The Honda Jazz is a well-rounded and properly thought-out supermini

You’ve heard the ‘Good things come in small packages’ saying before, right? Well, in terms of what model that applies to, it is hard to look beyond the Honda Jazz. Super spacious and flexible inside, it has been reimagined for a fourth time and promises to keep taking a unique approach to small car ownership.

THE JAZZ: A BRIEF RECAP

In 2002, Honda launched a car that made people – and manufacturers – think differently about what a supermini could – and arguably should – be. Until now, every iteration of the car has stuck to the same tried and tested formula: bullet proof reliability, a cleverly presented cabin and wallet friendly day-to-day running costs. That endeared the Jazz to an older demographic pretty quickly and so image conscious drivers were less inclined to ditch a Fiesta or Clio in favour of it. To get around that particular problem Honda has packaged all of those unique selling points in a design it says is “clean, seamless and also sophisticated”. We’ll let you reach your own conclusions on that one but there’s no getting away from the fact this is still a boxy car that lacks the outright fun factor evident on many B-segment rivals.

THE LINE-UP AT A GLANCE

Honda sells the Jazz in four regular flavours, with prices for entry-spec ‘SE’ cars starting at £19,901 and rising to £25,525 for the bells and whistles ‘EX Style’ if ‘Premium+’ paint is requested. Customers also have a crossover-inspired Jazz to consider as well. The Jazz ‘Crosstar’ is intended by the company to bring more of a lifestyle vibe to the nameplate by adding roof rails, black body mouldings and an ever-so-slightly raised ride height. We’re testing the middle of the road ‘SR’ specification which commands 15-inch alloy wheels, automatic LED headlights, electrica folding door mirrors and parking sensors front and rear. Inside, leather is paired with cloth upholstery for the seats and the 7-inch digital driver display is joined by a 9-inch ‘Connect’ touchscreen that now has both Apple and Android smartphone compatibility.

A SUPER PRACTICAL SUPERMINI

Two decades since it arrived, no other supermini has come close to equalling – never mind bettering – the Jazz for eking out so much space from a car with such a small footprint. Ease of use is where it really comes in to its own thanks to clever features like the 60/40 split-folding ‘Magic Seats’. These work a treat, in much the same way cinema seats do, as you can fold these back to free up the rear seat footwell for storage. The more time you spend in the Jazz the more you begin to appreciate the depth of thought designers have applied. Slimming the A-pillars by half might not be an obvious place to start but the immediate benefit is not only better vision for the driver but an increased sense of airiness because the windscreen and front quarter glass are bigger than previously. We also like how there are smartphone pockets integrated into the back of the front seats for those sitting in the back.

STRAIGHT TO HYBRID POWER

It has taken a few years for supermini rivals to adopt hybrid technology, choosing instead to downsize engines, but Honda has done the exact opposite. In fact, it doesn’t offer conventional combustion at all and for that reason only one engine powers the entire Jazz line-up. Paired to a largely smooth e-CVT gearbox, the 1.5-litre Atkinson-cycle petrol engine is backed up by a brace of electric motors for a total output of 108bhp and 187lb ft of torque. Save for a faint whine from the e-motors overall refinement is excellent from behind the wheel, while the new transmission is a smooth performer and, for the most part, keeps a lid on engine noise under acceleration. We won’t bore you with the complexities of the hybrid set-up although it does comprise three drive modes: ‘EV’ mode is electric only and works on start up and at low speeds. ‘Hybrid Drive’ combines both propulsion systems for maximum power. And ‘Engine Drive’ kicks in at a steady speed where the petrol unit does all of the heavy lifting.

IT’S FAST AND FRUGAL

Granted, the Jazz isn’t exactly cheap in the first place but in the long-run you can expect to claw back some of the initial outlay by paying fewer visits to the pumps. We spent a week carrying out a mix of short and long commutes with the car and it was in Honda’s 62.8mpg ballpark. The battery helps of course in terms of EV-only driving, albeit for short bursts, but it also plays its part in pushing the Jazz from 0-62mph in a very respectable 9.4 seconds and on to a top speed of 108mph. The hushed cabin is pretty much in keeping with the Jazz’s bias towards comfort and the same applies to how it drives, especially on the smaller wheels that mop up patchy surfaces with aplomb. Overall, the chassis is well-judged but if you prefer fun over functionality a Fiesta is a safer bet.

PROS AND CONS

+ i-MMD engine is frugal
+ Interior has big-car feel
+ Ingenious rear seats
Single engine option
Some hard cabin plastics     
Hybrid inflates price

ENGINE: Since launch Honda has only sold the Jazz in the UK with a 1.5-litre petrol-hybrid powertrain as part of its plan to remove conventional engines from its entire line-up. Known as i-MMD (Intelligent Multi Mode Drive) it is not too dissimilar to what Toyota uses for its Yaris. The system is frugal and peppy and unlike some of its rivals, it allows the Jazz to run on electric power alone for brief periods.

STYLING: The new car’s styling is, in many ways, very similar to the original Jazz; that means compact dimensions, a stubby bonnet, slabby rear end and wheel at each corner stance. Looks-wise, the new car is snazzier than ever – a clear and direct effort by Honda to broaden its appeal, especially amongst younger buyers. All but entry-level ‘SE’ versions get alloy wheels and paint colours are limited to six.

INTERIOR: Functional and fun best describe the Jazz’s cabin and being a Honda build quality is typically A1 but the plastics are hard and shiny. We love the quirky two-spoke steering wheel and how the centre console is presented, but perhaps the biggest step forward with the Mk4 is the infotainment system. Better integrated, the unit has slick graphics, quicker process times and has all the smartphone connectivity customers come to expect.

PRACTICALITY: Roominess and flexibility have always been the aces in the pack for the Jazz so the cabin is more MPV than supermini. The ‘Magic Seats’ are really useful, their bases flipping-up to create a tall and uninterrupted load space behind the front seats. A tall roofline guarantees lots of head room even for taller passengers travelling in the rear, and a boxy-shape for the 304-litre boot makes loading easy.

SPECIFICATION

Price: £21,360 (as tested) 
Engine: 1.5-litre petrol plus 2 e-motors
Power/torque: 108bhp/187lb ft    
Transmission: CVT, front-wheel-drive         
0-62mph: 9.4 seconds    
Top speed: 108mph       
Economy/CO2: 61.4/104g/Km 

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