2011 Honda Jazz VTi five-speed automatic – $19,790 RRP ($20,185 with metallic paint)
The 2011 Honda Jazz is one of the more individual offerings in the highly competitive light car market.
Take for example its luggage capacity. At 337 litres, the Honda Jazz has the largest boot among its competitors. And despite being one of the few cars to come standard with a full-sized (15-inch) alloy spare wheel, the Jazz’s boot has a flat floor, which means none of those 337 litres are wasted or awkward to load.
The only thing hampering visibility is the deep dashboard. When driving into the sun, you get a lot of reflection off the dashboard back onto the windscreen, which at times makes you squint a little and change your line of sight.
The 2011 Honda Jazz VTi now comes standard with revised front and rear bumpers, side skirts, gunmetal-coloured grille, 15-inch alloy wheels, fog lamps, LED taillights, cruise control, USB connectivity with full iPod/iPhone integration and Bluetooth hands-free phone functionality. All that adds up to $3400 of extra value, and given the price of the VTi decreased by $1400 to $17,790 for the five-speed manual and $19,790 for the five-speed automatic, the VTi is now $4800 better value than it was before the update.
I wasn’t a huge fan of the styling when I first picked it up from the dealership, but by the end of the week it had started to grow on me. All colours except white and red attract a $395 price premium, and the new Fresh Lime Metallic paint is a great way to stand out from the crowd, exuding a carefree, youthful attitude in the sunlight.
The addition of standard USB connectivity and Bluetooth hands-free for phone calls will also enhance the Jazz’s status among the younger generation. A USB cable at the base of the centre console allows you to connect an MP3 player to the car’s audio system. That way you can listen to your own music and change the tracks and volume settings without having to fiddle with the player.
Neither USB connectivity nor Bluetooth is technically a safety feature, but for many tech-obsessed drivers – especially younger people – any system that means there is less temptation to take your hands off the wheels and your eyes off the road is a truly valuable feature.
From a drive perspective, the Honda Jazz does the job without ever feeling truly engaging. The VTi and range-topping VTi-S models are powered by a 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine with 88kW of power and 145Nm of torque. The entry-level GLi makes do with a smaller 73kW/127Nm 1.3-litre unit.
Teamed with the five-speed automatic transmission, it’s hard to keep the Jazz quiet under acceleration, even with the most progressive of throttle inputs. That said, the cabin noise is mostly comfortable once you’re at a steady speed, and the engine is practically silent at idle, which is a welcome quality in stop-start city traffic.
Accelerating off the line isn’t one of the Jazz’s strong suits. Getting up to speed on freeway on-ramps takes a little longer than you’d like too, and you’ll get used to planting your foot flat to the floor to get the desired response.
Few would call the Jazz a particularly inspiring car to drive. The level of feedback isn’t enormous, but dynamically it’s comfortable and relatively refined. The steering is well weighted and hits the Goldilocks zone of not to heavy around town and not too light on the highway, and the suspension deals with bumps and rougher roads without too many complaints.
The Honda Jazz VTi auto has an official combined cycle fuel consumption of 6.7 litres/100km, making it around five percent less efficient than the manual model. In the city it uses 8.8 litres/100km and on the highway that slips down to 5.5 litres/100km.
The biggest decision for fans of the Jazz may be whether to purchase the VTi or go for the top of the range VTi-S model. Following price reductions in June, the VTi-S is now priced just $1200 above the VTi. For the extra spend you get 16-inch alloy wheels, rear spoiler, leather steering wheel with paddle shifters, dark blue/grey cloth sports trim, driver's centre armrest and a driver's side seat-back pocket. They're all features that make the VTi-S look and feel a little more upmarket and represent great value, however, they're features you're unlikely to miss if you decide to stick with the VTi.
The 2011 Honda Jazz is the perfect car for people who want maximum interior space from minimal exterior size. Those who find this appealing should also test drive the Suzuki Swift, which also has an accommodating interior. There are more exciting light cars to drive (like the Volkswagen Polo, Ford Fiesta and Mazda2), but if performance is an inferior consideration to practicality, safety and interior technology, the Honda Jazz is likely to be a very attractive proposition.
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