Honda Jazz Hatchback (2015 - ) review
The Honda Jazz is part supermini and part MPV, so is a rival for both types of car. It’s not the last word in dynamic excellence, but it’s incredibly practical and could just be the most reliable car it’s possible to own. For many buyers, that’s enough to seal the deal.
Interested in buying Honda Jazz?
The Jazz’s popularity, and its staunchly loyal following, mean that Honda has resisted the temptation to rip up the form book and start again with this latest model. Compared to previous versions, it's very much a case of evolution rather than revolution, and nowhere is that more evident than in the styling. You’ll notice the same high-sided, boxy proportions as before, albeit with some smarter details and a new nose that’s reminiscent of Honda’s other models. It’s worth remembering that the entry-level S trim misses out on alloy wheels, which you do get with SE trim, but the range-topping EX models have rear privacy glass and front foglamps on top of that.
Higher-spec versions of the Jazz feel reasonably plush thanks to a soft-touch dashboard covering, but look elsewhere, and the hard scratchy plastics aren’t nearly so appealing. In lower-spec versions, the dashboard is also made from the inferior-feeling stuff, meaning the cabin feels pretty dreary. The new touch-screen infotainment system, that comes as standard on mid-spec SE trim and above, isn’t ideal, either, because it’s a little cluttered and complicated to use. If you can get used to how it works, though, you’ll gain access to the internet and a whole bunch of online apps. What’s more, all versions have the high seating position and clear visibility that Jazz buyers love.
One of the Jazz’s biggest selling points has always been its practicality, and the latest incarnation does that job better than ever. With an extended wheelbase and more interior space in almost every department, the Jazz has unbelievably generous room for such a small car. The rear seats have the sort of head- and legroom that’ll shame most luxury saloons, and it’s even pretty comfortable for three in the back. That’s due to a low, flat transmission tunnel that you can comfortably rest your feet on. The boot, too, is vast for a supermini, but the car’s cargo-carrying capability gets a whole lot better once you start playing around with the seats. For instance, the bases of the rear seats flip up to let you carry very tall items; the rear seats also fold down virtually flat to give a massive extended load area; and, you can also fold down the front passenger seat to transport particularly long loads. This combination of incredible space and fiendishly clever packaging makes the Jazz by far and away the most practical car of its type.
Ride and handling
Hit the road in the Jazz, and you’ll like the snappy gearshift and slick pedals, but you might not be quite such a fan of the steering. It’s rather heavy at low speeds, which means parking manoeuvres require needless effort, and when you’re going faster, there’s an initial hesitancy around the straight-ahead position, followed by an all-at-once reaction to your steering input, which is rather unsettling. The Jazz’s so-so handling – a symptom of pronounced body lean and limited grip – isn’t that much of an issue, because a comfy ride is far more important in a car like this. However, the suspension doesn't fulfil its part of the bargain, because the Jazz'a ride isn't as smooth as you'd expect - or like. In fact, it's too unsettled too much of the time, and many rivals will give you a more comfortable journey.
There’s just one engine available, a naturally aspirated 1.3-litre petrol with 101bhp, and it's something of a disappointment. Unfortunately, most of its grunt sits towards the top of the rev range, and that means it’s nowhere near as flexible as the small turbocharged engines in some rivals. And, because you have to work it hard to make even half-decent progress, life gets rather noisy for too much of the time - especially on the motorway, when there's also a lot of wind- and road noise to contend with As well as the six-speed manual gearbox you get as standard, there’s also the option of a continuously variable transmission. We’d give it a wide berth. It gets caught out very easily by sudden throttle inputs, and it takes several seconds before the transmission figures out the best course of action.
The Jazz isn’t a particularly cheap car, but it is very reasonably priced compared with its rivals, especially when you consider how much more practicality you’re getting for your money than you do with a more conventional supermini. Running costs, however, are only so-so; the official fuel economy and CO2 figures are reasonable (56.5mpg and 116g/km being the best you can expect from a car with a manual gearbox), but some rivals do a lot better, if economy is your priority. Cars equipped with the CVT are a little cleaner (61.4mpg and 106g/km at best), but they’re also more expensive to buy and a lot less pleasant to live with.
If reliability is your priority, as it is for many people, then we suspect there’ll be few cars to match the Jazz’s appeal, given its impressive performance in this area. The generation previous to this car has been on - or near - the top of a number of reliability surveys for a number of years, the Warranty Direct Reliability Index being just one example. What’s more, Honda sits on top of the same study’s manufacturer rankings. If the latest Jazz replicates that kind of performance, it’ll be a massive draw for a lot of buyers.
The Jazz has an impressive amount of safety kit as standard: all versions get six airbags, stability control and an autonomous city braking system, while SE and EX cars have a driver assistance package that includes lane departure warning and traffic sign recognition. The car has been crash tested by Euro NCAP, and thanks in part to its long list of standard equipment, it achieved a maximum five-star rating.
Whichever version of the Jazz you plump for, you’ll get an impressive amount of luxury kit. Even entry-level S cars have a DAB radio, automatic lights and wipers, Bluetooth, cruise control, air-conditioning and four powered windows. SE trim, meanwhile, adds the touch-screen, front and rear parking sensors and a security alarm. EX models add keyless entry, a rear-view camera, climate control and a leather-trimmed steering wheel and gearknob.
Because you want your supermini to be as practical, as versatile and as reliable as it can possibly be, and you also want a well-equipped car at a competitive price. The Jazz fits the bill perfectly on those scores, and if you’re not bothered about class-leading dynamics and build quality (which many aren’t), the Jazz is well worth a look.