The 2018 Honda Jazz is an amazing car. It’s the most practical and spacious vehicle in its class, and as a first car – or even as a second family car – it makes an awful lot of sense. Just not in the pricey VTi-L variant.
For $22,990 plus on-roads (roughly $26,000 drive-away depending on your state), the top-spec Honda Jazz VTi-L is the same price as base-model entries from the class above. In fact, it’s $2990 more than, say, a Kia Cerato with auto that is not only bigger, but also comes with a seven-year warranty.
What makes sense for those interested in a Jazz is the entry- and mid-spec, which are priced at $16,990 and $19,990 (plus on-roads) with auto respectively.
Nonetheless, the VTi-L offers a resemblance of luxury to justify its position, including leather-appointed seats, LED headlights with daytime running lights, climate control, six-speaker audio, heated front seats and parking sensors (which really should be standard across the whole range). A full breakdown of the Honda Jazz features can be found here.
As with the rest of the Jazz range, the VTi-L is powered by a 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine that delivers a reasonable 88kW of power and 145Nm of torque. It’s mated to a continuously variable transmission, which means it has no traditional gears. Honda says it will use 5.9L/100km on a combined city and highway cycle, and during our test it hovered in the low sixes.
It’s a surprisingly agile and nimble powertrain combination, so it never really feels underpowered (it doesn’t feel awfully quick either, though). For a city commuter, it will feel right at home and merge into traffic and on the highway with ease. It may struggle, however, on long country drives to make those overtaking manoeuvres past slow vehicles.
Our Phoenix Orange-coloured Jazz had some unusual quirks about it, the first of which was a rattling air-conditioning vent on the driver’s side. Secondly, the new 7.0-inch infotainment system – which doesn’t support Apple CarPlay or Android Auto – was also in inverted colours with strange lines running through it.
We initially thought this was a configuration issue, but given there were no settings (apart from brightness and contrast) to fix it, it appeared to be something else. We conducted a full factory reset on the unit so it would revert to its original condition, but even post the reset, the lines were still visible and reading the display was a challenge due to the high level of glare.
That aside, the infotainment unit itself combined with the futuristic buttons is a nice touch, and the piano black finish helps lift the cabin ambience. It offers a single USB port that trickle-charges your smartphone (low amps), which is not ideal for today’s power-hungry phones. It would also be preferable if the USB port was in the centre storage compartment, rather than having cords dangling from the head unit itself.
The six-speaker audio system is pretty reasonable, and unless you absolutely love your bass-heavy music, it’s more than good enough to leave as stock. However, the Jazz, in general, presents a rather noisy cabin when on the move, so you’ll be making good use of the stereo to drown it out.
The best part of the Jazz has always been its interior packaging, and the current model is no different. There is just so much room – front and rear. We found ample head and leg room in all four seats of the vehicle. Sure, there is a fifth seat, but you wouldn’t be buying a Jazz if regular use of that seat was a requirement.
If Ikea had a fleet car, it would be the Honda Jazz. The rear seats fold up and away so easily that putting large and bulky items in the boot is almost pleasurable because of how easily they fit. It’s basically capable of transforming into a small van, and the magic seats are by far the best feature of the Thai-built light car.
There is also a ton of practical storage, for bottles, smartphones and whatever else you can think of. It’s not the sort of car that struggles in that regard, even offering size-adjustable bottle holders in the front.
Unfortunately, though, the rest of the cabin – even in this high-spec ‘leather’-clad variant – feels a little underwhelming. The leather itself feels very coarse and harsh. You would do yourself a favour and just stick with the cloth seats of the base- or mid-spec.
There is also not one single piece of soft plastic in the entire cabin (that we could find). From the dash to the doors, and even where your elbows could rest on either side of the driver’s seat (right door and top of the centre storage compartment), are all covered in hard and rather uncomfortable-feeling plastic.
Frankly, it doesn’t have the same cabin quality as something like the European-sourced Renault Clio or even the Mazda 2, also built in Thailand. It feels rather spartan inside, which is perfectly fine at a lower price point, but doesn’t really work at VTi-L level.
Our biggest gripe with the Jazz, though, is the lack of ISOFIX points in the rear. Having made the use of much safer and more modern child seats undoable, it left us unable to take our little guys for a drive, but of course you can stick the old-school seats in without any issues. Even so, it’s an unfortunate omission, but one we’ve seen from other Honda models in the past.
As a car to drive around, the Jazz is nimble and capable. It does tend to lean into corners a bit more than its competitors when push comes to shove, which would be fine if the ride was supple, but it’s a little on the firm side.
It’s by no means uncomfortable, but it could be better. The 16-inch alloys no doubt have an impact on ride quality, and around Brisbane’s relatively poor roads we could feel the bumps and imperfection through the chassis. But you’d get used to it.
It lacks the active safety features that we now look for and recommend in any and all cars, including autonomous emergency breaking (now standard on the Mazda 2), but other than that it comes with a full suite of airbags and traction-control systems to keep you safe.
Overall, our love for the Honda Jazz is unwavering, but the VTi-L model at this price point doesn’t make an awful lot of sense considering what else is in the market for the same coin. When for a cool $6000 less you can get the base car with the best features of the Jazz – practicality – minus the ‘luxury’ features that really don’t add all that much to the ownership experience.
At the time of writing, Honda is offering a seven-year warranty with free roadside assistance until the end of 2017, which makes the Jazz even more desirable.