When Honda launched the first-generation Jazz back in the early years of the new millennium, it was a bit of a sensation.
For starters, it’s amazingly practical for such a small car – a marvel of Honda’s packaging ingenuity. Despite the first-generation Jazz measuring just 3830mm in length, it could swallow up to 1323 litres of cargo and accept items up to 2.4m long. Of course, thanks to the Jazz having rear bench legroom comparable to a compact saloon’s, it could also pack away five adults with relative ease.
These feats were amazing back in 2002 when Torque first tested it, and it’s still amazing today, which goes to show how good ideas are eternal.The Jazz was more than just about practicality, though, because the first-generation model (in 1.3-litre guise) could claim an average fuel economy of nearly 18km/litre, an eye-popping figure even today, and even more impressive when you consider it doesn’t have a turbocharger.
Fast forward 12 years, and the Jazz hasn’t changed all that much. It gets Honda’s new corporate “face”, with an oversized shield-like grille and more angular styling, but its silhouette is still clearly Jazz-like. If you ask us, this is a good thing – a welcome change from the cutesiness of its forebears.
The third-generation model also drives in a similar fashion to its predecessors. The new model’s surprisingly hefty steering is vague just off-centre, and thrashing the car will have the chassis and engine screaming for mercy, and depending on how rough you are with it, so will the skinny 185-section tyres. In short, it’s a thoroughly unrewarding car to drive hard (or with any sort of vigour, for that matter), despite what the racy highlighter-yellow paintwork and angular bodystyling might suggest.However, scratch a little deeper and you’ll find the latest Jazz represents a quantum leap over its predecessors. Against its first-generation ancestor, the Jazz is now just 125mm longer overall, but its wheelbase has been stretched by a whopping 80mm and its kerb weight is (incredibly) unchanged at 1050kg. It goes without saying, the new Jazz retains its hallmark Ultra seats with their multitude of configurations to fit long/tall/wide cargo.
There’s also plenty of newness underneath the bonnet of the Jazz. The 1.5-litre engine is essentially carried over from before, developing a modest 130bhp (only 10bhp more than previously), but it now receives direct fuel injection and an extra set of cams.
That new motor is mated to a CVT, replacing the 5-speed automatic of its immediate forebear. To its credit, the new gearbox avoids the pitfalls in transmissions of its ilk by being impressively direct and quiet.Honda claims that drivetrain will return 18.9km/litre, and credit must also be given to the Jazz’s anorexic kerb weight. While any manufacturer’s fuel economy claims must be taken with a pinch of salt, we still managed 12km/litre even when being less-than-conservative with the throttle throughout our weekend-long test.
It must be said we weren’t trying to crush Honda’s Earth Dreams (its umbrella marketing term for its eco-friendly engine tech), but rather because the remarkably peppy engine was simply begging for a hiding. Honda quotes a zero-to-100km/h time of 9.6 seconds, which is an eternity by modern (turbocharged) standards, but throttle response in the Jazz is razor-sharp, and unless you participate in drag races on a regular basis, its powertrain provides more than enough accelerative verve.
But even more impressive than all that is how far the new Jazz has come in terms of equipment, something sorely lacking in the old Jazz. Standard in the range-topping Jazz RS 1.5 variant are keyless entry/start, a 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system, a reverse camera, a touch-panel interface climate control system and aluminium pedals.All this is wrapped up with impeccable standards of build quality. It’s not that older models were shoddily built, but the only word that comes to mind about the interior of the third-generation Jazz is “bulletproof”. Honda has even thrown in a little visual drama with aluminium-effect bezels for the air-conditioning vents and plenty of sculpting for the dashboard.
And best of all, the Jazz is still relatively affordable. The Jazz 1.5 tested here is priced at $112,999 and the entry-level 1.3 variant costs $5000 less. Of course, this is some way from the halcyon days of the mid-2000s when it cost half as much, but there’s no point pining for COE premiums that will (probably) never be that low again.If you’re the cynical sort, you might saying that, for all its merits, the new Jazz hasn’t moved the supermini game significantly forward. However, our argument is it doesn’t need to. It was a class leader then, and even today, more than a decade on with relatively few changes, the Jazz is still among the supermini pack’s forerunners. It was then, as it is now, one of the smartest buys you can make in the segment.
TYPE Inline-4, 16-valves
BORE X STROKE 73mm x 89.5mm
COMPRESSION RATIO 11.5:1
MAX POWER 130bhp at 6600rpm
MAX TORQUE 155Nm at 4600rpm
POWER TO WEIGHT 123.8bhp per tonne
GEARBOX CVT with 7-speed override
DRIVEN WHEELS Front
0-100KM/H 9.6 seconds
TOP SPEED 196km/h
CONSUMPTION 18.9km/L (combined)
CO2 EMISSION 127g/km
FRONT McPherson struts, coil springs
REAR Torsion beam, coil springs
FRONT / REAR Ventilated discs / Discs
TYPE Dunlop SP Sport 2030
SIZE 185/55 R16
TRACTION CONTROL ABS with VSA
KERB WEIGHT 1050kg
TURNING CIRCLE 10.6m
PRICE INCL. COE $112,999 (after $10k CEVS rebate)
WARRANTY 5 years/unlimited km
+ Reasonable price, clever reconfigurable seats, frugal drivetrain combo
– Still not quite the most confident going round corners, groaning engine note