The first Honda Jazz appeared on UK price lists in 1982. Known as the Honda City outside Europe, this was a small hatchback, which, like its more recent namesakes, used quasi-MPV proportions to maximise interior space. After the demise of the first Jazz in 1986, Honda did not return to the supermini segment until 2000, when it briefly imported the already ageing and rather dull Logo. The Jazz name returned in 2002, to much critical acclaim.
We’re not sure whether the old adage ‘If it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ translates well into Japanese, but Honda’s engineers must have uttered the local equivalent when designing this model. So while it is almost entirely new, you’ll not be surprised to learn the latest Jazz is not as revolutionary as the first. The focus is still on practicality and versatility, with tweaks to the exterior dimensions and promised improvements to the dynamic repertoire. The greatest single change is Honda’s attempt to sharpen the styling to appeal more to younger, more image-conscious buyers.
The Jazz comes with either a 1.2-litre or what Honda calls a 1.4-litre petrol engine (despite it displacing only 1339cc) or as a hybrid, with a choice of two trim levels for each. An auto gearbox is available on the 1.4.
Unlike rivals, there’s no eco-diesel model, Honda preferring to take the hybrid route using much of the mechanicals from the Insight – a 1.3-litre petrol engine working alongside an electric motor through an auto gearbox. It’s a mild hybrid, though, so it won’t travel on battery power alone, using the extra power to take the strain off the petrol motor or to boost power. Emissions are disappointing, not managing to duck below the 100g/km mark.
By any comparison the Jazz is an expensive small car, especially the hybrid version, but you do get a reasonable kit list and a reputation for reliability that seems well founded judging by its lofty position in customer satisfaction surveys.