Published on August 30th, 2018 | by Subhash Nair1
Honda Malaysia Should Bring a Manual Jazz Instead of an S660
Last year, Honda Malaysia flew us to Japan to check out a number of things including their Clarity, their i-DCD transmission factory, the Tokyo Motor Show, the Honda Collection and much more. It was a really packed trip, and with so much content to cover, we kind of missed a couple of things.
Looking back, we’re not sure how this one slipped, because it was really one of the highlights of the trip.
We’re talking about the S660. Honda was kind enough to organise a test drive for us and it was as good as we imagined it would be. The car wasn’t fast, it was just raw. It was just like the Hondas of old – low to the ground, rev happy, dynamic with a nice little notchy manual gearbox. Honestly speaking, it would not have sold very well in Malaysia, even if they could bring it in below RM100,000.
And while I genuinely did enjoy and appreciate the S660, I think it’s not the car that defines Honda best. It’s not exemplary of what you can expect out of your average Honda.
The average Honda is a front-wheel drive, front-engined thing with a big boot and loads of features.
This one is a rear-wheel drive, mid-engined thing with enough space for 2 people and their smartphones.
Honda is better exemplified by a mid-spec manual transmission Jazz. And here’s why we think Honda Malaysia should bring that in instead of the S660.
The hidden market/Black Swan Theory
A lot of times, car companies will run simulations based on sales data to see whether a model would be financially feasible. But what about the data they don’t have? Well, that’s just not worth speculating about, right?
Perhaps. But think about this. There are thousands of Malaysians still running 25-35 year old Hondas. These are Honda’s most diehard fans, but they can’t move to a new (or even used) Honda because there just aren’t any affordable ones with manual transmissions.
Speaking personally, I would sell both my old cars for a base model manual Jazz priced below RM72K. Think about how many more poor old Honda owners would also jump at this opportunity.
UMW Toyota’s Pushing Accessible Sportiness Harder than Honda
The Toyota Vios Challenge is now in its 2nd season. UMW Toyota not only sell a manual-equipped Vios, but also a Vios Sports Edition. It may not be to everyone’s taste (certainly not to mine), but the effort and intention is in the right place.
Sure, all Hondas, including the Odyssey, are fun and engaging. But the City and Jazz are both CVT powered cars. And the Sport Hybrid variants, while torquey, just aren’t quite as engaging as ‘Sport’ implies.
It wouldn’t be as Drastic a Change as Other options
Think about how much money and time Honda Malaysia and their dealers would have spent preparing to support owners of the Civic Type R. It uses and engine and transmission that no other officially sold product features. Brakes, suspension and just about everything else too much be unique to the Type R. Yet, even with the hefty discounts and 0% GST, the Civic Type R’s a difficult sell.
A Jazz Manual, yes, it would take some retooling, some new supply adjustments, a few new lubricant and service instructions. But all-in-all, it would be just a transmission, pedal box, and ECU change at the factory, we imagine. Most of the Jazz would remain as it is from the CVT version.
Honda Malaysia Would Have a truly Unique Product
Last month, we mentioned that the Jazz was one of 2 mass-market Japanese hatchbacks in Malaysia. If a manual was available, Honda would be the only brand to carry such a product. Blue ocean strategy or pure lunacy? Only one way to find out.
Honda Needs to Reaffirm Their Sporty Heritage in Malaysia
“A company is most clearly defined not by its people or its history, but by its products.” That’s what founder, Soichiro Honda had to say at some point.
Honda sells the Jazz with a manual transmission in Indonesia and in Thailand. They can probably do it here too.
The S660 is a Bigger Risk
Just like the Type R, the S660 is a brilliant example of Honda engineering. The new NSX is as well. But how many Malaysians are prepared to put down any kind of money for those cars? The answer is probably closer to 10 than it is to 100.
A manual Honda Jazz with some sporty marketing material? We guarantee at least 100 units sold. And the owners would very happily spread the word of Honda’s return the way they did 20 years ago with the EG and EK Civics of old.