Honda Jazz hasn’t had a contender in the premium end of the hatchback market. But all that is about to change with this new, upcoming Jazz. It may be an all-new model that’s built on a new platform but remains a car easily identifiable as a Jazz; credit the trademark mono-volume shape for that. Whether or not the basic design does it for you, there is plenty to keep you looking at the car. The City-like large, angular headlights that fuse into the multi-element grille, in particular, look very attractive. Look under the familiar glasshouse and you’ll also notice where Honda has made an effort to jazz up (pun intended) the rest of the car’s design. There’s a strong belt line that originates at the front doors and progressively widens towards the large 3D-effect tail-lights. Sadly, the mass of metal above the rear wheels does make the Jazz look under-tyred. The tail, though, is attractive and comes embellished with reflectors that flank the windscreen and a wide band of chrome that runs along the width of the boot.
More than anything else, you’ll like the Jazz’s design for practical reasons, such as how its tailgate extends low on the bumper or how its doors open nice and wide. And the first time you open those doors, the sheer space in the cabin will shock you. The Jazz is easily the most spacious car in its class with ample head, leg and shoulder room for five occupants. Passengers in the rear, however, will find the seat short on thigh support. The upward sloping floor (on account of the fuel tank being positioned under the front seats) may not be to everyone’s liking either.Interestingly, this time around, only top-spec Jazz models will get the ‘magic seats’ at the back. These seats split, fold flat and flip upwards to make space for all shapes and sizes of cargo – that’s if the massive 354-litre boot won’t meet your needs anyway. These seats now also allow you to form a recliner by pushing the front seat backrests fully till they meet the rear seat base. It’s a unique feature picnickers and the chauffeur-driven will love. Those likely to spend more time in the back will also like how the backrest angle can be adjusted (a segment first) on top-end variants. However, the middle seat cushioning is firm and not very comfortable.
Up front, seat comfort is good but visibility past the thick A-pillars is limited and troublesome at crossroads. Otherwise, the Jazz’s driving environment is very similar to the City’s. The chunky steering, the instruments and the basic layout of the centre console are all very similar. The Jazz’s asymmetrical dashboard that comes finished in hard-wearing plastics extends further forwards towards the windscreen and the portion above the glovebox is more layered. Still, with as many as nine cupholders and more than a few cubbyholes, you won’t find yourself short on storage spaces for small items.
Honda hopes you won’t find yourself shortchanged either. Because unlike the sparsely equipped old Jazz, the new one comes loaded with features. There’s a City-like dial-operated 5-inch colour screen for the rear-view camera and infotainment system with a larger 6.2-inch touchscreen offered on top variants. The touch-operated panel for the climate control system from the City also finds its way here and there are also steering-mounted buttons for audio and telephone functions.
The big news is that the Jazz will now be available with a diesel engine. The diesel engine is the same 1.5-litre i-DTEC engine you’d find on the Honda Amaze and also in Honda City. Peak power is 98.6bhp at 3600rpm and peak torque is 20.3kgm at 1750rpm. The engine comes mated to a six-speed manual gearbox that helps this version of the Jazz deliver a class best ARAI-tested fuel economy of 27.3kpl!
On first acquaintance, the engine does seem to run marginally quieter than it does in the City. However, drive on and you’ll find the cabin is still never free from that coarse, industrial noise from under the bonnet. Unsurprisingly, performance is also much in line with what we’ve experienced from this engine on the City and Amaze. Good driveability is the highlight here with the engine offering its best in a very accessible 1500-2500rpm. Correspondingly, you can get by in traffic without the need to work the gearbox all that much. Gearshifts are positive and the clutch, though a touch springy in action, is easy enough to operate.
Highway cruising ability is good too but the diesel Jazz offers little to excite. The engine isn’t particularly punchy nor is it quick revving. In fact, it’s best to short shift because there’s little gained by holding out till the 4000rpm rev limiter. This is a car that’s best driven in a relaxed manner.
Those looking for performance will be better off going for the 1.2 i-VTEC petrol engine with the manual gearbox – the sole engine-gearbox option the last Jazz could be had with. The engine produces 89bhp and 11.2kgm, both figures that are par for the course. Bottom-end responses aren’t the liveliest here but the engine does get into the flow of things by 2500rpm. Mid-range performance is good, but if you do choose to press on, you’ll love the steady and strong build of power all the way to the 6800rpm limiter. Stretching the engine also has it, quite literally, make all the right noises. The slick-shifting five-speed manual gearbox and well-weighted clutch only add to the fun.
But for those who’d like to do away with the bother of modulating the clutch altogether, Honda will also offer the petrol engine mated to a continuously variable transmission (CVT). We drove the petrol automatic Jazz and found it quite suited to average city driving. The gearbox responds well enough to mild changes in throttle and works to keep the engine running at its quietest and efficient best. But mash down on the throttle and the ‘rubber band effect’ CVT gearboxes are known for comes to the fore – the rise in revs isn’t matched by an equally swift rise in speed. The engine sounds strained at this point and more often than not, you’ll back off and let the engine get back to its comfort zone in the mid-range.
What’s impressive is that there are paddle shifters to let you take greater charge of things. There are seven ‘ratios’ you can shuffle between and the good thing is the system is quick to respond to tugs at the paddles. In manual mode, you can rev the engine to about 6000rpm before the electronics will upshift. Still, this engine-gearbox combo isn’t what you’d call sporty.
That’s something to say about the dynamics too. The steering offers good enough feel but handling on the whole is best described as safe and predictable. Typical buyers will like the Jazz more for how easy it is to twirl the steering and the fairly tight turning circle. Ride quality is also good for this class of car. The Jazz goes over bumps and potholes well but does get caught out by sharper edges every once in a while. There is a hint of firmness to the suspension but the positive is high speed stability is good.
If space and versatility are paramount, there is quite simply no better option than the Jazz. Helping the Jazz’s case this time around is the fact that it can be had with a diesel engine and even in petrol automatic form meaning there’s a version of the car for every type of hatchback buyer. In every form, the Jazz comes across as a car that’s comfortable and well suited to the requirements of day-to-day city driving. It’s not exciting per se, but that’s unlikely to impact an average buyer’s decision. What will, is the price. The new Jazz will come with a lot more local content and buzz is it will be competitively priced; think Hyundai i20 prices. Should Honda manage to get the pricing right, the Jazz could just go on to become the hit it always deserved to be.