The Jazz Crosstar is a smart and well-packaged small hatch

Car manufacturers creating at least one other variation of the same nameplate is nothing new and Honda has continued this industry-wide practice by taking the practical, pleasant and petite Jazz and turning it into something which, on the face of it, is a little more rugged.

Called the Jazz Crosstar, and priced at £28,635, it has received a delicate update to its body styling for 2023 in the form of a different front grille, restyled bumpers front and rear, and tweaks to the headlight surrounds. Apart from that, the same SUV-inspired ride height and protective body strips are carried across untouched.

The changes that matter most, however, have been applied to the incredibly clever and easy to get along with hybrid powertrain that can be switched between ‘Eco’, ‘Normal’ – and for reasons still unbeknown to us – ‘Sport’ driving modes.

Blending a 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol, two electric motors and a battery, power has risen 12bhp to 120bhp and is transferred via a decisive variable-ratio transmission to the front wheels.

Whilst not transformative, this new model is satisfactorily quick from a stationary or when already rolling along at a steady 55 or 60mph. Overtakes do tend to ask quite a lot of the e:HEV system and, for that very reason, it tends to produce quite a din.

Still, there can be no complaints as far as economy is concerned; during our spell behind the wheel we consistently managed to achieve 54mpg – not far off the 58.9mpg that Honda has on record.

What certainly helps is a stupendous EV-only system that, on occasions, was quite happy to stay on side at speeds approaching 40mph. Better still, the Crosstar has a canny knack of moving from EV to hybrid without as much as a murmur. Honda claims it to be “seamless” – and we would agree.

The driving experience doesn’t disappoint, either. Being such a small car allows you to nip through traffic, down narrow side streets or country lanes, and into the majority of car parking spaces. Although lacking in feel, the steering is light and getting comfortably shouldn’t be a concern, even for taller people as the front footwells are enormous.

Decent chair adjustability levels help as well. In fact, it is this accommodating nature that helps this Japanese hatch to stand out from its rivals; few are as roomy, practical or intuitive.

You only need to be shown the 60/40 ‘Magic Seats’ which have fold up bases identical to those found on cinema chairs. With these lifted out of the way, you create an expansive area that allows you to slide awkward, or larger, items across the rear floor.

Sitting 37mm higher off the ground compared to the regular Jazz might not sound like much yet it makes such a different accessing the front or rear seats, especially for kids of primary school age who, as we all know, thrive on independence.

Despite this extra ground clearance, it tends not to translate into wallow through bends or at roundabouts, whilst the ride is comfortable due to the extra suspension travel. However, the shocks do struggle to completely round the edges off the worst broken surfaces and can turn a calm experience into a boisterous one at times.

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