Honda Jazz EV

9 Dec, 2011 11:25am Graham Hope

We drive the new electric supermini-MPV from Honda that breaks new ground

Verdict

3
None of the reservations many people have about electric power are addressed by the Jazz – the car’s range is limited and it wouldn’t be cheap. But as an EV runabout, it makes a convincing case for itself. Stick to its natural environment and it’s more fun to drive than you would expect, plus the usual Jazz attributes of solid build quality and practicality have been successfully carried over.
The Honda Jazz has always been a pioneer, and now it’s blazing a new trail in all-electric guise. It was one of the first supermini-MPVs when it was introduced a decade ago, and now finds itself at the cutting edge of technology, with an electric version to be launched in Japan and America next year. This will be badged the Fit, and will initially arrive in California and Oregon before being rolled out to six east coast US states in 2013.

The blanked-off nose distinguishes the model from the standard Jazz, plus our car features Fit EV livery. It also gets new five-spoke alloys, while a unique blue paintjob is available in the US.

Under the floor is a lithium-ion battery pack with a capacity of 20 kilowatt-hours (less than the Nissan Leaf’s 24kWh). The maximum output is 100 kilowatts. The 92kW coaxial electric motor, meanwhile, is derived from the hydrogen-powered FCX Clarity.

Inside, the most obvious additions are the buttons which let you choose which mode to drive in: Normal, Econ and Sport, as seen on the CR-Z.

As with all EVs, what stands out most is the silence at start-up. And with all the power available from a standstill, the car gets off the mark quickly.

Econ, as the name suggests, offers the most energy-efficient driving, with Sport optimistically claiming to deliver “exhilarating performance”. That’s pushing things somewhat, but there is a tangible difference between the modes: in Sport the drive is surprisingly fun, and claimed performance is on par with that of a 2.0-litre engine.

At low city speeds, the EV is very nippy and guaranteed to cause a few surprises when pulling away from the lights. Ride quality is similar to that of the standard model, though, so it doesn’t take much for the little Honda to get unsettled.

Do the numbers stack up? The US version of the Jazz claims a range of 76 miles in combined city and motorway use, or 123 miles in town alone, with the battery taking three hours to fully recharge when connected to a standard 240V socket.

Will the car come here? Honda bosses remain tight-lipped, but if this happens it won’t be for another three years at least. They do recognise, though, that one thing an electric Jazz would have in its favour is a familiar badge – they believe this would encourage sales.

Key specs

* Price: $399 a month lease (in US)
* Engine: 92kW electric motor (equivalent to 123bhp)
* Battery: 20kW lithium-ion
* Transmission: Single-speed, front-wheel drive
* 0-60/top spd: 10 secs/90mph (est)
* CO2: 0g/km
* Range: 123 miles (city mode)
* Equipment: Alloy wheels, energy-saving climate control, connectivity system linked to smartphone
* On sale: 2015 (est)
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