What is it that makes the Honda Jazz such a strong seller in Britain? We've got six months to find out.
We’ve been willing it for years, but now there are signs that Honda is recovering its mojo.
The brassy Civic Type R hot hatch and intriguing NSX hybrid sports car are two indicators of the firm’s resurgence, and if it can now persuade the public that its engineering excellence and clarity of purpose are as prevalent in its everyday cars as they are in those two rather more specialist products, a return to its former glory is surely just a variable camshaft profile away.
The Jazz, to a degree, needs no such public re-engagement. This immensely popular and eminently practical car accounts for more than 40% of Honda’s UK sales and is far more relevant to most people’s real motoring needs than those two high-performance machines could ever be.
So we’ve put on our sensible shoes and added this latest version to our long-term fleet to see if it, too, is worthy of our highest praise and to see how it cuts it against its über-competent rivals in the supermini class.
Supermini? There has always been some doubt about the class into which the Jazz fits (no pun intended, if you are aware that the Jazz is sold elsewhere as the Fit), because in terms of size and practicality, it sits somewhere between a small hatch and a mini-MPV. This third-generation version is nearly four metres long and larger inside than the second-gen model, a car famed for its capacious interior.
Wherever it belongs, there’s one on my driveway now. It’s a 1.3 SE Navi model in Attract Yellow, a colour I can only describe as, well, Jazzy. Quite what it’s hoping to attract I’m not sure, but as long as it isn’t passing birds, we should get along just fine.
SE Navi trim sits just one down from top-of-the-range EX and is well furnished. Standard kit includes 15in alloy wheels, air-con, electric windows and mirrors, automatic lights and wipers, DAB radio, Bluetooth and front and rear parking sensors. There’s an integrated Garmin sat-nav, too, and a Connect infotainment system with a 7.0in touchscreen, featuring internet browsing and smartphone syncing. Our only option is the £500 pearlescent paint.
Under the bonnet, the choice is Hobson’s; the only engine currently on offer is a 101bhp 1.3-litre four-cylinder petrol unit. Ours is linked to a six-speed manual gearbox and performance is peppy enough on paper: 0-62mph in 11.3sec and a top speed of 118mph, with the promise of 56.5mpg economy and reasonable CO2 emissions of 116g/km.
First impressions are good. It’s a cheerful-looking thing and exceptionally roomy inside, where there’s good visibility, a pleasing choice of materials and a stylish dashboard.
I’m discovering that you need a light right foot to move away from a standstill smoothly. Conversely, the engine needs to be revved to get much performance from it (peak torque is at a lofty 5000rpm), and when you do, it’s not the quietest thing, but I’m sure it will both loosen up and quieten down with age.
The gearchange is at least short of throw and precise. Add in impressively direct steering and you’ve got a potentially lively performer. It may not be a Type R or an NSX, but I’m still looking forward to the next six months.
Honda Jazz 1.3 i-VTEC SE Navi
Price £15,605 Price as tested £16,105 Options Pearlescent paint £500 Economy 42.9mpg Faults None Expenses None