The hybrid version of the third-generation Jazz struggled, rather unvirtuously and in both curved and straight lines, for performance, drivability and mechanical refinement. However, the new hybrid powertrain of this one gets things off to a more promising start.
Whereas the old one’s wheezy, normally aspirated 1.5-litre four-pot made it sound under load a little like a blender chock full of angry metallic bees, this new model is far quieter.
There is still a characterless background buzz during extended periods of hard acceleration, but the persistent droning that’s so common to cars fitted with CVTs is mostly absent. Instead, the Jazz’s new e-CVT seems to cleverly manage the speeds at which it keeps the engine’s crankshaft spinning, accelerating in what sound and feel like stepped in-gear bursts punctuated by perceptible upshifts even when you keep the throttle flat to the floor. It’s a welcome trait, for sure, and you could almost mistake its behaviour as belonging to a more conventional dual-clutch set-up.
Measured objectively, though, straight-line performance is nothing to write home about. The car’s 0-60mph time of 9.6sec isn’t so far off the class pace as to warrant heavy criticism, but its 10.0sec 30-70mph time is less competitive, especially when the new Yaris only needed 8.8sec.
The Jazz does feel quite laboured in its accelerative efforts at times, particularly when you’re joining a motorway or pulling out to overtake. Still, in the urban environments where the Jazz is intended to thrive, it behaves amicably. Its electric drive motor provides strong initial punch and sharp throttle response, and the manner in which it juggles its various petrol and electric drive modes is smartly calibrated. It also seems entirely reasonable to expect that you could complete plenty of short-distance, inner-city hops powered mostly by electricity and reap the financial benefits that come with reduced fuel consumption as a result.
Braking performance isn’t so hot, though – quite possibly as a result of Honda’s decision to equip the Jazz with low-resistance Yokohama BluEarth tyres in order to drive up fuel economy. The manner in which the car’s brake pedal blends regenerative and friction braking is pretty slick, but outright stopping power is limited.
On a damp, 20deg C track, the car needed fully 65 metres to come to a standstill from 70mph, whereas plenty of cars in this class with bigger wheels and grippier tyres might have managed it in something much closer to 50 metres. That’s not a deficiency to be alarmed about or that qualifies as anything like a safety issue in our view. Still, owners might one day be glad to have been made aware of it.