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 a Honda Jazz?
How good does it look?
The overall shape of the Jazz hasn’t changed a whole lot over the years, but the latest version received a facelift in early 2018 to make it look more like the firm’s other models. The design of the headlights and grille makes them look like an all-in-one arrangement that wraps around the front of the car, while the front bumper has also managed to sprout a few new air intakes and plenty of glossy black trim. Entry-level S models miss out on alloy wheels, but you get them with second-run SE trim and upwards. The Sport model has its own look, with an extra front splitter, beefier side sills, a tailgate spoiler, a rear air diffuser and front foglamps, while the EX model get only the fogs, but gets LED headlamps as well.
What's the interior like?
There’s nothing particularly revolutionary about the Jazz’s interior design. The ventilation system is controlled with three simple rotary dials and a slider switch, which is all very nice and simple, and there are very few other switches or buttons to contend with. However, this does mean much of the car’s functionality is operated through a touch-screen system, and it’s not very user-friendly. The menus are illogical and confusing, and the graphics are also slow. On the plus side, you do get bags of adjustment for your driving position – even if you always feel perched up rather high at the wheel – and the huge expanses of glass surrounding you mean your visibility is excellent all round. However, the hard, drab plastics and monotonous grey colour scheme don’t exactly give you much in the way of feel-good factor.
How practical is it?
This is where the Jazz has always come up trumps, and that’s no different with the latest model. That slightly boxy shape may not do much for the car’s looks, but it does help maximise the space in the cabin, and there’s absolutely shedloads of the stuff in any of the five seats. There’s also a reasonably flat floor in the back, meaning whoever gets the middle seat won’t have to sit with their legs straddling a bulky transmission tunnel.
The boot is also one of the largest in the class at 354 litres, and the clever way that the rear seats fold down mean they lie completely flat, rare in this class of car. And that’s not even the rear seats’ real party piece. You can also fold the bases up against the backrest to allow you to carry tall items in the rear footwells.
What's it like to drive?
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 too much needless effort, and when you’re going faster, it has a slightly unsettling twitchiness. That, plus pronounced body lean and limited grip, means the Jazz can’t match the best-in-class on handling, but that’s not too much of an issue because a comfy ride is far more important in a car like this. Unfortunately, though, the suspension doesn't fulfil that part of the bargain, either, because the Jazz's ride isn't as smooth as you'd expect. In fact, it's too unsettled too much of the time, and many rivals will give you a more comfortable journey.
How powerful is it?
Two naturally aspirated petrol engines are available in the Jazz, a 1.3-litre with 102 horsepower and a 1.5 with 130 horsepower. Unfortunately, they’re both a little disappointing. Most of their grunt sits towards the top of the rev range, and that means they’re nowhere near as flexible as the small turbocharged engines in some rivals. The entry-level one is particularly slow, 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.
The 1.5 is brisker, but it doesn’t feel anywhere near as muscular as the power output suggests, and your acceleration always feels rather laboured. 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.
How much will it cost me?
The Jazz isn’t a particularly cheap car, but it is fairly 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. Official fuel economy stands at 56mpg for the 1.3 manual, and breaks the 60mpg mark when paired with the CVT gearbox, while 52mpg is the best you’ll get out of the 1.5. That’s not terrible, but if economy is your priority, some rivals do a lot better. And, although cars equipped with the CVT are a little cleaner, but they’re also more expensive to buy and a lot less pleasant to live with.
How reliable is it?
If reliability is your priority, as it is for many people, 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.
How safe is it?
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 Sport cars have a driver assistance package that includes lane departure warning and traffic sign recognition. The car has been crash tested by safety organisation Euro NCAP, and thanks in part to its long list of standard equipment, it achieved a maximum five-star rating.
How much equipment do I get?
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. Sport trim adds the sportier styling, while 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.