What is it: The current Honda Jazz is the third generation of the brand’s core supermini.
Key features: Completely new look, improved interior space, more tech.
Our view: The Honda Jazz scores adequately in all areas, and highly for its equipment. In terms of space rivals cannot compare with it.
Review type: Full road test.
Is the Honda Jazz a misunderstood car? Despite concerted marketing efforts by its makers – partiularly at the launch of the third-generation version in 2015 – the Jazz has never quite shaken its reputation as a car bought by the more mature motorist.
There is a perfectly good reason for this, however. With age comes experience, the ability to recognise a good value, practical product. Perhaps the Jazz has an elder following because of all the basic things it does rather well.
The 2015 redesign was no mere cosmetic exercise. It involved a complete ground-up renewal, the car built onto Honda’s latest B-segment platform shared with the HR-V crossover. Combined with an exterior length extended by 95mm, the wheelbase by 30mm, the result was much better use of the interior space and the fitting of Honda’s clever Magic Seats system, more on which shortly.
Lighter weight and an updated chassis were other factors suggesting that this Jazz should be a significant improvement.
Exterior and interior design
The Honda Jazz has never looked like a typical supermini, its profile suggesting more mini MPV. The 2015 update served to add muscle to the profile with bolder lines, a distinct sliced horizontal line and the addition of the family face with its ‘X’ shape on the front end.
It may be different, but it is not a bad direction to go in. Instead of the friendly curviness of typical superminis, the Jazz presents a more purposeful stance.
It is inside, however, where the Jazz really scores, and the MPV analogy mostly holds sway. For a supermini there really is a lot of space, particularly in the rear seats – adults will not be compromised in these.
Then there is the boot – almost 400 litres when most rivals struggle to achieve 300. It’s sensible space too, and the Magic Seats can be adjusted through a range of versatile settings to accommodate just about any awkward shape one might desire to carry.
The dash instruments are practical but the touch-sensitive controls – an app-based ‘pinch, swipe and tap‘ system – do not have a distinct action and in general one feels the Jazz is suffering in a time when supermini interiors are making sudden leaps forward. It is already beginning to feel a little dated.
Same with the fit and finish – it’s all put together competently enough, but others have stepped up their game and you feel the Honda needs to as well.
Just one engine is available for the Jazz. It’s a 1.3-litre petrol unit, naturally aspirated where many rivals have gone turbo. So it does not feel that enthusiastic, and to get the best out of it you have to make serious use of the rev range. It is smooth enough, however, and the six-speed manual gearbox fitted to our test car is a pleasure to use with its slick shifts. There is a CVT option, though it is not a great option.
Similarly the 55.4mpg fuel economy and 120g/km emissions levels are reasonable for a petrol-powered car but there are rivals who do better.
On the road
So the Jazz engine needs working hard to get the best out of it, which makes it a little thrashy. But the car scores very well in its chassis. As part of the design package for the latest version Honda engineers focused on redesigning the front suspension, which had come in for criticism in previous incarnations of the car. And they did a very good job.
The Jazz smothers all but the worst bumps, and grips well when cornered enthusiastically. The steering is a little light for such situations, but in the car’s natural environment of the urban streets, the steering is a boon allowing easy manouvering and ensuring living with a Jazz is an easy process.
The safety specification is certainly a point on the Jazz. On all but the entry-level model the Honda safety technology package, dubbed the Advanced Driver Assist System, is standard. It includes Intelligent Speed Assist, Forward Collision Warning, Lane Departure Warning, the Traffic Sign Recognition system and High-beam Support System, while the City-Brake Active system is standard on even the base model – all electronic aids aiming to make the driver’s job easier.
Our test car is to top EX Navi spec and so comes with quite a selection of equipment. Keyless entry and start, automatic climate control and a six-speaker audio system are standard, as are 16-inch alloy wheels and front fog lamps. The Honda Connect in-car infotainment system is also supplied, with that pinch, swipe and tap format on a seven-inch touchscreen. And Garmin navigation is included too, along with a rear parking camera.
The Honda Jazz is a perfectly competent supermini that does everything needed of it adequately enough. It’s just that rivals outscore it in individual areas. If you want a supermini with lots of equipment for the money, it scores highly. And if you want a supermini with lots of space, there is no other choice.
Honda Jazz – key specifications
Test Date: January 2017
Model Tested: Honda Jazz 1.3 I VTEC EX Navi
Insurance group: 13E.
Engine: Petrol 4-cylinder 1318cc
Power (hp):102 @ 6000rpm
Torque (Nm):123 @ 5000rpm
Top speed (mph): 118
Fuel economy (combined, mpg): 55.4
CO2 emissions (g/km): 120
Keyrivals: Volkswagen Polo, Toyota Yaris, Ford Fiesta.