If you need to know the Honda Jazz is now in its third generation and with over 5 million units sold worldwide its fair to say that the Jazz is a ‘bread and butter’ car for Honda. That is to say it’s a staple diet to help bring in the sales. And that’s exactly how the previous generation felt, kind of like a van experience or to be specific, more ‘man van’ than ‘van man’. So lets start with the outside, it looks well sorted compact yet with good proportions.
By Jay Khan, April 15, 2016
Model spec: Honda Jazz S, CVT Price: £14,595.00 Engine: 1.4-Litre, i-VTECH
BHP / Torque: 100 / 123 Max Speed: 113 CO2: 106g/km 0-62mph: 12 seconds
Economy/Range: 44mpg combined Tax: £20/year
I have to confess I do like the styling, the front bonnet and the front bumper looks wildly styled like it belongs to a fast sports car. Certainly the exterior styling is more vengeful and keener on the eye than Jazz MkII. The interior too is less van like than the second gen ever was.
Honda now offer exterior styling packs to enhance the look. For example the Sport Pack includes front and rear skirts in a shiny black finish in addition to shiny black side skirts. Or maybe you could explore the Design Pack or perhaps the Convenience Pack when you head on down to the dealership.
The interior too is less van like than the second gen ever was. There are now more soft touch surfaces, even patches of leather with contrast stitching. And its all very solidly screwed together. Although the dash design is mostly in-cohesive there are areas where the details shine brightly, like the styling on the heating vents.
The centre console has very few physical buttons, a result of the touch-screen revolution where primary contorls are now reside graphic software interface. The heating controls are touch sensitive and the infotainment system is accessed via the touchscreen monitor. This is Japanese minimalism.
But the Jazz has always been about practicality and the interior is abound with clever little storage and cubbie holes. Morning coffee freaks are catered for with a cup holder nestling near to the drivers side of the dash, just below the heating vent. That’s what the Jazz is all about, its big on the little details.
And it’s also about space, many have said that it offers the biggest interior space in it’s class who am I to argue with that? Whether you sit in the front or opt to sit in the rear the Jazz is great on interior space.
The rear ‘magic seats’, which is marketing speak for rear bench seats, are retained so you get additional of storage space underneath the seat, perfect for the dog to hide during the crossing into France.
In addition rear boot space is also great although by definition nearly every car on the market can never afford infinite boot space because a car enclosed space and can only ever offer’s a finite amount of space. Without boring with the numbers it’s good-great.
So the Jazz has got that smart new look and it offers practicality in a relatively small package with a capital P if that’s what floats your boat.
And don’t forget he Jazz is available in four trim levels with two engine options a diesel and petrol. Equipment levels are good, standard equipment highlights include air-con, cruise control, auto wipers and lights and DAB radio. What is there not to like?
However as a driving experience the Jazz is treading on thin ice. Lets start with the handling… it’s OK this isn’t a sports car, its a city slicker and occasional distance runner. So if that tough new styling gives a sense of hope and you have great expectations I say be more realistic.
The ride is also OK, the seats are comfortable and over a long journey you won’t suffer from any discomfort. Combined, the ride and handling are fairly good-average, a little bit hard a little bit soft, good over most surfaces, terrible over speed bumps. But the ride and handling are not the soul focus of the Jazz ‘DNA’. No sir.
In truth the Jazz feels safe and secure, predictable and if that sounds ‘church going’ boring to you then there are church goers and ever atheists who like predictability. After all the 5 million people have bought a Jazz over the years surely the stats can’t be wrong.
But this review isn’t really about the ride or the handling. It’s about the potent combination of the naturally aspirated 1.4-litre petrol engine combined with a CVT gearbox that fails to connect on all levels.
In a time when car manufactures are down-sizing engine capacities and adding turbo power to boost performance Honda have not opted to follow suit with their small capacity 1.3-litre engine.
Then there is the CVT transmission which are small, space efficient and cheaper than traditional single clutch automated transmissions. But they have a problem.
The problem is that they never transfer any meaningful levels of torque, that is to say you don’t feel that shove in your back under acceleration, even when in combination with this small 1.3-litre engine.
As a result the Jazz in this engine and gearbox configuration feels almost undriveable.
To get the most out the 1.4-litre engine and CVT transmission you really have to use more revs. Doing so feels as though you are throttling a cat. And as you do so a high pitched droning sound cascades throughout the interior as if the CVT transmission is savagely beating the 1.3-litre engine.
As a result of all of this the straightline performance is subdued. It shouldn’t have to be that way. Maybe a turbo unit would have solved the issue.
Then there is another downside of using more revs and driving aggressively, it uses more fuel. However if you do drive like Miss Daisy then expect to get 44mpg on a combined cycle. But if you have a more assertive driving style then that economy can go below 30mpg.
All told even under heavy acceleration this specific combination of engine and gearbox delivers a placid experience that would make a Buddhist want to convert to Catholicism.
The real issue is that straightline performance will probably not be of prime concern for a typical Jazz buyer. Thankfully you do get a manual gearbox to choose and we recommend that the manual is the version to go for.
The entry level Honda Jazz S starts at £13k which is a lot of car for the money. There five versions to choose from, the top spec EX Navi will set you back over £16k and of course comes loaded with extra kit.
The Jazz may be priced a little higher than some rivals but you do get a better quality package all round. Just avoid the automatic version and if Honda could turbo-charge that 1.3-litre engine then it really could “jazz” up the Jazz.