Honda Jazz: Cutsie-pie meets cheap and cheerful

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Honda Jazz: Impossibly cute and eager to please.

The good:

Compact and easy to park, good on fuel, cheap to buy, magic seats, plenty of goodies in top model,

The bad:

Slightly underpowered, understeers when pushed

Outside:

That impossibly cute face on what is a fairly standard mini-people mover makes the Jazz look like a new puppy yelping and jumping about for attention. The new models have LED lights and mesh grilles and other plastic upgrades here and there. Mercedes Benz tried this very same thing with the horrible A class but failed miserably. It was never accepted by the chardonnay-and-pearls set and wasn’t cheap enough to be within easy reach of those most likely to drive it, P-platers and pensioners. The next A class has shrugged off its frumpy look in order to court the vote of the young and cool with cash to splash.

Whilst on an inner-city sojourn I spied a Jazz that had received the full once-over. It was shrouded in a cloak of matt black which looked even more menacing with a set of matt black alloys highlighted blood red outer rims smeared with the merest suspicion of rubber. It looked spectacular but the anaemic performance desperately needs a blower to be a real Hot Hatch contender. Someone had spent an awful lot of money on their pride and joy but it demonstrates what can be done with a modicum of imagination and a couple of spare shekels.

Our test car not only had the cute-as-a-button face but was resplendent in a fine suit of Kermit Green. At first the colour was a bit too in-your-face meets retro-70’s and even after a week with her, I could not decide if looking like a tree frog was fun or folly.

Inside:

Let’s start with what it isn’t: luxurious magnificence with cathedral-like proportions and gentlemen’s-club comfort. What it is: well laid out with thoughtful inclusions, decent ride and frugal drinking habits. Honda paid attention to the quality of the interior plastics and upholstery. Often fabric is overlooked, and the base model buyer is stuck with upholstery that looks like it should smell of stale curry and spilt beer. There designers went for fun and funky with quite some success.

There is the once ubiquitous Bluetooth barnacle glued to the A-pillar as this model hasn’t yet had the full integration makeover.  It looks awful but works brilliantly and there is a basic audio system. The sound is fine, but those of us who simply must have BoomBoom will need to give the speakers a major upgrade. Because the bluetooth is an add-on there is no media streaming but there is both AUX and USB inputs. The whole system has speed sensitive volume control. I must admit I can’t hear much of a difference in the volume even with the setting on high, but then I’m a philistine.

Although the controls are well laid out, there are no auto headlights and wipers have only an intermittent wipe ILO a fully automated option On the up side there is a rather ridiculous 10 cup holders scattered like confetti throughout the cabin. I can’t imagine why they need so many. Perhaps drivers of little city cars need lashings of liquid reinforcement. Since it doesn’t fit a G and T glass I completely fail to understand the obsession, unless of course Honda make a G and T glass small enough to fit into the holder! And before you all write in to chide me severely, these would only be used in a picnic-type setting, and not by the responsible driver as this could lead to all sorts of bother with the lads in blue.

It would be churlish of me not to touch briefly magic seats. There is no doubt many of you are wondering what a magic seat is. We can answer that by saying the back seats have a wide range of positions. They allow the driver to configure the cabin in a myriad of ways  in order to squeeze in those last minute purchases which you simply couldn’t afford to go home without. It’s frightfully clever, even if you only ever use it twice. I like the fact that very tall items will sit on the floor where the rear seats passenger’s feet would normally rest. It’s a good use of space. Anything that allows extra cases of wine to be brought home from a field trip is ok by me.

The Drive:

A lot of small cars these days have cheap torsion bar rear suspension which can often feel choppy in the corners causing the rear to jump about uncomfortably. Jazz has such suspension though it seems to cope with corners well and the ride won’t force feed you your own tongue. Honda designed the Jazz to be a city car so that’s where we did the lion’s share of the driving. Most of you know I’m not a fan of light electric assistance for the steering. When you only have a tiny engine and no turbo for extra kick,  having fewer power-sapping belts is a good idea.

This was one of those occasions where the car was asked to do things on the very edge of its design brief. A very short trip to Fox for a movie night saw  5 lads shoe-horned into the poor old girl. She wasn’t happy about it, but it proved that on city hops, all 5 seats could be occupied. If you can get the occupants to stop whining long enough to enjoy the trip you’ll find the experience  not too unpleasant. It has to be said that there isn’t a whole lot of room left to stash nibbles and drinks for the outing. You may have to purchase those at the outrageously inflated cinema prices instead.

You might also be shocked to learn there was plenty of room for out “two Bags test”. This test requires  two carry-on sized bags to be stowed in the boot. You have oodles room for your hunny and your bags and some champers, throw rugs and other assorted accoutrements. There is also enough space for one of those nosey hangers-on who always insist on invading your romantic weekend away. You’ll still be comfy, if a little miffed.

I noticed the customary understeer when pushed through an unexpectedly tight corner though not enough to unduly upset you your car. Front-wheel-drives all have the same issue. They also suffer from torque steer. which attempts to rip the steering wheel out of your hands under hard acceleration. Since big butch amounts of power are required, Jazz won’t bother you too much in that department.

The taller drivers might be a trifle amused to see their eye line is level with upper reach of the wipers. It might be worthwhile lowering the seat a bit. No doubt there is a good reason for the wiper blade being so short. I suspect it’s to stop the blades from banging into each other with every swipe.

Conclusion:

You’ll all expecting me to say I dislike The Jazz, but no, not a bit of it. In fact I’d happily drive one into the office if the train is simply too much to cope with. It’s nippy with a ton of space. The seats are unbelievably clever and easy to use and she doesn’t use the equivalent of the GDP of a small African nation to feed her. It’s Honda’s most popular model and I can see why. It’s refreshing to get into a car that is not trying to be something other than what it is. It’s fresh and youthful and good value for money. I predict the facelift version will have a better stereo/bluetooth. Perhaps some of the current options will appear as standard equipment. It’s not an Aston Martin, but it isn’t meant to be. What’s more you could buy 15 Jazz’s for the price of a single DB9. The question you have to ask yourself is this: Is it worth paying $230,000 more for an Aston over a Jazz just to drive into town for work or a hard morning’s shopping?

FEATURES GLi VTi VTi-S
Powertrain
Engine In-Line 4-Cylinder 16-Valves In-Line 4-Cylinder 16-Valves In-Line 4-Cylinder 16-Valves
SOHC i-VTEC Petrol SOHC i-VTEC Petrol SOHC i-VTEC Petrol
Displacement 1.3 litre – 1339 cc 1.5 litre – 1497 cc 1.5 litre – 1497 cc
Maximum power 73kW @ 6000rpm 88kW @ 6600rpm 88kW @ 6600rpm
Maximum torque 127Nm @ 4800rpm 145Nm @ 4800rpm 145Nm @ 4800rpm
Compression ratio 10.5 10.4 10.4
Bore x stroke (mm) 73 x 80.0 73 x 89.4 73 x 89.4
Emission standard Euro 4 Euro 4 Euro 4
CO2 emissions (g/km)
– Manual 138 151
– Automatic 157 159 159
Manual transmission 5-speed 5-speed
Automatic transmission with Grade Logic Control 5-speed 5-speed 5-speed
– with transmission shift lock P P P
– with steering wheel mounted paddle shifters P
Fuel type Unleaded (91RON or higher) Unleaded (91RON or higher) Unleaded (91RON or higher)
Fuel supply system Honda Programmed Fuel Injection (PGM-FI) Honda Programmed Fuel Injection (PGM-FI) Honda Programmed Fuel Injection (PGM-FI)
Fuel consumption – combined (litres/100km)*
– Manual 5.8 6.4
– Automatic 6.6 6.7 6.7
Fuel consumption – urban (litres/100km)*
– Manual 7.0 7.7
– Automatic 8.2 8.8 8.8
Fuel consumption – extra urban (litres/100km)*
– Manual 5.2 5.6
– Automatic 5.5 5.5 5.5

2011 Honda Jazz GLi manual – $16,990
2011 Honda Jazz GLi auto – $18,990
2011 Honda Jazz VTi manual – $19,190
2011 Honda Jazz VTi auto – $21,190
2011 Honda Jazz VTi-S auto – $22,690

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