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In-depth reviews

Honda Jazz review - Engines, performance and drive

The Jazz has two engines to choose from, both Honda i-VTEC petrol units that need revving hard

While rivals are embracing torquey turbocharged small capacity petrol engines, the Honda Jazz makes do with naturally aspirated power. The 1.3 i-VTEC petrol engine feels a little asthmatic, especially at low revs. With 101bhp, it makes a decent amount of power, but with its 123Nm of torque only peaking at a relatively high 5,000rpm, you have to rev the motor hard to make decent progress – a trait it shares with the 1.5-litre engine in the Jazz Sport.

This has been proved in our acceleration tests, where the Jazz 1.3 took 10.4 seconds to accelerate from 30-70mph through the gears. And despite the fact that the Honda has a six-speed gearbox, it's not very quick in-gear, either.

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We haven't been bowled over by the CVT auto gearbox - we’d avoid it unless you absolutely have to have an automatic, as it’s an unpleasant operator - but the six-speed manual is much better. Honda knows how to do manual transmissions, and the Jazz's change is light, engaging and sweet.

Road and wind noise are well suppressed thanks to extra sound deadening in the wheelarches and behind the dash, and the revised suspension means there’s less body roll in the corners. However, the engines are noisy when they're worked hard – which they need to be a lot of the time. 

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The Jazz’s steering is light but doesn’t offer much feel or feedback, while the suspension filters out poor road surfaces admirably, although the Sport certainly has a firmer feel to it. As a result, the chassis is relatively stable – but only up to a point. The Honda is more at home cruising at a relaxed gait or nipping in and out of city streets, where the light steering helps manoeuvring in tight spots. There are plenty of rivals, such as the SEAT Ibiza and Ford Fiesta, that are more involving and rewarding to drive.  

Engines

The 1,318cc i-VTEC petrol engine delivers its maximum power output at higher revs than rival cars with turbocharged engines. It provides 101bhp at 6,000rpm, but just 123Nm at 5,000rpm.

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Performance is therefore leisurely, with the quickest 1.3-litre Jazz – the manual S model – taking 11.2 seconds to do 0-62mph before going on to a 118mph maximum. All manual Jazz models with this engine have the same top speed, but when dealing with low horsepower, every added gram of weight affects acceleration. As a result, stepping up from S to SE specification with its 15-inch alloy wheels adds a tenth to the 0-62mph time (11.3 seconds), while the EX takes 11.5 seconds to do the same sprint.

The CVT, which has an eco focus, slows the Jazz even further. All automatic models can only hit 113mph flat out and the 0-62mph times for the S, SE and EX models are 12.0, 12.2 and 12.3 seconds respectively.

If you want a quicker Jazz, you have to go for the 128bhp 1.5-litre engine and Sport trim. This is enough to get the car from 0-62mph in just under nine seconds, but it has much the same character as the 1.3, in that its peak power and torque only arrive pretty high in the rev range, so you need to work the engine hard to ensure that it's always working at its best. 

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