We travelled to Frankfurt and Honda’s European Research and Development facility to test drive the new Honda Jazz. With a firm focus on space, efficiency and quality, the new supermini offers a generous specification as standard and new level of versatility that will continue to make it unique within its segment.
The all new Jazz is brand new from the ground up. It gets a familiar but sleek front end sporting Honda’s familiar ‘Crossfade Monoform’ design ethos as donned by the new Civic. In profile, it’s not too dissimilar from the Ford Fiesta which is not a bad thing, but the Jazz sports a longer roof line that almost gives it the impression of a mini MPV. A design that benefits passengers and its practical use of interior space greatly. At the rear, it has quite a broad stance thanks to its juxtaposed rear lights and a bumper design that give the effect of a wider bearing, but overall it is a functional and practical design.
First impressions of the interior are very good. The new Jazz features a sleek ‘3D’ dashboard design which is finished to a very high standard using quality, contrasting plastics and switchgear. The typically futuristic Honda design is further enhanced by the new 7 inch ‘Honda Connect’ Infotainment system and touch screen, surrounded by a leather stitch effect that together blend nicely to boost the appeal of this third generation model. The drivers cluster is dominated by a large centrally mounted speedometer with a smaller rev counter to the left and a digital read-out to the right displaying the trip computer, fuel and driver information. The multi-function steering wheel gets a sporty style 3-spoke design and feels nice to grip. To the right and centre of the dash is the new infotainment system which is slightly tilted toward the driver. It is quite simple to use and features Mirrorlink and it even offers WiFi tethering as an option. The setup of the infotainment system can also be tailored to the drivers taste to make it as intuitive as possible. Below sits the air conditioning, temperature controls and usual in-car switchgear that are also single touch and contained within a similar single glass piece as the main 7 inch screen. As the centre console swoops down, there are some storage space and cup holders below that meet the transmission and handbrake leading back toward the rear passengers. No automatic handbrake is present which is nice to see, just a simple old school handle.
Driving the new Honda Jazz is a pleasant experience. It features a new 1.3 litre vtec petrol engine with 102PS and 123Nm which is mated to a brand new 6-speed (0-100 kmh 11.2sec) manual or 7-speed automatic CVT transmission (0-100kmh 12.0sec). The manual option is one of the nicest feeling gearbox I have used in some time. It feels short and mechanical notching perfectly into place on every gear change. The CVT transmission feels like it manages the power quite well and makes the most of what is available, but did appear to struggle to find the right gear at times. While the CVT is actually the more economical of the two (106g/km & 116g/km C02) the manual is the sweeter option. Being a Honda petrol engine, it loves to rev right through the range and as per usual it is the top end where you get the best of its performance. That said, It is not a particularly responsive unit and feels like it lacks torque. However, this vtec is not built for performance, but economy and it is engineered to that effect with the ‘Atkinson Cycle’ offering a higher compression ratio at lower speeds, meaning it is extra frugal in a city or town environment. Push it harder and normal cycle is resumed offering maximum power to the driver. Dynamically it feels very good. During the press conference, the Jazz’s engineers spoke about a more dynamic and refined driving experience, with less body roll, increased rigidity and sharper steering. On the road, this translated really well. Although the engine did feel underpowered and did tend to scream through the higher revs, the car itself felt agile and engaging and like the Ford Fiesta, It was good fun to drive.
Similar to its predecessor, the main USP of the Jazz is the immensely practical ‘magic seats’ that enable a number of different configurations between the front and the rear. This enables you store anything from tall potted plants to a surfboard inside the car. Honda says ‘man maximum’ and ‘machine minimum’ is the design concept behind making the most of the space within the car. The plus side of this is class leading interior space thanks to 20mm increase between front and rear passengers resulting in 115mm legroom for the rear passenger. That is more knee space than a Mercedes S-Class. The boot also gains an additional 17 litres of space bringing it up to 354 litres or a large an impressive 1314 litres with the rear seats folded.
The new Honda Jazz will be available in Ireland in three different trim levels starting from €17,395. The base model comes with a very generous level of kit that includes air conditioning, a 5 inch LCD display touch screen, Bluetooth and phone prep and all electric windows front and rear with the mid-range ES and range topping EX both coming with additional specification.
In terms of aesthetic appeal, it would be fair to say that the new Honda Jazz would sit in the middle when compared to its Ford Fiesta, Volkswagen polo, Toyota Yaris and Nissan Note rivals, but for sheer practicality and driving enjoyment, it's tipping the top.