The Honda Jazz is undoubtedly king of the small car sector and has been since its initial launch in 2001. I guess that’s mainly due to the fact that the Jazz was pretty much the forerunner of the modern day small car. Since then many have attempted to dethrone the king. Now however the Jazz is fighting back with a new model.
The previous Jazz looked a bit top heavy for my liking but it was none-the-less a good looking car for the most part – and arguably unmatched by rivals. The new one undoubtedly rights any previous wrongs. Its lower and wider which eradicates the top heavy look and replaces it with a much sportier image. The edges have been softened for a more sleek appearance and the back has undergone a remodel – with black accents added around the rear window and new tail-lights.
Going beyond external appearances, the Jazz far outweighed opponents when it came to interior design and quality. The interiors of competitor models, which hail mainly from Korea, have the quality and feel of a disposable polystyrene cup, that has a leak and I’ve seen garden sheds with more desirable interior design.
In comparison the Jazz is a plush Villa in southern France – and the new one even better than that. The seats are comfortable and you actually sit in them rather than on them, which means they provide proper support. The back provides a versatile combination between seating and load carrying ability as the seats fold in a split manner. If they’re all folded (and they actually fold completely flat) the Jazz offers 883 litres – surprisingly cavernous.
Of course features include climate control, integrated CD player (with auxiliary and USB connections) – nothing special considering rivals offer similar additions. However it’s the way the Jazz puts them together that really makes it stand out from the crowd. The centre consol is neat and laid out in a ergonomically efficient manner while the instrument cluster is separated into a sports-car-style cluster of rings. But the best part of it all has to be the optional panoramic roof (unfortunately not present on my test vehicle) which just looks really cool…
The actual driving experience is typical of all Honda’s. The little 1.5 litre engine needs a good thrashing and loves being revved. 88W and 145Nm means the Jazz is nippy in and around traffic – and here’s a little secret, the Jazz was the quickest car from 0-100km/h in the recent Car of the Year competition, quicker even than the new Jag XF. As is often the problem with many small cars, cruising on the highway is a mission especially when trying to overtake. (Because their gear ratios are designed mainly for town driving) Now I won’t say the Jazz is immune from such issues, however I think due to it having one of those legendary V-Tec engines, the Jazz suffers less than most.
There are only two problems on which I could place a finger. Firstly the handling. In town at slower speeds the power assisted steering is light enough even for old ladies to manage perfectly well. But it’s not so light that the car becomes twitchy at highway speeds. The problem comes when combining higher speeds with tighter corners. The Jazz loses all feel as the steering goes light and becomes rather vague; I somehow managed some lift-off oversteer which was rather frightening.
Secondly engine noise in the cabin is far too intrusive for a car costing R190 900. I’ve driven my fair share of noisy cars, the worst of which was the Mitsubishi Lancer. The Jazz comes in a close second. I just expected more from a company like Honda.
In my opinion these issues are not enough to dethrone the Jazz. The level of quality and reassurance of reliability when buying a Honda cannot be surpassed by Korean competition – at least not at this stage. So whilst competitors have upped their game considerably in recent years, the old guard is standing tall and claiming their title as king of the mini’s.
Photo Credit: Motorpics