Honda Jazz 2019 vti-s

2019 Honda Jazz VTi-S review

Rating: 6.9
$19,990 Mrlp
  • Fuel Economy
  • Engine Power
  • CO2 Emissions
  • ANCAP Rating
Class-beating practicality aside, the Honda Jazz's appeal is starting to dim a bit in the wake of newer, more tech-laden rivals.
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The Honda Jazz has been a long-time favourite at the CarAdvice office, thanks to its class-leading practicality and competent road manners.

It's a solid performer for the Japanese brand in terms of sales, too. Currently, it averages between 700 and 800 registrations a month, commanding nearly 12 per cent of the light-car segment.

Now into its sixth year, the third-generation Jazz hatch is nearing the end of its life – with an all-new model due next year – so let's see how it stacks up against its contemporaries.

Here on test we have the one-from-top 2019 Honda Jazz VTi-S priced from $19,990 before on-road costs. The Phoenix Orange paint asks for $495 extra, taking the as-tested ticket to $20,485 plus on-road costs.

Standard kit for this grade includes a 7.0-inch colour touchscreen with native satellite navigation, LED projector headlights (low-beam), 16-inch alloy wheels, a roof-mounted tailgate spoiler, 'premium' fabric upholstery, front fog lights, electric folding side mirrors, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, an armrest console, and a 12V socket on the centre stack.

That's on top of the entry-level VTi's Magic Seats, rear-view camera, AM/FM radio, AUX/USB inputs, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, electrically adjustable mirrors, LED tail-lights, manual air-conditioning, cruise control, four-speaker audio, six airbags, and hill-start assist.

Honda Australia is yet to offer the current Jazz with active safety features like autonomous emergency braking, forward-collision warning and lane-departure warning like its European equivalents, though the little Honda does wear a 2014-stamped five-star ANCAP safety rating – though it definitely wouldn't be getting top marks against the crash-testing firm's latest protocols based on the lack of driver-assist systems alone.

In terms of design, the Jazz hasn't changed much since it debuted back in 2013, though it was lightly refreshed in 2017.

Unlike a lot of its rivals, the little Honda doesn't try to be cute or overly sexy to the detriment of its interior packaging, instead donning a minivan-like aesthetic that's tall and boxy, staying true to its forebears.

Like the rest of Honda's current range, the Jazz has sharp and angular lines rather than straight and clean ones. It's certainly distinctive, but classically handsome? Don't think so.

The bright Phoenix Orange metallic paint of our tester is an extra dash of 'loud', but that doesn't really stop the Jazz from looking a little awkward, largely due to the raked front and upright rear windscreens and skinny rear. I personally prefer the designs of older versions, which were much cleaner and have aged well, particularly the previous iteration.

Step inside and it's a clear contrast to the exterior, with a fairly drab black-on-black colour scheme and a more conventional design for the dashboard and driver controls.

Perceived build quality is pretty solid, everything feels well screwed together, and there's a nice tactile soft-touch insert that dominates the passenger's side of the dashboard. The piano-black trim used on the centre stack is also a nice touch.

However, the cockpit can feel rather sparse, with the drab colour scheme and minimalist approach to switchgear providing little visual excitement up front. It's very functional, though, with plenty of storage under the centre stack, a cubby under the front centre armrest, and decent door pockets should you need somewhere to store bottles, phones and wallets.

One of our biggest frustrations with the Jazz, though, is the infotainment system. Despite measuring a decent 7.0 inches and packing features like in-built navigation, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, along with AUX and USB inputs, the media unit is possibly one of the worst touchscreens I've used in a long time.

The interface looks dated, the load times are slow, and as a whole just looks like an afterthought. I said the same thing about the Honda City I reviewed over two years ago.

My iPhone XS Max was admittedly running the iOS 13 Beta software, but was seemingly unable to make a reliable connection to the media system during our time with the Jazz. Colleagues running older versions of iOS, however, had no issues.

Another niggle is when you take a phone call, you cannot change the screen back to the navigation maps, meaning if you're getting directions via the in-built navigation and take a call, you're on your own for the duration of your talk time.

Having Apple CarPlay and Android Auto would likely address a lot of said issues with the Jazz's media unit, and given this is an entry-level car that is aiming to get young people into Honda showrooms, the lack of a decent infotainment system is puzzling.

Given it was already feeling lacklustre and dated back in 2017, it's a shame Honda hasn't made any inroads as more rivals equip its light cars with far better infotainment systems.

Moving to the back, the Jazz maintains top marks for passenger accommodation with plenty of space for two full-sized adults, along with bottle holders in the doors. The VTi-S misses out on the fold-down centre armrest that's standard on the flagship VTi-L, which is a shame.

Despite the lack of rear armrest, the Jazz manages to be one of the best, if not the best, in its class for rear-seat room, offering plentiful amounts of head and leg room, even for taller passengers behind taller drivers.

The second row also features Honda's versatile 'Magic Seats' system, which allows you to flip and fold the rear pews in a range of ways to maximise load volume, length and height, or a bit of all three.

If you need maximum space in the smallest package, the Jazz makes a lot of sense given its ability to carry tall occupants in the back comfortably along with larger cargo.

Speaking of its load-lugging abilities, the Jazz offers 354L in the boot area with the second row in place, expanding to a cavernous 1314L with the rear bench folded. That's more than the Mazda 3 and the Toyota Corolla, despite being a class smaller, while also not far off the likes of the Hyundai i30 and Volkswagen Golf.

The Jazz starts to redeem itself on the road, if at least partially, thanks to its competent road manners.

Power comes from a 1.5-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder petrol engine hooked up to a CVT automatic driving the front wheels. Outputs for the four-pot motor are rated at 88kW (@6600rpm) and 145Nm (@4800rpm), which are hardly earth-shattering, but pretty par for the class despite several rivals now utilising turbocharged engines.

The petrol engine offers decent performance around town, which is where this car is going to spend most of its time, getting up to speed at a reasonable pace. It's a characterful little unit, too, with a thrummy engine note that's rarely thrashy or intrusive, even under heavy load.

Despite making its peak outputs higher up in the rev range, the Jazz can feel like it's running out of puff on the freeway, with the CVT flaring the 1.5-litre engine up towards the redline under hard throttle. Turbocharged rivals like the Volkswagen Polo accelerate with more confidence at highway speeds.

As for the ride and handling, the Jazz is once again competent without being outstanding in any one area. It rides with enough compliance around town to make it comfortable over the various lumps and bumps of suburban Melbourne, and is easy to manoeuvre through car parks and tight streets thanks to its light yet direct steering and compact dimensions.

It's certainly very easy to live with as an urban runabout, but is hardly inspiring or engaging to drive. The skinny 185/55 Bridgestone Turanza tyres don't have the largest footprint so it doesn't feel particularly grippy, while the tall and boxy body can't defy physics in terms of body roll.

Of course, the Jazz isn't meant to be as dynamic as, say, a Civic Type R, but it's something worth noting given competing models feel a bit more hunkered down and offer a more sporting drive. Worth noting if that's important to you.

Refinement on the move is pretty good, though, with decent insulation from road and wind noise for the class. And it's pretty impressive that the little engine hums away well under 100km/h on the freeway thanks to the CVT – you'll see the revs flare up a bit when you encounter an incline, mind you.

Out on the open road is where you start to notice some of the gaps in the Jazz's driver-assistance repertoire. There's no sign of adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, or lane-keep system – features that are increasingly common at the lower end of the market.

At nearly $20,500 plus on-road costs as tested, the Jazz has gaping holes in its spec sheet compared to just about every other equivalently priced rival, which is not just a question of gadgets we'd like it to have, but things that are now required to achieve top safety ratings and are just plain helpful.

On the fuel front, the Jazz proved to be quite economical. Over 564km of mixed driving, including a week's worth of peak-hour commuting blended with a 140km round trip to and from Kilmore about an hour north of Melbourne, the little Honda returned an indicated figure of 6.8L/100km.

That's 0.9L/100km more than Honda's official 5.9L/100km claim, but a respectable figure nonetheless given the heavy skew towards bumper-to-bumper traffic. It's worth noting the Jazz doesn't feature fuel-saving idle stop/start technology either.

From an ownership perspective, the Jazz is covered by Honda Australia's five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty with capped-price servicing for the duration of that period. Roadside assistance isn't included with the purchase.

Scheduled maintenance is required every six months or 10,000km, which is a bit short by today's standards, with the first three years of servicing costing a total of $1453 over six visits to the dealer – and that's excluding additional items like the cabin dust and pollen filter ($45 every 24 months), brake fluid ($42 every 36 months) and CVT fluid ($147 every 36 months/40,000km).

Adding those aforementioned extra service items in to the total cost over three years brings the total to $1777, which is more than twice what you'll pay to maintain a Toyota Yaris for the same period, and even $500 more than a Volkswagen Polo.

In the ever-evolving world that is the automotive industry, the Honda Jazz stays true to what's made it so popular, but is starting to fall behind the pack in terms of infotainment and driver assistance.

Yes, it has Magic Seats, and you can actually fit adults in the back, but other than that there's not a whole lot going for it.

The infotainment system is nothing short of rubbish, there's absolutely no form of potentially life-saving active safety tech, and it's rather costly to maintain. Sure, it has competent road manners, though you can get that and more from various rivals.

We reckon the Honda Jazz makes the most sense as a $14,990 base model, where the lack of tech items is more widely reflected across its peers and it presents a better bang-for-buck proposition.

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