Honda's all-new Jazz takes on an even more practical shape and features a highly versatile and refined interior.
In the Metal: 3.5/5
The exterior styling of the new Honda Jazz has moved on quite a bit from its predecessor and in modernising it, the Japanese company has made it a more visually divisive car. Most noticeable is the incisive swage line that runs up along the shoulder line of the car through the door handles and into the wraparound rear lights. It gives the car a busy appearance when viewed side on but overall this is the only real area of criticism in what it otherwise a well-proportioned car.
At the front there is a Honda family appearance while the low short bonnet and minimal overhangs front and rear help make the Jazz easy to park in tighter spaces. Both front and rear doors have wide apertures allowing for easy access while the large hatchback opens to reveal a low loading level and boot that offers 354 litres of space with the rear seats up, a capacity that is a good deal more than many of its rivals.
What is most impressive inside the new Honda Jazz is the sense of space. Honda, as ever with the Jazz, frees up room in the rear by locating the fuel tank centrally in the floor while the tall roofline and large windows make it feel like a larger car than its exterior dimensions might suggest. Speaking of dimensions it is worth noting a few important numbers that Honda has improved upon. Rear passenger legroom has increased by 115mm, which, considering that the car is only 95mm longer than its predecessor, is impressive.
The Jazz also features 'Magic Seats' in the rear that can either fold down almost flat or have the seat base fold back and upwards to allow for taller objects to be transported behind the front seats. Alternatively, the front seats can fold backwards to create a lounge-like area combining with the rear seats to act like a futon. Honda has improved the look and feel of the materials used inside too, although it still isn't quite up to par with the likes of Hyundai or Skoda at the same price point.
Driving it: 4/5
Buyers will only have one engine option in the new Jazz, a 1.3-litre i-VTEC petrol unit that produces 102hp. Despite the larger-than-average engine size for this segment Honda has managed to keep its emissions low enough to see it not exceed Band A4, which means a tax cost of €200 per annum. Fuel consumption isn't all that bad according to Honda's official figures that see the manual Jazz return an average of 56mpg (5.0 litres/100km) on the combined cycle. The automatic version uses even less.
There will be a choice of either a six-speed manual gearbox or an automatic CVT. The manual is quite nice to use, with a short throw between gears that feels solid and mechanical yet smooth in its operation. Sadly, the automatic CVT is less pleasurable to use. Honda claims to have engineered it with European driving tastes in mind though this does not seem to come through in the finished product. Like most CVT transmissions it delivers slow levels of acceleration and increased engine revs in most scenarios other than driving slowly around town. The manual gearbox is definitely the one to go for in this case.
That aside, the Jazz feels very good on the open road and although it is a reasonably tall car it doesn't lean too much in the corners and has a very well balanced power steering setup that is neither too light nor artificially weighted. The cabin is surprisingly quiet too with little in the way of wind- or road noise.
What you get for your Money: 4/5
With no choice of engines available, buying a new Honda Jazz really just boils down to how much equipment you want in it. Honda has three different specification levels, SE, ES and range-topping EX. The SE is priced from €17,395 and standard items include air conditioning, Bluetooth, cruise control, a multifunction steering wheel, City Brake Active System, automatic headlights that include LED daytime running lights and automatic wipers. There is also a CD player and stereo with a five-inch display, electric windows all-round and electric door mirrors.
For an additional €2,000 you can upgrade to the €19,345 ES model, which is likely to the most popular choice for Irish buyers. In addition to the EX, this model features 15-inch alloy wheels, front and rear parking sensors, an alarm system, Honda Connect, electrically folding door mirrors and the Dynamic Safety Pack. This includes a number of safety systems including Forward Collision Warning, Traffic Sign Recognition, Intelligent Speed Limiter, Lane Departure Warning and High-Beam Support System.
There is less of a price walk from ES to the highest EX specification - just €1,055 - mainly due to the fact that the ES comes packed with most of the equipment. The EX model adds 16-inch alloy wheels, a reversing camera, keyless entry and start, climate control, a leather steering wheel, front fog lights, rear privacy glass and an uprated speaker system.
In the new Jazz Honda has proven it can use its great engineering expertise to create a small car that offers class-leading levels of interior space and still rewards the driver. Some elements of the interior leave room for improvement but the overall fit and build quality seems top notch. Just steer clear of the automatic CVT transmission unless you really have to have it.