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Small cars - really small cars - still stand quite tall, in sales terms. Well, they do if you're Honda, which is still shifting not far off a thousand Jazzes every month. If you think the Jazz is a poor choice of name, or you just don't like aimless, formless music, be aware that this Honda is called a 'Fit' in other markets, so it could be worse.
While it can't escape the silly names brigade it is quite a serious car. Serious because while other machines in the segment serve up meat and two veg, the Jazz does two extraordinary things - it's gigantic inside for such a diminutive car, and it has an innovative back seat.
If that doesn't make you read on, I don't know what will.
|Honda Jazz 2017: VTi|
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
The basic car in the three-tier range is the VTi. If you're happy to change gears yourself, you can get your backside into a Jazz for just $14,990. There aren't many cars cheaper than that, and there are fewer still that are worth buying, and none that come with solid, Honda engineering.
The modest specification includes 15-inch alloy wheels, cruise control, a four-speaker stereo with Bluetooth and USB, air-conditioning, power windows and mirrors, reversing camera, remote central locking, LED headlights, rear parking sensors with dash display and a space-saver spare.
You can see a couple of surprise and delight features there - LED headlights at this level are practically unheard of.
The four-speaker stereo is tinny but otherwise fine. The small touchscreen is reasonably snappy but the underlying software is a bit of a lame duck - it looks really old. Much like its compatriots at Toyota, Honda's head unit looks like an off-the-shelf job, with the USB port hidden under an ugly cover. It's a bit low-rent in an otherwise excellent cabin.
The Jazz has, happily, evolved its design over the years. At first it was like a mini Rice Bubble-era Toyota Tarago and today it's still very much a mini Rice Bubble-era Tarago, but now it's slightly bigger.
Honda's quirky design bods were in a strange mood around the time of this generation's conception and while the front end is fairly tame and contemporary - if a bit bulgy - the side view is characterised by a deep gash in the side of the car that runs to the taillights and then hooks down, leaving a space where you could snap a hockey stick into the side for storage. It calms down again at the back, with tall stacked tail-lights and a broad tailgate.
Inside, things are fairly tame, with dark grey plastics that are lifted by brushed aluminium-look trim around the dashboard-mounted air vents. It's not bang up to date like the HR-V, Civic and new CR-V, but it's perfectly inoffensive. In fact, it feels like a more expensive car, although that is getting harder to say these days - the Mazda2 has is a pretty plush interior for similar money while both are miles ahead of the Hyundai Accent.
The space inside the Jazz is extraordinary for such a small car. Back-seat passengers in its immediate competition - Mazda2 and Hyundai Accent - could only dream of the kind of legroom enjoyed in the Honda. Behind my driving position there's still tonnes of room, and I'm just shy of 180cm.
As ever, the interior is full of clever details, packed into a small space. The centre console holds two cupholders, a tray for your phone and a compartmentalised open tray reachable by both front and rear seat passengers. A third cupholder folds out of the dash on the driver's side. The back seat doesn't have any cupholders, unfortunately, and nor is there a centre armrest.
The Jazz is the home of the Magic Seats. The rears are split 60/40 and flop forward to create a near-flat load space. Pull them back up and you can fold the seat squabs up, clearing the way for items you'd rather not rattle around in the boot or that need that extra headroom (say, a tall plant or a flat pack that won't lie... flat. Or a dog). They're very clever and nobody else has them.
Boot space is impressive for a small car at 354 litres. Folding the seats yields a jump to 1314 litres. Enormous. By comparison the 2 is a titchy 250 litres and the rather bigger (and older and less capable, etc) Accent just shades it at 370 litres seats-up.
Under the diving bonnet is Honda's 1.5-litre single-cam four cylinder producing 88kW and 145Nm. Weighing just 1095kg, those numbers aren't bad at all. The five-speed manual feeds the power to the front wheels.
Honda claims a combined cycle figure of 5.3L/100km.
I got an indicated 8.0L/100km, which shouldn't bother you - I really gave it some stick because I seriously enjoyed driving the manual. Careful driving will yield better results. Incidentally, 8.0L/100km is very close to the claimed urban figure, which is where this car spent most of its time.
If you asked me which car, in all the world, would I least expect to be good fun to drive, I wouldn't immediately say the Jazz, but it would have been in the mix. But it turns out it shouldn't be, because in this rarely purchased manual guise, it's terrific fun.
The view out front is great. In fact, the view everywhere is terrific - from the inside the Jazz almost feels like it's more glass than metal, but not in a way that makes you feel unsafe. Like its HR-V twin under the skin (yes, it's more Danny DeVito and Arnold Schwarzenegger twins, but they are actually related), the windscreen is gigantic but the Jazz also has those little three-quarter windows over the front wheels. Allied with its size, it's an absurdly easy car to manoeuvre.
The engine is pretty vocal, sure, and it's only going to ironically earn the nickname "The Beast", the Jazz is really rather handy. The controls are light, from clutch to gear throw, with steering that's just right to keep up with the limited grip from the front wheels.
The ride is quite impressive, at least for front-seat passengers - rear passengers won't be so happy with the torsion beams banging over speed humps. Body roll isn't a concern, but nor is it flat through the turns. It's the sort of car you lean into, like an old Mini.
It's a noisy thing, though. The engine is quite gravelly and there's a fair bit of road noise in the cabin. The weak stereo doesn't really cover the racket, either. On smooth surfaces there's a smidge of wind noise, so a long trip should be okay. It's way more fun than the CVT auto, though, so save yourself the $2000 and enjoy an excellent manual experience.
5 years / unlimited km warranty
ANCAP Safety Rating
Honda fits six airbags, ABS, stability and traction controls, brake assist, brake force distribution, (grainy) reversing camera and hill hold. There are three top-tether baby seat anchors.
ANCAP awarded the Jazz five stars in 2015, the highest available.
Honda offers a generous five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty on all its models. Service pricing is capped for the first five years or 10 services, whichever you reach first. Costs bounce between $259 and $297, with the website listing additional items you might need, such as brake fluid (every two years, $40 extra) or various filters. The manual costs the same to service as the CVT auto.
The MY18 Jazz was a pleasant surprise. There was little wrong with the previous edition and, truth be told, I'd have probably thought a manual one of those was good fun, too. The surprising spec inclusions are most welcome - those LED headlights kick the dark's butt - but really, it's a car that can carry four grown-ups and/or weird cargo in genuine comfort. Nothing else in the class can manage that.
|VTi||1.5L, ULP, 5 SP MAN||$12,888 – 16,990||2017 Honda Jazz 2017 VTi Pricing and Specs|
|VTi LE||1.5L, ULP, CVT AUTO||$12,100 – 16,060||2017 Honda Jazz 2017 VTi LE Pricing and Specs|
|VTi-L||1.5L, ULP, CVT AUTO||$13,674 – 20,990||2017 Honda Jazz 2017 VTi-L Pricing and Specs|
|VTi-S||1.5L, ULP, CVT AUTO||$12,980 – 17,380||2017 Honda Jazz 2017 VTi-S Pricing and Specs|
|Price and features||7|
|Engine & trans||7|