There was a time when you bought a small car only because you couldn’t afford a full sized one, but today we are capable of making smarter decisions and buy small mostly because it better suits our individual motoring needs. Back when we bought small cars because we were impoverished they lacked many of the creature comforts we would have expected in a larger car. You paid less so you expected less, and by God you got less and didn’t dare complain about it.
But there’s been a massive shake-up in the market and small cars, like Honda’s Jazz, lack little in comparison to their larger cousins.
The Jazz was clearly an upmarket small car when it was launched in 2002. It was meant to appeal to those who wanted it all in a small package.
The Jazz presented small cars in a new and innovative way. It wasn’t a downsized sedan or sedan-based hatch as had been the normal way of designing a small car, its packaging was quite different.
It was about the efficient use of the available interior space. It had ample accommodation for five adults with the seats in their normal positions, but the seats could be flipped or folded flat in a variety of ways to allow a wide range of objects to be carried. It was a big car in a small package.
Being a Honda the performance was sporty with a choice of 1.3-litre and 1.5-litre single overhead camshaft four-cylinder engines. The smaller engine put out 61 kW at 5700 revs and 119 Nm at 2800 revs and returned 5.6 L/100 km, the larger VTEC engine boasted 81 kW at 6000 revs and 143 Nm at 4800 revs for more zip and returned 6.0 L/100 km.
Both engines came with the choice of a five-speed manual gearbox or a Continuously Variable Transmission — CVT — automatic; the CVT trans hooked up to the larger engine offered a sporty seven-speed sequential shift function.
The suspension was a combination of MacPherson Strut front and torsion beam rear with stabiliser bars at both ends, while the brakes were a blend of disc front and drum rear with anti-skid protection, and the steering was electric power-assisted.
Honda offered the Jazz in three models, the GLi, VTi and VTi-S. The GLi opened the range and came nicely equipped with cloth trim, power windows and mirrors, central locking, tilt adjustable steering column, a full array of instruments, and a CD player.
The VTi came with all of that plus air-conditioning, and sports cloth trim, while the sporty VTi-S came with front and rear spoilers, front fog lamps and alloy wheels.
ON THE LOT
Hondas generally hold their value well so you have to shop hard to find a bargain, but then on the other end you’ll get more when you come to sell it.
To get in synch with the GLi tune you’ll need to part with $10,000 to secure a 2002 model, $14,500 will get you a 2004 model. Add $3000 and you’ll drive away in an equivalent year VTi, and for another $2000 you’ll race away with a VTi-S.
IN THE SHOP
The Jazz is a city car and often driven by people living in inner city areas, which exposes them to more of the bump and grind of gridlock than other cars living in outer suburban areas.
They can often be left parked in the street, under trees and light poles, and subject to the things that naturally fall out of the sky.
So look for body bumps and scrapes, and stains on the paint. Look for a car that has been well maintained on a regular basis, and not just cleaned up for sale.
Cars left exposed to the elements need more protection in the form of washing, waxing and polishing than those parked under cover.
Look at the wheels for evidence of being scraped on or bumped into kerbs. If you find damaged rims have the suspension carefully inspected for damage. It is relatively easy to damage a driveline or steering joint by accidentally hitting a kerb. Listen for odd clicking noises when turning which might indicate a damaged joint.
Hondas need proper servicing, they don’t appreciate being neglected so check for a service record indicating regular oil changes, and lift the oil filler cap and take a look for sludge as a result of missed oil services.
On average a Jazz should have done around 60,000 km if it was a 2002 model, less if a later delivery.
IN A CRASH
All models boasted airbags for the driver and front passenger for reasonable protection in a crash from the front, while anti-skid ABS brakes helped you to get out of trouble when confronted with a crash situation.
The chassis dynamics weren’t brilliant. Its steering was accurate enough without being responsive, but the chassis was quite well balanced with a slight bias towards understeer.
• Inner city bumps and scrapes
• zippy performance
• quirky CVT gearbox
• roomy and flexible interior
• Honda cred
• Mazda 2 – 2002-2004 – $11,000-$19,500
• Holden Barina – 2001-2004 – $9000-$16,000
• Renault Clio – 2001-2004 – $10,000-$19,000
THE BOTTOM LINE
Roomy interior with great flexibility makes Jazz a much bigger car than its small stature suggests. It’s the perfect town car.