Time Well Spent : Honda Jazz 1.4 Si – 7/10

Mike Humble:

Jazz front

With the exception of the MG3, the Honda Jazz is the only mass produced super-mini built here in the UK. Unlike the MG (which is only part assembled) the Jazz is fully built at the Swindon plant which also has responsibility for engine production too. Jazz offers two engine options 1.2 & 1.4 (including a hybrid) along with two transmissions – a five speed manual and automatic CVT in one body shape – a compact five door hatchback. The model we have here on test is the model with a sporting cache – the 1.4 99Ps manual Si.

The Jazz has been something of a success for Honda, not only with the customers but in terms of awards also. Its been awarded no less than nine customer satisfaction awards from previous JD Power surveys – not that a Honda has ever been in doubt when it comes to happy customers and general reliability. Overall, the shape looks pretty fresh and pleasing – viewed from a certain 3/4 look along the flank towards the back there is more than a slight hint of Mercedes A Class about it. This is no bad thing as the Honda emits a slightly more “premium” feel than some its Pacific Rim originated rival models.

Even when you look much closer there is not a great deal to complain about in terms of paint application, panel fit & finish and general build quality. Even the tailgate badges don’t even move so much as a millimetre when you wiggle them – a trait that many a car suffers from thanks to the wonders of double sided sticky tape. The pearlescent white paint really shows the rear privacy glass to good effect and the 16″ diamond cut alloy wheels appear to be cast and painted to a very high quality – I really struggled to find any exterior flaw when it came to quality. When it comes to “first contact” the Jazz does not disappoint in the all important showroom or kerbside appeal – a couple of commentators liked the overall style and quality.

Jazz int
Two tone seats support well on long runs and generally speaking the car is refined.

When it comes to the inside Honda have really pulled out all the stops to eek every last inch out of the available space on offer. The headroom on offer would even put a smile on Marge Simpsons face – its utterly vast and with more hidey-holes and space for loose ends than a field full of rabbit warrens. There are more cup holders than an average multiplex cinema and other design cleverness examples include a  centre console tray in front of the gear lever that’s floodlit at night to avoid that awkward after dark fumbling moments for the chewing gum. But the cleverness continues into the rear seating area too. You have the same fold up “magic seats” as per the Civic that releases all of the floor space… plus backrests that fold down to give an almost totally flat floor for maximum cargo with nearly 900 litres of space.

Rear seat passengers will have no problems with leg or headroom though three abreast is pushing the point of its space efficiency. I particularly liked the little tray under the nearside seat cushion that’s large enough for a camera or tablet for brief out of sight moments we all need like when nipping in to the paper shop of example. While at the extreme rear you’ll find a wide, deep boot with underfloor stowage tray – even with the seats folded up there is just short of 380 litres of room for shopping, cargo, clutter etc. So in terms of space and design touches the Honda ought to give little cause for concern – but I do worry about the growing trend of modern cars having no glovebox lamp or lock… Jazz features neither. Fixtures and fittings seem very nicely clicked together generally speaking but the plastics feel hard to the touch and the centre floor tray feels almost as brittle and cheap as what you’d find with your average CD case.

Lift up rear seats are very clever. Note the little tray you can hide stuff in for a short while - Not a tick is missed with use of space.
Lift up rear seats are very clever. Note the little drop down tray (on right) in the seat base you can hide stuff in – Not a trick is missed with use of space.

There’s a good lofty driving position with an excellent spacing and layout of the pedals but the “sporting” alloy effect pedal trims don’t do much for aesthetic appearance – slightly too Halfords I thought. The steering wheel is straight from the previous generation Civic and has a pleasant chunky feel to it with neat stitched leather trim to the rim. On it you will find the required buttons and twiddly bits to operate the trip computer, radio and cruise control. It has a good feel at your fingertips and feels of good solid quality, the control switches work well with defined and damped actions. In terms of driver appeal, there is just enough steering feel although true sporting drivers may find the rack set-up a little slow. Honda claim the Jazz Si to have a “sports suspension” but I would say its more stiffened than sporting. Around town divots and pot holes find the car joggling about with vocal bump-thump noises making themselves present in the cabin but once some velocity is achieved the ride becomes much more settled.

Motorway cruising is slightly noisier than some rivals but never a chore. The national maximum sees 3500rpm showing on the rev counter and providing you don’t push the 1.4 VTEC unit too far round the dial, it remains a refined little plant. Rough topped roads or motorway concrete brings with them a noticeable amount of tyre noise but the level of grip from the 16″ low profile tyres is very good. For a lofty stance it feels planted and low in its centre of gravity, in all fairness the Jazz is actually good fun to hustle around the bends and a good hammering right across Milton Keynes. The myriad of annoying roundabouts became a good laugh – almost as if I was playing an arcade game picking off one by one the slower moving traffic. The gears are well spaced aided by a feather-light clutch and as for the gear-change quality itself… its one of the slickest. lightest and most positive I have ever come across this side of a MK2 Ford Escort – superb!

1.4 99Ps petrol is super quiet around town and eager to rev. Gets a bit vocal when pushed and lacks a bit of bottom end torque. Utterly reliable power unit… and that’s proven!

Power delivery is very Japanese despite the engine being fully assembled in Swindon. The full torque (127Nm) isn’t there until the engine is at a rather peaky 4800rpm and you can get caught out if you let the revolutions drop too low. Also, there is a little prompt light within the rev-counter to aid economical driving – if you drive gospel to this you would make quicker progress on a push-bike. My best advice is to ignore the lamp and just enjoy the peppy nature if the driveline – and by doing so, and without thrashing the living daylights out of the car it returned a credible 48mpg average. Braking is progressive and fade free with no more than average middle pedal pressure required to shrug off the speed. The Jazz Si seems to be just at home in town than it is out on the motorway and the huge windscreen gives a terrific dead ahead view of the road. Sadly those thick A-posts despite featuring small triangular shaped windows make you lean forward to be 100% sure the coast is clear when turning left or right at T-junctions.

Steering not quite as sporting as the badge states but all in all its a good little car. Happy in town as it is out at speed and the gearchange quality is super slick. Too much cold hard plastic is a notable gripe.
Steering not quite as sporting as the badge states but all in all its a good little car. Happy in town as it is out at speed and the gearchange quality is super slick. Too much cold hard plastic on the facia and cheap feeling floor tray slightly spoil the very commendable build quality.

All in all, the Jazz Si isn’t so much as a hot hatch in the slightest, its more a perky and nicely detailed model that stands out from the rest of the range. Its space efficient, well equipped and is that easy to operate that you could almost drive it wearing boxing gloves. The nice touches like the body kit and gorgeous two tone alloy wheels make the car stand out from its direct rivals. Worthy of note is the fact that it has that all important premium feel and Hondas rock solid reputation for reliability and customer care makes sure that it will hold its future value. Until the new model comes along in the not too distant future, the British made Jazz is a very happy and likeable car that ought to be enjoyed more by a younger audience. Its clever, well made, evokes a certain charm and is very difficult not to like.


The Humble Opinion:

Nine awards for customer satisfaction and a well assembled build quality allied to cheeky styling that’s unique to the Si, the Jazz is a lesson in how to give the public what they want. The way it literally offers a gallon in a pint pot thanks to the intelligent yet simple rear seats and superb headroom is very impressive. With one or two exceptions to some minor plastic trim, the Jazz is well screwed together and gives a first contact impression that’s subconsciously lets you know it will run the distance.

Urban refinement is genuinely impressive – you can barely hear or feel the engine ticking over. A little bit less tyre / road noise and a little more sound insulation would make high speed refinement equally good. Ergonomically speaking, its a simple machine to operate with comfortable seats, good road manners and a cheerful personality that hides ruthless efficiency. Its not cheap but once you fully appreciate how clever and well thought out the interior and boot is, you soon realise its worth every penny.

An overseas assembled all new model is in the pipeline so I’ll bet your dealer will be keen to strike up a rapport, so now may be a good time to consider this British made super-mini.

Hot hatch its not but a cracking box of tricks it most certainly is!

Model Tested: Honda Jazz 1.4 Si

Produced by: Honda UK Manufacturing Swindon

Price as Tested: £15,445 including pearlescent paint option @ £450

Engine: 1.4 litre 16v i-VTEC petrol

Power / Torque: 99Ps / 127Nm

Economy: 50.4mpg combined* (47.7mpg on test)

Emissions / VED: 129G/Km / Band D

Performance: 0 – 60 in 11.8 seconds*

* = Manufacturers claimed data

WHATS HOT: Well made – Documented and proven reliability record – Customers adore them – Front and rear bumpers with side skirts are unique to the Si and look great – Reasonably good performance – Comfy and easy to use – Clever use of space – Light & slick gearchange – Superb urban refinement – Looks and feels a cut above.

AND WHATS NOT: No standard Bluetooth system – Centre floor tray feels very cheap – Tyre / road noise on poor surfaces – Too much hard plastic inside – Annoying lever type front seat reclining system – Obstructive A-post make some manoeuvres tricky when driving – Passenger side windscreen wiper leaves too much un-swept area.

For more information on the Jazz CLICK HERE


  1. there are no sporting alloy effect pedals on a si model. also the engine bay picture is not of a Honda jazz si, looks like a mk 3 jazz?

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