Jazzing up the Jazz

Honda Jazz

There’s something rather bizarre about the Honda Jazz. This cleverly-packaged hatchback has more room inside it than just about anything else the same size. That’s thanks to the fuel tank’s patented location under the front seats. The Jazz also has an ingenious rear seat design, which Honda calls Magic seats. They fold up out of the way like cinema seats, leaving room to carry much taller items than most cars will accommodate.

The Jazz has been around for 14 years, through two generations of models, and has been hugely successful for Honda. Around the world, 5.5 million have been sold. Here in the UK, the tally is 300,000, accounting for around 40 per cent of the company’s sales. In recent times, it has been a British-built car, made at Honda’s Swindon factory, but production of the new car has moved back to Japan.

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Loved by oldies

What’s bizarre about the Jazz is that although it is such a popular model with a hip name, you hardly ever see young people driving them. Rival models like the Ford Fiesta, Vauxhall Corsa and Volkswagen Polo attract a wide age range of owners. Not the Jazz. The average buyer is 61, so it has a somewhat elderly image.

Now here comes the third generation car, and with it Honda is keenly targeting younger buyers. So don’t be surprised by the vibrant, look-at-me shades of yellow and orange that have been chosen for the launch colours. The cabin has been funked up too, with a redesigned dashboard, a bit more of a chic look than the old model, and a technology upgrade.

Getting connected

Honda Jazz

The Jazz has gone a lot higher-tech with connectivity and online links. All but the most basic version come with a standard seven-inch infotainment screen, with an app-based system that works on the Android platform. It means you can internet browse – not while driving of course – and connect your smartphone via wifi, Bluetooth, USB, or Mirrorlink.

Gone are the 1.2 and 1.4 engines of the previous Jazz. This one has a new 1.3 litre twin-cam I-VTEC engine. It’s less bulky and lighter in weight than either of the old engines, for better economy and sharper handling. Added to that is Honda’s Agile Handling Assist package, which is standard kit on the new car. If you drive a bit too exuberantly and steer into a corner a touch faster than is wise, the AHA system gives the opposite rear wheel ‘a kiss of brake’ to pull the car into the turn.

Safety has been given a high priority on this new-style Jazz. Included in the kit list is emergency city braking to cut the risk of low speed traffic shunts, forward collision warning, lane departure warning, emergency stop signal, a rear view camera, and traffic sign recognition with a function that will automatically keep the car within the speed limit.

More slick than quick

The Jazz won’t quicken your pulse with its performance, taking 11 seconds to reach the 60 mph national speed limit from a stationary start. It is quite slick to drive though, with pleasantly weighted controls, better ride quality than its predecessor, reasonable steering feel and pleasant gear-change. As well as a six-speed manual box, there is also a CVT auto. The 100 bhp engine isn’t as quiet as it might be when you work it hard. The combined average fuel economy is 56.5 mpg, and pricing starts from £13,495.

The new Jazz is noticeably improved from the old one, but it still isn’t as much fun to drive as the best of its rivals. The two aces up its sleeve are that it is still the roomiest car in its class, with an impeccable reputation for reliability, and those count for a lot. Especially with older buyers.

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About

Sue Baker is a seasoned motoring journalist with a love of all things automotive.