A creative mind could endeavor to associate any vehicle with a matching musical genre. A 1960’s muscle car could represent Rock n Roll, a lightweight roadster could be pop music and an old dirty 4wd might be heavy metal. Honda has discounted any need for imagination and has taken the direct route by just calling its small hatchback the ‘Jazz’. So is the new Jazz hitting all the right notes?
he first Jazz was introduced here in 2001, and boldly took Honda’s subcompact seat left by the extinct City. The Jazz proved a success in NZ and abroad with global sales exceeding 2.5 million vehicles thanks to a signature blend of style and function. Now in its second generation the Jazz has eaten the pies and grown in most areas. There is a 55mm increase in length, 20mm in width and 10mm in interior height.
The result of the dimensional increase is noticed most in the cabin where overall interior space is easily class-leading. Head and legroom in the front seats is exemplary and the rear row will take three adult passengers comfortably. The Jazz’s floor area is low and flat adding to the interior capacity and the doors can open wide (80 degrees) to make entry and exit easy. But the real star of the show is a trick back seat that lowers flat into the floor to create a cavernous luggage area. With the front passenger seat also folded flat items up to 2.4m in length can be accommodated, perfect for a double bass or half a grand piano. Elsewhere in the cabin black and grey plastics harmonise in an artistic dash layout. The control positioning looks unconventional but the ergonomics are very good with radio and aircon buttons easily found without diverting driver attention. A useful trip computer screen sits between the instruments and offers up info on seatbelt indicators, average and instant fuel consumption, distance to empty and average speed. The leather bound steering wheel is another feature; it’s thick and houses handy audio controls. Overall the Jazz cabin is spacious and airy, fit and finish is strong, cup holders and storage options are many and overall functionality is unmatched in this segment.
Exterior styling has been slightly de-feminised when compared to the previous model; huge glaring front lights and a character-lined bonnet give the Jazz a serious face. An ascending belt-line tapers as it reaches the rear giving the Jazz a perched stance that helps create a sense of sportiness. The large front quarter window dissecting the A-pillar is a clever design feature as it gives a feeling of length to the Jazz for passengers and also when viewed in profile from the exterior. Rear styling is more conservative with jeweled taillights flanking a purposefully shaped hatch. Generally the styling is clean, balanced and modern, the Jazz is clearly made for right now without being confined by the bloodlines of many prior models. This contemporary look will help attract those looking to upgrade or downsize from larger vehicles.
What sized instrument is cased in beneath the stumpy bonnet? The Jazz has two available engines a 1.3 litre and a 1.5 litre. The tested vehicle sported the new 1.3 litre unit with Honda’s iVTEC variable valve technology, this power plant blows out 73kW of power. Even with the 1.3-litre motor the Jazz is capable in the city of keeping up with traffic, but it’s a small engine and behaves accordingly. I found that with three passengers the Jazz had to work hard getting up hills and accelerating from stationary. That said, it’s a content motorway cruiser and can overtake slower vehicles with sufficient space and planning.
Playing a duet with the engine is an electronic 5-speed automatic transmission. While it’s not the smoothest box on the market it doesn’t shy away from chopping down a gear to get the most from the small motor. Interestingly, paddle shifters are positioned behind the steering wheel for manual changes, a feature that will surely be seldom used by the Jazz’s more elderly target market. Fuel consumption is very good for the 1.3-litre engine with only 6.6 litres being sipped every 100km.
What’s most impressive dynamically about the Jazz is its handling. With a 35mm increase to the wheel track width over the previous model the new Jazz lifts very little when cornering despite its increased height. This is backed up by strong grip on windy roads and also in wet conditions. The steering is suitably light but a touch vague. Ride comfort is good for a subcompact with the suspension set slightly on the firmer side and minimal road and engine noise finds its way into the cabin.
A rhapsody of safety features come standard with the Jazz including six airbags in total including curtain airbags, ABS brakes and Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD). Currently Electronic Stability Control (ESC) is notably missing which is disappointing.
I have two friends whose mothers own a Honda Jazz which is an indication of the target market, even Jeremy Clarkson’s mother has one. This shows that the Jazz has the styling inside and out to interest those who normally aren’t interested in cars.
Jazz the musical style favours spontaneity but the Honda Jazz is well planned and well thought out. The interior space and functionality is class leading and although the driving dynamics are a mixed bag the Jazz is easy to control and proved capable in most road situations. Priced from $25,800 it is more expensive than the Toyota Yaris or Suzuki Swift but you do get more for the extra money and until the new Ford Fiesta establishes itself in the kiwi marketplace the Honda Jazz will remain the drum to beat.
Click through to the next page for a list of specifications
Price: From $25,800 as tested $28,700
What we like:
- Interior space and functionality
- Sharp exterior design
- Balanced handling and ride
What we don’t like:
- Vague steering
- No stability control
- Auto transmission can be rough
Words and Photos: Adam Mamo
Honda Jazz (2009) – Specifications
Engine 16-valve, 1.3-litre, i-VTEC
Horsepower 73kW @ 6,000 rpm
Torque – Nm (kgm) 127Nm @ 4,800 rpm
Valvetrain i-VTEC (Intelligent Variable Valve Timing and Lift, Electronic Control) performance and economy enhancing technology
Transmission 5-speed automatic transmission with Gear Logic Control and steering wheel mounted racing inspired paddle shift.
Suspension and Wheels
Front and Rear Suspension MacPherson strut suspension
Wheels 15″ steel wheels. Space saver spare tyre. (Alloy accessory wheel available)
Tyres 175/65 R15
Braking System ABS (Anti-lock Braking System), EBA (Emergency Brake Assist) and EBD (Electronic Brakeforce Distribution)
Overall Length (mm) 3900
Overall Width (mm) 1,695
Overall Height (mm) 1,525
Turning Radius (metres) 5.2
Luggage capacity (VDA litres rear seats up / flat) 380 / 1,321
Seating capacity 5
Warranty 36 month, unlimited Km new car warranty
Maximum warrantable towing weight (kg) 800AT
Fuel Tank 42 litre tank capacity
Recommended Fuel 91-octane or E10 fuel
Emission Control Emissions fall within Euro IV and LEV II international standards
ADR Combined Consumption (auto) 6.6 L/100Km
Optimal NZ Test Drive (auto) 4.85 L/100Km
EnergyWise Rally 2008 (auto) 5.21 L/100Km