Honda 1.0 litre turbo 01

Still a little while to go before Honda joins the downsized turbo party in a widespread manner, but the announcement that it’ll be deploying two smaller capacity blown mills by 2017 will be welcome news to its marketers and, hopefully, fans of the brand. The Japanese automaker has been slow to make the move along that particular path, but its making up for that with a lot of intent.

Just ahead of the start of the Tokyo Motor Show last week, Honda’s European arm announced that the 10th-generation Civic for the continent will be featuring the company’s all-new 1.0 and 1.5 litre VTEC Turbo engines when it makes its market debut beginning early 2017. The engines were originally announced in 2013.

Initial details for both units, part of the automaker’s Earth Dreams Technology range, were revealed at the 2015 Honda Meeting that took place at the company’s R&D facility in Tochigi. To recap, the 1.0 litre mill is a three-cylinder turbocharged VTEC unit that looks to have Ford’s 1.0 litre EcoBoost firmly in its sights.

The Honda unit is good for 127 hp and 200 Nm (a shade more than the Ford mill, which has 123 hp and 170 Nm), though there’s no mention of rpm points. Whatever the case, its output is 12 hp less than the R18Z1 1.8 litre naturally-aspirated engine it will eventually replace in certain markets, but the new turbo offers a 15% hike in torque, in this case 26 Nm more.

Claimed performance numbers – on a Civic – include a 0-100 km/h time of 9.5 seconds and a top speed of 209 km/h, and fuel consumption numbers are bold, 28.06 km per litre being touted, a 20% improvement over the 1.8 litre unit on a NEDC mode test cycle.

The unit is said to be an all-new design, but looks to be an evolution of the research 1.0 litre turbo unit that was quietly displayed during the 2012 Honda Meeting at the same venue – in response to my question as to how much had been carried over, the Honda engineers present at the event explained that quite a bit has evolved from the initial development seen three years ago.

Aluminium features extensively on the direct-injection DOHC engine, which features dual Variable Valve Timing Control (VTC) and Variable Valve Timing and Lift Electronic Control (VTEC) on the intake side. Other design features include a high-tumble intake port, high efficiency cooling cylinder head, piston with cooling gallery, sodium filled exhaust valves and a variable capacity oil pump.

The design also utilises a timing belt in oil, which is again familiar – the 1.0 litre EcoBoost also runs a similar configuration. To aid fuel economy, the unit features an idling stop system.

At Tochigi, there was a chance to sample the 1.0 litre VTEC Turbo – which was plonked into a couple of European Civic hatchbacks – over two laps on the facility’s test circuit. There was a six-speed manual, but we ended up in the CVT-equipped mule. The quick impressions were positive; take-up isn’t too laggy, and the response carries on nicely into the midband despite carrying the Civic’s bulk.

On the whole, the unit is quite willing to rev, and smoothly at that right up the rpm band. More importantly, it felt more than capable of pulling the Civic along. The competition against the Blue Oval’s three-time International Engine of the Year winner, when it comes, promises to be intriguing.

Next, the 1.5 litre unit, which follows on the heels of the 1.5 litre turbo engine that was recently introduced for the US-market 2016 Civic. The unit shares a lot in common with its smaller 1.0 litre sibling, but there are differences – for starters, the compression ratio is higher, at 10.6:1.

Interestingly, there’s no VTEC on either the intake or exhaust side of the engine, similar to the mill for the US-spec Civic. Word is that the JDM, USDM and Euro-market 1.5 litre turbo engines all go without VTEC, but the 1.5 litre engine will carry a VTEC Turbo badge in Japan and Europe, omitting this for North America.

honda jade rs 01

A quick aside on outputs – there are two different output states of tune (or three, if you consider that of the USDM 1.5 litre turbo version) or variations of the engine, if you will. The tech presentation panel alludes to a 201 hp and 260 Nm output, which is a jump over the 148 hp (at 5,500 rpm) and 203 Nm (at 1,600 to 5,000 rpm) found in the 1.5 litre turbo unit already on sale in Japan, as seen in the Jade RS and StepWGN. The USDM Civic’s 1.5 forced-induction unit, meanwhile, turns out 174 hp and 220 Nm.

The different 1.5 litre turbo outputs essentially mirrors that practiced by competition such as Ford with its 1.5 litre EcoBoost. On the Continent, the EB 15 is available in two output tunes, 150 PS and a higher-state 180 PS, the latter seen on the Kuga and, when it arrives here next year, the C346 Focus facelift. In Honda’s case, when it does eventually make its way here, the 1.5 litre we’re likely to see should be the 174 hp unit, taking over from the 2.0 NA mill currently in use now.

The 1.5 was trialled at Tochigi in its 148 hp form, via Jade RS mules. There was actually the opportunity to try the MPV out in two different settings, on the ground’s test oval as well as on a small road-going course the next day.

On the oval, the 1.5 litre felt sprightly, the power unit happily bring the MPV to speed in quick fashion. In an arena where the Jade RS could be pushed harder and faster, the workings of the blown mill nicely masked the shortcomings in performance from the weaker of the power/drivetrain pairing, the CVT with a seven-speed mode and paddle shifters.

On the road-going course, the transmission – which has been specially tuned for the new turbo – felt laggy at points when pushed, though the rubber-banding is far less noticeable compared to something like the NA-powered BR-V. Nonetheless, unless you’re always inclined to stomp on it, the low to mid-end take-up has lots of appeal, as is the intrinsic smoothness of the power unit.

The trumped-up Jade variant – which boasts an uprated suspension setup (15% stiffer up front, 20% rear), an electronic Agile Handling Assist (AHA) system that adds brake vectoring through corners as well as a reinforced chassis – itself is quite pleasant to drive, but it’s not going to make it here, according to the folk at Honda Malaysia.

Neither, since we’re at it, is the Odyssey Hybrid, which made its debut at the TMS – the company says there’s very little case to argue for it (and the Jade) to be brought in. As it is, the Odyssey is doing about 30-40 units a month, not very compelling numbers to add another two vehicles of such a nature to the local product portfolio.

The turbos, however, will eventually get here, though there’s still a way to go before that happens – expect nothing to happen on the forced-induction front here before we go into 2017. Enough time then for followers of the brand to readjust to the idea that small doesn’t mean inadequate, or limp.

GALLERY: Honda Civic hatchback and 1.0 litre VTEC Turbo

GALLERY: Honda Jade RS and 1.5 litre VTEC Turbo