Honda Jazz VS Ford Fiesta
- 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
- A true hot hatch
- Forgiving but engaging to drive
- Highly specified
- Tight back seat
- Firm ride might not be for all
- Manual-only will limit appeal
Honda's Jazz is like the little engine that could.
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
Hot hatches are for a relatively small club of enthusiasts, and new small cars are gradually being eliminated from the greater Australian market.
Surely, it makes little to no business sense to bring an Australian audience a small, manual-only hot hatch all the way from Europe, to sell to a pitifully small audience of diehard enthusiasts.
But then, perhaps this is part of Ford’s enduring genius in Australia. You see, while long-time Australian arch-rival Holden stumbled over its ill-fated Commodore sequels and flip-flopped on its SUV catalog, chasing sales numbers in a post-local manufacturing world, Ford let the cars speak for themselves by offering Aussies brightly coloured pony cars and over-the-top pickup trucks which instantly etch themselves on your consciousness as they rumble past.
So, here we are. Ford made the surprise announcement to bring in its Fiesta ST hot hatch a few years ago, and despite a few delays we can now get our hands on it.
The question remains – is it any good? And, what is it like to live with in an Australian capital city? We took one for a week-long urban test to find out.
|Engine Type||1.5L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
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?
If you want a brand-new city-sized hot hatch which is also entirely track-ready, it is clear you only really have one option to go with in 2020.
Good thing then the Fiesta ST is not only a blast to drive, but it has all of today’s modern connectivity and tech items in an attractive and tasteful package at a not-outrageous price.
It’s just too bad the manual-only aspect will limit its appeal to true enthusiasts.
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 Fiesta wears Ford Europe’s new design language, which has swung back towards curves and bumps from the angular look of a few years ago, being tied to the brand’s broader global range through the use of the Mustang-look rhomboid grille. After the Focus it’s the first car to bring this design language to our market, and heralds a better-looking range of Ford SUVs in the form of the Puma and Escape (a segment in which Ford is struggling to make ground).
Regardless, our Fiesta only comes in one four-door body-style and one trim, this full-fat ST with all the spoilers and contrast detailing.
I love it. It scratches that European hot-hatch itch many have with its compact dimensions balanced out well with more subtle design touches. The 18-inch wheels and contrast grey highlights work well in the ‘Race Red’ colour scheme on our car, which also seems to nicely integrate the rear light fittings.
It’s aggressive but not over the top; there’s an element of subtlety about it, which should be applauded.
Inside, things are interesting. The chunky leatherbound wheel is nice, as are the almost-too-well-bolstered Recaro seats. But the dash is very upright, and the seating position immediately feels just a smidge too high, even in its lowest configuration.
The 8.0-inch touchscreen juts out of the dash into the passenger compartment, making you really feel those tight dimensions. At least everything is easily within reach…
The cabin design is a little dated, with plenty of hard plastics, a more-analog-than-not dashboard and some fittings which could easily be in a last-generation Ford product. Those searching for that hot-hatch experience probably won’t care, but it’s just not the most modern space to be in.
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.
This isn’t a big car, nor is it particularly magical in the way it’s packaged. It’s focused on the front two passengers, so is best meant for a single or couple. This is most obviously reflected in the awesome Recaro seats, which you have to drop yourself into due to the high and firm bolstering.
Still, even for front passengers it’s tight, with little arm-flailing room, and minimal cabin storage.
There’s two centre cupholders, which can barely hold a large cappuccino, tiny bottle-holders in the doors, a small centre console box, but a decently sized binnacle under the climate controls where my wallet, keys and phone spent most of the week. The glovebox is also so small that the collection of manuals which live in there had to be bent out of shape to fit.
Amenity-wise you get one USB port and one 12V power outlet next to the gearknob, and one USB port in the centre console.
The Fiesta is tall, so at least no occupant is left wanting for headroom. That having been said, the rear seats are tight. Behind my own seating position, my 182cm tall frame had knees up against the seat in front, and entry/egress to the rear is a little tight. I’d hardly recommend placing an adult in the centre seat. Unsurprisingly, rear-seat passengers get next to no amenities. There are no power outlets or adjustable vents, leaving them with only a pair of pitifully small cupholders in the doors and rear-seat pockets. Still, the fact it has rear doors at all is something, and gives it at least the ability to carry four adults without too much trouble getting them in or out for quick urban journeys.
Boot space has been expanded 21 litres over the previous Fiesta to now offer 311 litres (VDA) of space. This is actually pretty impressive and held our largest 124L CarsGuide travel case with ease.
Under the floor there is a space-saver spare wheel.
Price and features
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.
I wouldn’t call the Fiesta’s $31,990 price-tag ‘cheap’ considering how much car, physically, you actually get for that money.
But then, for a pretty much track-ready hot hatch, it’s not bad either, especially since it is packed with a rather long and surprisingly luxurious list of inclusions.
These include 18-inch alloys, an 8.0-inch multimedia touchscreen with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, sat-nav and digital radio, a 10-speaker Bang and Olufsen audio system, 4.2-inch colour information screen between the dial clusters, single-zone climate control, leather steering wheel and semi-leather/suede Recaro sport seats, heated front seats, a reversing camera, and full LED front lighting.
Performance-wise, out of the box the ST gets Michelin Pilot Super Sport tyres, launch control with three drive modes, and is the first Fiesta to get a mechanical limited-slip differential (built by Quaife).
Rivals? The Fiesta comes at an opportune time, after Peugeot’s ageing but excellent 208 GTi was pulled from our market last year, and the Clio RS Cup ending production internationally, so you’ll be stuck looking for MY18s of those in dealers.
Other than those two, there is the Suzuki Swift Sport, which is fun and more affordable ($25,490), but not as much of a serious performer.
The Fiesta’s option list is limited to a panoramic opening sunroof ($2500) and premium paints ($650). Both are arguably worth it if you want them.
Engine & trans
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.
You’re buying this car for its 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbo engine from the larger Focus. It is a punchy and characterful little unit, pushing out a whopping 147kW/290Nm. A lot for such a small package.
The Fiesta ST is only offered with a six-speed manual transmission which proved quick but forgiving, even in dense traffic. There’s no magnetic clutch or anything too brutal here which is going to make the ST unpleasant for urban drives punctuated by stopping and starting.
On the performance front the ST comes to Australia with a Quaife LSD as standard, which you can really feel in the corners. (More on that in the driving segment.)
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.
The initial claim of 6.4L/100km on the combined cycle seems pretty bold, and we couldn’t get close to it. I’m sure you could get much closer if you tried, but I was having far too much fun.
After a week of blasting the Fiesta down alleyways and skitting it around corners, the engine computer returned a usage of 8.4L/100km. Not on the claim, sure, but also not bad considering how much fun you can have for that amount of fuel.
The Fiesta has a 45-litre fuel tank and will accept mid-grade 95RON unleaded.
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.
Like any good hot hatch, the Fiesta is huge fun, even when in the tight quarters of a city, or on a daily commute which would otherwise be boring.
The torquey engine makes short sharp bursts down suburban streets smile-inducing, and, due to the pure physics of having so much power in such a small package, there’s serious entertainment to be had without wrangling with the law. That’s because this car comes alive in the little moments: bursting off the mark at the lights, or swinging it into a corner and feeling the LSD work its magic to keep the ST’s body in line. You don’t need to be speeding or breaking traction to enjoy it.
There is nothing remarkable about the transmission in a good way. It’s slick, slots into gear nicely and the clutch is smooth – even forgiving. That ties into something else the Fiesta does well. Nothing is over the top about it. It is sensible, understated, tasteful.
You can bring it to life in the confines of an apartment block without waking up your neighbors, go for a short drive to the shops without cringing at potholes, take your family somewhere without blending them in the corners.
The suspension has enough give to be firm, a pleasure in the corners and a little skittish perhaps, but not as brutal as, say, the Peugeot 208 GTi was.
And while it might be the only performer left in the segment for now, I reckon it is a better urban friend than the Peugeot on Sydney’s roads, and a more engaging one than the Clio in the curvy stuff. It’s a hot hatch with few compromises… as long as you can drive a manual…
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.
Just because the Fiesta is a performance car, doesn’t mean it’s missed out on crucial active safety gear.
Missing is driver attention alert and active cruise, although in a manual it’s not likely you’ll miss it.
Ford’s Sync software also has a feature which can automatically call emergency services if the airbag is deployed.
Other safety features include torque vectoring, electronic stability, brake, and traction controls, six airbags (with full-length curtain), and dual ISOFIX child-seat mounting points on the outer rear seats.
The Fiesta ST does not yet carry an ANCAP safety rating, although it does have a maximum five-star EuroNCAP rating.
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.
All Fords are now covered by a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty, which is on-par with major rivals, and a nice bit of security to have on a performance car. Check the fine print before taking it to the track though…
Ford also offers a few kickers through its Service Benefits program, like a free loan car when you service, auto club membership, and sat-nav updates.
The services which need to occur every 15,000kmn or 12 months are also cheap, with Ford covering the first four years at a fixed price of $299 each time.