The third generation version of Honda's Jazz supermini looks to shake off its image as the senior citizen's poster child. June Neary checks t out.
Will It Suit Me?
Although it's fair to say that my days of being asked for ID when buying alcohol are but a distant memory, I'm not about to pick up my free bus pass just yet. Nevertheless, the news that I was about to get a Honda Jazz on test generated a whole week of ribbing from my other half, not helped by the discovery of a packet of Werthers Originals and some Tenalady pads in the glovebox that one of the wags in the office had slipped in when it arrived.
If age brings wisdom, then it's surely a compliment that so many older buyers have chosen the Jazz over its rivals. Older buyers want a comfortable and practical car that's easy to drive, easy to get in and out of and which offers excellent reliability. So do I. Although Honda is starting to bring younger customers on board with models like the HR-V crossover, it might take a while. In the meantime, I think I'm thick-skinned enough to put up with the jokes although it did get a bit much when the car was given an office nickname based on a piece of intimate jewellery featured on The Only Way Is Essex. That one was nipped quickly in the bud.
The latest MK3 model certainly still looks like a Jazz. At the front, it now features the brand's current 'flowing wing' theme across the grille and headlamps, while at the side, there are a pair of cut-in swage lines that rise from the front wheel arch to give shape to the otherwise slab-sided flanks. At the rear, there's a tailgate spoiler and a practical-looking near-vertical rear windscreen.
The dashboard materials have also been improved. Like most Hondas, it never really feels heavy and bulletproof in the way a German car does, but you have faith that it's put together with an almost fanatical attention to detail. I liked the huge windscreen that imparts a genuine feel of airiness up front. It extends way overhead, meeting the roof panel a good few inches aft of where you'd normally expect that junction. This, along with the large front quarter windows, provides respectable forward visibility.
The dash is dominated by either a five-inch LCD multi-information display or a seven-inch Honda Connect infotainment touchscreen, depending on model grade. The bigger screen is driven by Android 'phone technology and features smartphone-style 'pinch, swipe and tap' operation. In addition, it offers MirrorLink functionality, which means that it'll replicate the display and workings of your Android smartphone. Those betrothed to Apple will have to buy a clunky aftermarket case.
Otherwise the Jazz formula is as good as it ever was. Honda's 'Magic Seats' continue whereby the back seats can fold down in one fluid motion into the footwell with the headrests in place. Lift up the rear seat cushion against the rear seat back and there's a tall protected space in the rear seat footwells for items like plants. Boot capacity measures 354-litres, with space extending to 884-litres with the 'Magic Seats' folded.
Behind the Wheel
The volume Jazz engine choice is a 1.3 litre i-VTEC petrol unit with 102PS of power. It's mated to a six-speed manual transmission which replaces the old five-speed 'box, and there's also the option of a semi-automatic CVT transmission. There's no diesel engine planned, but as before, there's a petrol/electric hybrid option.
The petrol 1.3 is uncannily smooth and the transmissions are also beautifully engineered. Go for a manual model and you'll have a car that you'll want to flick up and down the box for the fun of it, while the CVT automatic is extremely effective and efficient. Visibility out of the Jazz is excellent and this latest model improves ride quality and reduces wind noise at speed. The Jazz still doesn't feel wholly in its element on motorways but you'll be thankful of steering that has been modified to offer a little more feel at higher speeds.
Value For Money
Where Honda has started to feel the pinch is in competition from rapidly improving Korean companies. The Jazz has always been one of the more expensive superminis and that continues to this day, with entry level pricing typically around £1,500 more than its Korean rivals. Now, it's true that you'll recoup some of that when the time comes to trade the Jazz in, but not all of it. I'd advise that you do the sums and drive all the rivals before coming to a decision on the Honda's relative value proposition.
The range itself is relatively straightforward. Prices start at around £13,500 and there's an £1,100 premium to pay if you want the CVT automatic gearbox. There's a single 1.3-litre 102PS i-VTEC petrol unit on offer and the choice of three trim levels - 'S', 'SE' and 'EX'. Specifications are generous across the range, with base-grade S models fitted with convenience features such as air conditioning, cruise control with speed limiter and dusk sensing auto lights. Every grade comes with Honda's City-Brake Active to help avoid low-speed accidents. The mid-grade SE model adds front and rear parking sensors, electrically adjustable and heated door mirrors and 15" alloy wheels. Honda's Driver Assistance Safety Pack is also included, giving owners the extra reassurance of five advanced active safety aids.
Could I Live With One?
After accepting that you won't create much of a splash outside a fancy restaurant by pulling up in a Honda Jazz, things get a whole lot better. It has a lot of really useful qualities that demonstrate the detailed understanding Honda has of its core customers. Yes, those core buyers may be more into Billy Fury than Tinie Tempah but if they're smart enough to know a good thing when they see it, more power to them. I could manage with a Jazz quite well. It's a car that never has to try too hard and that's a refreshing quality in a market that's increasingly populated with shouty newcomers.