Long term test review: Honda Jazz

Final report: it wasn’t exciting, but our time with the Honda Jazz supermini had its highlights

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

With a new Nissan Micra, SEAT Ibiza, Volkswagen Polo and Ford Fiesta joining the incredibly crowded supermini sector this year, the humble Honda Jazz will have its work cut out to keep pace. But there’s no denying its versatility and usability, plus its honest charm, even if it’s not the most desirable choice.

Mileage: 4,016Economy: 45.5mpg

Honda admits that the average age of a Jazz owner is fairly high, at 61. While that’s no bad thing, it means that at 24 years old, I’m some way short of the typical buyer profile. Our last Honda long-termer was the fire-breathing Civic Type R hot hatchback, so we wanted to see how something from the other end of the spectrum stacked up in the real world.

It’s certainly not as glamorous or as intimidating on the road as the 306bhp hatch. Styling is always subjective, but the Jazz has always been more about maximising interior space than delivering a style statement. However, the current car has a bit more personality, and our top-spec EX model is helped by its shiny 16-inch alloys and vibrant Sunset Orange paint. I’ve seen a few other Jazzes in this bold colour, and although it won’t be to all tastes, it could help to attract a younger audience.

The Jazz still has some away to go to match the most desirable superminis, though. The featureless rear and tall proportions mean it’ll never look as sharp as a Ford Fiesta or the latest Nissan Micra, and we wish Honda had integrated the daytime running lights into the main lamps. Inside, it’s a sea of black plastic and bland materials that are solid and hard-wearing, rather than upmarket and stylish.

However, Honda has focused on what matters to its traditional customer base; everything is easy and quick to operate (apart from the touch-sensitive heating controls) and there is plenty of storage. Legroom for rear-seat passengers is genuinely remarkable; my set-back driving position usually causes issue for people sitting behind me, but that’s never been the case in the Jazz.

Headroom is good and the boot is big, so in some ways it’s better to think of the Jazz as a good-value small family car rather than the slightly pricey supermini it really is. The car rarely put a foot wrong in six months, either. Once the tyre pressure monitoring system had stopped giving out false alarms, the only other annoyances were the over-sensitive active braking system, and a slow electric window motor for the driver's side.

Fuel economy never dipped below 45mpg, although that could have been better if you didn’t need to frequently rev out the 1.3-litre engine to get the best from it. Motorway trips showed up the Honda’s lack of torque and refinement, too with a constant drone at 70mph and the frequent need to drop down a gear or two for steeper hills. However, the slick gearshift and decent agility made diversions on to country lanes surprisingly entertaining.

We’ll miss the humble and reliable Honda; it wasn’t the most hotly fought-over set of keys in the office, but its versatility meant it punched well above its weight.

Honda Jazz: second report

House move allows Honda Jazz supermini to play its practicality trump card

Mileage: 2,530Economy: 45.8mpg

It’s not always easy to get excited about practicality. Car buyers rank it highly on their list of priorities, but frequently end up being emotionally drawn to something with svelte looks, bonkers performance or dazzling tech. However, the appeal of an honest and versatile car is something often only appreciated as time goes on.

• Best superminis on sale

That’s exactly what I’ve experienced after a few months with our Honda Jazz. It did little to stir my soul when it first arrived on our fleet, but as it’s settled into daily life, I’ve begun to value its usefulness more and more. It really proved its worth recently when I moved from my home town of Newbury, West Berkshire, to a new flat in Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire.

I was determined to avoid the expense of hiring a van, so while a Kia Sorento was drafted in to shift a big double mattress, the Jazz was filled to the brim with countless smaller items – everything from boxes of clothes and cutlery to even a crate of housewarming beer. With 50 miles between my old home and the new abode, I was keen not to have to make multiple trips.

It was the first time I’d really felt the need to use the Jazz’s Magic Seats – flipping up the seatbases cinema-style gives a really useful space from the roof to the floor, perfect for the bulkiest items. This feature was picked up in the firm’s Civic family car, but sadly Honda has ditched it for its latest Mk10 family hatchback. Even if you don’t use the seats every day, they’re a real boon when you do.

Equally useful is the 354-litre boot. It’s bigger than a Ford Focus’s, while the low lip height makes it much easier to lug heavy items into the load bay. The only downside of this is the long and bulky tailgate, which is a bit of a pain to open in tight spaces. 

At least the seat folding mechanism is beautifully simple – a quick tug of the lever on top of the backrest sees the chair fold with no elbow grease necessary (although you can’t do this in conjunction with the Magic Seats – it’s one or the other). This reveals 1,314 litres of space. Little touches like these really helped ease the stress of moving.

Elsewhere, we’re pleased the over-zealous tyre-pressure monitoring system reported previously seems to have fixed itself. The collision warning still beeps on occasion, but the autonomous braking system hasn’t yet slammed on the anchors unnecessarily.

Everything else works perfectly, with only minor annoyances such as the sat-nav’s poor traffic detection causing issues on longer journeys. Big trips – including a recent drive to the Peak District and back – also revealed a lack of thigh support for taller drivers like me. Plus, the 1.3-litre engine’s low-end torque deficit and buzzy tone start to wear at motorway speeds.

You’ll find yourself working the six-speed gearbox quite hard. However, the winding Peak District roads were a lot more enjoyable than I expected in the Honda, thanks to the revvy motor, slick gearshift and accurate steering. It’s still nowhere near as fun as a Ford Fiesta, but given keen drivers aren’t the Jazz’s target market, it feels nicely engineered.

The ride is still a touch firm around town, but it’s perfectly comfortable out of it. We’re happy with the fuel economy, too. It’s dropped a little recently due to plenty of urban motoring, but 45.8mpg is still a fair bit better than turbocharged superminis we’ve run in the past.

Honda Jazz: first report

Honda Jazz supermini has a tough rival to beat as it joins our fleet

Mileage: 1,012Economy: 47.2mpg

We always make sure we run a diverse group of cars on the Auto Express fleet: from pick-up trucks to lightweight sports cars and executive saloons to hybrids, they have all been subjected to extended tests by our team over the past few months. But the latest arrival in our car park, the new Honda Jazz, has given us a chance to live with two very similar models back-to-back.

Picture editor Dawn Grant is five months into running a Suzuki Baleno, while I’ve only just taken custody of the Jazz. The Suzuki is one of the benchmarks the Honda has to beat, so what better way to set its stall out than with a quick comparison?

Both these small cars are aimed at the more rational, practical end of the supermini market, offering impressive levels of space and versatility. Neither the Jazz nor the Baleno makes much of an attempt to be sporty, and both have an honest, no-nonsense charm as a result.

Targeting the same kind of buyers means the Jazz and Baleno have faced off before in a group test, so when welcoming the Honda to our fleet it felt like a good idea to revisit what it needs to deliver over the next six months.

Our top-spec EX Navi model matches the Baleno for standard equipment. Both cars come fitted with a touchscreen sat-nav, as well as climate control, a DAB radio and a rear-view camera. However, the Suzuki’s cruise control is adaptive unlike the Jazz’s conventional system.

Autonomous emergency braking is included as standard as well, but we’ve already found the system is sometimes too keen to warn of potential collisions, even in its most relaxed setting.

We think the Jazz is the bolder choice in our test model’s Sunset Orange paint finish – a no-cost option – while inside the Honda has more of a solid and expensive feel than the Suzuki.

And so it should. At £16,755 it costs £2,506 more than the Baleno – no amount of soft-touch plastic on the dashboard can make up for that. Plus, as we found out when we tested the two models together, the Suzuki’s punchy 1.0-litre turbo petrol is notably faster and more relaxing at speed than the Jazz’s 1.3-litre non-turbo unit.

But the Honda’s engine isn’t without its charm. Peak torque doesn’t arrive until a heady 5,000rpm, meaning you have to keep it on the boil to make progress, and the rev-happy unit makes the part of the fun.

• Honda Jazz vs Suzuki Baleno vs Nissan Note

It’s helped by the sweet and slick-shifting six-speed manual gearbox, which allows you to make the most of the Jazz’s modest 101bhp output without it feeling like a laborious process.

Even though there’s no turbocharger to improve efficiency, fuel economy has been very good. So far I’m averaging an impressive 47.2mpg over a mix of town, country and motorway driving. The Honda is more fun to drive than you might expect thanks to its accurate steering, although there’s plenty of body roll and the ride can be a touch skittish around town.

It’s the space I’m looking forward to putting to the test most, though. The Jazz will frequently find itself fully loaded with luggage for airport runs, where the fold-up Magic Seats in the rear are sure to come into their own, or crammed with five full-sized adults when I’m called on to ferry friends around, so it’ll need to live up to its billing as a supermini with versatility at its core.

Insurance quote (below) provided by AA (0800 107 0680) for a 42-year-old living in Banbury, Oxon, with three points.

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