Now here’s a genuine surprise. After some teasing, Honda Malaysia (HM) has opened order books for the new Honda City. As expected, the fifth-generation City does not come with the Thai-market’s eco car spec 1.0 litre turbo engine, but there will be an Intelligent Multi-Mode Drive (i-MMD) hybrid version to go along with the 1.5L naturally-aspirated engine. In all, there will be four variants.

The City RS i-MMD will be the flagship of the range, and when it debuts here in Q4 2020, it will be a world debut of sorts. No other market has the new City with a hybrid powertrain, and we’ll be the first. More on this later.

“The City has proven to be an important model for HM, a favourite among many Malaysians for its spaciousness, practicality and safety features. Since its introduction to the Malaysian market in 2001, the model has an accumulated total sales of 351,000 units, with the most sought-after fourth-gen City which was launched in 2014 contributing more than 205,000 units and upholding its No.1 position in the B-segment,” said HM’s MD and CEO Toichi Ishiyama.

“The launch of the all-new City RS with new powertrain in Malaysia will be the world premiere and being introduced for the first time ahead of other countries. We believe that this new model will excite the market with its advanced styling and engineering as Honda continues to lead the way in pioneering benchmarks and introducing Next Generation Advanced Technology that is ahead of its time,” he added.

The new i-MMD powertrain, globally known as e:HEV, is claimed to provide high efficiency electrification combined with direct and smooth response. As you’ll see in the video above, HM is pushing “superior acceleration” as a main selling point, with the City RS seen outgunning a 2.5L Toyota Camry.

Responsible for this is 253 Nm of torque via the 109 PS electric motor, with the 1.5 litre petrol engine functioning as a range extender of sorts. The e:HEV is new and made its debut in Japan this year in the all-new Jazz – more details here.

Of course, if you prefer a more regular experience, there’s the 1.5L NA engine, which is now a DOHC i-VTEC unit (current car is SOHC). In India, the new 1.5L DOHC i-VTEC unit churns out 121 PS and 145 Nm, and is paired to a CVT gearbox, like today’s car.

As for features, RS and V trim levels get LED headlamps, while LED daytime running lights and taillights are standard across the board. Also RS and V-only are 16-inch two-tone alloys, while black door mirror caps are reserved for the sporty-flavoured Road Sailing range topper, which also gets black exterior trim elsewhere. Also, there’s a Honda LaneWatch camera (RS and V) and electric parking brake (RS only).

With this new lineup, HM has repositioned the hybrid as the flagship of the local City range. Previously, the petrol-electric model was a mid-range variant with middling specs (largely matching the petrol-powered E trim level), but the hybrid has finally taken its logical place at the very top, dressed in the sportiest-looking and most well-equipped RS version.

Those who book the new model under the “All-New City Special Early Booking Programme” will get a RM1,000 service voucher with a one-year validity. The new City will be going on a nationwide tour starting August 24. Stay tuned for more details. What do you think?

GALLERY: New Honda City 1.0L Turbo RS, Thai-market

GALLERY: New Honda City, India-market