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The second generation of the Honda Jazz has had its fanfare, and the music is expected to be just as sweet this time round.
The new Jazz is still belting out the same tune that helped the original sell more than 2.5 million examples, but this time the Aussie-bound models are a little off-key.
Bigger, sharper, more powerful, heavier and a tad less fuel-efficient, the new Jazz will also be missing any hint of an electronic stability program (ESP), despite the life-saving technology being available in Europe and Japan.
“We would have liked it, absolutely, but I don't think it will cost us sales,” Honda Australia senior director Lindsay Smalley says.
“There are a couple of reasons we can't get it at the moment.
“First, we have a different engine and transmission configuration for the Asia-Oceania region (1.5-litre engine and standard automatic). ESP is designed for the European-spec with a 1.4-litre engine and CVT transmission, the same as in Japan.”
Second, he says, ESP is not seen as much of an issue in Asia.
However, it will be available within 12 months.
Honda has stuck with the three-model strategy for the Jazz, starting with the GLi at $15,990 (plus $2000 for the automatic)and $19,170 for the VTi manual or $21,490 for the five-speed automatic.
Topping the range is the VTi-S at $21,590 ($23,920 auto).
The entry-level model comes with a new iVTEC-equipped SOHC 1.3-litre four-cylinder engine putting out 73kW and 127Nm, up 12kW and 8Nm over the outgoing model.
Braking across the range has been upgraded with standard rear discs replacing drums. But the base car still comes with only two airbags standard. Side and curtain bags are a $1000 option.
Generally, standard equipment levels are high for the light-car class, with rake-and-reach adjustable steering wheel, 15-inch steel wheels, power windows and mirrors, central locking and a single-disc four-speaker MP3-player compatible audio system with speed-sensitive volume control.
There are plenty of storage nooks and crannies and the simple-fold rear seats allow fo reasonable luggage.
Stepping up to the VTi and VTi-S brings a new 1.5-litre SOHC i-VTEC engine with 88kW and 145Nm. For an extra $3200 the VTi adds steering wheel audio controls, an information display and alarm.
Go to the top of the class and the VTi-S adds 16-inch alloys and more aggressive exterior styling with a sports grille, side skirts and new front and rear bumper treatment.
In addition to 16-inch alloys, the VTi-S gets a sports grille and front and rear bumpers (think Type-R shape and treatment).
The interior of the Jazz was and still is a reasonably comfortable place to be.
The addition of reach and rake adjustments to the steering — coupled with reasonable seat adjustment — make it simple to find the best drive position.
Seats are comfortable without being outstanding and most of the ergonomics in the cabin are at the front of the light-car segment.
Dials are large and easy to use and information delivery is simple and to the point.
Some of the interior trim — the plastics in particular — show signs of cost-management, but the car is designed to sell at the lower end of the new-car spectrum.
The short (very short) launch drive program concentrated on the city environs that most of these cars will travel in, and only the 1.5-litre was offered for assessment this time.
Power is not a big factor in cars of this style, but the Jazz quickly shakes off any suggestion it's a slug.
Away from a standing start the car will hold its own in city traffic.
Around town the steering is light and precise enough but a long way from being engaging. Missing is the previous model's constantly variable transmission, replaced by a five-speed automatic.
Changes are smooth and the ratios generally sensible.
Around town the tall fifth gear is rarely utilised for long. It may well come into its own when cruising, but adds to hunting between fourth and fifth in city driving.
Honda's engineers claim to have stiffened the Jazz for torsional rigidity but they have also been busy refining the suspension settings.
Gone is the unsettling “bounce” from the previous model, a good thing in the city, where speed bumps and poor road surfaces will test any dampers.