Honda Jazz 1.4 EX

Supermini has gone under the knife... but it’s more than nip and tuck as it bids to leave rivals trailing.

Overall Auto Express Rating

5.0 out of 5

The latest Jazz is bigger than the model it replaces. And, thanks to some class-defining packaging, the space and practicality inside can’t be faulted. The newcomer weighs little more than before, while the excellent engine and economical transmission help it achieve more than 50mpg. However, the big news is how clever Honda has been in the car’s evolution – particularly regarding the look and feel. The Jazz retains its distinct identity, but moves the game on enough to ensure both returning customers and first-time buyers will sing the praises of the Japanese firm’s supermini star.

The Jazz has been music to Honda’s ears since it was launched in 2002. Consistently crowned king of the supermini-MPV segment, the model has gained a reputation for great build quality, practicality and character. Such is its appeal, the maker claims 60 per cent of buyers go on to replace their car with another.

So it should come as no surprise that the latest version is no radical departure. The new Jazz is a bit longer and wider, but retains the original’s popular angular lights and miniature MPV profile.

Video: watch CarBuyer's video review of the Honda Jazz

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Exterior design details include a simpler front bumper framed by larger, more angular headlights swooping up the front wings. The stubby bonnet is smaller and the panoramic windscreen bigger, throwing even more light into the cabin.

In profile, the less pronounced bonnet emphasises the MPV-like stance, while the extended wheelbase provides more space inside for passengers and luggage. At the rear, the bumper design has been smoothed and the tailgate has grown, while the rear light clusters now have LED indicators.

Although the exterior changes are subtle, the redesign is cleverer than it might initially seem. As far as Honda’s faithful clientele are concerned, the nips and tucks make the Jazz’s shape instantly recognisable. But such additions as the LED tail-lights are intended to strengthen the appeal of the car, particularly among young buyers.

The same is true of the functional cockpit. Continuing the theme of evolution, the dash benefits from the use of better-quality materials. And there’s more kit as standard, which should also help to tempt new customers to the model.

The Jazz’s most impressive feature is its folding back seat arrangement – and that, too, has been refined. As a result, the rear squabs flip up and the seatbacks fold down with even less effort than before. Couple that to the additional space freed up by the enlarged bodyshell – which includes a clever split-level boot floor – and the fresh Jazz is more than capable of swallowing everything a small family on the move could want to carry on board.

There are two compact petrol engines: an 89bhp 1.2-litre or 98bhp 1.4. Both are mated to a manual box as standard, although Honda’s iShift automated manual is an option on the higher-output model.

We drove the larger-capacity Jazz with the conventional transmission, and were immediately impressed by its low-speed refinement. At idle, the powerplant was barely audible from inside the cabin and, when pressing on, engine noise remained unobtrusive, right up to motorway speeds.

A slick gearchange, fluid steering and powerful brakes all inspired confidence, while the comfortable driving position and expanses of glass made for excellent all-round visibility.

As there is no diesel, company engineers have kept emissions and fuel consumption in check by using long gear ratios and a dashboard shift indicator that displays the optimum time to change up or down. But while this is clever, it took us some time to get used to.

With the latest incarnation of its Jazz, Honda has shown it isn’t afraid of sticking to the philosophy of ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’. Investigate a little bit deeper, however, and it’s clear that the newcomer really does move the game on.

Rival: Nissan Note Designed with the family in mind, the Note also has some clever tricks to maximise cabin space within its compact dimensions. There are lots of cubbies plus a large, practical boot – and the Nissan is frugal, too.

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