Vehicle Style: 5-door light hatchback
Price: $16,990 (before on-road costs)
Engine/trans: 88kW/145Nm 1.5 petrol 4cyl | CVT automatic
An all-new Honda Jazz launched in Australia in the middle of this year. And, while some things have stayed the same (still a 1.5 litre, still with Magic Seats, still that recognisable silhouette), there’s plenty that’s brand-new.
Honda says it’s more efficient, handles better and is easier to drive than before, while packing in plenty more equipment for your money.
We spent a week in the entry-level Jazz VTi (albeit with the optional automatic) to test that claim.
Quality: For an entry-level light hatchback, the Jazz is actually quite a nicely-appointed car.
Yes, there are hard plastics aplenty, but the futuristic dash gives your eyes plenty to look at and the silver accents help break up all that blackness.
The fabric upholstery appears to be hard-wearing, and there aren’t many rough edges to this cabin at all.
Comfort: With the fuel tank located under the front seats (relax, it’s on the other side of the floorpan), the seating position for driver and front passenger is quite tall and upright.
There’s loads of headroom though, while the steering wheel adjusts for both reach and rake and the driver’s seat adjusts for height to help you get comfortable.
However taller drivers may find that the Jazz could use a little more rearward seat travel.
The back seats have plenty of head, leg and shoulder room to accommodate two adults, and the doors open nice and wide to make entry and exit easy.
Unfortunately, the rear seat squab is so flat, firm and lacking in under-thigh support that it limits its long-term liveability for adult passengers.
Equipment: The Jazz VTi is quite well-equipped for a light car priced in the mid-teens, with LED headlamps (the first in its class), paddle shifters, cruise control, a three-mode reversing camera, power windows, power mirrors and a trip computer.
There’s also steering wheel mounted audio controls, a seven-inch touchscreen, two USB ports and a semi-integrated sat-nav system - provided you hook up a late-model iPhone loaded with the appropriate navigation app.
Bluetooth phone and audio integration is also standard, though reverse parking sensors are a $520 dealer-fit option.
Storage: Luggage capacity is the Jazz’s ace card, and with 350 litres of seats-up boot space it equals many larger hatchbacks for load-carrying capability.
Fold the rear seats down and you get 906 litres of space and a flat, low floor, but the Jazz’s real party trick lies in its Magic Seat system.
Lift up the rear seat squab and lock it against the backrest, and you have a full-height storage space that’s ideal for transporting pot plants, flat-screen TVs or other tall cargo. Nifty.
Fold the front passenger seat backrest down too, and you unlock a full 1492 litres of cargo space. Not bad for a tiny hatchback.
In-cabin storage is just as good.
The VTi might miss out on a covered centre storage bin, but it still gets three cupholders up front, bottle holders in each door, map pockets behind the front seats, a handy cupholder/phone holder for the driver and a decently-sized glovebox.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: The Jazz’s 88kW/145Nm naturally-aspirated 1.5 litre engine provides adequate thrust for day-to-day driving, but it certainly isn’t one of Honda’s peppier motors.
Helping its cause is the optional CVT (a five-speed manual is standard on the VTi).
By seamlessly changing its ratio on-the-fly (think of its ability to change “gears” as being like a trombone, rather than a trumpet), it keeps the engine right in the fattest part of its torque band when it needs to be.
It also drops the revs down as low as possible when cruising, which helps fuel economy. Our average of 6.5 l/100km isn’t quite the same as Honda’s official figure of 5.8 l/100km for the automatic, but it’s appreciably close.
Pin the throttle to the carpet though, and the gearbox ascends through seven pre-defined ratios like a conventional automatic, thus eliminating the usual CVT ‘drone’ under hard use.
A set of manual shift paddles are also attached to the back of the steering wheel to provide full control over the gearbox - even on the base model VTi.
Refinement: It can be a noisy engine when asked to work hard, but certainly quiet at light-throttle cruising.
There’s not much intrusion from tyres or wind noise either, and overall the Jazz VTi has better-than-average refinement for its category.
Ride and Handling: Around town, the Jazz VTi has a supple ride that easily copes with average suburban road quality.
But it’s no marshmallow.
Reef the wheel left or right and the Jazz responds crisply (though perhaps not quite as crisp as its rival Ford Fiesta), thanks to revised suspension settings and a thicker front swaybar.
Push it too far and safe, predictable understeer is the usual result. It takes a lot of effort to induce oversteer (even on a wet road), which will no doubt be reassuring to the average motorist.
Still, there’s definitely the sense that a sportier chassis is just a spring-rate change away.
Braking: A responsive, but relatively-long travel pedal, produces more than enough stopping power to bring the 1095kg Jazz VTi to a halt. There’s ventilated discs up front, and drums at the back.
ANCAP rating: The 2015 Honda Jazz has yet to be tested by ANCAP.
Safety features: Stability control, traction control, ABS, EBD, brake assist, three-point seatbelts and six airbags (front, front side, full-length curtain) are standard on every Jazz.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: 3 years/100,000km.
Service costs: Service intervals are every six months or 10,000km, with service costs alternating between $236 and $272 under Honda’s capped price servicing scheme.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
Ford Fiesta Ambiente Powershift ($17,825) - The Fiesta is one of the best-handling light cars on the market today, and with 82kW and 140Nm it produces similar outputs to the Jazz.
Its twin-clutch powershift auto is definitely a sportier transmission than the Jazz’s CVT, but balancing this is an interior that’s smaller and lacks the versatility of the Jazz.
The Fiesta is also showing its age, and in terms of interior design and refinement, the Jazz wins. (see Fiesta reviews)
Nissan Micra ST-L automatic ($16,990) - The Micra is one of the larger options in the segment, but next to the Jazz it looks a bit wilted.
56kW and 100Nm from a 1.2 litre three-cylinder are well down on the Honda’s numbers, and the Micra’s four-speed automatic is incredibly outdated. (see Micra reviews)
Toyota Yaris YR 5-door automatic ($17,290 ) - With 63kW and 121Nm the Yaris fares better than the Micra, but is still hopelessly outclassed by the Jazz.
Its four-speed automatic is old-hat, the interior lacks the Honda’s sparkle and it’s not that inspiring to drive. Again, the Jazz comes out on top. (see Yaris reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Honda hopes the new Jazz will deliver some sales success for the brand in Australia, and we’d be surprised if it didn’t.
It’s competitively priced, very well equipped even in entry-level trim, easy to drive, efficient and it looks pretty cool.
It also boasts a level of interior refinement that’s hard to find in this segment, especially at the Jazz VTi’s price point. The car we tested might only retail for $16,990, but it feels more premium than that.
We wouldn’t mind an engine that takes Honda down a more adventurous path (bring on that 1.0 litre turbo, Honda!) and a chassis with a bit more of a sporting edge, but that’s just our inner hoon speaking.
For those that just want a capable, comfortable, well-equipped, well-priced and well-built light hatch, the Jazz is the best option around.
PRICING (excludes on-road costs)
- VTi manual - $14,990
- VTi CVT - $16,990
- VTi-S CVT - $19,790
- VTi-L CVT - $22,490
MORE: 2014 Honda Jazz Revealed