From £12,9357
Third-generation Jazz benefits from a new, lighter chassis, tweaked steering, improved interior quality and the firm's latest infotainment system

What is it?

An all-new Honda Jazz for 2015, reaching dealerships in September. None of your facelifting here; Honda has been busy developing a new, lighter, chassis, new suspension, a quicker steering rack and improved interior quality and fitting its latest infotainment system. 

This new Jazz is also a more spacious car than its already generously proportioned former self. It's now 95mm longer and has a 30mm longer wheelbase, meaning more leg room for the rear passengers. Its boot is bigger too, up 17 litres to 354 litres with the rear seats in place.

But it doesn't end there, because from launch just a single petrol engine will be offered: at 101bhp 1.3-litre unit. It replaces the old 1.4 and 1.2-litre petrols and is designed to provide more grunt than the 1.4 but greater efficiency than the 1.2. The new 1.3 is available with a six-speed manual gearbox or a CVT. We're focusing on the former here.

What's it like?

Four tall adults now have even more space than before, with rear head and leg room easily the best in class and trumping even the impressive Skoda Fabia. The driver has a huge range of adjustment at the wheel and seat, while all-round visibility is excellent with such tall windows and thin pillars front to rear. 

Further back, the Jazz's space and practicality is just as impressive. Its boot has great access, is a good width and can also claim to be the biggest in the class. The rear seatbacks easily fold completely flat to open out the cabin, while the rear seat's squabs can be flipped up to leave an almost flat tunnelled space that is perfect for items such as bicycles.

Quality is much improved but not the class's best. Our SE Navi test car lacked the man-made leather dashboard materials of the EX model, while the switchgear and some of the plastics further down aren't as classy or substantial as those in a Skoda Fabia or Volkswagen Polo.

Honda's Connect infotainment system is recommendable, though, and is standard from SE trim and up. Its bright 7.0in screen is responsive and the system's menus are easy to follow. Our Navi model's navigation system was also quick to process and gave clear instructions. 

Entry-level cars forego alloy wheels but do get DAB radio, Bluetooth, automatic lights and wipers, electric mirrors and air-con. We'd spend the extra on SE, which adds 15in alloy wheels, the Connect infotainment system, parking sensors front and rear and an alarm, all for not a considerable amount more. Adding sat-nav is £610 extra. 

To drive, the Jazz is less appealing. Its 1.3-litre engine may be new but it feels decidedly old against the turbocharged units from the Volkswagen Group and Ford. It takes a long time to rev up to where it is most potent, and you need to keep it there if you want to overtake or sprint down a motorway slip road.

That means moving about between the gearbox's relatively short ratios in order to keep the Jazz's sweet spot alive. At least the gear lever's short throw and snappy, precise shift means it isn't too much of a chore. Unfortunately, putting up with the Jazz's engine noise at even medium revs is. 

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The Jazz's chassis, which borrows parts from the new HR-V, has been lowered slightly at the front, raised at the back and given longer anti-roll bars for improved handling. The dampers are new, too. Even so, the Jazz is still some way behind the class best when it comes to handling.

Its steering is quicker but frustratingly vague around the straight-ahead, followed by an artificial-feeling weight and nervous urgency thereafter. The Jazz's tall body also tends to lean more than those of its rivals when provoked in bends and front end grip runs out more quickly.

You can forgive some roll if comfort is good. The trouble is, even our relatively smooth German test route threw up problems with the Jazz's ride, sending its body bouncing over even mild bumps and crests at low and high speeds. We'll wait to see how it transfers to our even more challenging UK roads. 

Should I buy one?

Not if you're looking to have fun behind the wheel. The Jazz's engine feels outdated while its chassis doesn't do either fun or, seemingly, comfort - although we'll reserve a final judgement on the latter for the moment. This 1.3 is also less refined, less frugal and it emits more CO2 than the turbocharged three and four-cylinder units found in Ford's Fiesta, Skoda's Fabia or VW's Polo.

Based on brochure price, our favourite 1.3 SE manual is cheaper to buy than the equivalent Ford Fiesta but more expensive than a similarly specced Fabia or Polo. For the Jazz's traditionally older cash-rich buyer - who account for around half of sales - that might be an issue. PCP finance quotes start from £139 a month with a £4000 deposit for entry-level S trim. That's good, but VW and Skoda are similarly competitive.

The fact remains that if space and practicality are your main concern, you can do no better than the Jazz. Its brilliant reliability record, good equipment levels and generous standard safety kit such as city braking are commendable, too. Ultimately, though, its ever-improving rivals have widened the gap in terms of engines, efficiency, quality and dynamics.

Honda Jazz 1.3 i-VTEC SE Navi

Location Germany; On sale September; Price £15,205; Engine 4 cyls in line, 1318cc, petrol; Power 101bhp at 6000rpm; Torque 91lb ft at 5000rpm; Gearbox six-speed manual; Kerb weight 1066kg; 0-62mph 11.2sec; Top speed 118mph; Economy 56.6mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 116g/km, 18%

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Einarbb 26 July 2015

People appear harsh about the engine...

...but reading the article, it appears to behave exactly in the way a normally aspirated 1.3l engine does, which has maximum power somewhere between 4-5th. Meaning you have to reew it. So yeah, that means you have to stir the gearbox a bit. And means you get a bit of engine noise - while reews are up. So you prefer a turbo - which has lot's of boost coming in at 1.500 r/m. So you can keep the engine at lacy reews? I get it, but it isn't a turbo, it's a normally aspirated engine. Which means - - it behaves exactly the way, you need to reew the engine and stir the gearbox, and change down say 2-gears, if going through a tight turn. So it's so yesterday I hear. When did it happen - - that the folks lost the interest, in reewing engines and stirring of gearboxes? I recall car enthusiasts being enthusiastic exactly about engines that behaved that way, not many years back. There appear two real concerns about the car: A)The steering has vague at the straight ahead, that's a genuine flaw, and B)The car suspension is uncomfortable, another genuine flaw. The rest sounds like - wining.
artill 23 July 2015

Just noticed the US version

Just noticed the US version gets a 1.5. It has 30% more power, and 25% more torque. It might not make the suspension any better, but it would certainly help it feel a bit less 'underpowered'. What ever the CO2 figures are, i cant imagine Honda's typical buyers would mind the small increase, and its hard to imagine the 1.5 would cost any more to produce either. Odd not to at least offer UK buyers the choice.
si73 23 July 2015

why bigger

the last two generations of the jazz have been the most spacious cars in their class so I cant see why they needed to make it bigger, Its a shame the engine is so lack lustre as on paper it should be good, the performance economy and emissions are all good. All these small turbo charged engine struggle to achieve anywhere near the quoted economy and I personally prefer na's as I enjoy using the revs and Honda na's always used to rev sweetly even if they weren't v-tec. It all seems a wasted opportunity.
Adrian987 23 July 2015

Size

I agree, @si73, why do they have to grow bigger, it cannot all be because of crash regulations, otherwise there would be no small cars at all. As a matter of perhaps passing interest only, the Honda 1.4 was of 1339cc, and the new "1.3" is 1318cc. Hardly any difference in reality. I've not driven modern small turbo patrols, but I can say that when I had the current shape "1.4" on a day long test drive (with 2 adults/2 kids) a few years ago, I was constantly frustrated by the lack of low-down pull, embarrassingly so when exiting, say, a "3rd gear" roundabout. Other small cars were eating me for breakfast, I can't imagine they were all in 2nd gear. It was nice enough otherwise, though. Whilst modern small turbos may not realise the amazing mpg they promise, they reportedly have much more low down oomph, which may matter more to some for an easy drive.