The Honda Jazz has been a popular car throughout the years – mostly for those old enough for a free bus pass – so is the facelifted third generation model able to continue that theme? It’s got stiff competition from cars such as the Ford Fiesta and the SEAT Ibiza, so this Japanese supermini will have its work cut out. Is able to hit the right notes? I drove it last week to find out.
A mixed bag to start with
Now, I know looks are very much subjective, but for me the Jazz isn’t exactly what you’d call exciting when it comes to the looks department. Compare it to other cars in its class such as the new Fiesta or the new Ibiza and you’ll left with a car that looks about as invigorating as a trip to your local library. Yes, you’ve got Milano Red paint, 16″ alloys and a honeycomb front grille – all of which are standard for the EX model – but it’s just a bit, well, boring. Sorry Honda.
If you’re expecting the interior to be better then I’m afraid you’d be mistaken, as the cabin to features a sea of black materials – most of which, are hard, scratchy plastics. Granted, there’s a silver trim on the passenger’s side of the dashboard, as well as some relatively soft materials, but overall, the inside is not as enticing compared to its rivals, and it looks a bit dated.
This is further compounded when you fire up the ignition to find a 7″ touchscreen that looks about 10 years out of date. The graphics are low rent and for a company that is as technological as Honda, it’s disappointing to say the least. The reversing camera also has a poor resolution, which too, is disappointing.
Not only does it look dated, but it’s not that intuitive, and at times it feels about as easy to navigate as a maze. Little wonder that the manual just for the navigation is over 130 pages. If you think that’s a fair bit of paper, trying getting through the car’s main manual – I’ve heard it’s longer than all of the Harry Potter books put together. Ok, that’s an exaggeration, but it’s over 630 pages. No. Really.
What is the driving sensation like?
If you’re looking for a wide choice of engines for the Jazz then you’re likely to be disappointed, as there are just two on offer. These are both naturally aspirated petrol engines, so I’m afraid there’s no turbo or no diesel. At least it makes your choice easier I suppose. Speaking of choice, you can either have a 1.3 litre petrol or a 1.5 litre unit. However, the latter can only be had if you go for the range-topping Sport model.
As I have the EX model, I’m making do with the 1.3 litre unit, which is able to offer 101bhp with 123Nm of torque. This power is fed to the front wheels via a 6-speed manual gearbox that is so short and snappy to use, it could put some hot hatches to shame. A pleasant surprise, given that the Jazz is not exactly designed to be out-and-out sporty.
Honda states that this car will get to 62mph in 11.4 seconds, but that is likely to feel like the longest 11.4 seconds of your life as the Jazz doesn’t really like to be hurried. It will also be a rather noisy 11.4 seconds as you’ll need to work the engine harder than a barman on a Friday night to make any real ‘progress’. If you have enough patience – as well as a slight decline and tailwind – you’ll eventually hit a top speed of 118mph.
To be fair to the Jazz, it’s not designed for performance, but I really feel as if a turbo would help to put some much needed fizz in to the car’s performance. Mind you, the engine is pretty refined when you aren’t working those pistons in to overtime, and it’s able to work away in near silence at cruising speeds. Road and wind noise could be better though.
The ride is firmer than you may be expecting though – the car may be named after a music genre that’s smooth and laid-back but the ride is actually a bit more like rock and roll. It’s fidgety and jiggly, especially at lower speeds where it’s pretty bumpy to say the least. It does get better when you get up to speed though, as the Jazz is able to compose itself noticeably better.
So it’s got a firm ride, it must be good in the corners?
You would be absolutely…incorrect, I’m afraid. It’s not awful in the corners, but it’s not as well polished as other cars in its class such as the Fiesta. The grip on offer is satisfactory and the brakes feel pretty decent, but there is a bit of body lean to contend with, and the car doesn’t feel as planted as you’d like it to be. The steering is a bit too light for my liking, but at least it feels reasonably direct, helping to make use of the Jazz’s feeling of nimbleness.
Why should I buy a Jazz?
That is probably the question you’re asking me right now isn’t it? Up until this point I haven’t exactly covered this car with glory. After all, the looks are so-so, the interior could be better, the infotainment system is iffy, the engine isn’t great and it’s not outstanding to drive. Well, the Jazz does hold quite a big ace up its sleeve – space. Plenty of it.
There’s plenty of space to be had in the front, and getting a good driving position is a doodle thanks to a steering wheel that adjusts for rake and reach, plus a driver’s seat that offers a good level of adjustment. The rear is where the Jazz really starts to shine though, as it offers a fantastic amount of space.
Even with the driver’s seat set for my height (6’2″) I had plenty of legroom in the rear, allowing me to really stretch out. The headroom is also of a good standard, meaning that rear space is considerably better than what a Fiesta could offer. Adults should be able to get comfortable in the rear for long journeys with very little complaint, so a that’s big tick for Honda there, plus there are ISOFIX points if you’re looking to carry children. Frankly, they should have called the Honda ‘Tardis’.
In case that wasn’t enough, the Jazz offers Honda’s innovative ‘Magic Seats’, They’re not quite as exciting as the name would lead you to believe, but they’re still dead handy. The bases of the rear seats can be folded up, meaning there’s more space to larger items in the rear. The front seats also recline all the way back, which allows those in the back to really stretch their legs out, or those in the front can lay back and have a snooze. Try not to have a nap whilst you’re driving though, as there’s a good chance that won’t end well.
To finish off, the boot is also of a very good size, offering 354 litres, which is pretty gargantuan for a car of this class. In case you wondering, that’s more than 50 litres than the Fiesta, which doesn’t sound like much, but believe me, you’ll be able to make use of that difference. However, if you do need more space, you can fold down the 60/40 rear seats to make sure of 1,314 litres.
Visibility is also very good – couple that with the light controls and you’ve got a car that is very easy and accessible to drive. The windscreen is large, plus the A-pillars are set forward and raked in such a manner that you’ll have better vision at junctions. The wing mirrors are also of a good size, as is the rear window, so you should have little difficulty manoeuvring this car. Just in case you need back up though, the EX model offers front and rear parking sensors as well as a reversing camera.
It won’t cost the Earth to run
As well as offering a high amount of space, the Honda Jazz is also frugal. 54.3mpg is what Honda states you should get on a combined run, and in real world driving I’ve come very close to hitting that so your trips to the petrol garage should be infrequent.
It emits 120g/km of CO2, which isn’t bad, but not as low as its turbocharged rivals, and for the first year of VED you’ll need to pay £165. Less CO2 is emitted if you go for the CVT automatic gearbox (114g/km), but you’ll still be required to £165 for VED, plus the fuel economy is a bit lower. Figures improve when you opt for a model with smaller wheels, but it’s not too much difference, so don’t let the higher trim levels put you off in that regard.
If you’re after the 1.5 litre engine, you can expect respective combined figures of 39.2mpg and 44.1mpg for the 6-speed manual and the CVT gearbox. The manual will be a bit costly for VED as it’ll cost £205 for the first year thanks to emissions coming in at 133g/km whereas the CVT emits 124g/km, meaning you’d pay £165.
It also offers a good level of kit; this EX model starts from £17,240 and is able to offer features such as 16″ alloys, 7″ touchscreen, DAB radio, Bluetooth, navigation, reversing camera, front and rear parking sensors, reversing camera, autonomous emergency braking, and keyless entry to name a few.
There are three other trim levels to choose from, just in case the EX isn’t for you. S is the base model, which starts from £14,240 and is able to offer cruise control, automatic lights and wipers, Bluetooth, AEB, and air conditioning.
Next up you have the SE, which has a starting price of £15,740 and is able to add a 7″ Honda CONNECT infotainment system, 15″ alloy wheels, plus front and rear parking sensors.
Then you’ve got the EX as tested here, which leaves the range-topping Sport model, which starts from £17,280. It would be natural to expect that it offers more kit than the EX, but it’s actually closer to the SE in regards to its spec. You may be wondering why you’re paying more money, but that’s because this is the only Jazz you can have with the more powerful, 1.5 litre petrol engine. You also get sportier styling, LED headlights and 16″ alloys, but in honesty, you’d probably better served by the SE or the EX.
Is it safe though?
In a word, yes. As standard the Jazz receives six airbags, speed limiter, as well as autonomous emergency braking. This was enough to earn the car 5 stars from Euro NCAP, with adult occupant safety earning a very impressive 93%. Step up the trim levels and you’ll also get traffic sign recognition and lane departure warning as well.
So then, is the Honda Jazz able to hit the right notes? Not quite, I’m afraid. The inside feels a bit dated, the engine range could be better and that infotainment system would drive me up the wall if I had to live with it in the long term. It’s also not the best to drive in its class, but, it does offer a lot of space, it’s got high safety levels, it comes with a decent level of kit, plus it’s pretty frugal.
Car Obsession Rating: (3.5 / 5)
- Very spacious
- Decent levels of kit
- Snappy gearchange
- Good visibility
- Woeful infotainment system
- Small engine range
- Not as rewarding to drive as rivals
- Firm ride
- Dated interior
- Not as attractive as its rivals
The Ford Fiesta has been the benchmark in this sector for many years, and although it’s more modern that’s more pleasing on the eye both inside and out, it doesn’t offer as much space. The boot is more than 50 litres smaller, plus the rear is cramped for taller passengers, which gives the Jazz an advantage. The Fiesta offers better engines, though.
The latest Ibiza has been well received since its launch last year, and has been able to give the Fiesta a run for its money. Like the Fiesta, it offers smart looks and a decent engine range, but despite offering more space, it’s still not as roomy as the Jazz.
Like the cars above, the Nissan Micra has been a popular car for many years, and is every much a supermini mainstay. The new model feels rejuvenated, although it’s not quite as fun to drive as it looks. It’s also cramped in the rear, and it doesn’t offer the best value in this part of the market.