Honda is currently riding a wave of newfound success in Australia, the revival of the HR-V, along with all-new generations of the CR-V and Civic have seen the brand’s fortunes change dramatically - rightly so too.
The renaissance Honda is currently enjoying is on the back of models which carry genuine desirability, value and revised ownership credentials. The ingredients to initiate a revival are all present. If only the Gallagher brothers were as committed.
Momentum makes the world of difference and that’s what Honda now has, keeping the roll going is now the challenge.
It’s easy to get caught up in the fanfare of new models, yet it’s important to remember there was a time when Honda’s most convincing flagbearer was a humble small car.
Pleasingly, despite our penchant for sitting high, that small car is still with us.
Up for review is the 2018 Honda Jazz in Limited Edition +Sport trim, essentially it’s a slightly dressed up version of the mid-range VTi-S.
The Jazz has always made the most sense in base-spec VTi form, the amount of car for $14,990 (all prices before on-roads) is incredible if you’re willing to work a stick. Even spending the extra $2000 for the automatic doesn’t diminish the value equation.
Stepping up from the entry-level model to the $19,990 VTi-S adds 16-inch alloy wheels, front fog lights, premium fabric on the seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel and gear shifter, an additional 12V power outlet in the centre console and the all-important front armrest.
All Jazz variants are powered by a 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine, in the VTi-S, the manual option is off the table, it’s exclusively equipped with an automatic. The engine tune is standardised across the range, meaning there’s no extra performance reserved for the higher-ups. Another reason to stick with the value models.
In an age where attention seeking is the norm, the Jazz plays it straight. Over the years, the car hasn’t strayed far from the original design. It’s one of those, “when you’re on a good thing, stick to it” situations. In many ways, it’s a refreshing approach.
The Jazz isn't just waving a value flag filling the role of showroom bait to lure in buyers chasing a deal. It’s what’s concealed beneath the sheet metal that sets the Jazz apart from its rivals.
Simply put, the packaging is where the Jazz continues to be an influential trendsetter. Those responsible for carving out the car’s interior have left no stone unturned in maximising every millimetre of available space.
Entering the cabin, the Jazz presents a conventional layout with all the important controls angled towards the driver, however, it offers an unmatched level of flexibility and versatility.
There’s so much air, the great Michael Jordan would have no issues getting comfortable. The seats are mounted higher than expected, allowing for an upright seating position. With the front seats in their rearmost position, those in the back still enjoy plenty of legroom.
The rear seats are what Honda calls Magic Seats, they can be folded up to carry items which need to be transported upright. The seats can also be folded flat, effectively turning the Jazz into a small van. Clever would be an understatement.
Although the Magic Seats are a showstopper that will no doubt prove to be invaluable over a lengthy ownership period, there are some aspects of the cabin that are falling away from the field.
Unfortunately, the Jazz is yet to receive the latest version of Honda’s infotainment system. It feels a generation off the pace in terms of responsiveness and resolution. It all works, just not as quickly as newer systems. There’s also no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. We know, we know, first world problems.
While we are nitpicking, the USB port is mounted high on the dash which isn't the most convenient location. It takes away from the clean design by looking untidy when the cord is connected, positioning the port at the bottom of the centre stack would be a better solution.
Before setting off, it’s worth noting the Jazz is missing the latest safety tech such as autonomous emergency braking, lane keep assist and blind spot monitoring. While we would prefer these inclusions, we will cut Honda some slack considering the car’s sharp sticker price.
Getting onto the drive, very quickly the Jazz proves itself to be an extremely likeable car. The driving position is excellent, as is all-around visibility.
As a consequence of its lightweight body, the Jazz is a zippy car that moves around freely.
Backroad blasting is never going to be the Jazz’s forte, however, the low centre of gravity and precise steering bring a sense of accomplishment to the car’s ride and handling capabilities.
Somewhat detracting from the pleasant nature of the Jazz is the transmission when you are trying to dash off the line. As the engine revs to 2000rpm it sounds like a gear change is required, it can hold on for what seems to be an unnatural amount of time. Calm acceleration when the light turns green helps alleviate the issue, but the sound of a noncompliant gearbox will present itself whenever a burst of power is required.
Out of town, the Jazz was a quiet achiever, and we mean that literally. For a small car, it was refined and comfortable throughout our gallop at highway speed.
If you enjoy a drive, avoid the economy mode, it saves little to no fuel and makes the Jazz unnecessarily sluggish. Normal mode offers the best mix of economy and driving satisfaction.
Speaking of fuel, after our test week which covered 720 kilometres the trip computer showed a consumption reading of 6.3L/100km, a result very close to the official figure.
Being one of the elder statesmen of Honda’s fleet, the Jazz requires fresh oil every 6 months/10,000km. Short service intervals such as this will be fazed out in due course. Honda offers capped-pricing for the first 60 months or 100,000 kilometres, whichever comes first. Prices average out to $278 plus the odd incidental for each visit to the dealership service bay.
One of the key planks in Honda’s resurgence is a longer warranty, Jazz buyers now enjoy five years, unlimited kilometre coverage.
It doesn’t take long for the Jazz to restate why it has been a successful model. While it’s missing some safety kit and the latest infotainment system, when all things are considered the little Honda remains a sensible option.
Importantly, it’s pleasant to drive, easy to live with and asks a very fair price to take ownership. But it’s the brilliant packaging and flexibility of the interior which make the Jazz one of a kind in a busy segment.
2018 Honda Jazz VTi-S Specifications
Price from $19,990 plus on-road costs Engine 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol Power 88kW @ 6600rpm Torque 145Nm @ 4800rpm Transmission CVT automatic Combined Fuel Consumption 5.9L/100km Tank Capacity 40L Length 4028mm Width 1694mm Height 1524mm Wheelbase 2530mm Tare Mass 1103kg Turning Circle 5.2m Service Intervals 6-months/10,000km Warranty five-year/100,000km
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