Used Honda Jazz review: 2002-2009
September 24, 2012
Honda Jazz is the smallest model from the at-times quirky Japanese car maker that’s sold in Australia. Since its launch in October 2002 the Jazz has gained an excellent reputation for build quality and trouble free running.
Quality is of particular interest as the Jazz comes from Thailand, not Japan, to hold down manufacturing costs. We have visited Honda’s Thai plant and came away impressed, though hardly surprised, to note Honda's big emphasis on quality control.
Honda Jazz has a high roofline to maximise interior space in what is a relatively small body. It can seat four adults with little compromising on legroom, but in Australia is more likely to carry either a couple or a family with young children. It fulfils both tasks with ease.
There’s reasonably easy entry to the back seat, but some may find the rear door opening is a little tight in the original model. Those sold from the new model of 2008 this mild problem had been rectified. The Jazz has one of the best folding rear seat designs of them all. The rear seat slides backwards and forwards to let you choose your own compromise between people and/or luggage.
And it can be folded in a few moments to create a huge luggage area. Even better, the front passenger seat backrest can be reclined all the way down to let you carry long loads extending from the dashboard to the rear window. In August 2008 Honda introduced a new Jazz that looked the same as the first generation, but was actually a major evolution of the old.
The gen-two car is larger and sits on a longer wheelbase, so has significantly more space inside, particularly in the rear area of the cabin. Boot space increased and the 60/40 split rear seats could be folded flat without having to move the front seats a few notches forward as in the original model. At the same time the body was more rigid to improve NVH (Noise, Vibration and Harshness). The post-08 Honda Jazz has the sort of refinement that normally requires a car a size larger.
Honda Jazz comes with a 1.3- or 1.5-litre four-cylinder engine. Though the engine sizes remained in the second-generation Jazz, they were actually all new. Power and torque were both increased, yet fuel consumption and emission decreased. Best of all, the torque graph has stretched to give you more grunt at the bottom end of the rev range.
The gen-one Jazz has a continuously variable transmission (CVT). The 1.5 CVT comes with a sports mode offering seven preset gear ratios operated by steering wheel shifters. The 1.3-litre engine runs purely as an automatic. However, Honda decided to go back to a conventional torque-converter automatic transmission in the gen-two Jazz. Honda made this decision because potential buyers didn’t like some of the characteristics of the CVT, particularly the way it selected relatively high engine revs to gain maximum efficiency.
Handling of the little Honda is good if roads are reasonably smooth, but it can be bounced about on bumps. On surfaces that suit it, the Jazz turns in easily, is happy to change direction in corners and is generally well set up for everyday driving. Enthusiastic drivers may find it a little lacking in steering precision. While the Jazz is reasonably easy for the amateur mechanic to work on, there is some underbonnet crowding that’s inevitable on a car of this size. Keep some band aids handy - and don’t forget the workshop manual.
The Honda Australia dealer network is widespread in the heavily populated areas, but isn’t all that established in remote areas. We seldom hear of any real hassles with getting hold of spare parts, but if you are concerned about this it may be smart to make local enquiries before falling too deeply in love with one of these cute little models. Spare parts prices for Hondas are more reasonable now than they have been in the past.
Insurance costs for Honda Jazz generally sit in the mid-range of the field. There doesn’t appear to be any real differentiation between companies on premium charges. It’s always wise to spend some time shopping around for the best deal, though.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Check that the engine starts easily and responds quickly and positively to the throttle, even when it’s completely cold. A continuously variable transmission should be crisp in its reactions to changes in throttle position and road conditions. Because a CVT transmission sounds and feels different to conventional automatics, have an expert drive it if you are not confident it’s working correctly.
Make sure the brakes stop the car without any pulling to one side and that no one wheel locks while the others are still turning. Bodywork should be undamaged and free from rust. Corrosion is not common unless the car has been poorly repaired after a smash. Look over the interior to make sure it hasn’t suffered at the hands of uncaring owners, especially bored young kids. As always, it makes a lot of sense to get a professional inspection after carrying out initial checks to the best of your ability.
CAR BUYING TIP
Cars that are always used in cities or close-in suburbs can suffer from a lot more parking scars than those that live in more spacious surroundings. Small cars are often city cars, so check them very carefully.