Published on May 21st, 2023 | by Subhash Nair


Modern JDM Manual Hatchbacks You Can Buy Today

Want a modern JDM manual-equipped turbocharged hatchback? Malaysians have these options!

Most modern sportscars are beyond the reach of middle class Malaysians. This is a fact. But on the other hand, there are plenty of conventional options today with plenty of performance. Test drive a full-spec Mazda CX-5 Turbo or even a Honda HR-V Turbo and you’ll understand what we mean. However, to some of us car enthusiasts, there’s just something about the modern crossover/SUV that will never quite tickle us. For us few there are almost no options on the market that combine a low-to-the-ground body style, practicality, and a manual gearbox… Until quite recently.


We managed to find THREE modern Japanese hatchbacks with turbocharged engines and six-speed manual gearboxes. The best part is that all three are priced below RM150,000 and less than 5 years old – meaning the possibility of a hire purchase loan is high for many Malaysians. Despite the similarities between these three models, they all present very different advantages and disadvantages. It’s also worth noting that it’s a grey market that’s bringing in these vehicles, so don’t expect any official support from the brands. Also, check with your mechanic if they can service these cars just in case particular parts are hard to come by.

Let’s dive into it.

Honda Civic FK7 Hatch

The 10th generation Honda Civic was a runaway success in Malaysia, but it was only brought in as a 4-door sedan with a CVT automatic. Yes, Honda Malaysia did bring in a Type R hatch with a manual but that thing has done anything but depreciate since being launched at about RM300K. What if there was something in between the two extremes?

Turns out there is an in-between – the Civic 5-door hatch with a 6-speed manual transmission! This ‘FK7’ model is powered by the same 1.5L 4-cylinder turbo petrol engine with 180hp but has 240Nm of torque with this gearbox. While there will be some minor mechanical differences to the sedan, many wear and tear items are interchangeable with the sedan. The 5-door hatch form is still practical enough to use for a small family and you’ll have enough reliable fun for years to come for RM150K.

Our biggest gripe is the price. This is not really a performance model and it’s already a generation behind and yet is priced like the new Civic, often around RM150K. If it was priced about 20K-30K lower on the grey market this would be a no-brainer to any modern Honda fan looking for a stick shifter.

Suzuki Swift Sport (A2L414)

Naza officially brings the latest Suzuki Swift Sport to Malaysia but only with an automatic gearbox. It’s a fun enough hatchback, but missing a manual gearbox. It’s also a little on the pricey side. Thankfully, the grey market has plenty of models that combine the 1.4 turbocharged 4-cylinder petrol engine with a 6-speed manual, delivering a healthy 140PS and 230Nm of torque to the front wheels.

The Swift Sport may not have as much power as the Civic Hatch, but it is tuned to be driven hard plus it weights a lot less than the Honda. It also looks slightly more racier with the rear door handles hidden away. Wear and tear parts too shouldn’t be too difficult to come by given the official model is supported here.

With pricing for a 2018 model hovering around RM115K, the Swift Sport is a decent option as a 2nd car for those with a small family, but it’s a bit small to work as a primary mode of transport unless you’re single or a couple with no kids.

Toyota Corolla Sport (E210)

The Toyota Corolla Sport is a 5-door hatchback that was never sold in Malaysia. This JDM hatch is actually not particularly special or performance focus but of the three it’s the rarest in Malaysia and to our eyes looks the best. The design is mature enough to pass as premium while still hinting at some performance potential.

The grey market brings this in with a 6-speed manual and a 1.2L 4-cylinder petrol engine outputting 116hp and 185Nm of torque. Of the three models suggested here, this is the least powerful hatch and probably has the least number of local parts available as this engine never served in our market in any officially supported Toyota model.

Prices also tend to hover around RM115K-RM120K. The Corolla Sport is also a 5-door model and is about the size of the Civic. It should be serviceable for a small family.

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Written work on @subhashtag on instagram. Autophiles Malaysia on Youtube.

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