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First Drive

First Drive: Honda Jazz

The story: Honda’s fourth-generation Jazz comes with a sole hybrid powertrain and claims improvements to comfort, refinement and interior quality.
Key rival:Toyota Yaris
Efficiency:61.4 mpg
On sale:Now

Honda’s new Jazz is a car tasked with having a “significant impact” on the brand’s CO2 emission figures, as well as delivering a new design direction and increased focus on connectivity, technology and new levels of comfort, according to the car maker.

The new Jazz is the fourth in a line of Honda’s superminis to wear the badge, and over the past 20 years the models have grown by over 200cm, with the new car coming in at 14mm lower but 24mm lower and the same width as the outgoing model.

First Drive- June 2020- Honda Jazz- Image 2The new Jazz has a single powertrain option of petrol-electric hybrid known as e:HEV under Honda’s naming policy. The 1.5-litre petrol engine and electric motor combine for a total of 109hp, and the combined CO2 emissions figure goes from 102g/km for the lower trim levels, rising to 104g/km for the EX driven here, and 110g/km for the faux-crossover Crosstar range-topping model that gets plastic cladding, roof rails, a raised ride height and water-repellent seat fabric, as it’s described by Honda a car designed for Jazz customers with a more active lifestyle.

But only 10% of customers will go for the Crosstar, which leave the majority spread across the SE, SR and EX trims, the middle of which will be dominant.

All new Jazz models get a decent array of equipment, including climate control, adaptive cruise control, auto lights and wipers and the lane departure warning, high beam support, traffic sign recognition and intelligent speed limiter safety systems.First Drive- June 2020- Honda Jazz- Image 4

Jumping up by £1200 to SR adds the 9.0-inch touchscreen, Apple Carplay/Android Auto and front and rear parking sensors, while the top-spec model gets sat-nav, heated seats and steering wheel, keyless entry, larger alloys and blind spot monitoring system.

Several improvements jump out as soon as you enter the cabin. The first is the big improvement in interior quality, which wasn’t exactly a Jazz strength with the previous model. There’s a significant increase in the use of higher-quality plastics and materials, while the cabin itself also has intelligent use of space with the second pop-up glovebox and additional cup holders built into either end of the dash.  Improvements to seat comfort in the front and back are obvious, while rear legroom is good and headroom reasonable, although maybe not as plentiful as the boxy shape would suggest, and possibly as a result of the car’s 24mm drop in height.

The 304-litre boot is 50 litres down on the previous Jazz at 304 litres, and is a deep but narrow space that is certainly on the small side. But that’s countered by the Jazz’s clever rear seats, where the cushions fold upwards to allow for large boxes to be carried in the back.

Forward visibility is also excellent thanks to big revisions to the thin A-pillars and other modifications that Honda says have increased the area of sight from 69 to 90 degrees. Rear visibility isn’t quite as good thanks to the thick rear pillars.

Honda also says it has worked hard at refinement levels, and the hybrid system is refined and fairly quiet, though is happy to make itself heard at higher speeds. The 1.5-litre engine/electric motor combination doesn’t have to be worked too hard though, and around town spends a good amount of its time using the small battery, seamlessly shifting between electric, hybrid and engine power as required. The dashboard could though give clearer information about which modes are being used and how hard the car can accelerate without the engine kicking in.

Various improvements including a redesigned tailgate help keep road and wind noise at bay, and the Jazz smooths road imperfections and in particular speed bumps with relative ease.

Honda says that the Jazz’s higher driving position and practicality will help stave off the move into small crossovers, with the Crosstar version also providing a more crossover style for customers looking for that sort of approach. But for regular Jazz customers, the new model is better quality and comfort on the inside, has an efficient hybrid powertrain and is well-equipped for the price.

paul barker

The verdict

Some obvious and well-executed improvements, especially with the cabin, combine with a good hybrid powertrain offering decent running costs to make the Jazz a clever and efficient small car.