Honda Jazz review
The Nissan Note-rivalling Honda Jazz is one of the most practical and reliable superminis on sale
The Honda Jazz has proved hugely popular in the UK. It has a strong reputation for reliability and it has one of the cleverest, most practical interior layouts of any car on sale. It's only available in one body style, but the five-door model is just as flexible as some MPVs despite its compact dimensions. Only the lack of a diesel engine and a high list price limits its wider appeal. A hybrid version uses the same petrol-electric drivetrain as the innovative Honda Insight and greatly improves the Nissan Note rival's efficiency. Honda is expected to reveal a new Jazz at the Tokyo Motor Show in November 2013. Details are still scarce but Honda has confirmed that it will offer the same high seating position and great practicality but with a sportier design. It will be built on a completely new scaleable platform that will also underpin a new Juke-rivalling SUV.
Our choice: Honda Jazz 1.4 EX 5dr
The first-generation Jazz offered an enormous cabin but was hampered by its boxy shape. This latest version introduced in 2008 has an even bigger interior, but its bulk is concealed behind neat and well-proportioned bodywork. The line-up ranges from entry-level S models - which do without alloy wheels and air-con – through to top-spec EXL, which adds heated leather seats and a built-in sat-nav. Mid-range ES cars body-coloured bumpers and all round electric windows, while sporty Si trim was introduced in 2012 and adds a racy bodykit, two-tone 16-inch alloy wheels, sports suspension, climate control, a USB connection and privacy glass for the rear windows. Hybrid models get a bespoke grille, a more aerodynamic bumper and blue-tinged headlights. The driver-orientated dashboard layout features big, easy-to-reach controls for the stereo and heater. However, the hard and shiny plastics used inside don't compete with newer rivals like the Nissan Note.
With a tall, upright driving position and excellent all-round visibility, the Jazz is a very easy car to drive. The smooth gearshift from the five-speed manual and light steering help to ease the stress of travel, but do little to excite in terms of driver enjoyment. There are two petrol engines to choose from: an 89bhp 1.2-litre or 98bhp 1.4-litre, which can manage the 0-60mph sprint in 11.1 seconds. Neither feels particularly quick and both have to be worked hard to make decent progress. The hybrid model is better, with the electric motor working in unison with a 1.3-litre petrol engine to provide extra torque at high revs. However, it’s only available with a CVT auto and can be very noisy at motorway speeds. The firm ride doesn't cope well with broken road surfaces, while wind and road noise is noticeably louder than in rivals like the Volkswagen Polo.
The second-generation Honda Jazz has a five-star rating from Euro NCAP, and comes with six airbags, seatbelt reminders and Isofix mounting points as standard. Be aware, though, that entry-level S versions do without ESP. Small cars don't usually do well in satisfaction surveys, but the Jazz is the exception to the rule. Although it fell from 11th to 29th place in the 2012 Driver Power survey, it did receive a perfect 100 per cent score for reliability and seems almost immune to breakdowns or faults. It has had its fair share of problems, though, with vehicle recalls to fix issues including a fault with its handbrake, headlights and braking system. Owners have been particularly critical of its performance, harsh suspension and disappointing handling. However, Honda finished sixth overall, just ahead of Hyundai and Mercedes. Every Jazz comes with a three-year, 90,000-mile warranty.
The Jazz's intuitive and flexible interior is its biggest strength, and good sales figures show this hasn’t gone unnoticed with buyers. The deep and well-shaped 399-litre boot is bigger than most family hatchbacks, and features a clever double-layered floor to help stow loose items. The rear seats can recline or fold completely flat at the pull of a lever, while the seat bases can be flipped up cinema-style to create a tall loading area. There’s plenty of leg and headroom for seat seats occupants, as well as plenty of storage scattered around the cabin - including a neat double glovebox, deep door bins and a host of cup-holders. With the exception of the Toyota Verso-S and Nissan Note, very few rivals can match it for space. Unfortunately, a full-size spare wheel is only available as an option, but all cars do come with an emergency repair kit to help get you home.
All petrol Jazz models emit between 120 and 130g/km of C02, putting them in VED band D. The 1.2 and 1.4-litre engines can return claimed fuel consumption of 50.4 and 53.3mpg, but you should expect these to drop dramatically when the car is loaded with passengers and luggage - we managed only 33.8mpg on our week-long test of the 1.4 Si. These figures aren't bad but they lag behind the class best due to the lack of diesel option. The hybrid model will return 63mpg, but it fails to fall below the all-important 100g/km tax threshold, which means it’s not exempt from road tax or the congestion charge. It’s also much more expensive to buy, which effectively negates the benefit. Residual values are strong across the range, while competitively low insurance costs and a great-value servicing pack make it a strong contender.