We all know the 2016 Honda Jazz VTi-S is designed primarily as an urban car, one that is sized and specified to appeal to those who spend the majority of their time in the confines of the city.
But as we found during our time with the car, it was also a fine highway runner – in fact, it was surprisingly adept at dealing with longer road trips.
On my daily commute from work at McMahons Point to home in Glenbrook in the lower Blue Mountains – a 77-kilometre trip via a few of Sydney’s infamous motorways – the Jazz never felt out of place.
The 1.5-litre four-cylinder engine with 88kW of power (at 6600rpm) and 145Nm of torque (at 4600rpm) always offered adequate gusto for sudden overtaking moves, and the CVT seemed settled at higher speeds, too: there wasn't too much flaring or high rev-range exploration.
The Honda's engine was happy to cruise along at light- to mid-throttle, or just with the cruise control system set to the selected speed. For the most part it was set and forget motoring, though the cruise control can run away from you down hills.
The plight of a small engine at higher speeds is that it may not necessarily be as comfortable at 110km/h as you might hope. And while the Jazz wasn’t buzzy or annoying on the highway, its fuel use didn’t drop too much lower than what we were seeing around town – indeed, we didn’t see less than 7.2 litres per 100 kilometres, where its combined fuel use claim is 5.8L/100km (we saw 7.8L/100km around town).
On the highway there was good ride comfort for the most part, though some of the deeper plunges in the road surface could make the Jazz feel its size – that is, small – as it didn’t necessarily cope with such lumps, nor high-speed sharp-edged bumps, confidently.
It was a bit pitchy, where the best cars in the class for dynamics – the Volkswagen Polo, Mazda 2, Ford Fiesta or Skoda Fabia – would coast over similar bumps without feeling the slightest bit flummoxed.
Indeed, on rougher country roads the Jazz wasn’t as happy: potholes can upset its balance and composure, and while it never felt unsafe or out of its depth, it just wasn’t was plush a drive experience as you would find elsewhere. Part of that, surely, comes down to the car’s 16-inch wheels with narrow 185/55 Bridgestone Turanza tyres, which seemingly exaggerated bumps and lumps at pace.
The steering of the Jazz at speed was trusty, accurate and quick to react – in fact, some drivers found its on-centre response to be a little too quick at times, meaning a minor adjustment at highway speeds could result in a bit of a twitchy reaction.
One element to the Jazz we weren’t so keen on was the fact that the headlights weren’t automated – at the time we had the car, I was arriving home in the dark, and I forgot to turn off the lights almost every single time (that’s the plight of a motoring journo, I guess – you become accustomed to certain luxuries!). Those headlights are LED, though, and they shine a decent beam at night, but the high-beam strength could be better for country driving.
Highway cruiser? Hmmm. Back road tourer? Er…. Well, it’s not the Jazz’s intended purpose, but if you were to be in the market for a relatively efficient but supremely practical light car that doesn’t feel too out of place on the highway, the Jazz would be a decent – if not perfect – option.