18.7.2018Honda Jazz 1.5 i-VTEC review
Honda's Jazz has long been a rather dull choice; sensible, practical, and efficient - but hardly the most thrilling supermini on the road. Honda has looked to address that with this new version, adding a Sport version to the compact hatchback. NGC takes it for a spin to see if the Jazz has been injected with a little more pizzazz.
Review by Chris Lilly
Honda has installed a 128hp 1.5 litre i-VTEC engine under the bonnet of the Jazz, which unusually these days, is not turbocharged. Do not be concerned though, as Honda have plenty of experience in making superb non-turbo i-VTEC units, and this one is a bit of a peach. It's not particularly powerful, nor does it have a lot of torque - producing 155 Nm - but it still means that the Jazz will get from 0-62mph in 8.7 seconds. It's no hot-hatch then, but the performance is peppy enough for many, and the engine is an eager, free-revving unit that is a joy to drive. Combined with a short geared, short-throw six speed manual gearbox, the Jazz certainly benefits from this new powertrain, and makes the Honda surprisingly fun to drive. Because of the restrained performance, you can make the most of the Jazz's potential on real roads and at sensible speeds, enjoying the sweet powertrain combination. Although a giggle to drive eagerly, the Jazz continues to perform in its traditional strengths. It's easy to drive, and performs well at slower speeds around town. Out on the motorway, the short-ish gearing and revvy nature of the engine mean that it's not the most refined drive at speed, but stick to urban routes and country roads, and there will be few comments in terms of engine noise.
The Jazz rides well, but even with some tweaks to the suspension, it's still far from the most dynamic of superminis available. Even an entry-level Ford Fiesta will provide a more thrilling drive, and a VW Polo a more refined one. However, this isn't to say that the Jazz's set-up isn't without its merits. The springs might allow for a fair amount of body roll - to be expected considering the Honda's tall stance - they also soak up road imperfections nicely, and are well damped, limiting any wallowiness from the ride. The steering is light, too much so for those looking for a thrilling drive, but it's ideal for inner-city work, parking, and dealing with traffic. It's accurate if lacking in feedback, and although the Sport badge has seen an effect on the powertrain, it's impact on the handling has been minimal.
Honda has given the Jazz a few relatively subtle styling tweaks, but they combine to create a better looking, more purposeful car than before. Gloss black alloys, a small front splitter below the front bumper, discreet rear diffuser, and small sill extensions mean the Jazz looks sharper, and all the better for it. The inherent proportions mean this revised model still looks fairly tall and monobox, but what was once a slightly lumpen and dull design has been gradually worked on and, with these new Sport trim details, the Jazz is a decently stylish car. What those proportions to mean is that the Jazz continues to be a brilliantly practical car for its size. The Jazz fits into a compact footprint, but the boot is very spacious for a supermini, and rear occupant space is remarkable. There's a little lip to lift loads into the boot, but that's because the floor is nice and deep, and the wide hatch allows for easy access. Open the rear doors - to a full 90-degrees - and access to the rear is easy. Head and leg space is excellent for the class, and the levels of practicality in the Jazz haven't been impacted upon by the sporty elements.
COMFORT & CONTROLS
There have been a similar number of revisions to the cabin, which essentially remains the same as before, but with a little extra spice to the styling. Red stitching is added to the seats, gear stick, and steering wheel for a hint of sportiness, but the rest is more of the same. Some of these elements are good news, such as the rear seats where you can fold the bench element forward to be able to load items easily. The chunky controls are easy to use too, and although materials throughout might feel a little cheap - the plastics in particular - everything feels very well put together. The seats are comfortable, but not supportive enough for long trips - though few Jazz drivers will regularly look to cover a large number of miles in one go. The touchscreen media system isn't a patch on most rivals, with out-daed graphics and a slowness to respond to commands. Honda has added smartphone connectivity though, so users can get around these weaknesses by using Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.
MPG & RUNNING COSTS
Despite the Sport badge on the Jazz, and the eager nature of the engine, the Jazz isn't going to cost a lot to run. Official economy figures for the 1.5 litre i-VTEC engine are 47.9 MPG and 133 g/km. In real-world driving, I averaged 50.9 MPG over almost 400 miles, which is an excellent return, and a rare occasion on when the official figures are beaten by on-road results. That figure was brought about without much effort to drive efficiently, and I drove a variety of routes and roads as part of it - perhaps with a few more motorway miles than the average Jazz owner. If it seems a little optimistic a figure to quote as a realistic economy average, looking at trips that included other drivers' averages saw 47.9 MPG quoted over almost 800 miles (including my 400 miles), and over more than 2,500 miles of various journalists' driving styles, the trip computer showed 45.5 MPG. In essence then, the Jazz is an efficient machine. To tax, it will cost £205 for the first year (included in the OTR price), and then £140 a year after that.
The Jazz is built on a lightweight chassis, reducing the amount of work required from the engine, which also boosts efficiency. New components such as optimised piston shape and strong tumble intake ports work with Honda's VTEC technology, independent bearing caps, and a lighter crankshaft to go further. Marginal gains, but they add up. An Eco Assist function changes the backlight colour of the dials, from white to green depending on how efficiently the car is being driven. There's also a gear shift indicator to make sure you are in the right ratio, and auto stop/start to reduce engine idling. According to our calculations, the model tested has a Next Green Car Rating of 45.
The Jazz Sport comes with plenty of equipment, including 16-inch alloys, automatic headlights and wipers, 7-inch touchscreen system with DAB, Bluetooth, USB, and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity. It also gets a leather steering wheel and gear knob, LED headlights, parking sensors front and rear, cruise control, air conditioning, and Honda's Magic Seats. There os one other trim level, which is Sport Navi, adding Garmin navigation.
Honda's Jazz remains an extremely practical model, with lots of space both in the boot and for passengers. It's not the most modern interior around, but it is very flexible in terms of load space. The new 1.5 i-VTEC engine and revisions have added a little pep to the Jazz, and it makes it all the better for it. Not sporty, but an enjoyable drive, the Honda Jazz will appeal to a number of buyers.
Model tested: Honda Jazz 1.5 i-VTEC Sport Navi manual
Engine / CO2: 1.5 litre petrol / 133 g/km
Trim grades: Sport, Sport Navi
On-road price: From £17,155. Price as tested £17,765
Warranty: Three years / 90,000 miles
In the showroom: Now
Review rating: 3.0 Stars