Honda Civic VS Honda Jazz
- Looks are good (or bad)
- Suspension and steering are both terrific
- Plenty of legroom in the rear seat
- CVT drones at pace
- Standard safety lacking on base models
- RS is noisy on the wrong road surfaces
- Capped-price servicing
- Build quality
- Huge interior space for its size
- No Apple CarPlay/Android Auto
- VTi-S very pricey
- Lack of advanced safety features
If you think the new Civic Hatch looks a little lower-slung than its sedan sibling, that can likely be attributed to the crushing weight of expectation placed on its little metal shoulders.
See, this 10th-gen Civic might be the most important car Honda has ever made. While most manufacturers were pouring funds into their SUV ranges, Honda was diverting a huge chunk (heavily tipped to be a whopping 35 per cent) of their research and development budget into the Civic, using the evergreen nameplate as a key pin in their Australian comeback.
And with that much riding on it, it had to be good. In sedan form, which launched here last year, it mostly lived up to the hype, with Honda shifting more than 800 units per month. And with the Civic hatch finally touching down in Australia, Honda is hoping to add 1000 sales to the tally.
So the question now is, does this new hatch version shine, too?
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Honda's Jazz is like the little engine that could.
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Energetic and engaging (if not quite sporty), the Civic hatch is quiet and comfortable around town, but it can more than hold its own on a twisting backroad, too. It’s looks will either appeal or not, but a lack of comprehensive safety equipment on the cheaper models is sure to ruffle some feathers.
For us, the cheapest way into the turbocharged engine forms the pick of the bunch, so we'd call the VTi-L the sweet spot.
The Honda Jazz is an extremely capable small car, with an ace card of virtually unbeatable interior space. While it's hardly an excitement machine, or the best looking or equipped in its class (it is missing out on some useful safety gear), the Jazz deserves its status as a well-loved hatchback.
The best in the range is probably the VTi. There isn't anything compelling further up the variants unless you're keen on bigger wheels or leather trim. Its entry-level offering is a good-value, sturdy car that is packed with its best qualities, no matter which one you buy.
Does the Honda Jazz stack up for you? Or do offerings from Hyundai, Mazda and Kia get your bargain-hunting senses tingling?
The word 'polarising' is usually a thinly disguised way of saying 'lots of people don’t like it'. And the all-new Civic sedan was, well, very polarising. A glance at this new hatch version shows it hasn’t strayed too far from that design approach, either.
It’s as understated as a snakeskin suit in all grades, but nowhere is it quite so busy as in the RS trim level, in which the sporty trimmings jump out from every possible angle. Strangely, though, we quite like the way it looks, and it's undeniably an individual in the small car segment.
Inside, Honda has produced the comfortable and tech savvy interior that was missing from the outgoing model, but the sense of well executed semi-premium fades as you approach the spartan rear seat.
The Jazz's exterior design is instantly recognisable. The shape has been roughly the same since the car's 2002 debut, with the mildest evolution over the years. The 2018 Jazz leads with the chin a bit, with a pronounced underbite and when fitted with a chrome grille, it looks a bit like the giant Jaws from James Bond after whacking his head.
Apart from that, the slimmed headlights and one-box body shape are almost entirely inoffensive, save for the chunky, stacked rear lights.
When you head inside it's a simple, basic interior. Well put together, it's easy to find your way around and, because there isn't much happening in here, it's unlikely you'll need the owner's manual, unless you want to identify and use every single deployment of the excellent Magic Seats in the back.
As you climb the range, you'll start to see body-kit additions like a rear spoiler and side skirts, but nothing particularly racy.
The Civic hatch is surprisingly spacious in the cabin, where up front the two seats are split buy a central bin housing two of the fattest, deepest cupholders we’ve ever seen (that would be America’s 'Big Gulp' influence on the Civic’s design), along with a hidden USB and power source that sits behind the centre console, hiding the ugly chords while you’re plugged into touchscreen unit.
The back seat, is plenty spacious in the longer and wider hatch - which also sits on a 30mm longer wheelbase than the outgoing car - with more shoulder, leg and knee room for backseat riders.
Which is just as well, as there’s not much else happening back there, with no air vents, power outlets or USB points on offer, with just the two cupholders housed in a pulldown divider that separates the rear seat.
The interior is full of cleverness packed into a small space. The centre console has two cup holders, a space 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.
Rear legroom is impressive for such a small car - it's no wonder the HR-V compact SUV was spun off the Jazz platform. Added to that are the excellent 'Magic Seats', which fold in a variety of ways to increase the boot space dimensions from 354 litres to 1314 litres.
Luggage capacity is not bad for such a small car and with the flexible interior, the boot size goes up by four times in volume. This is one area in which it really does outdo the Mazda2. The removable cargo cover means you can get a decent chest of drawers in, however there's a bit of a drop once you get things over the loading lip.
You can also fold the seat bases up and out of the way to provide space for shrubbery, or a dog, or an awkward flat pack.
The basic VTi misses out on a bit of storage, namely the centre console storage box and driver's side seatback pocket, but the rest of the range has them both.
Price and features
Thanks to what Honda refers to as its “One Civic” philosophy, this new hatch lineup perfectly mirrors the sedan range that was launched here last year, with the only major change being the ‘Ring-burning Type R, which will be hatch-only when it arrives later in 2017.
And that means the five-strong Hatch range kicks off with the entry-level VTi ($22,390) before stepping up to the VTi-S ($24,490) and the VTi-L ($27,790). Next up is the sport-sprinkled RS ($32,290), before the range tops out with the high-flying VTi-LX ($33,590).
Entry-level shoppers will make do 16-inch steel wheels, fabric seats and single-zone climate control, but there are some nice and premium-feeling flourishes, like LED DRLs, a 7.0-inch touchscreen that’s now Apple CarPlay and Android Auto-equipped and a second colour screen in the driver’s binnacle for your trip information.
Stepping up to the VTi-S adds 16-inch alloy wheels, integrated LED indicators in your wing mirrors and proximity locking and unlocking, along with some clever safety stuff we’ll come back to under the Safety heading.
Along with a better engine (more on that in a moment), springing for the VTi-L will earn you 17-inch alloy wheels, twin-zone climate control and automatic windows in both rows, while the sporty-flavoured RS adds LED fog and headlights, along with a hearty dose of sporty styling courtesy of a bumper kit, skirting and a liberal splashing of piano black highlights.
Inside the RS gets leather trimmed seats, a better 10-speaker stereo and and a standard sunroof, too.
Finally, the range-topping Civic - the VTi-LX - gets satellite navigation, and a fairly comprehensive suite of safety kit.
The Jazz range is made up of three models. As with any car, how much you get is dependent on how far up the price list you go. Honda occasionaly offers drive-away deals, but we're using RRP as a guide. We've done an exhaustive model comparison as well as snapshots to help you decide between the three trim levels - VTi, VTi-S and VTi-L.
Our American cousins score a Sport edition, but sadly we miss out on that one.
The VTi opens the price range at $14,990 for the five-speed manual, rising to $16,990 for the CVT auto. Standard features include a four-speaker stereo, air-conditioning, reverse camera, remote central locking, projector style halogen headlights, 15-inch steel wheels, cruise control power windows and mirrors, black cloth trim, trip computer and hill-start assist.
The inclusion of the reversing camera is good but the lack of rear parking sensors is mystifying, a problem shared with the VTi-S, although they are optional on both specifications.
While the spare tyre is a space-saver, it's better than a tyre-repair kit, should trouble strike. A small tool kit is also supplied for just such an occasion.
Even with the 2018 update, there is no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, although you can plug in your iPhone or Android device via the USB port. Irritatingly, the USB port is under a cover next to the 7.0-inch touchscreen itself, so you have a cable poking out of the dashboard. You might prefer Bluetooth in that case.
Step up to the CVT-only VTi-S ($19,990) and you pick up foglights, 16-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights, 'premium' cloth trim, leather-wrapped steering wheel, a centre console with storage box and GPS sat nav.
There is no improvement to the multimedia system.
The VTi-L ($22,990) adds LED daytime running lights, climate control, navigation system (hooray!), smart key keyless entry, push-button start, leather seats, paddle shift for the CVT gearbox, an alarm, bi-LED headlights, LED daytime running lights, heated front seats and two extra speakers,
Missing from the accessories list are a CD changer, DVD player, DAB or MP3, panoramic sunroof, sport pack, black pack, city pack, subwoofer, improved sound system, HID headlights, tonneau cover, roof rack, different rims and even floor mats.
You're stuck with the same infotainment head unit right across the range - its not even a radio/CD player arrangement, just radio and your phone. At least the VTi-L has more speakers for its sound system.
Dealers will no doubt sell you darker tinted windows and an extended warranty.
The Jazz is available in seven colours, with Rally Red the only freebie. For $495 you can have one of six shades of mettallic paint - Crystal Black, Brilliant Sporty Blue, Modern steel (gunmetal grey), Phoenix Orange, Lunar Silver and White Orchid. If you're after pink or yellow, you're out of luck. Not very Jazzy.
Engine & trans
Like the sedan version, there are two engine choices on offer, with the cheaper option a 1.8-litre petrol engine, good for 104kW at 6500rpm and 174Nm at 4300rpm found in the VTi and VTi-S trim levels.
The better option, though, is a perky turbocharged 1.5-litre petrol engine that will push 127kW at 5500rpm and 220Nm at 1700rpm to the front tyres.
Both engines are partnered with a CVT automatic transmission, with or without wheel-mounted shifters, depending on the trim level.
All Jazzes are powered by Honda's 1.5-litre single-cam four-cylinder. The engine specs don't make for inspiring reading, with just 88kW and 145Nm. That's not a lot of horsepower, but when you consider the weight of the car, the figures don't look so weedy.
Power goes to the front wheels, so the Jazz is definitely not an off-road proposition.
Only the base model VTi has a choice of manual vs automatic, with a five-speed manual transmission and a CVT auto to choose from.
As to the question of timing belt or chain, the Jazz has the latter, so you don't have to worry about a belt change. The oil type is 5W-30
There is no diesel option, so there'll be no diesel vs petrol argument. Nor is there an EV or plug-in hybrid - with a battery, it's unlikely you'd have much boot space left. There isn't an LPG, 4x4, or AWD version either.
If you can be bothered fitting a towbar, the manual's towing capacity is 1000kg braked while the CVT's load capacity drops to 850kg. Both transmissions will haul 450kg unbraked.
Fuel use is pretty impressive across the board, with the 1.8-litre engine sipping a claimed combined 6.4-litres per hundred kilometres, while the turbocharged version needs just 6.2 litres on the same cycle.
Emissions are pegged at 150 and 142 grams per kilometre of C02 respectively.
Fuel figures are slightly different, depending on the gearbox you've chosen. Honda claims you'll get 6.5L/100km on the combined cycle in a manual while the CVT uses a bit less, coming in at 5.9L/100km. So fuel consumption km/L works out at about 15km/L for the five speed and 17.km/L in the CVT.
Real-world consumption is a little different, however. Our most recent test with the manual yielded 8.0L/100km while the CVT chugged down 8.2L/100km. Having said that, you'll see better fuel economy figures in the manual if, as I admitted in my VTi review, you don't drive it enthusiastically. The CVT was a bit disappointing because I was a lot more sedate in that one and it didn't deliver better mileage than the manual.
Fuel-tank capacity is 40 litres.
Honda struggles a little in explaining exactly what its new 1.5-litre turbo-powered Civic is.
Is it a hot hatch? Nope, the incoming Type R will handle those duties. Oh, so it's a warm hatch, then? Not really - it's mechanically identical (same engine, gearbox and suspension) to the other, top-tier Civics. In fact, only the brand of tyres seperate the RS from the more luxurious VTi-LX.
"We would say it's a 'sporting hatch'," says Honda's head honcho, Stephen Collins.
And sporting it is, with its clever turbocharged 1.5-litre engine a willing and perky unit, delivering plenty of oomph all over the rev range and with no noticeable, soul-destroying lag in its power delivery.
The steering, too, has a sporty flavouring, it's super direct, and offers such crisp direction changes that you have to pay keen attention driving, as even the slightest input will see you steering out of your lane. And while the ride is a little crashy through bumps, it pays you back with composed cornering antics that see the front wheels hanging on to the tarmac for much longer than you might expect.
But the best trick of the 1.5-litre engine is that it doesn't require much accelerator to make it move, which means there's never too much strain on the CVT auto in town. And, given the auto is both loud and intrusive when you ask too much of it, that can only be a good thing.
Like most CVT 'boxes, it's quiet and composed in city driving, but loud and with a tendency to surge when you start to test it. So much so that heavy acceleration requires a kind of lucky dip as to when to back off the throttle, with the Civic continuing to accelerate for a moment or so even once you get off the gas.
Happily, then, the 1.8-litre models are much easier to classify. They're the cheap ones.
It's a a simple, honest and hardworking engine that feels both slower and slower to respond than its newer, turbocharged sibling, but is more than capable of getting up to speed, even if it struggles to add pace from the mid-range onward.
The Jazz has always been a comfortable, easygoing car with performance figures to match. Its 0-100km/h acceleration is best described as leisurely, so if it's speed your after, this car isn't for you.
That said, the manual VTi is terrific fun to drive. Switch to the CVT, however, and the Jazz's reputation is restored. A good ride for front-seat passengers comes from McPherson struts up front while the rear suspension is by torsion beams, meaning rear-seat occupants can get a few shocks over bumps.
Road noise is a little higher than you might expect, but that's probably a combination of tyres and a commitment to lightness.
Obviously, being such a small car, manouverability is a key advantage. The turning radius is 5.2m, which is good but not super tight and the light, electric power steering makes dodging about easy. It certainly doesn't feel like it's on rails, but that's hardly what a car with a such a small engine size is about.
Ground clearance is 137mm, which is reasonable but jumping gutters is not advised.
In the base manual, you have a five-speed with a light clutch and an easy shift. For a motor missing out on a second cam, let alone a turbo, progress is swift rather than exciting, the engine droning away with a relaxed air. The CVT has an eco mode, which further blunts performance, but a ring of light around speedo glows green if you're behaving yourself.
While some of its key competitor are throwing safety functions at all trim levels, with Honda it’s still sadly a case of you get what you pay for.
The entry-level VTi, for example, makes do with six airbags (front, front-side and curtain) and a 180-degree reversing camera, opting for the VTi-S, VTi-L or RS adds front and rear parking sensors and Honda’s cool 'LaneWatch' (with activates a side-mounted camera when you indicate, beaming an image of the lane running alongside the lefthand-side of the car up onto the 7.0-inch screen).
The entire Civic range was awarded the maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating.
The safety specifications include six airbags, ABS, stability and traction controls, brake assist and brake-force distribution. The Jazz was awarded a five-star ANCAP safety rating in January 2015.
Baby car seat security is offered with either three top-tether anchors but there are no ISOFIX points.
Missing is the more comprehensive safety equipment of its key rival, the Mazda2, which has forward AEB as standard, and its mid-range adds reverse AEB and at the top of the range scores reverse cross traffic alert and blind -spot monitoring. The airbag count is competitive, however.
Honda's standard five year/unlimited kilometre warranty also comes with capped-price servicing for the first five years or 10 services, whichever comes first. Service intervals are every 10,000km or six months.
Up to 30,000km you won't have any extras but once you hit 40,000km you'll have to do the brake fluid, which is a reaonable $144 extra. Your service cost structure is otherwise simple - $259 for odd numbers and $297 for even.
Many people ask where the Honda Jazz is built, and the answer to that is "not Japan", or in Honda's Thailand plant.
Second-hand values appear strong, with around 60 percent of value retained after three years. Resale value is something of a Honda strength, which is probably to do with a lack of high-profile reliability issues.
A dip into the usual internet forums yields little in the way of common faults, problems, complaints or issues for the Jazz. Some look for automatic transmission problems, others for manual gearbox problems, but the current Jazz seems quite clear of defects in Australian-delivered cars.