What is it?
This is the final piece in the Jazz puzzle that we’ve been waiting for – the Jazz hybrid. It might be the third hybrid model to come forth from Honda in as many years, after the Insight and CR-Z, but strangely, it was actually the first to be configured from the ground up as a hybrid.
According to chief engineer Kohei Hitomi, Honda wanted to first test the ‘hybrid’ waters before launching a petrol-electric version of its hugely popular Jazz.
With a positive response to the Insight and the new CR-Z, they felt the time was now right for the Jazz.
That’s why the 1.3 litre powerplant and IMA (Integrated Motor Assist) system sits snugly inside the tiny engine bay, and more to the point, that’s why the bulky battery pack and IPU (Intelligent Power Unit) fit cleanly under the rear floor section without sacrificing luggage space.
What’s it like?
You’ve got to look closely to see the exterior modifications on this new addition to the current lineup. Fully aware that the Insight returns mileage of 84 mpg and that the Jazz’s Cd is less slippery than that of the Insight, Hitomi tells us that his team did everything in their power to reach that same level. And they did by adding a slightly edgier look to the body.
To give the car the best aerodynamic profile as possible, stylists tweaked the headlights and tail light cluster designs and added underbody panels. They also reduced kerb weight by 70 kgs (compared to Insight), added a revised front brake design and special eco tyres, which all combine to give the Jazz hybrid better off the line acceleration.
On the road, the difference is immediately obvious. The lighter Jazz employs the Insight’s 1.3 litre 4-cylinder IMA powertrain with CVT that develops 86bhp/5,800rpm and 89lb/ft of torque at 4500rpm. But it is over one second faster from 0-60mph, than the petrol model and delivers those herbs in a more elegant, quieter way.
“Customers paying a higher price for the Jazz Hybrid will naturally expect a quieter, more comfortable ride than that of the Insight or current Jazz, so we had to reduce NVH substantially,” admits Hitomi. To enable the Jazz to better handle inner-city stop-and-go driving, Honda has added a start-stop system that combines to deliver just 104g/km of CO2.
“We used a substantial amount of lightweight, sound-absorbing fiberglass wool inside the body panels to reduce engine and CVT whine reaching the cabin,” says Hitomi. And the result is surprising. The Jazz hybrid is significantly quieter at speed than the current petrol version. Pushed hard, the CVT still whines at high revs but the sound deadening material works superbly to drown out mechanical sounds entering the cabin. Oh, and for the record, Honda are not offering the option of a Jazz hybrid with the CR-Z’s 6-speed manual. Not for the time being, that is.
The CVT delivers the best mileage insists Honda. In fact, they are so confident that they say the Jazz hybrid is not only more fuel efficient at low speed city driving (up to 28mph) than a Polo 1.2 BlueMotion, but that the Honda’s 104g/km figure is now on a par with that of the VW. Hitomi also focused on revising the Jazz’s steering, which has come under fire in some circles for its “waffle.” By fitting an additional performance rod and thickening stabilizers by 3mm (from 20-23mm), the Jazz’s steering now delivers better weight and feedback while generating less understeer.
Should I buy one?
Well, if you’ve been looking for a Japanese hatch that can take the mileage, emissions and handling battle right up the diesel dynasties of Europe, then this is your machine.The Jazz hybrid offers a great ride, and at last employs sharper, more responsive handling, too.
But more than that, according to Hitomi, it is the first Japanese hybrid to offer a competitive, well-packaged, small hatch alternative to B-segment diesel hatchbacks in terms of mileage and emissions. And that’s what many potential buyers have been waiting for.
Honda Jazz hybrid
Price: £13,300 (est) Top speed: 100mph (claimed); 0-60mph:10secs (claimed); Economy: 84mpg (claimed); CO2: 104g/km; Kerb weight:1130 kg; Engine: 4-cyls, 1339cc, hybrid; Power: 86bhp at 5800rpm; Torque: 89lb/ft at 4500rpm; Gearbox: CVT