Honda Jazz Review
Evergreen British-built Honda Jazz offers versatility and bulletproof reliability.
Pros: Spacious, commanding driving position, safety, reliability
Cons: Interior finish, not great to drive, can be expensive
Trim range: S, S A/C, S-T, S-T A/C, SE, SE-T, Si, Si-T, ES Plus, ES-T Plus, EX, EX-T, EXL, EXL-T, HE, HE-T, HS, HS-T, HX, HX-T
Petrol engines: 1.2 (89), 1.4 (98), 1.3 Hybrid (87)
Diesel engines: n/a
Gearboxes: Five-speed manual, CVT automatic
What is the Honda Jazz?
The Honda Jazz is a familiar site on Britain's roads. Introduced in 2002, the first generation Jazz became a big hit, with owners praising its reliability, ease of ownership and efficient use of space. The second generation – introduced in 2008 – simply enhanced the supermini's appeal, offering even more space, improved practicality and greater efficiency.
There's a choice of two petrol engines on offer, or three if you include the 1.3-litre Jazz Hybrid (Honda prefers hybrid to diesel for saving fuel). Both the 1.2-litre and the 1.4-litre engines provide more than adequate performance around town, although the 1.4-litre would be a better choice if you tend to venture outside the city limits.
A CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission) is available on the 1.4, but does tend to dilute the car's performance. The CVT is standard kit on the Jazz Hybrid, constantly doing its best to maximise efficiency. Don't expect fireworks in the performance department.
Ride and handling
Fireworks isn't a word you could use to describe any aspect of the Honda Jazz, even in lukewarm Si trim. The Jazz is unashamedly a car built for the city streets, with a combination of light steering and a composed ride making it an ideal urban runabout.
But outside the city, the Honda Jazz feels out of its comfort zone. The light steering fails to inspire confidence and the ride is firm compared to many of its rivals. The mini-MPV dimensions, although great for versatility, don't exactly lead to sharp handling.
Behind the wheel
Dashboard and driving position
The dashboard in the Honda Jazz feels typically well screwed together and built to last. The ergonomics are good and the dials and switches have an almost retro charm about them. The flip-side to this is that the cabin feels a class behind that of its immediate rivals and some of the plastics feel dated.
But the Jazz claws back points when it comes to the driving position. The aforementioned mini-MPV dimensions provide a commanding view of the road ahead, with the driver's seat adjustable for height, even on the basic S trim level.
All-round visibility is a Honda Jazz strong point, with the high roofline helping to make the car feel larger than it actually is.
The high driving position and large windscreen provide excellent forward visibility, with the narrow A-pillars proving to be a boon when exiting busy junctions.
Gadgets and technology
There's a bewildering range of trim options to get to grips with on the Jazz, with 20 options available. The base-spec S trim is basic to say the least, but S A/C adds – you've guessed it – air conditioning. However, you can order the S-T model, which does without air con, but offers an integrated satellite navigation unit with Bluetooth connectivity.
Our advice would be to set aside an hour to run through the Jazz specifications!
- Smartphone connectivity: A USB socket is available on the ES+ upwards
- Navigation: Integrated satellite navigation is available as an option and comes as standard on T models
- Personalisation: The Jazz hasn't quite caught up with the trend for personalisation yet
- Audio: A stereo CD tuner with MP3 connectivity is available throughout the range, plus a USB socket is standard on higher trim levels
- Internet: The Honda Jazz doesn't offer internet connectivity
- Can it Tweet or Facebook: No
- What is the standout gadget on the Honda Jazz: Remote keyless entry – a must-have accessory for any self-respecting supermini
Passenger space and practicality
This is another area where the Honda Jazz excels – your passengers will thank you for the generous levels of space. There's plenty of headroom throughout – ample for six footers, plus the rear seat can seat three adults in relative comfort.
Honda's clever (nay, brilliant) Magic Seats arrangement means that the Jazz plenty of flexibility in the back. With the rear seats in place, the Jazz offers a generous 379 litres of boot space, but this can be extended to 883 litres with the seats folded down.
Magic seats also provides the option of folding the rear seat bases against the seat back though – liberating space to slide in a bike behind the front seats. There’s stowage space beneath the seat bases, too, giving passengers somewhere to put their bags. Quite ingenious.
The second generation Honda Jazz is a class above the previous model and yet it still feels slightly less refined than some of its European rivals. The firm ride and scratchy interior plastics just let the side down. Fine on the cheaper models, but it becomes more of an issue when spending more money.
The Honda Jazz received the maximum 5-star safety rating when it was tested by Euro NCAP in 2009. Each trim level offers multiple airbags, three rear head-restraints, ABS, Electronic Brake-force distribution (EBD), Emergency Brake Assist (EBA), Passenger airbag deactivation, two ISOFix points and Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA) stability control.
Running Costs/Value for Money/Pricing
The Jazz Hybrid offers the potential for 62.8mpg on a combined cycle and 104 g/km CO2 emissions. But at £16,770 for the entry-level HE trim, it doesn't come cheap.
The 1.2-litre and 1.4-litre petrol versions offer fuel economy in the low to mid 50s, with the CVT delivering slightly better figures on paper and arguably much better figures in the real world.
The Honda Jazz can't quite compete with its European rivals when it comes to perceived quality, which is a shame as for the most part the Jazz feels generally robust. But scratchy plastics, together with displays that appear ten years out of date, only serve to (incorrectly) lower the sense of quality.
However, it's worth mentioning that year-after-year, the Honda Jazz consistently scores well in reliability and satisfaction surveys. Indeed, one aftermarket warranty firm named it the most reliable car in Britain. It's also the cheapest to repair should things go wrong.
Pricing and equipment
Prices start from £11,695 for the entry-level Jazz S, but rise to an eye-watering £18,970 for the top-spec EXL-T with CVT. Opt for the top-of-the-range Hybrid HX-T and you won't get much change from £20,000.
That's an awful lot of money for a supermini.
Value for money
But what value reliability and cost of ownership? Factor in that legendary reliability record and strong residuals and you could find that spending a little extra on the Honda Jazz from the outset could pay dividends in the long term.
The best value is to be found in the mid-range trim levels, with the Jazz SE and Jazz ES the best options.
The line-up of rivals for the Honda Jazz is as congested as the streets the supermini is designed for.
The likes of the Ford Fiesta and Mazda2 will offer sharper dynamics, whilst the Skoda Fabia offers exceptional value for money. From a packaging and tech perspective, the all-new British-built Nissan Note is worth a look too. But the Jazz remains a strong, if somewhat unfashionable, choice.
Few cars in Britain offer such a compelling argument for ownership than the British-built Honda Jazz. It's not perfect, but it’s hard to ignore its versatility, practicality and ease of ownership.
Those seeking razor-sharp dynamics and a youthful image should look elsewhere. But for anyone looking for a car that will require nothing more than a regular change of oil and a quick wash at the weekend, the little Honda could be 'all that Jazz'.