What is it?
This is the new battery-powered Honda Jazz EV, which has just gone on sale in Japan and the US. Unlike, say, the Nissan Leaf, which is a heavily modified mainstream hatchback or the bespoke Renault Zoe, the Jazz EV is - drivetrain aside - almost identical to the combustion-engined version, save for a few styling tweaks and switchgear changes.
The 20kWh Lithium-Ion battery is packaged under the Jazz’s floor, a task made easier by the fact that the standard Jazz has its fuel tank under the front seats. Space was also liberated from the extra-deep rear foot wells, which normally accommodate the clever folding seats.
Under the bonnet, there’s a permanent magnet electric motor driving a single-speed transmission. Interestingly, Honda gives three outputs for the motor, one for each driving mode. In ‘Sport’ mode the driver gets 123bhp between 3695 and 10,320rpm. In ‘Normal’ it gets 100bhp and in ‘Eco’ its gets 63bhp over the same rev range.
The onboard charger offers a handy 17 per cent charge in just 30 minutes with a standard UK 240V. A full charge takes just three hours. The Jazz EV also uses an electrically powered brake servo, something on the way for mainstream cars.
What is it like?
Judging by our short taster behind the wheel, it’s quick, smooth and quiet, which is what you’d expect from an electric car. With all the weight under the raised driving position, the Jazz also feels well-planted. It also benefits from having multi-link rear suspension, which adds to the sense of the car’s agility.
According to the EPA in the US, the Jazz should return 82 miles on a full charge, ahead of the Ford Focus on 76 and the Leaf on 73 miles. Honda claims that, in Sport mode, the take-off is similar to larger-engined ICE cars and they’re probably right. ‘Eco’ mode might seem like a gimmick, but it does stop the driver taking too much advantage of the Jazz’s brisk in-town performance and draining the battery.
Should I buy one?
If you live in California and have a guaranteed charger and parking space, the low-cost lease would be tempting, especially as a second car for weekly commuting. There are no plans to offer the EV in the UK, especially with the pound-to-yen exchange rate making importation costly. It’s a pity, because the Jazz is bigger inside than the Renault Zoe and a potential contender for the best current EV. However, the outright cost of an EV remains a near insurmountable hurdle.
Honda Fit EV
Price: £23,546/ £244 month lease; 0-62mph: n/a; Top speed: na; Economy: 118mpg/82 miles per charge; CO2: Zero; Kerb weight: 1475kg; Engine: electric motor; Power: 123bhp (sports mode); Torque: 189lb ft; Gearbox: single speed