Saturday, September 27, 2014


Honda's Jazz compact car continues to keep the versatility of its tall-bodied predecessors – and their versatile 'magic seats' – but brings an edgy new design, cool new tech and class-leading features, while using less fuel than before. It's a fun and predictable runabout to drive and the icing on the cake is a price under $15K, making it the most affordable Honda car in Australia.

Mostly targeted to young drivers in their 20s and early 30s, the new Jazz hits a lot of high notes in terms of technology and connectivity, and is nothing if not feature packed and versatile, but there's also a few misses.

The Honda is priced from $14,990, has a capped-price service regime, it drives a lot better than its predecessor and is now roomier thanks to a slightly longer 2530mm (+30mm) wheelbase. Overall length has increased by 96mm to 3996mm, which improves interior space, but more on that in a sec.

The Jazz has a sportier look thanks to a bolder front-end design, dubbed 'cross fade monoform', and the way the window line sweeps up toward the rear gives it a touch more attitude. New tail-lights add a contemporary look to the rear and there are heaps of new tech toys fitted as standard on all models, such as the LED headlights (a first for this class), a seven-inch touch-screen with HDMI input, twin USB ports and MP4 playback, not to mention a reversing camera with three angles – regular, wide and top-down view.

All the Honda models come with cruise control, Bluetooth audio and, Jazz’s smartphone integration (such as mirroring the phone screen on the car’s dashboard screen) is also currently limited to the iPhone 5 or 5S, with android integration coming soon. Basic Bluetooth connectivity works with both iOS and android., electric windows and mirrors, remote central locking and an engine immobiliser. There's good storage solutions too, with cup and bottle holders and plenty of incidental storage cubbies. 

Three models are offered in total, all fitted with the same 88kW/145Nm four-cylinder petrol engine, and Honda will offer the entry-level manual VTi model at a sharp $16,990 driveaway price for the foreseeable future. Check out the Honda Jazz news story for more details on standard features on mid-and top-spec models. Here are the prices, plus on-road costs:

The plucky 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol unit is certainly not the most powerful nor the quietest in its class. When paired with the CVT the engine is responsive and flexible and has no trouble hauling the car up steep hills without labouring, but it is noisy when revved, despite Honda's claims of reduced cabin noise. 

A five-speed manual is offered on entry-level models, but we didn't get to test it and is expected to be a slow seller. It uses fuel at a rate of 6.2L/100km, which is hardly class-leading and no better than the previous model, but the CVT auto models' thirst is slaked more easily, as they use just 5.8L/100km -- down from 6.7L/100km.

The Honda  Jazz rides smoothly over bumps and, though ride quality is perhaps a touch firmer than before, it's still a very comfortable and easy going compact car.Driven in the hinterlands along twisting roads – and careening around a few roundabouts – at a spirited pace, the Jazz reveals a much sharper chassis than previously, the updated suspension and new electric power steering combining to deliver a more engaging drive.

The large windscreen and neat seating position – neither too low nor highly perched – provides excellent vision, and the seat and cloth quality contrives to deliver a very comfortable experience.

The cabin looks schmick and the Jazz has a good trip computer and all models except the entry-level VTi come with touch-sensitive 'electro-static' heating/cooling controls that are achingly cool.

Although the seating and boot layout is virtually unchanged over the previous that's no bad thing when the highly versatile 'magic seat' layout offers a huge amount of load space. There's a real sense of space for all passengers, and I was massively impressed with the amount of rear seat leg room available.

Also, the Jazz holds 1492 litres in utility mode, which is with rear seats and the front passenger seat folded down. And there are some 18 different ways the seats can be arranged to fit long, low and even tall objects.

The large cargo capacity via ambidextrous 60/40-split folding rear seats is very impressive and the low floor makes loading bulky objects easy. The boot has 350 litres of space with the rear seats in place, up from 337 litres, and almost as much as the VW Golf. That expands to 906 litres with the rear seats folded flat – and, unlike the current Ford Fiesta, Mazda2, Suzuki Swift, Hyundai i20 and Toyota Yaris, the Jazz has a completely flat load floor.

The Honda Jazz is a more accomplished car than its predecessor. It drives a whole lot better, has loads of useful and practical features and a good looking (but poorly executed) infotainment system. That the car still relies on its brilliant folding seat versatility as its drawcard feature shows a lack of progress in some regards, but is that really a bad thing?

The biggest problem the Jazz faces is fierce competition from rivals, which will be even more intense as new versions of the Mazda2, Toyota Yaris and Hyundai i20 hit the streets within the next year. Indeed, the light car segment is one of the most populated in Australia, with almost 40 models to choose from. Luckily the new Jazz has the kind of chipper attitude and pragmatism that may keep it front of mind for many buyers.

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