Thu, 10 Mar 2005

Honda Jazzes up life after fuel price hikes

Zakki P. Hakim, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

I thought the emcee made a slip of the tongue, when he said that a Honda Jazz could drive 45 kilometers on a liter of fuel.

Later on, and 80 kilometers later, I learned this was no mistake.

During a one-day Honda Jazz Eco-Challenge fuel efficiency contest, the winners used less than two liters of fuel to travel about 80 kilometers.

Yuni Eko and Nur Cahyadi of the Media Indonesia daily team won the first prize category for media representatives, using one liter to drive 42.63 kilometers with an automatic Jazz.

Meanwhile, Paulus Hardi and Fanny, the winners of the customers' category for manual transmission managed to travel 45.88 kilometers.

What was their secret?

Yuni Eko said the couple tried to keep their car's speed steady to avoid unnecessary fuel consumption.

"We maintained a constant speed of between 60 and 80 kilometers an hour along the road and kept our revolutions per minute low at about 2,000 rpm." Neither did they use the air conditioner, he said.

Patience was also a winning virtue, he said, adding that the pair took the trip slowly, often waiting behind slower trucks and public buses.

While the victors have their own techniques, the competition showed that the Jazz, in terms of fuel efficiency, was the real winner.

Honda first introduced the old version of the Jazz's motor, a compact i-series 1,500 cc low fuel consumption engine known as the i-DSI or intelligent dual and sequential ignition model, to its New Honda City sedan in 2003.

The engine is able to produce a torque of 13.1 kilograms a meter at low engine revolutions of 2,700 rpm, allowing the driver to get maximum power with less fuel consumption.

The New Honda City won a reputation for being a fuel-efficient sedan and it along with the Jazz has helped Honda Indonesia record a skyrocketing sales growth of 215 percent for the past two years, from 21,650 units in 2003 to 46,500 cars last year. More than half of those cars sold last year were Jazz models.

The company says it will continue to rely on the Jazz to boost its sales this year and the Eco Challenge from Sudirman C Business District to Lido in West Java is part of the PR package.

Being a skeptic of the Jazz's fuel efficiency, my navigator and I -- who happens to be my younger brother -- decided not to "artificially" compete, but to drive the car as we would normally.

We thought: "Who would buy a Rp 143 million automatic Honda Jazz and then drive no more than 60 kilometers an hour on an empty Jagorawi highway and then turn off the car's air conditioner during a hot traffic jam?"

So, we speed away from the group of colorful Jazz cars with our own standard of "convenience driving". My foot stepped harder on the pedal to drive our automatic Jazz between 80 km and 110 km an hour and I generally maintained engine revolutions from between 2,000 and 2,500 rpm.

We also kept the air con on to freshen our trip and of course blasted out some good music from the car's Kenwood sound system. All this made our tour much more enjoyable, particularly during the last 13 km of the route, when buses and public minivans jammed the intercity roads as the toll road ended.

Naturally, we arrived first at the finish line, with some contest officials expressing their confusion and protesting us for getting in so fast.

But then came the moment of truth. The officials checked our fuel consumption. To my astonishment, our "convenience driving" consumed only four liters, while the odometer said we had traveled for 79.7 km, or 19.93 km a liter.

Although other "professional" participants did not share our excitement over our achievement, we both still think 20 km a liter is superb.

I once had a Sports Utility Vehicle that consumed an average of one liter for every 6 km, and the average cars I know use one liter for every 10.

We might not have won the first prize but we can say now without a doubt that Honda Jazz does not only look and sound great -- it is also astonishingly fuel efficient.

This one the car that should be jamming out in the capital's streets -- especially after the recent 30 percent fuel price hike.