Time well spent: New Honda Jazz EX Navi – 6/10

With production now moved away from Blighty into China, does the new Jazz strike a chord or is a bum note compared to the outgoing British built model?

Mike Humble:

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Now in its third “in car nation” (no pun intended) the Jazz has now notched up over 5 million sales worldwide since the models initial launch. In order to make room for production for all five door Civic models and current HR-V, Honda opted to move production of their entry model car to China. This new model has grown a little larger, become more frugal and a little more green… despite the test car being a rather vivid shade of yellow.

Apart from the restyle both inside and out, the main difference is the bigger overall dimensions. Its not hugely bigger, but what was a very space efficient car beforehand has now become even more impressive. No longer is the Jazz a true super-mini but it is appreciably smaller than its bigger brother – the Civic. Passenger room both front and rear is truly impressive, headroom is ample and up at the rear you have up to 1314 litres of luggage space.

Rear seats continue to feature Hondas clever “magic seat” system whereby the cushion lifts up and locks into a vertical position allowing you to carry odd shaped loads transversely across the car. When a traditional cargo bay is required the rear seat folds totally flat – there’s quite a bit of impressive engineering in that rear seat design. All the aforementioned allied to rear doors that open almost 90 degrees means if you fail to find the Jazz an efficient method of shifting people or personal effects may I suggest you look at a van.

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Its grown a little larger in this new form but it still looks stylish and smart. Good panel gaps and general build quality but paintwork not brilliant.
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EX trim is well specified and new facia looks good. Touch sensitive buttons on heater and infotainment panels awkward to use. Drivers seat lacks under thigh support and gearbox not as slick as the previous models but fit and finish is typically good of Honda and for most of the time its refined.

The new facia looks very smart and feels of good quality although the plastics are hard and cold to the touch. New heater controls work on a touch sensitive basis and are backlit in a soft white neon effect glow. Even though I liked the look of the new panel I found the controls awkward and difficult to use when on the move and especially on bumpy roads. Above the heater / climate system is Honda’s new infotainment and Sat Nav unit. This system allows internet access via a mobile Wi-Fi link, music streaming, live news updates and DAB radio.

So far as the driving position and ergonomics matter, its all very Honda and very good. Driver and control interface is sound, the steering wheel is nice and chunky, the pedals are well spaced and visibility is better than average. My only muttering is the drivers seat – I found it lacking in thigh support, I never noticed this in the previous generation Jazz. Rear passenger leg and headroom is top notch and there’s room for three abreast – at a squeeze mind you! Room for odds, ends and general clutter in the cabin are also very good thanks to some sensible sized cubby holes, door pockets and glove box – its a tough one to beat for practicality!

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Magic rear seat is clever, useful and well thought through. Doors open to almost 90 degrees.

 

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A lesson other manufacturers could learn here. 60/40 split rear seat folds down totally flat to reveal a remarkable 1314 litres of space!

Brakes are good and progressive and the handling is neat and tidy with only a hint of understeer and not too much body roll… oh and there’s quick entertaining steering too. The ride is okay providing the ruts aren’t too deep and the surface isn’t too rough. The suspension can be quite vocal with plenty of bump thump noises entering the cabin and rough topped roads bring in a bit too much roar. Get the Jazz up to a decent speed and the ride settles down to become quite comfy. For a 1.3 the Jazz skips along a motorway quite well with good powertrain refinement.

The six speed gearbox has a short stubby lever but I found the shift action a little loose and clunky compared to the UK built model. Don’t expect scintillating performance either. The engine punts out 123Nm of torque but its developed at a ludicrously high 5000rpm. As a result the new Jazz feels a bit flaccid when it comes to pulling in the gears, the old model felt zesty and perky but this new example feels a bit lazy. If you use the revs to the max the Jazz bimbles along quite well but the payoff here is in refinement and economy.

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New 1.3 VTEC is free revving and smooth. Lacks low down torque making hill climbing or pulling in the higher gears frustratingly lazy. Goes really well if you work at it but refinement and economy can suffer as a result.
 General fit and finish is pretty good. Nice even panel gaps, no rattles or squeaks in the cabin and quality feeling seat material. Paint finish is good on the outside but there are some very obvious signs of cost cutting. Lift the bonnet or open the filler flap and you are treated to panel sealer and primer. In fact the test car came with a very poor finish behind the fuel flap – one of the very worst I have ever seen and certainly NOT what you would expect of a Honda. A reliable source has since told me Honda have recognised this and addressed the issue on current cars – but do check this if you are viewing one at your local dealer.

It scores very highly is safety and security. Jazz EX features what Honda call “DASP” – Driver Assist Safety Pack. This comprises of a forward collision warning system, automatic high beam, traffic sign speed recognition which pings up on a display panel what the maximum limit is for the road you are travelling on and CiTy Brake. The latter makes the car perform an automatic controlled emergency stop in urban driving environments. Should you fail to notice a stationary car ahead, rather than plough into the rear the car will apply the footbrake and stop the car.

Is it a worthy improvement over the previous generation? Well, its more space efficient, fuel efficient and grown up. I think it looks better and emits a more premium feel over something Korean but the UK built car had more get up and go, a sweeter gear change and better performance overall. If performance and driver engagement are not high on your priority but space, style and practicality is then the new Jazz is certainly worth considering.

Its nice to drive… but it lacks fun.

AUTOBRITANNIA.NET RATING : 6/10

The Humble Opinion:

For a dye in the wool Honda fan the Jazz is a credible contender. For those looking for something reliable with good future residual value feeling a bit more premium than other mainstream rivals then again the Jazz ticks the right boxes.

If previous versions are anything to go by, the Jazz will prove to be utterly reliable in daily use and of course their dealers are known for their professional demeanour. My concerns are few and the aforementioned cost cutting paint jobs have been attended to.

But I do feel the previous model was a lot more entertaining and enjoyable drive. If something can be done to make the engine feel a bit more eager lower down the rev range and the gear change made less clumsy and loose it will work wonders for what is in essence a very well equipped and clever little car.

Traditional Honda buyers probably wont worry about my reservations. But if conquest sales from other marques and more youthful owners are in Honda’s sights – of which they should be, these aforementioned grumbles might present some showroom objections when it comes to closing a deal.

Should you buy? Other rivals have the fun factor but certainly worth considering.

Model Tested: Honda Jazz 1.3 EX Navi

Price: £16,325 excluding options

Produced By: Honda Manufacturing in China

Engine: 1.3i VTEC 16v Petrol

Transmission:  Manual 6 speed

Power: 102Ps & 123Nm of torque

Performance*: 0 – 60 in 11.5 seconds

Economy: 55.4mpg combined* (51.4 on test)

C02 / VED: 120G/Km Band C

*Govt or manufacturers claimed data

THE HIGHS: Brilliant use of internal space – Well made – Well equipped – Refined engine – Stylish – Reputation of reliability – Superb level of safety related features – Good economy.

THE LOWS: Sluggish performance – Obstructive gear change – Lacks fun factor against some other rivals – Noisy suspension – Drivers seat lacks some support on long distances – Some areas of paintwork seem cost cut and quite poor.

For more information on the Honda Jazz range CLICK HERE


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