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First drive: Honda Jazz. Image by Honda.

First drive: Honda Jazz
Honda's B-segment MPV-like contender has more youthful appeal this time round.

   



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Honda Jazz

4 4 4 4 4

With sharper looks, an interior ramped up in terms of quality and even more competitive economy/emissions figures, the third-generation Honda Jazz has all the tools required to be a continuing success for the company; this is one of the key models for Honda UK. With a manual gearbox, the Jazz is a fine supermini.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Honda Jazz 1.3 EX Navi manual
Pricing: as tested from £16,325; starts from £13,495
Engine: 1.3-litre i-VTEC four-cylinder petrol
Transmission: front-wheel drive, six-speed manual
Body style: five-door hatchback
CO2 emissions: 120g/km (VED Band C, £0 year one, £30 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 55.4mpg
Top speed: 118mph
0-62mph: 11.5 seconds
Power: 102hp at 6,000rpm
Torque: 123Nm at 5,000rpm

What's this?

The 'all-new' third-generation of Honda's Jazz, a phenomenally important model for the marque as it has sold 5.5 million units worldwide since first appearing in Japan in 2001; more than 300,000 of those found homes in the UK. We say all-new, as it's thoroughly overhauled inside and out, although underneath, the platform is based on the outgoing model's. However, Honda has made the Jazz 95mm longer (at 3,995mm) with an extra 30mm in the wheelbase (now at 2,530mm) to improve on the interior space, and despite the car still being a mono-box shape, it's a lot more visually appealing than before. You can even have it in colours such as bright yellow, an orangey-red or vibrant blue, although how well any of these would go down in Eastbourne is another matter.

Ah, but that's the point. This one is targeted at a younger demographic than previous Jazzes and we reckon it stands a chance of winning some youthful hearts. The meaner 'wing' face of all Hondas is now present and correct, so the Jazz no longer has that inoffensively goofy look of previous models, while the two eye-catching swage lines give the flanks some definition. Wheels are either 15- or 16-inch items and neither look lost in the arches, so we're giving the Jazz a hearty thumbs-up here.

Inside, it is as roomy and clever as before, although Honda did try to claim that the Jazz has practically as much space - and more knee clearance for rear-seat passengers - than a Mercedes S-Class. Right. Anyway, it is plenty big enough for four tall people to clamber on board, while the dash architecture has been spruced up for 2015; it's maybe not quite up to Germanic standards here, but the Honda's cabin looks and feels of a suitably high quality. The 'Magic' seats remain in the rear, which can fold flat in one motion or even have their squabs tipped up to carry tall items in the back, while the Honda's 354- to 1,312-litre carrying capacity (that latter figure is rear seats down and loaded up to the roof) is aided by the fuel tank still being centrally mounted.

Starting at £13,495 and rising to £17,425, Jazz trim levels run S, SE and EX (there are 'Navi' versions of both the SE and EX that include Garmin satnav for £610) and the base S is comprehensively specified with a CD player, DAB radio, USB and auxiliary connectivity, Bluetooth, cruise control, auto lights and wipers and air conditioning. Plus a wealth of airbags and safety assistance features too. That's a fair amount of kit for a basic car.

SE is £1,100 on top of S and swaps the 15-inch wheels from steels to alloys, throws in folding and heated electric door mirrors, all-round parking sensors and Honda Connect infotainment, with a seven-inch touchscreen. Range-topping EX (£1,120 up on SE) upgrades the alloys to 16s, plus adds keyless entry/go, a rear-view camera, climate control and a leather steering wheel and gear knob. Both SE and EX models also get the Driver Assist Safety Pack, which builds on the Jazz's excellent regular safety level to incorporate Cross Traffic Monitor, Forward Collision Warning, Intelligent Speed Assist, Lane Departure Warning, Traffic Sign Recognition and High-beam Support System. No wonder Honda reckons the Jazz will get a five-star EuroNCAP rating when it's finally tested.

There's just one 1.3-litre i-VTEC normally aspirated engine with two gearboxes. The continuously variable transmission (CVT) automatic is more economical than the manual on all models; however, the only place where it actually makes a difference to VED is on the base S car, which - with 61.4mpg and 106g/km CO2 - is the only Jazz to sit in Band B (£0 year one, then £20 annually thereafter). Every other Jazz is in Band C, which means a mere extra tenner for the year-two-onwards tax figure.

How does it drive?

Very nicely, although if you're wondering how a car with a mere 123Nm of torque at a peaky 5,000rpm can still cut the mustard in today's turbocharged age, you might want to consider something other than the Jazz. It does require forethought to keep it buzzing along with traffic, yet Honda has once again provided a lovely, tight manual six-speed gearbox with which to stir the Jazz into life. The actual gear knob is a bit passť, especially compared to the 'soft buttons' dash of the EX, but the action of the lever is a delight. Also, in this trim the Jazz weighs a mere 1,066kg, resulting in a commendable 96hp-per-tonne.

Given a thorough pasting on the Autobahn, something wholly unrepresentative of what owners will do with their Hondas, the Jazz didn't disgrace itself, and for mooching about towns, the crisp, linear throttle and smooth, rev-happy engine make for easy urban passage. It even has a tidy chassis when out on the open roads, with lots of grip and minimal understeer; excellent steering, too, well weighted and reasonably communicative to boot. The i-VTEC engine only really becomes coarse near the 6,500rpm redline and it has a noticeable 'cam kick' at around 5,400rpm, but at more realistic low-revs use it's wonderfully subdued. Indeed, refinement on the car is very good, the only slight fly in the ointment being the ride - the torsion beam rear suspension has an underlying nervousness to it, which manifests into jittery composure on rougher surfaces. Most of the time, though, the Jazz feels as comfortable as a car from the class above.

So, back to that CVT. It carries an £1,100 premium on the manual. Honda says it has redesigned it with a wider ratio range, a 'natural multi-gear feel' and control software exclusive to Europe. It even comes with paddle shifts on the SE model and above. And it's an absolute belter when it comes to proving why all CVTs should be taken out to the middle of the Atlantic Ocean and sunk.

The throttle response is horrid and inconsistent, meaning you either end up with acceleration that would make a glacier blush or that strained lowing noise that all CVTs display, as the rev counter shoots round to 6,000rpm and stays there for long, agonising seconds at a time. Using the paddle shifts only seemed to utterly confuse it, and even just pottering around town it wasn't pleasant to get on with. The CVT is a good way of ruining the otherwise brilliant Jazz; save your money and stick to the superb manual instead.

Verdict

The Honda Jazz has always had a fuddy-duddy image and in a B-segment marketplace that's crawling with conscientiously stylish alternative metal - as well as supremely capable 'conservative' vehicles, like the Volkswagen Polo and Ford Fiesta - it has its work cut out. But the aesthetics are much improved on the third-generation car, while the Japanese marque's engineering prowess shines through in the Jazz, as it has a slick engine, delightful gearbox and reasonable all-round dynamics. With lots of kit, it's a strong contender in this segment but whatever you do, don't pick the CVT gearbox.

4 4 4 4 4 Exterior Design

4 4 4 4 4 Interior Ambience

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Passenger Space

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Luggage Space

5 5 5 5 5 Safety

4 4 4 4 4 Comfort

4 4 4 4 4 Driving Dynamics

4 4 4 4 4 Powertrain


Matt Robinson - 24 Jul 2015



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2015 Honda Jazz. Image by Honda.2015 Honda Jazz. Image by Honda.2015 Honda Jazz. Image by Honda.2015 Honda Jazz. Image by Honda.2015 Honda Jazz. Image by Honda.

2015 Honda Jazz. Image by Honda.2015 Honda Jazz. Image by Honda.2015 Honda Jazz. Image by Honda.2015 Honda Jazz. Image by Honda.2015 Honda Jazz. Image by Honda.



2015 Honda Jazz. Image by Honda.
 

2015 Honda Jazz. Image by Honda.
 

2015 Honda Jazz. Image by Honda.
 

2015 Honda Jazz. Image by Honda.
 

2015 Honda Jazz. Image by Honda.
 

2015 Honda Jazz. Image by Honda.
 

2015 Honda Jazz. Image by Honda.
 

2015 Honda Jazz. Image by Honda.
 

2015 Honda Jazz. Image by Honda.
 






 

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