Does the new Honda Jazz have what it takes to reclaim its glory?
The 2015 Honda Jazz enters a fierce light-car segment with the hope of luring new and previous buyers back to the Japanese brand that has struggled with sales momentum this year.
The third-generation Honda Jazz is an all-new car, with a new platform, exterior and interior design. The powertrain remains the same 1.5-litre four-cylinder though Honda has replaced the five-speed automatic with a continuously variable transmission (CVT).
From the outside the (Thai-made) Jazz carries the new Honda family face at the front and a rather busy rear end, with overflowing lines and a peculiar bottom bumper with black indents.
Inside, the Jazz has improved substantially, with more rear legroom and distance between the front passengers. The touch-and-feel is also a generation ahead, with a gorgeous 7-inch screen wrapped in piano black taking care of the audio and vehicle settings while the mid and high spec models get an electrostatic-operated climate control system.
Like the original Jazz that launched more than a decade ago, the new model offers the best versatility of any car in its class, with Honda’s ‘magic’ seats able to fold in 18 different configurations, allowing for 1492L of cargo carrying space in the maximum setting, easily beating the likes of the Ford Fiesta, Toyota Yaris, Suzuki Swift and Hyundai i20.
Furthermore, the zippy city car is now more competent than ever at performing daily tasks, with a good dynamic balance that inspires a bit of spirited driving when the time is right.
Going with a CVT over a traditional automatic has helped fuel economy (6.2L/100km for the manual and 5.8L for the CVT), but it does tend to produce a lot more noise under full acceleration.
The little engine pumps out 88kW of power and 145Nm of torque, enough to carry four adults up a decent hill without much of a struggle, but not enough when it comes to overtaking on the highway.
It’ll easily jump into a corner at speed and come out the other end unscathed, aided by its decent list of electronic driving aids and competent chassis and driveline.
Perhaps the best reason to consider the new Jazz, however, is that Honda Australia appears to have learnt from its past mistakes. It has taken a different approach this time around, loading even the base model with standard features such as cruise control, reversing camera, 7-inch touchscreen and LED projector headlights.
With a starting price of $14,990 for the Jazz VTi coupled to a five-speed manual transmission ($16,990 driveaway), it’s certainly not a bad package, but spec it up a little and it can get pricey.
The $19,790 mid-spec automatic only VTI-S is perhaps the pick of the bunch, gaining 16-inch alloy wheels, black fabric trim, electronically retractable doors mirrors, fog lamps, side skirts, electrostatic controlled climate control system and a six speaker audio system (instead of four).
A rather hefty $2700 on top ($22,490), will see you in the VTI-L which gains leather upholstery with leather trim and heated seats, rear parking sensors, smart entry, push button start, tailgate spoiler and a rear seat fold down armrest.
Honda expects the base model to account for more than 50 percent of sales, though most will opt for the automatic version, which will set you back $16,990 plus on-roads, seeing the most popular Jazz coming it at around $19,000 driveaway.
The new Honda Jazz is by no means the cheapest city car out there, but where it wins beyond packaging – on paper at least - is connectivity, thanks to its large touchscreen infotainment system.Unfortunately though, while the two USB ports and HDMI input are great, we found the actual media system painstakingly slow, often incapable of registering our touch and very Japanese in its user-interface deign.
Its tight integration with Apple’s Siri EyesFree is an added bonus, even if it does leave Android users out in the dark (with just standard Bluetooth connectivity). The need to download a separate navigation app on your iPhone in order to use the 7-inch screen for directions is also disappointing and a missed opportunity to offer the feature across the range.
Other negatives? Features such as blind spot monitoring and front-collision mitigation that will be offered on cars such as the forthcoming Mazda2 are not available here.
Cost-of-ownership is also an area where the Jazz looks to be somewhere down the totem pole. The new Jazz will cost an average of around $260 for a service (under its capped-price plan with six-month increments), double that of the Toyota Yaris, while its three-year warranty is 24 months fewer than the five-year/unlimited kilometre plan Hyundai/Kia offer on the i20/Rio.
But overall, the new Honda Jazz is a very competent package that offers best in class interior versatility and practicality. The drivetrain and on-road dynamics are also commendable for its purpose, though Honda’s reliance on connectivity features to help push Jazz ahead of the pack is hindered by its cumbersome infotainment system.