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First drive: Honda Jazz 1.5 Sport. Image by Honda.

First drive: Honda Jazz 1.5 Sport
Has Honda sneaked a performance version model into the Jazz Mk3 line-up? Erm, sort of…

   



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Honda Jazz 1.5 Sport

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Honda very mildly tweaks the looks of the Jazz Mk3 after three years on sale and, while the 102hp/123Nm 1.3-litre VTEC petrol is retained, there's now another motor at the top of the tree. It's a 1.5-litre VTEC delivering 130hp and 155Nm, enough to see the Jazz Sport scoot from rest to 62mph in less than nine seconds - but is this newcomer any good?

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Honda Jazz 1.5 Sport
Pricing: Jazz 2018MY from £14,115; 1.5 Sport from £17,115
Engine: 1.5-litre four-cylinder VTEC petrol
Transmission: front-wheel drive, six-speed manual
Body style: five-door hatchback
CO2 emissions: 133g/km (VED £200 first 12 months, then £140 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 47.9mpg
Top speed: 118mph
0-62mph: 8.7 seconds
Power: 130hp at 6,600rpm
Torque: 155Nm at 4,600rpm

What's this?

A Honda Jazz that's had a shot in the arm. We're going to try and avoid all the oh-so-obvious references to the, umm, clientele of advanced seniority that traditionally buys this Japanese supermini, because this particular version is a little rip-snorter. All right, it's a peppy warm hatch... OK, it isn't! It's just a Jazz with a bit more power! But, come on, that's gotta be worth something, right?!

If you want to take note of the revised bumpers fore and aft on the Jazz - different air intakes at the nose, re-shaped grilles with a linking trim strip on the rump - and also clock the 'solid wing' grille that has been ported over from the Civic, then you have the sum total of the changes to the 2018MY Jazz family. Oh, sorry, we nearly forgot - there's a new body colour, too, called Skyride Blue metallic. So if you toddle off to your local Honda dealership on your Zimmer frame... sorry! We didn't mean that; we mean, if you jog down to your local Honda dealership because you're young and virile and athletic and not in the least bit blue of rinse in the hair department, and you decide to buy a Skyride Blue 1.3-litre model (in S, SE or EX guise), then that's all you're going to get - new bumpers. And a grille.

However, embolden yourself and go for the sprightlier new 1.5 Sport (yes, Sport!), and there are further visual signifiers. Such as - and we're really not kidding you on, here - a front splitter with red pinstriping, a triple-vaned, red-pinstriped diffuser at the rear (really), a roof spoiler, additional detailing around the front air intakes and black 16-inch alloy wheels. Pimp my Jazz, if you will. And, do you know what? It looks good. Surprisingly charming, actually. There's a sort of perverse delight in seeing a car with such a staid image wearing some of the accoutrements of hot-hatchdom, and they genuinely do suit the Jazz's lines when you see a Sport model up close and personal.

Sadly, this is not a cheap, quirky way into warm hatch ownership, because it starts the wrong side of £17,000 in the UK. If you're a frugal sadomasochist, you can expend further cash on a continuously variable transmission (CVT) for the 1.5-litre engine, but why you'd wilfully want to ruin the poor Jazz Sport by doing that - for the sake of 52.3mpg and 124g/km, that CO2 figure saving you a mere 40 quid in year one VED alone - is beyond us, especially as the six-speed manual you get as standard is a little corker of a gearbox. So, steer clear of CVT and you do at least get a lengthy spec sheet for your £17,115, including (but not limited to) cruise control, automatic LED headlights and rain-sensing wipers, City-Brake Active, Advanced Driver Assist Systems (five active aids included), seven-inch touchscreen Honda Connect infotainment and a reversing camera, so you shouldn't feel like you've been overcharged for the Jazz Sport. The question is, can mere increases of 28hp and 32Nm from an additional 200cc of naturally aspirated motor really make a significant difference to the Jazz?

How does it drive?

Well, if you're in any doubt as to the potency of 130hp in a car weighing a scant 1,100kg, take one look at the 0-62mph time of the Jazz Sport and you'll notice it's a tenth quicker than the microhatch darling of the moment, the Volkswagen up! GTI. Imagine that. Imagine buying the VW and thinking you're the coolest sub-£20k performance car driver in town, and then getting owned off the lights by what you thought was a dodderer in a Honda Jazz. Remarkable.

And the Honda certainly feels perky; maybe not a warm hatch in an unassuming body, we'll admit, but a good deal brisker than the 102hp Jazz 1.3. And so it should - the stats say the 1.5-litre Honda is a fulsome 2.5 seconds quicker for 0-62mph than the manual 1.3, while it's also (neatly) 1.3 seconds sharper than the same engine saddled with the roaring horror of a CVT. And, despite a weedy 155Nm delivered way up at 4,600rpm, the Jazz Sport feels decently flexible in-gear, with enough throttle response and grunt to enact two-lane overtakes without them descending into sweaty-palmed terror. Smooth out to its 6,750rpm redline, with an acceptably throaty engine note, it's another fine VTEC engine, albeit - like so many modern Honda VTECs - one that is entirely lacking for any noticeable 'VTEC Kick' higher up the rev counter.

However, with no changes to the suspension, steering or brakes, you're not going to suddenly have a handling epiphany in the Jazz Sport. Oh, it's commendable enough, but then the standard 1.3-litre Jazz is tidy in the curves without being spectacular, and it's much the same story with the 130hp model. There's little understeer, lots of grip, an impressive level of body control and some well-calibrated key interfaces for the driver - we must again give plentiful praise to the snicket gearshift action here - but to say you'd be having a high old time of it barrelling the Jazz Sport along a twisting backroad would be stretching the boundaries of credibility somewhat. It's good in the corners, nothing more. However, let us not finish on a dynamic downer here, because we think the extra power of the 1.5-litre engine makes the Jazz a much more palatable proposition than it was with the 1.3-litre motor, and that was hardly a bad car in the first place.

Verdict

So, the Honda Jazz 1.5 Sport offers all the attributes of the Mk3 Japanese supermini - namely, excellent refinement, tidy handling and truly tremendous packaging that results in the sort of rear legroom that wouldn't shame a Skoda Superb - only it's quite a bit faster and it looks better on the outside. At 17 grand, it's not cheap but it is well worth consideration, especially if you're after practicality first, driving excitement second. And when we live in a world where a Ford Fiesta Vignale is more than £20,000 basic, then £17,115 for this curiously appealing Honda Jazz doesn't look such an outrageous ask at all.

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Exterior Design

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Interior Ambience

5 5 5 5 5 Passenger Space

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Luggage Space

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Safety

4 4 4 4 4 Comfort

4 4 4 4 4 Driving Dynamics

4 4 4 4 4 Powertrain


Matt Robinson - 26 Jan 2018



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2018 Honda Jazz Sport drive. Image by Honda.2018 Honda Jazz Sport drive. Image by Honda.2018 Honda Jazz Sport drive. Image by Honda.2018 Honda Jazz Sport drive. Image by Honda.2018 Honda Jazz Sport drive. Image by Honda.

2018 Honda Jazz Sport drive. Image by Honda.2018 Honda Jazz Sport drive. Image by Honda.   







 

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