Honda Jazz

As a previous Auto Express Car of the Year and reigning champion of our Driver Power satisfaction survey, the Honda Jazz has nothing to prove. It's our pick of the bunch in the practical small hatchback market, and the company knows that it makes a seriously impressive car.

It's a sign of how capable the Jazz really is that Honda has found so little to upgrade. With some practical interior modifications, the entry-level S model is now better value than ever, while all variants benefit from disc brakes at the rear. Nearly three years on from launch, the Jazz is still a class-leader.

As a previous Auto Express Car of the Year and reigning champion of our Driver Power satisfaction survey, the Honda Jazz has nothing to prove. It's our pick of the bunch in the practical small hatchback market, and the company knows that it makes a seriously impressive car.

But even the best has to look to improve, so we got our hands on the new 2004 Honda to see if the revisions are enough to keep the Jazz in tune with the needs of its buyers. Visually, there have been hardly any changes made to the supermini's shape, and that's no bad thing. The only modification comes at the front end, where the SE Sport version test`ed here has foglamps added.

The overall appearance is more cheeky than chic, but the upright stance and squared-off edges have allowed designers to give the Jazz class-leading cabin practicality.

And it's inside the car where Honda has gone to work on enhancing the Jazz's versatility. There's no doubt that the fold-flat rear seats and enormous load space are hard to beat, but it's the transition from five seats to two that has been improved.

Until now, buyers of the entry-level S version who wanted to fold the rear seats down had to first open the front doors and slide the seats forward. To make life simpler, there's now another lever to the front seat which can be reached from the rear, allowing them to be moved with the minimum of fuss.

This is definitely a facelift that's all about getting the Jazz's details right. Following consultation with buyers, it seems a number of minor gripes were taking the shine off the ownership experience. One complaint was the single remote central locking blipper that came as standard. Anyone who wanted two sets of remote key fobs had to pay an extra £150. Thankfully, every car now comes with two integrated key transmitters as standard.

While that might seem a relatively minor change, other enhancements concentrate on making the Jazz safer. To fit in with forthcoming regulations, all models now come with ABS. That has led to the replacement of the rear drum brakes with more capable discs. Along with standard Electronic Brake Assist and Brakeforce Distribution, the Jazz's middle pedal now gives far more confidence to the driver. Otherwise the Honda is mechanically unchanged, meaning decent performance, excellent economy and an agile chassis.

So, what about prices? The entry-level S still costs £9,013, but the SE is now £10,363 - a £50 rise - and the top-of-the-range SE Sport is £11,413, which is £100 more. For many people, there is no better car for the money.

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