The Honda Jazz is a car that really gets under your skin. You sit high, with a great view and plenty of space. Your rear-seat passengers get legroom that comfortably matches that of most cars from the class above. And when it comes to carting shopping its 353-litre boot betters a VW Golf’s. Drop the ‘Magic’ rear seat (a single lever flops it down into the floor) and wardrobes start to become fair game.
And the news gets better. With the arrival of the 1.2 S, you can now buy a Jazz for £8600. That’s £500 less than the outgoing 1.4 S, and takes it into a lower price bracket. A Renault Modus 1.2 (with 2bhp less and no CD player) costs £650 more, and you’ll need an extra £1395 to get into a Vauxhall Meriva or Fiat Idea.
Opting for the base-model Jazz doesn’t lose you much. You’ll have to put up with matt black mirrors and door handles, and do without the new steering wheel, lights and fabric of the £10,500 1.4 SE and £11,500 1.4 Sport, but there’s nothing wrong with the old wheel, lights and fabric and the mirrors and windows are still electric. There’s no air-con – that’s a £1500 option.
But surely with that tiny engine it must be slow? Not really. In fact, you’d have to drive the 1.2 and 1.4 back-to-back to notice the latter’s extra 6bhp and 6lb ft. The 1246cc motor is slightly more raucous, and lacks a bit of low-down urge, but it will happily wind up to its 6000rpm red line. Add a slick gearshift and it feels faster than Honda’s 13.7sec 0-62mph claims suggest.
It also produces less CO2 than the old 1.4 S (129g/km – down 8g/km) and returns 51.4mpg (up 2.7mpg), thanks in part to a taller fifth gear. But the slightly choppy ride and light steering mean the driving experience remains average rather than exciting.
In September the Jazz outsold the Citroën C3, Skoda Fabia and Seat Ibiza. And Honda estimates that it will sell 20 per cent more 1.2s than 1.4s. With four Euro NCAP stars for safety and five JD Power stars for customer satisfaction there’s no reason to doubt that.