If you can live with the limitations of CNG installations, this Honda City can offer attractive running costs
Honda has become the latest brand to offer a bi-fuel model capable of running on either compressed natural gas or petrol: the City CNG.
And since modifications have been carried out at Honda's factory, the bi-fuel sees proper alterations including 32 new bits ranging from the 65-litre CNG tank placed in the boot up to the special injection unit on the 1.5-litre engine under the bonnet.
The engine itself has been tweaked from the standard 120hp down to 102hp in the interest of economy and CNG-compatibility.
Honda claims that improved structural rigidity has been made to the rear end to protect the tank as much as possible from an impact.
There are two specs on offer, both with a five-speed automatic: S at 659,000 baht, and V at 706,000 baht representing a 40,000-60,000 baht premium over the pure petrol models.
The City is the only CNG-compatible car in Thailand to be able to qualify for the first-car tax rebate scheme _ which ends this year _ due to an engine displacing less than 1,500cc.
Honda has nicely covered up the 65-litre CNG tank.
As in most other cars running on either petrol or CNG, the City offers financial delights for those needing extra-low running costs.
On a trip to Phetchaburi, for instance, we managed to match Honda's 160km range in CNG mode. As for petrol (E20, in fact), we got 15kpl.
Taking pump prices of PTT into consideration, these figures translate into 0.6 baht per kilometre for CNG and 2.1 baht per kilometre for petrol. In other words, you can save at least treble the money when driving on CNG.
And despite being more expensive than the regular City, you would easily be able to recuperate the additional money invested in a matter of time (unlike the Jazz Hybrid). The transition between CNG and petrol mode can barely be detected. And the filler nozzle for CNG is placed just where you'd expect it to be: next to the filler cap for petrol.
Naturally, a couple of issues. First, the need to install a CNG tank in the boot inevitably means that a significant amount of space has been taken up. So, don't expect much usable space during an outing over the weekend.
Second, you can feel the additional components taking their toll on the performance and driving characteristics of the car.
City CNG is around 50,000 baht dearer than regular models.
Compared to the normally powered City, the handling balance doesn't feel as natural, a touch more braking effort is required and the 18hp power deficit can be felt at most times, especially on the highway and in CNG mode.
Third, in spite of the increasing number of CNG filling stations in the PTT monopoly, long queues are to be found at most places.
Last, but minor, is the beep made when the car runs out of CNG (and automatically switches to petrol). The sound can only disappear if you press the button located on the right side of the fascia. Why?
BUY OR BYE?
The fact that there are many compromises to be made with a CNG-equipped vehicle can't be avoided in the City CNG with the biggest issue being the pretty tight boot space.
However, the negative ramifications on performance and driving manners is something we reckon potential buyers won't take too seriously because only driving enthusiasts _ who are unlikely to go for such a car _ would really note the differences.
Which really says it all, then. The City CNG is for people who simply need a car to get from points A to B in the most cost-effective manner.
For many people, the City CNG is a good buy because of its obvious financial attractions.
About the author
- Writer: Richard Leu
Position: Motoring news Editor