The Honda Jazz is something of a nonconformist in the small-car world.
It’s always felt more like a mini-MPV rather than a traditional, zippy town car such as the Volkswagen Polo or Skoda Fabia. However, what it lacked in nimbleness, it made up for with supreme cabin practicality.
This latest version is no measly refresh; from the ground up it’s all new. There’s a new chassis using Honda’s Global Compact Platform, with new front suspension that’s claimed to improve both ride and refinement – a bugbear of the old Jazz.
It also allows for a longer wheelbase, so the engineers have eeked out even more interior space.
There is only a 1.3-litre petrol to be had, which is new too, but it is available with either a manual or automatic gearbox.
The naturally aspirated engine may be new, but it feels decidedly old-school by today’s standards.
Firstly, it’s not very efficient, with higher CO2 emissions and poorer fuel consumption than the competition, but neither is it that quick. In fairness, none of these cars are, but the problem here is flexibility.
Look at the data and the i-VTEC doesn’t hit maximum torque until a peaky 5000rpm. By comparison, a Volkswagen Group 1.2 TSI engine produces more torque, and serves it up from just 1400rpm.
It makes a huge difference to the driving experience. You find yourself thrashing the Jazz to keep up with fast-moving traffic, and when you do, it’s not particularly smooth.
Still, it means you get the pleasure of the six-speed manual gearbox (a CVT automatic is also available), which has a lovely stubby lever and a positive gate. There’s a decent amount of clutch and brake pedal feel, too, although the accelerator is way too sensitive when you’re pulling away.
You certainly notice the dynamic changes. The Jazz showed plenty of grip and balance and managed to keep body roll within acceptable limits on its leafy Surrey test route. The steering is accurate and linear, albeit without oodles of feel. It’s certainly no Fiesta, but it’s good enough.
The ride is improved, and even with the larger 16in alloys, it never crashed over bumps and shrugged off the challenge of a cobbled street. You feel the odd thud when the going gets really tough, while the dampers allow a bit too much vertical body movement off crests, but that’s about it. Again, not class-leading, but good enough.