As a piano player I’ve often used the excuse of ‘play a mistake, play it again, call it jazz.’ In fact, Miles Davis said “If you’re not making a mistake, it’s a mistake.” So, will Jazz Hybrid ownership provide you a lilting and harmonious melody, or a seething pit of arrhythmic dissonance?
You can only get the Jazz Hybrid with a 72kW 1.3-litre IMA i-VTEC engine. It’s full of ‘economy-enhancing technology’ like VCM (variable cylinder management) for optimising power and efficiency, and drive-by-wire electronic throttle control, according to Honda. And, of course, it’s connected to the hybrid-y electric bits.
The engine is accompanied by a CVT gearbox, as is becoming popular. This is quite noisy under full acceleration. The Jazz is destined to be a town car driven shorter distances, so a CVT is the sensible choice with its superior fuel economy on the urban runs. You can expect your fuel economy to sit in the 5-6l/100km range. I achieved 5.3l/100km driving from Ponsonby to Arkles Bay and back into Whangaparaoa (about 40km of urban and motorway driving), without trying to drive economically, and without having the eco switch turned on. That’s not bad, but Honda claims 4.5l/100km, so obviously I’m a leadfoot.
You can’t instruct it to drive under just battery power. Instead, the Jazz turns off the engine as you’re coasting to a stop, and thus saves petrol when you’d ordinarily be burning it at the lights, plus it will provide some power during cruising by managing the petrol engine.
There’s not a lot of difference visually between a standard Jazz and the Jazz Hybrid, but your extra several grand gets recognised by chrome grille and headlight surrounds, clear taillights and a Hybrid badge.
Bluetooth phone integration is available, but via an annoying block of switches on the A-pillar. Honda really should integrate this into the stereo system and steering wheel like everyone else as it seems like an afterthought.
In its class, the standard petrol Jazz has the practical space department owned. It’s better than the rest and doesn’t seem to compromise on the rear legroom while doing it. You can fold the rear seats flat and it creates a substantial cargo area. The space is as practical as some SUVs. However, the Jazz Hybrid’s space has been compromised a little by the battery pack and is down from 337l to 223l when the seats are up, and 848l to 772l up to the window line when the seats are flat. There is plenty of room for two adults in the rear – this isn’t affected.
Obviously the fly in the ointment for the Jazz Hybrid is the Toyota Prius c (read the review here) which we drove and really liked. The Jazz possibly has a more functional and larger load space (Toyota doesn’t report its load space, but from memory and the photos, it’s smaller). The Jazz also feels a little bit more responsive, but overall, I feel it’s due for a refresh. It’s a 2008 car that got an update in 2011 and has now been fitted with some hybrid tech to fill a niche.
There are also options that aren’t hybrids, but are very economical, such as the Hyundai i20 and Volkswagen Polo TSI. The Polo is an excellent car, dynamically, and looks sharp. The Polo is at least two grand cheaper and it’ll take a lot of driving to make up the difference in fuel savings (around 100,000km). Even purchasing a standard Jazz 1.5-litre, which has more power and more boot space, you’d have to drive a similar distance before seeing any positive benefit to your wallet. Of course, this excludes any potential environmental benefit of burning less fuel that you’d get from the Hybrid.
Ultimately the verdict is that if you need a Tardis-like small car the Jazz 1.5-litre is the one to go for, not the Hybrid. The standard Jazz is a very accomplished vehicle that is versatile and responsive, even though it’s due for a refresh. Other than that, though, if you want the environmental creds, Toyota’s Prius c may strike a better chord.
- Good storage space
- Compact design
- Excellent turning circle (5.2m)
- It’s due for a complete refresh
- Bluetooth buttons on the A-pillar
- Standard petrol version is a better buy
Words and photos: Darren Cottingham