Small cars demand a different approach than do their larger cousins in order to achieve an efficiency of packaging that delivers a level of comfort and everyday practicality for their owners.
Honda's Jazz is a case in point. By any definition it's a small car, but at the same time its rather upright wagon-like shape gives it a roominess that belies its modest dimensions.
The Jazz arrived in local showrooms in 2002 and was updated in 2004 and 2006 with extra equipment that kept it fresh. Despite its upright and boxy shape the Jazz had a cheeky appeal with its steeply sloping front, bright eyes and corporate Honda grille.
Wide-opening doors and a high roofline made getting in and out of the Jazz a breeze, something that appealed to older buyers who struggled getting into other lower models. Inside, passengers sat in rather upright, but supportive seating that combined with the tall body to make a roomy and comfortable cabin.
Another advantage of the upright style was the visibility, which was good all round. With the rear seats folded to form the flat floor there was quite good space for whatever might need to be transported in the Jazz. Honda offered the Jazz in three models, the 1.3-litre GLi entry level, and the 1.5-litre VTi and VTi-S.
The GLi was only available with the 1.3-litre engine, but buyers could choose between a five-speed manual gearbox and a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT), which was an auto of sorts.
When working at its peaks the 1.3-litre four was putting out 61 kW and 119 Nm. It was a smooth driver around town, but was found out when asked to climb hills or accelerate quickly.
For better performance there was the VTi and VTi-S with the 1.5-litre engine that put out 81 kW and 143 Nm. The larger engine handled the cut and thrust of city traffic much better and was more at home on the highway.
VTi and VTi-S buyers could choose between a five-speed manual and a CVT transmission that could be overridden and driven as a seven-speed manual.
At first the GLi was fairly basic and didn't come standard with air until 2006. By then it boasted central locking, a trip computer, power steering, mirrors and windows and four-speaker CD sound.
The VTi came with air from the get-go and also had remote central locking, while range-topping VTi-S also boasted alloy wheels, a body kit, fog lamps, leather steering wheel, rear spoiler
ON THE LOT
Pay $5500-$13,000 for a GLi, $8400-$14,000 for a VTi, or $9300- $17,500 for a VTi-S.
IN THE SHOP
Honda enjoys an enviable reputation for reliability that many other carmakers can only dream about, but nevertheless it's always prudent to ask for a service record that confirms regular maintenance has been done. Servicing is required every 10,000 km or six months.
Modern engines live and die on oil and missing oil changes is a recipe for disaster. Oil galleries clog up and in extreme cases it can be virtually impossible to clean them out without dismantling the engine and putting through a hot tub.
Honda has had trouble with the CVT transmission in the Jazz, as reported by a number of Cars Guide readers. When test driving a potential buy look for shuddering when accelerating away from a standstill, and walk away from any car that shudders.
Changing the oil in the transmission and resetting the computer have fixed some cars, but others haven't been able to be fixed that way and the transmission has had to be replaced at a considerable cost.
It should also be noted that Honda claims that CVT-equipped cars need to be taken back to a dealer to have the computer reset if the battery has been disconnected for any reason. That includes those situations when a battery is replaced, which makes replacement a rather more expensive exercise.
Honda parts and servicing can be more expensive than those on other makes and models, but there is a number of independent specialist service mechanics that can do the work more cheaply.
IN A CRASH
Dual front airbags and ABS anti-lock braking were standard across the range, enough to receive a creditable four star rating from ANCAP.
AT THE PUMP
One of the strengths of the Jazz is its fuel economy. Honda claimed the 1.3-litre would do 5.2 L/100 km on average with the manual gearbox, and 5.1 L/100 km when equipped with the CVT.
With the 1.5-litre engine Honda claimed an average consumption of 5.6 L/100 km for the manual and 5.5 L/100 km for the CVT. One of our readers reported the consumption of their 1.3-litre manual never goes above 5.5 L/100 km around town and sinks to 4.5 L/100 km on the open road.
Graham Bewley currently owns a 1.3-litre auto Jazz GLi, having previously owned a 2006 1.5-litre CVT Jazz VTi for three years. He says it is quiet and smooth, and roomy with a bigger car feel, it's also economical, the steering is improved and it has a full-sized spare. Against that he says he doesn't like the large windscreen, the air-conditioning is barely adequate, and the gearing is a little too high with the 1.3-litre engine. But in summary, he says that while the Jazz is no sports car, it is very pleasant to drive and both of his cars have been super reliable. There were no problems with the CVT in his previous car.
Dr. Graeme Paton has racked up more than 300,000 km in his 1.3-litre 2003 Jazz GLi and says it still feels tight, and starts first time, every time. It has been routinely serviced and has been very reliable only requiring routine brake pad and disc changes, and replacement of the wheel bearings, which Honda did under warranty.
- Cute, but practical styling
- Roomy interior
- Economical running
- Modest performance from 1.3-litre
- Shuddering CVT transmission
- Honda resale
ALSO CHECK THESE
MAZDA2 02-08: Well built and well equipped the little Mazda is an easy driving car with good fuel economy, good safety and the practicality of a wagon/ hatchback. Pay $6500-$15,500.
HYUNDAI GETZ 02-08: A value-for-money package that doesn't pretend to be anything else. Does everything acceptably well, without excelling in anything. Pay $3500-$13,000.
FORD FIESTA 04-08: European dynamics, punchy engine and efficient packaging make small Ford an attractive proposition, but conservative looks and questionable quality dampen enthusiasm. Pay $6500-$16,500.
THE BOTTOM LINE
A well built, spacious small car with good blend of performance and economy. 80/100