS is now really attractively designed. The Jazz RS looks very exciting to drive, what more with its new exclusive color. The meaning of ‘RS’ is ‘Road Sailing,’ so the Jazz RS is a great ride for winding roads and long trips for its superior handling and aerodynamic fittings.”

All these qualities of Honda’s refreshed models the group felt, and enjoyed, for the duration of the 550-kilometer-plus trip. Looking at the bigger picture, this “big three” has made its presence felt in the Philippine auto market in the first six months of 2017. With the needed boost coming from these three reiterations, it looks like “cool runnings” for HCPI the rest of the year.

The new City starts at P764,000 for the 1.5 E M/T, and goes up to P1.003 million for the 1.5 VX+ Navi CVT; the new Jazz from P799,000 for the 1.5 E M/T to P1.029 million for the 1.5 VX+ Navi CVT; the new Mobilio goes from P829,000 for the 1.5 E M/T to P1.029 million for the 1.5 RS Navi.