Grace Note

City, Jazz or Fit? How about Grace? 

Image: autoevolution

Like many English language words, Grace carries multiple meanings. Given the Japanese carmakers’ often approximate relationship with what must be for them, a veritable minefield of misappropriation and malapropism, it’s somewhat unclear exactly what, if any meaning Honda’s product strategists intended by so naming its B-segment sedan[1].

The Honda Grace is a car I had never heard of, let alone encountered until a couple of days ago, when confronted by an example nestled somewhat appropriately perhaps, in the car park of the local Catholic church[2]. After all, one takes one’s blessings where one can in this vale of tears. I must say that I was rather taken by its appearance, but despite having long put all religious observance behind me, I still felt slightly reticent about entering church grounds totake photographs. Some observances one never quite renounces.

Image: autoblog

Never offered on these Isles when new, the (unphotographed) example I sighted and the not inconsiderable number currently available to purchase second hand are aftermarket JDM imports. Having become a less popular option for Irish motorists in recent times, Japanese imports once more appear to be gaining ground, owing I suspect to the increasing numbers of hybrid vehicles now becoming available — today’s subject matter being a case in point.

Introduced in 2014 for the 2015 model year in Japan and across South-East Asian markets, the Honda Grace appears from what I can gather to have been based on the platform and drivetrain derived from the previous-generation Honda Jazz[3] hatchback, and was available (in Japan at least) with a 1.5-litre direct-injection DOHC i-VTEC engine producing 132 PS and 155 Nm, driving the front wheels or all four via a CVT transmission. A hybrid version was also offered.

Even a rear arm rest. Image: autoblog

Employing a longer wheelbase to maximise cabin space, Honda engineers shifted the rear seats as far back in the body as possible, to the detriment of boot capacity (still 430 litres). Further eating into boot space, the fuel tank was re-sited from a central location to the rear seat pan area. But on the plus side, the Grace was said to offer “Accord-level” rear legroom in a considerably more compact package. While at first glance, the bodies may look similar, there is virtually no external commonality between Fit/ Jazz and Grace.

There is however a good deal of stylistic commonality, but while the City/ Jazz hatchback remains a rather unprepossessing device to behold, the Grace manages to at least pay lip service to its name; Honda’s designers imbuing what was a very compact three volume sedan a surprising amount of visual length (the deep swage line on the flanks helps a good deal here) and results in an orderly, visually satisfying shape, with enough visual dynamism to avoid looking overtly tall or truncated.

In 2017, the car received a mild cosmetic facelift, along with several safety-related updates, while Honda’s Sport Hybrid i-DCD[4] powertrain also became available, which entailed a 1.5-litre Atkinson cycle direct-injection DOHC i-VTEC petrol unit, mated to a seven-speed (DCT) dual clutch transmission. Power output for the hybrid was 110 PS and 134 Nm, with the electric motor adding another 29.5 PS. Owing, it is stated to falling demand, the Grace was discontinued in Japan in 2020.

Facelift model Grace. Image: carlist.my

While a number of years ago, a compact three volume saloon would have been better received in the Irish market, the Honda Grace’s belated second-life arrival to these shores is likely to be inopportune, given the market’s wholly predictable capitulation to the current CUV hegemony. So, while it might appeal to the buyer seeking a (relatively) inexpensive hybrid, it’s likely to be minority interest only.

Meanwhile however, it offers at least one local penitent an opportunity to arrive in a state of Grace.

[1] They may have meant it literally, or alternatively, simply like the way the word sounded.

[2] Other denominations are available, but that would (probably) be an ecumenical matter.

[3] It was marketed as a Jazz in Europe, but called City or Fit in other markets. Similarly, the Grace was dubbed City (amongst other names) in other non-Japanese South East Asian markets.

[4] i-DCD (Intelligent Dual Clutch Drive in Honda-speak).

Author: Eóin Doyle

Co-Founder. Editor. Content Provider.

10 thoughts on “Grace Note”

  1. Good morning, Eóin. Ah, the Honda Grace. I’ve lived in Trinidad & Tobago for a while and JDM imports were common over there. Especially the Nissan Tiida seemed popular. I’ve sat in a Honda Grace taxi one time while I was there. I have a vague memory it as a good car in the typical Honda way.

  2. Good morning, Eóin and Freerk. I was totally unaware of the Grace name. Here in Australia this ‘Jazz sedan’ is sold as the City, and appears to be rather an underwhelming device, especially to my mind for (mis-)using the name from that cool Eighties hatch. How could any sedan be a worthy successor? The Jazz hatch is much more popular around my neck of the woods.

  3. Good morning, Eóin, and well spotted on your part. The Grace is certainly less confrontational in its styling than many Honda designs of its era. One thing irks me, however: I dislike the way the door shut-lines do not follow the shape of the side DLO but cut across it vertically at both ends, necessitating the use of triangular black plastic ‘cheater’ panels, then cut into the roof above it. Its call a bit messy and compromised.

    The Nissan Tiida (strange name) made a modest impact in the Irish market in the ’00s. It was most (only) notable for its neatly handled ‘Bangle butt’:

    Of course, compared to my offering of the Mk2 Clio saloon yesterday, both the Grace and Tiida are works of art!

    1. In Trinidad the Tiida was the subject of jokes, apparently the drivers of these car were the worst. One thing I remember well was when a Tiida drove into another car at a parking lot. The security guard cried out something like: “Oh god, not another Tiida.”

    2. Daniel, I agree with you on those black ‘cheater panels’ as you call them. Is that an official design term? It should be . To me they’re always an admission that the stylists are trying to compensate for a mistake: “We know it should go here but we’ve got to put it there. Please don’t see it.”.
      Unfortunately they have become so common nowadays that I find I’m beginning not to notice them. This bothers me.
      That Tiida (!) landed in Australia with something of a dull thud. I read that Nissan Australia fought hard to retain the well-respected Pulsar name, but were overruled by Yokohama. Just how did they think English speakers would pronounce ‘-ii-‘? The name practically begged people not to take the car seriously. I’ve heard it called tie-dye, dee-dum and tiddler; it pretty much marked the end of Nissan passenger cars in Australia; all they see here now are crossovers SUVs and 4WDs – and precious few of them.

    3. Good afternoon Peter. Regarding The term ‘cheater panel’, I think I first read it on a US automotive website and it seems a useful term to describe those triangular black plastic panels often used to maintain the line of the side DLO onto the A and C-pillars. One of the biggest ‘cheats’ on a current production car is to be found on the Opel Insignia:

      What at first glance appears to be a fixed rear quarter-window in the C-pillar is in fact a piece of high-gloss black plastic.

    4. And the silly thing is, Daniel, the Insignia wouldn’t look half bad without the cheater panel. Wasn’t there something similar on the Citroen BX?

    5. Good afternoon Peter. Weirdly, the BX was exactly the opposite: that odd looking black panel on the C-pillar of some versions of the car actually concealed a window:

      I always though it looked rather disjointed and preferred the look of the alternative treatment with a solid C-pillar:

  4. Given its size, I wouldn’t mind betting that rear arm rest doubles as a ski hatch.

  5. I too think they did a good job with the styling, although previous versions were more variable. One interesting feature was a front seat which rotated outwards to make entry and exit easier (around the 1:55 mark in the adverts roll).

    Re the doorframe design, they did that on the hatch as well.

    I’m not surprised that imports are making a comeback, given new car prices. I wonder what the anti-corrosion measures are like on JDM models, though.

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