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Hatching Great Ideas

9 min read
Compact hatchbacks are a great option for zipping about the city. Here are three of the latest ones to consider.


Honda’s all-new Jazz is back, and boasts technological features that bring this popular compact hatchback into its next era. This Japanese icon has been made ever more fuel-efficient with a fourth-generation line that boasts an e: HEV hybrid powertrain.

In Singapore, the Jazz comes in three different versions — e: HEV Hybrid 1.5L, Home 1.5L and Base 1.5L. The e: HEV model will now enjoy a $15,000 rebate under the Enhanced VES scheme announced on 12 November 2020.

The Honda Jazz’s key selling point of running efficiency has been boosted with the new e: HEV system that teams up with a 1.5-litre i-VTEC petrol engine, a lithium-ion battery, and the fixed-gear transmission. Each element aims to deliver the best ratio of fuel economy to acceleration in its class. There are three drive modes that the car automatically switches among, depending on driving conditions — EV Drive, where the lithium-ion battery powers the electric propulsion motor directly; Hybrid Drive, where the petrol engine powers the electric generator motor that, in turn, guns the electric propulsion motor; and Engine Drive, where the car is driven by the petrol engine connecting directly to the wheels via a lock-up clutch for on-demand peak power boost.

Unlike conventional petrol cars, the Jazz is equipped with the Electronically Controlled Continuously Variable Transmission (e-CVT), which is a single fixed-gear ratio that connects the moving components directly. The result is a smooth and reassuring transfer of torque with a linear feel during acceleration across all drive modes.

The new Honda Jazz’s suspension, body rigidity and chassis has also been upgraded. Added higher tensile strength steel reduces weight and improves safety performance in the event of a crash. A new aluminium die-cast rear damper mount structure improves the driving experience significantly, and a new spring material and reduced friction-bush design, plus the rear torsion beam suspension layout make for great ride comfort.

Gone is that floaty sensation of driving a small Japanese hatchback. The front suspension geometry now has a low front roll centre to increase stability, and the responsive handling is now further optimised by Honda’s Agile Handling Assist (AHA) system.

In spite of its modest position among Honda’s range of cars, the Jazz does not lack in any of the brand’s top driver assistance systems. The newly developed front wide-view camera system enhances Honda’s SENSING active technology through improved field of vision and low-light operation. Some of the features built into the system include Collision Mitigation Braking with improved night-time operation to detect pedestrians in dim light; Adaptive Cruise Control; Lane Keeping Assistant; and Road Departure Mitigation System. Other features — such as Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA), Hill Start Assist (HSA), Walk Away auto-lock, Anti-lock Brake System (ABS), Emergency Stop Signal (ESS) — also come standard.

While the exterior styling doesn’t depart too far from the Jazz template, there are obvious improvements. Thickness of the A-pillar has been halved, and the windscreen wipers are now hidden, giving driver and front-seat passenger an unobstructed view. The sweeping A-pillar and sleek door-mirror design also minimise noise and drag caused by wind turbulence, thus increasing aerodynamic efficiency.

Honda’s “yoo no bi” philosophy of “finding beauty in everyday items that are honed over time to become ever more beautiful and ergonomically satisfying to use” runs through the interior. Materials throughout the cabin have been given a lift, and the overall sensation is that of a car several classes up from the Jazz. In addition, versatile rear ULTRA Seat configuration offers both fold-flat or flip-up seat flexibility to accommodate cargo of various shapes and sizes. The packaging and overall design also permit a wider tailgate opening that makes loading and unloading the boot easier than ever.

The Honda Jazz also doesn’t hold back on the infotainment front. The nine-inch touchscreen display uses smartphone usability and can be customised with shortcuts to frequently used functions and audio sources. And, as expected, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are also on tap, so owners can hum to their own tune in their new car.

POWER  109PS @ 3,500–8,000RPM
TORQUE  253NM @ 0–3000RPM
0–100KM/H  9.4 SECONDS

BMW 116I

The entry-level BMW 1 Series is now into its third generation, and the latest iteration professes to be an exciting one. Despite BMW continually proclaiming that it provides the ultimate in driving experience and dynamic excellence, the BMW 116i is a real head-turner.

The car now sports BMW’s new, enlarged kidney grille for a stronger front-on presence. The bonnet is shortened and the roof line slopes elegantly off towards the rear, where the wide tail and an athletic shoulder line above the wheel arches give the latest version a somewhat sportier stance compared with its predecessors.

From the side, BMW’s “shark nose” is now more pronounced, as is the wedge shape viewed from the side. But the rear is where the 116i stands out. The full-LED rear lights have a new interpretation of the L-shape that is fast becoming a BMW signature. Sporty shaped surfaces and a distinctive exhaust tail-pipe completes an athletic picture of the rear-end.

A panoramic roof comes as an option in the BMW 116i. This features an infinitely variable outward-opening action, electrically actuated ventilation mode, and has an electrically operated roller blind to provide shading.

The car now offers more space than ever. The front-wheel-drive architecture with transverse engines and a lower centre tunnel offer the occupants noticeably more space than in the previous model. Rear access is easier, and there is now significantly more leg room in the back. Luggage compartment capacity has increased by 20 litres to 380 litres (1,200 litres with the rear seat bench folded down).

Some of the BMW 116i’s improvements cannot be seen. The 1.5-litre petrol engine now features a process known as “form honing” for machining the coated cylinder bores in the aluminium crankcase, which serves to reduce piston friction loss. The exhaust manifold is integrated into the aluminium cylinder head, which minimises weight and optimises flow, and the turbocharger’s aluminium turbine housing is mounted to the manifold package within the cylinder head so the flow dynamics of the recirculated exhaust gases can be utilised efficiently.

A seven-speed Steptronic dual-clutch transmission is new to the BMW 1 Series. The system allows gears to be changed in a fraction of a second without any interruption in the flow of power by the automated control system. The transmission can also let the car coast in neutral in certain situations, while a special low-viscosity oil brings about a further reduction in CO2 emissions.

Driver-assistance features that come standard in the BMW 116i include collision and pedestrian warning with city braking function, Lane Departure Warning, Lane Changing Warning, and the Proactive Driving Assistant suite that includes rear collision warning and crossing traffic warning, which reduces the risk of a collision when reversing into roads obstructed from the driver’s view. Park Distance Control (PDC), with sensors at both the front and rear, provides visual and acoustic signals to prevent collisions with obstacles located to the side or rear of the vehicle. Drivers who find difficulty in parking will be able to use the Parking Assistant, which offers assisted parking in spaces that are either parallel or perpendicular to the road.

Through BMW ConnectedDrive, the BMW 116i provides connectivity to your smartphone with the BMW Digital Key and BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant. With the standard Comfort Access feature, the BMW Digital Key allows the car to be locked and unlocked from a smartphone using Near Field Communication (NFC) technology. Holding the smartphone up to the door handle opens the car — even if the phone battery is dead! The engine can be started as soon as the phone has been placed in the smartphone tray or wireless charging tray.

BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant also makes an appearance in the new 1 Series. Selected functions can be voice-activated, and the car can learn routines and habits, then subsequently apply them in the appropriate context or provide casual conversation. BMW’s Live Cockpit Professional comes standard with two 10.25-inch displays that offer maximum connectivity and customisability. Adaptive navigation, a hard drive-based multimedia system and the option of gesture control further help bring BMW 1 Series drivers into the 21stcentury.

PRICE  $158,888 (WITH COE)
POWER  109HP @ 4,300–6,500RPM
TORQUE  190NM @ 1,380–3,800RPM
0–100KM/H  10.6 SECONDS


One of the most fun hatchbacks to drive now comes with an added feather in its cap as well as a nod to the environment. The Suzuki Swift Mild Hybrid brings a long-time favourite to the world of battery-enhanced motoring in the hopes of attracting a wider audience in the process.

Launched in December 2020, the 2021 Suzuki Swift features an Integrated Starter Generator (ISG), which helps generate electricity to restart and assist the petrol engine as a motor. The ISG is coupled with a 12V lithium-ion battery to boost efficiency up to 24.4km per litre.

Suzuki’s move to a hybrid system has not come without consideration to the chassis of the Swift. The car’s HEARTECT platform makes for a light and highly rigid construction. A unified whole — as opposed to partial improvement of individual components — optimises the way the vehicle moves, turns and stops while reducing noise and vibration. MacPherson Strut Front Suspension and the Torsion Beam Rear Suspension complete the driving comfort package by providing great road-holding performance.

The latest Swift also underwent a façade makeover. Strong shoulders and wraparound windows with hidden door handles make for a sportier look. The “floating roof” teams up with high-mounted headlights to give a contemporary air. And the car puts its best face forward with a three-dimensional diamond grille.

While compact in dimensions, the Suzuki Swift is big on driver-assistance features. Adaptive Cruise Control, Hill Hold Assist, Electronic Brakeforce Distribution, Electronic Stability Program, Anti-Lock Braking System, Weaving Alert, and Lane Departure Warning are all included in the comprehensive suite.Inside, the cockpit boasts a sporty, multi-function D-shaped steering wheel, as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto accessibility. On top of that, the Swift comes in six single-tone and four dual-tone colours to match any personality.

PRICE  From $94,900 (WITH COE)
POWER  80BHP @ 6,000RPM
TORQUE  107NM @ 2,800RPM
0–100KM/H  12.2 SECONDS