A Taste Of

We drove from Tokyo all the way to Lake Yamanaka at the foot of Mount Fuji to experience the best of Honda’s i-DCD tech. Yes, the models we’ve driven are similar to ours; the Honda Jazz and City Hybrid — albeit labelled as the Grace for the City Hybrid, and Fit Hybrid for the Jazz.

There’s a saying that driving in Japan is really a one-dimensional experience. Yes, you’re practically monitored all the time by a speed radar somewhere along the motorway or a highway police vehicle hiding out of eyesight. But despite all of these dilemmas, it remains as one of the best countries in the world to learn a thing or two about efficient driving.

Though it doesn’t sound really exciting, it remains a great learning curve for me. Having driven in Japan prior to this but not much on public roads, our drive this time involves a trip that will take us from the bustling pockets of Tokyo to the serene surroundings of Mount Fuji. Lake Yamanaka is the destination, and we’re set to leave the hotel during the morning rush hour. Could this spell trouble?

Taking the Honda Grace, or best known as the City Hybrid back home on this route, it was practically fuss-free. You do need to remember that most Japanese drivers are polite, and therefore you shall not simply ruin someone’s commute to work or play while on the roads. Signal your way through traffic and intersections, be courteous, and you’re all set to go. And oh, let’s not forget about the speed limits set by the authorities along the route you’ll be driving through.

Honda ‍‍‍Grace

Honda Fit Hybrid

Essentially billed as the hatchback alternative, the Fit Hybrid still utilises the same 1.5-litre i-DCD powertrain that’s seen in the Grace. While it lacks a class-leading boot, the Jazz Hybrid is gifted with a more voluminous interior. If you’re looking at practicality, the Fit Hybrid is almost certainly the one to go for.

Measuring driving dynamics and engagement, the Fit Hybrid certainly feels pretty much alike the Grace while we drive through the countryside twisties along Lake Yamanaka. Lacking additional weight over at the back here is made even more evident as it feels a little twitchy, but makes up for a rather delightful drive nonetheless. Build quality is however, more solid and considerably nicer to the touch in comparison to its Malaysian-built cousin.

While our version back home feels a little spartan, the Fit Hybrid as driven over here is subsequently loaded with everything that you can get in the Grace, such as Honda Sensing and a sporty-looking but only Japanese market special bodykit. Yes, we might feel a little shortchanged when it comes to kit count but bear in mind that these added niceties will definitely push prices up if ever Honda makes it for our market.

While it might fit two adults more comfortably at the back due to its sheer generous headroom, the Jazz Hybrid also lacks rear air-conditioning vents or power outlets for those seated at the back. Not much to complain about during this cold season in Japan, but quite an annoyance for occupants seated at the back of one in our country.


Practically the same model we get back home that exchanges its original and yet conventional motor for a more tech-laden 1.5-litre hybrid powertrain, the Grace pushes out a worthy 134bhp and 170Nm as a result in combined power output. Indeed, it definitely comes with a zestier performance figure that somehow claims to be as powerful as a conventional 1.8-litre naturally-aspirated engine by Honda themselves.

Thus in force, it drives and performs better than its run-off-the-mill sibling, albeit not really 1.8-litre like in execution. Paired to a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission with paddle-shifters as combo, it simply overwrites all of the past shortcomings when it comes to at the wheel engagement. Pushing it above 80km/h seems impossible on the motorways but due to the stately speed we’re cruising in, it returned an impressive 24.3km/L.

Compared to its Malaysian-made cousin, the Grace feels rather better insulated and refined. Returning a more pliant and effective bump-absorbing feel while on the go with its softer dampers. Steering feel — however — is slightly on the dead side, in this case. But in all due, the Grace still musters that unusual Honda driving characteristics, in which it mixes a good balance in between good ride quality and respectable dynamics while we drive through the infamous Hakone Turnpike.

Despite holding a sizeable battery pack nestled closely behind the rear seats, the Grace still suffices with its reputable class-leading bootspace of 536-litres — effectively swallowing all of our luggages and shopping items we’ve bought from our stop over at Gotemba. Though it lacks a full-sized spare wheel, there’s a repair kit thrown in altogether just in case if you end up with a puncture, just like ours.

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Specification-wise, the Grace as tested here is technically fully-loaded with all the bells and whistles. Honda Sensing comes as standard, and by having that, it gains adaptive cruise control, autonomous braking, blind-spot assist and the familiar 16-inch alloys from you can get from the V model back home as an added bonus. Rear passengers will also appreciate the vast head and legroom space.

Accompanied by a set of power sockets with rear air-conditioning vents, being seated as passenger while being driven around remains a cozy affair. Best of all, the new Sport Hybrid i-DCD system utilises a new electric-driven compressor that keeps the cabin cool at all times when the engine is cut off at a standstill. Useful for us back in Malaysia with a torturing tropical climate but great in keeping the accommodation warm over here in the land of the rising sun.

Sit repping this, it is nice to see both variants of these familiar models getting the full Honda specification treatment. It would be great addition for us but not much of a favour in keeping prices down if Honda Malaysia included them in‍‍‍ altogether. Nonetheless let’s not fret and hope in earnest as features such as the Honda Sensing might be offered months or at least a year down the road.