Honda Jazz review
The Honda Jazz is bigger and more practical than ever, with plenty of equipment to boot.
The Honda Jazz has traditionally been a car bought by the older generation, attracted by its easy-to-access cabin and Honda's reputation for reliability. But with this third incarnation of the Jazz, Honda reckons it can expand sales to the younger end of the market. With fresh styling and a long list of standard equipment, this might be the car to do it.
The Honda Jazz drives in a civilised manner, provided you avoid the CVT automatic gearbox option. It has a more stylish dashboard design than before, yet still features the brilliant and intuitive cabin layout with Magic Seats in the rear, making it one of the most capacious and ingenious cars in its class.
It’s not particularly fast and it’s not particularly cheap, but the Jazz certainly looks capable of challenging the class leaders such as the Polo and Fiesta – and, perhaps, even attracting that much yearned-for younger demographic to the Honda fold.
The Honda Jazz was launched in 2001 as a 'monobox' design, replacing the underwhelming Logo city car that was built from 1996 right up to the introduction of the Jazz.
Its MPV-like styling made it hugely practical and it won far more critical acclaim than the Logo, although during its life cycle it was always seen as an old person's car, the main selling points being its reliability, ease-of-access and spaciousness. Younger buyers shunned it, attracted by youthful rivals that offer more in the way of personalisation options.
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The look of the Jazz – which is sold as the Fit in markets such as the US, Japan and China – was smoothed off for the car's second generation, and while it continued to impress with its practicality, it was still not a car with youthful appeal.
The current car is the third-generation Jazz, which was launched in Europe in 2015. It has been designed to tempt younger buyers into the Honda fold and has an edgier body, with more defined styling creases. The interior has also been improved with the addition of Honda Connect touchscreen infotainment.
There’s just one 1.3-litre petrol engine available in the range at the moment, with the choice of two gearboxes – a standard fit six-speed manual, or a continuously variable transmission (CVT) that adds £1,100 to any specification in the line-up.
Honda’s trim level hierarchy for the Jazz runs S, SE (+£1,100 on the S) and EX (+£1,120 on the SE), although slotting in between them are the SE Navi and EX Navi models, which add satellite mapping to their respective specifications for a £610 premium. That means the most expensive Jazz, an EX Navi with the CVT gearbox, starts from £17,425.
All Jazz models get Bluetooth, DAB, cruise control and auto lights and wipers, as well as air conditioning and the ‘Magic’ rear seats.
SE cars gain alloy wheels, a seven-inch touchscreen and parking sensors all round. SE specification also adds the Driver Assistance Safety Pack, including traffic sign recognition, forward collision warning and a lane departure system.
Top-spec EX cars are lavishly equipped, with larger wheels, keyless entry, a rear view camera and climate control.
Despite its upright appearance, the Jazz competes in the B-segment supermini heartland, taking on the likes of the Ford Fiesta, Vauxhall Corsa, Skoda Fabia, Volkswagen Polo, Renault Clio, Peugeot 208, Toyota Yaris, Nissan Note, Hyundai i20 and SEAT Ibiza.
Engines, performance and drive
With a 1.3-litre naturally aspirated engine, the Honda Jazz isn’t going to win any drag races. But that isn’t what this car is about. It has a grown-up personality and feels quite at home on the motorway, thanks to a sixth gear on manual models.
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Road and wind noise are well suppressed thanks to extra sound deadening in the wheel arches and behind the dash, and the revised suspension means there’s less body roll in the corners. Honda has hinted at a faster and more economical turbocharged version, but it’s unlikely to arrive until later in 2016.
Around town the ride is just the right side of firm, absorbing the biggest lumps and bumps without feeling too soft and unresponsive. The steering is quicker too and while it’s not as sharp as a Fiesta, it offers enough feedback to know where the front wheels are pointing.
The 1.3-litre i-VTEC engine delivers its power steadily and, thanks to the lack of a turbo, is entirely predictable when you require a burst of acceleration.
An automatic CVT version is available too, but we’d avoid it unless you absolutely have to have an automatic, as it’s an unpleasant operator; the slick six-speed manual is a much better transmission for this city car.
The 1,318cc i-VTEC petrol engine delivers its maximum power output at higher revs than cars with forced induction engines (ones with turbochargers or superchargers) in the same class. It provides 101bhp at 6,000rpm, but just 123Nm at 5,000rpm.
Performance is therefore leisurely, with the quickest Jazz – the manual S model – taking 11.2 seconds to do 0-62mph before going on to a 118mph maximum. All manual Jazzes have the same top speed, but when dealing with low horsepower, every added gram of weight affects acceleration. As a result, stepping up from S to SE specification with its 15-inch alloy wheels adds a tenth to the 0-62mph time (11.3 seconds), while the EX takes 11.5 seconds to do the same sprint.
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The CVT, which has an eco focus, slows the Jazz even further. All automatic models can only hit 113mph flat out and the 0-62mph times for the S, SE and EX models are 12.0, 12.2 and 12.3 seconds respectively.
MPG, CO2 and running costs
There’s only one engine to choose from and due to the fact that most cars are sold to private buyers, Honda doesn’t have much interest in more frugal diesel or hybrid models.
All Jazzes are in VED Band C, with one exception – the basic S variant with a automatic CVT gearbox. This is the only car to surpass 60mpg, with figures of 61.4mpg and 106g/km for CO2 emissions.
However, the CVT brings significant compromises to the driving dynamics and costs £1,100, so the manual starts to look like a total bargain in comparison, given that it'll only cost you a tiny bit more in road tax. Both S and SE manuals return 56.5mpg and emit 116g/km CO2, while the EX and its 16-inch alloy wheels sees those numbers worsen slightly to 55.4mpg and 120g/km.
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For the CVT, any step up in trim grade reduces its efficiency. The SE CVT returns 111g/km and 58.9mpg, while the EX automatic is barely any ‘greener’ than the manuals – its figures are 114g/km CO2 and 57.6mpg.
In the previous generation model, Honda did do a hybrid version, which coupled Honda’s Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) electric power (as seen in the Insight and CR-Z) with a 1.3-litre petrol engine. It might make a return for the Mk3 Jazz, although it could be a while before it’s ready for market.
As simple as they come here. Every Jazz, irrespective of specification or gearbox, is in insurance group 13.
Like most Hondas, the Jazz’s resale values after three years are excellent compared to class rivals, which should go some way to off-setting its reasonably high purchase fees. The most basic Jazz S manual will cost £13,495, whereas the Ford Fiesta range starts at £10,145 and the Vauxhall Corsa starts from £9,995 for a five-door model, to cite two examples.
Interior, design and technology
There’s no denying the new Honda Jazz is more stylish than the old one. Whether or not it can attract younger buyers remains to be seen, but it’s certainly more youthful than the two previous generations.
An example is the colour palette Honda offers on the car. Where so many manufacturers these days think dull and monochrome are the premium shades, Honda has gone for bright and vibrant on the Jazz.
There are eight colours: two free-of-charge solids (Milano Red or Sunset Orange); three pearlescent finishes (Attract Yellow, Crystal Black and White Orchid); and three metallic hues (Alabaster Silver, Tinted Silver and Brilliant Sporty Blue). Stepping up to either of the pearlescent or metallic colours costs £500, but the red, orange, yellow and blue are all eye-catching shades.
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In terms of physical design, the Jazz gets the same grille and headlights as the new Honda HR-V crossover, as well as a similarly high window line and sharp body creases. Gone is the frumpy body and dull styling, replaced by something striking and athletic.
The interior is fresh too, with all but the basic S model getting a seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system. Go for the top-spec EX and you’ll also get touch-sensitive climate control.
All cars come with the brilliant Magic Seats in the rear, which allow owners to fold flat the back seats in one swift movement, revealing a totally flat floor for carrying bulky items. Up front there’s plenty of support, and all the controls are within easy reach of the driver.
Honda also offers five packages on the Jazz, which either subtly alter the styling or increase its practicality. These are the Sport Pack (a discreet lower body kit and rear boot spoiler for £1,295), Design Pack (silver trim on the front grille, door mirrors and tailgate for £395), Premium Pack (body-coloured side trims, mudguards, different sill plates and elegance carpet mats for £450), Illumination Pack (blue ambient footwell lighting and illuminated door sills for £325) and Cargo Pack (a boot divider and under-shelf storage box for £230).
Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment
If you want sat-nav, you need to pay £610 to upgrade the SE or EX models to the SE Navi or EX Navi grades, respectively. The Garmin sat-nav system integrates neatly into the Honda Connect touchscreen, where it’s easy to get on with and provides nice, clear mapping.
Base S models get a single-slot CD player with a DAB radio, Bluetooth, aux-in socket and USB slot, as well as a four-speaker stereo and steering-wheel mounted controls.
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SE and EX variants, which automatically get the Honda Connect touchscreen, build on this with an extra pair of speakers, plus they have two USB ports.
The solitary audio option is the Honda 3D Sound (£395), which adds a compact digital signal processing (DSP) unit to the existing in-car entertainment, to improve the sound system. No upgrades that have better speakers and amplifiers are offered.
Practicality, comfort and boot space
This is where the Jazz excels. Nothing this side of a Nissan Note has as much outright space, with the little Honda offering more room than many cars in the class above.
There are loads of cubbies and storage areas within. The door bins will take a bottle of water and there are two cupholders ahead of the gear lever. There’s another by the steering wheel and another lidded bin behind the handbrake. The glovebox isn’t huge, but it’s big enough for various bits and bobs.
As well as the Cargo Pack, Honda offers a number of practical options such as a boot net (£40), boot mat (£75) and dog guard (£195). And despite its light weight and 123Nm of torque, the Jazz can tow a 1,000kg braked trailer if required.
Without making the car externally huge – it’s still less than four metres long, at 3,995mm – Honda has managed to deliver an interior that is more than capable of carrying four people in utter comfort. Even five average adults would be no problem.
The wheelbase (distance between front and rear axle) is 30mm longer than the old car, and from bumper to bumper the Jazz has grown by 95mm over its predecessor.
Leg room, head room & passenger space
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Rear seat passengers benefit from 115mm more legroom and an additional 20mm of shoulder room compared to the Mk2 Jazz. Believe it or not, Honda actually claims more rear knee room is available in the third-generation car than you’ll get in a Mercedes-Benz S-Class.
Seats up, the Jazz has a generous 354 litres of boot space when only loaded to the parcel shelf, which is more than 60 litres larger than you’ll find in a Ford Fiesta (290 litres). However, the Jazz’s party trick is its brilliant ‘Magic’ rear seats, which fold completely flat in one swift single motion.
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With the seats down, there’s a cavernous 1,314 litres of space up to the ceiling – more than all its main rivals and only surpassed by the Nissan Note (1,495 litres). What’s more, the rear-seat squabs also fold upwards so that tall, upright items can be carried in the rear footwell.
Reliability and Safety
The Honda Jazz has been a consistent performer in the Auto Express Driver Power survey for over a decade. However, being almost eight years old, the previous generation car dropped to 84th out of 200 cars in the overall round-up for 2015.
That’s a tough fall from grace, after finishing 11th, 12th and 29th in 2010, 2011 and 2012 respectively. It is quite normal for older cars to slip down the tables, though, and we expect the new model to rectify things at the top of the table when we carry out the survey in 2016.
An ageing product line-up hasn’t helped Honda as a brand either, with the manufacturer falling to 18th (a five-place fall) in the 2015 survey. Owners complained about ride quality in particular, but praised their cars for reliability and practicality.
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In terms of safety, the Jazz aced the Euro NCAP crash tests, coming home with a full five-star rating and impressive section scores of 93 per cent safety for adult occupants, 85 per cent for child occupants, 73 per cent for pedestrians and 71 per cent for safety assist systems. On this last score, that’s because all but the basic S models get Honda’s Driver Assistance Safety Pack, which includes lane departure warning, traffic sign recognition and forward collision warning.
All Hondas come with a three-year, 90,000-mile warranty as standard, which is certainly generous compared to rivals in terms of the mileage.
At the time of expiration, a Honda Extended Guarantee can be purchased, which includes UK and European breakdown cover, protection against mechanical and electrical faults and a maintained ongoing service history.
For another 12 months alone (for year four), it costs £460; for an extra 24 months (years four and five), the price is £850.
Pre-paid service plans are available for cars less than eight months old and with less than 8,000 miles on the clock – this is a one-off payment of £695, which covers five years’ worth (or 62,500 miles) of labour, parts and VAT maintenance costs. Honda says this will save owners up to £505 over the course of the plan.