Not from my experience - in English people often ask "what time is it?", but would rarely ask what "time is it now?" unless they had already recently asked the time.
On the other hand in Swahili, I feel "sasa ni saa ngapi?" is a reasonable first question when no reference to time has been previously made.
Hmm. I see your point. People do also just say Ni saa ngapi? without sasa, but yeah, if adding the sasa is, as you say, not as emphatic as adding the now in English, then they should probably also accept this sentence without now.