Bright yellow paint, a £500 option, made it stand out
It’s 354-litre boot was big enough for most weekly assignments
Practical touches, such as these A-pillar windows, abounded
Urban driving allowed the alert steering to shine
How do we measure the popularity of a long-term test car here? Easy.
It’s not a matter of worldwide sales or cornering prowess. It’s measured simply by the number of times the car’s keys are borrowed from the owner’s desk while the vehicle is in our tenure.
I have run cars on 12-month loans, most notably a posh Jaguar, an on-trend Nissan Qashqai and a smart Lexus SUV, where the keys were off my desk so much that I began to wonder if I’d actually dreamt them up. By contrast, in six months with my little Attract Yellow Honda Jazz, only two people actually asked to borrow it of their own volition and, having driven it once, they never asked again.
And that’s a shame. Whether it was the colour that put the others off, or the Honda’s reputation for attracting a more mature owner, I don’t know, but if they’d tried it, they would have found that there was quite a lot to like about this third-generation Jazz, not least that it does well nearly everything that you’d expect it to do well.
This is one of the reasons why the Jazz has always been popular in the UK, and this latest one embodies all the qualities for which the little Honda is legendary: there’s no shortage of interior space and its practicality constantly proved a boon during my time with the car.
Dropping the clever Magic seats was the work of seconds, and the boot space with them down was voluminous. It laughed in the face of a weekly shop, too, or a car full of children or flatpack furniture (or occasionally all at the same time) and it soon proved to be an excellent companion for trips to the tip. On top of all that, it was easy to get in and out of, easy to see out of and, best of all, remarkably economical for a car that spent most of its time either in commuting traffic or being belted down a motorway.
Our overall figure of 41.5mpg is a splendid result for a petrol-engined car and better than I’ve achieved in many diesel or hybrid cars. Indeed, the digital display in the infotainment system often showed well over 50mpg, but filling up the tank revealed the readout, like many such, to be a trifle optimistic.
Our SE Navi car was handsomely equipped, too, with the most useful features for me being the front and rear parking sensors. We also had an integrated Garmin sat-nav with a Connect infotainment system and 7.0in touchscreen, which featured internet browsing and smartphone syncing. Alas, this was to prove occasionally frustrating, because the touchscreen was one of those that needed a second prod before any response was forthcoming, and its somewhat ambiguous menus meant simple acts, such as changing a radio station, weren’t always as straightforward as I’d have liked.
However, throw in the car’s unimpeachable reputation for reliability, perceived strong build quality and impressive safety kit, as well as its excellent residuals, and on paper our Jazz would seem to be a match for most of the cars in its class.
There is, though, a major fly in the ointment. I mentioned that the Jazz does nearly everything well that you’d expect it to do well, but what it doesn’t do very well at all is go. Of course, no one expects supercar performance from a supermini, even one made by Honda, but our car was decidedly lacking in straight-line puff. Put your foot down and in certain situations nothing seemed to happen for a very long time indeed. To summon up any sort of forward motion at all, you really had to boot it up to the redline and that, with an engine that was always a little too vocal and surprisingly harsh, was an unpleasant way to do business. Road noise could be overly prevalent, too, and the general cacophony made motorways a tiresome affair.
On one such journey, travelling with my family from Surrey to Bristol, it was draining enough to sap the enthusiasm out of all of us and leave us with headaches. I’m not even sure that we’ve fully recovered now. It caused me to wonder if any sound deadening had been sacrificed to achieve the new Jazz’s low weight.
The ride, too, was not quite right. Better than Jazz models of old but still too fidgety around town. The steering was alert and the gearchange slick, and there was just a slight suspicion that this car wasn’t quite as well finished inside as the previous generations. Additionally, the driver’s seatback angle was adjusted by ratchet rather than rotary dial, making it difficult to fine-tune.
To be honest, though, it was only this slight drawback with the driving dynamics that put a dampener on the otherwise sweet music I made with the Jazz during our six-month affair. If those driving manners had matched up to the practicality and general smartness of the rest of the car, I would have thought it easily good enough to rival the likes of the Skoda Fabia and the Ford Fiesta at the top of the class.
Not that, for some Jazz owners, driving dynamics matter that much. What they want is admirably delivered by this spacious and economical little runabout.
A final word of warning, though: if you do buy one, don’t expect other people to be terribly interested in it, even if it is bright yellow. MP
RUNNING COSTS - Worst it returned was 38.1mpg, the best 44.6mpg. Not bad for mostly urban and fast motorway use. PRACTICAL INTERIOR - The Jazz’s trump card: useful-size boot was easily augmented by the versatility of the folding rear seats.
REFINEMENT - Road noise made motorway journeys tiresome. The engine was vocal and quite harsh, too. PERFORMANCE - Its 1.3-litre four-cylinder engine needed revs to give its best, but its best, frankly, wasn’t good enough. INFOTAINMENT - Touchscreen frequently needed a second prod and the logic of the menus wasn’t always that intuitive.
If youngsters dismiss the Honda Jazz as an old person’s car, I dread to think what they’d make of the CVT version, the transmission of which is about as highly regarded by the motoring press as a fart in a lift.
And yet a large proportion of Jazz sales are of the automatic version. With that in mind, and in the interests of providing good consumer advice, I decided to borrow one from Honda to compare it with our six-speed manual long-termer.
I must confess that I have never shared the view that there is something masculine or sporty or even vaguely mechanically efficient about the old-fashioned manual gearbox and its accompanying clutch pedal. It being 2017, I would no more expect to find a manual gearbox in any civilised car than I would to find a horse in my living room.
To a degree, I’m proved right by these two cars. The Jazz CVT is good in town, easy to drive and smart away from the lights, whereas the manual can be rather hiccupy if you fumble the clutch and touchy throttle (easily done). On the motorway, where the manual Jazz is a little too loud, the CVT is quieter thanks to its theoretically higher gearing when cruising, even if refinement still leaves something to be desired.
So the CVT wins, then? Well no, not quite. You see, if you floor the accelerator, the engine roars like a rutting stag, and it’s about as responsive, even in its Sport mode, as a dead turbot. Like many steplessly variable transmissions, it also offers the option of using seven stepped ratios, but I find this rather irritating, although I realise I might be alone in that.
Also, the gearchange in my manual Jazz is a particularly good one, short of throw and precise in action. So my learned consumer advice is this: pay your money and make your own choice, or buy one of each.
HONDA JAZZ 1.3 I-VTEC SE NAVI
Price £15,605 Price as tested £16,105 Economy 44.6mpg Faults None Expenses None Last seen 23.11.16