By Jonathan Crouch
An astonishing number of Honda Jazz owners buy another and the third generation version we're looking at here in its original form aimed to keep them loyal. Plus, with smarter looks, a better driving experience and unrivalled practicality, it aimed to widen this model's circle of buyers. For very good reasons, this is the supermini that industry insiders most commonly recommend.
The Honda Jazz has always offered something rather different to supermini buyers. You don't get a vast choice of engines or sporty handling but what is provided is arguably more useful. The biggest and cleverest cabin in the class and a thoroughly engaging ownership experience. This third generation version continued to offer just that.
From launch in 2015, this MK3 model was available with just a single 1.3-litre i-VTEC petrol powerplant option. Still, there are plenty of positives to set against the lack of engine choice. The brilliant 'Magic Seat' system that made the cabin of earlier versions so superbly versatile was retained with this design and for this third generation car is now even more impressive as part of a significantly larger bodyshell that offers a longer wheelbase, so extra interior space. As a result, the Japanese brand claimed at launch that this Jazz 're-defines' what a supermini can be.
Honda tried to improve the driving experience too, with the Global Compact Platform that enables this MK3 model to offer all that space also stiffer than the previous model's platform and linked to a revised front suspension system that's supposed to enhance both ride and refinement. Sharper steering and an 'Agile Handling Assist' torque vectoring system help this car feel a little more nimble through the corners too. This third generation design was lightly facelifted in 2018 but here, we focus on the pre-facelifted MK3 model as a potential used buy.
What You Get
This MK3 model Jazz focuses on sense and sensibility - no futuristic Civic-style flourishes here. If you happened to be familiar with previous generation versions of this car, then first impressions will be that this supermini is slightly larger this time round and, perhaps, just that little bit more. grown-up. That'll suit the target market. Across the grille and headlamps at the front, Honda's stylists have pursued the 'solid wing' theme that sees strong lines emerge from the bold 'X-shape' of the bumper and grille to then rise around the lower edge of the headlamps and over the bonnet, creating what the brand hopes is 'a secure, planted look'.
And inside? Well, we've always thought that Honda is very good at front-of-cabin design. Other manufacturers might deliver classier ambiences and higher-quality materials but in terms of driving comfort and ease of use, this Japanese brand seems to be more precisely tuned-in than most when it comes to creating an at-the-wheel experience that feels just right from the moment you set off. Through the three-spoke multi-function steering wheel, you're presented with a prominent speedometer deeply recessed into a silver-bezelled binnacle and flanked by two smaller circular gauges, the left hand one showing revs and that on the right being a TFT screen that shows key driving data.
Anything this display can't tell you will be covered by a glance at the centre panel, angled towards the driver and incorporating the key addition to the interior of the third generation Jazz model - a 7-inch 'Honda CONNECT' colour infotainment touchscreen. And in the rear? Well, the Jazz has always been the most spacious car in its class and, thanks to the 30mm wheelbase increase made to this third generation version, it still is.
What really marks this Jazz apart from its contemporaries though, is the packaging brilliance that allows it to stand out, made possible by the way that the fuel tank has been positioned under the front seats to liberate the floor of the cabin and allow the seats to be folded into all sorts of permutations. Let's take just one of them, the so-called 'Refresh mode'. People in the back exhausted on a longer trip would use this when there's no one in the front passenger seat, this setting allowing that front seatback to be reclined into a flat position meeting the rear seat base.
Perhaps though, you're in need of greater practicality, specifically for the carriage of the kind of tall items you normally wouldn't expect to be able to accommodate in a car like this. Maybe a small potted tree you've bought from the garden centre; or perhaps a bulky item of electrical equipment. That's when you'd use the 'Magic Seat' 'Tall mode' where the front of the rear seat base rises up and can be locked in a vertical position to leave a cargo height of 1,280mm from floor to ceiling, allowing the object in question to be placed behind the front seats.
The other two 'Magic Seat' settings relate to more conventional cargo configurations. Raise the rear hatch and you'll note the wide cargo opening and low loading lip that pave the way towards a class leadingly-large 354-litre boot that's 17-litres bigger than that of the previous generation model. But let's say you need more room and want to push forward the 60:40 split-folding rear seats to, for example, store something like a bicycle. That's when you move into the 'Magic Seat' system's 'Utility Mode' and the first thing you notice with that is the ease of the folding process. Here, you've only to release a simple lever mechanism, push forward from the rear and watch as backrest and seat base retract together into the rear footwell in one quick, fluid motion. If you're not using the front passenger seat, there's the option to recline it as part of the final 'Magic Seat' 'Long mode'. With that done, items as long as 2,480mm can be accommodated.
What to Look For
Not a lot goes wrong with any third generation Jazz. Buyers are, on the whole, a contented lot if customer satisfaction surveys are anything to go by. However, we did come across a few issues. One owner complained of problems with intermittent front headlight electrics. Another said his car got through front brake pads excessively quickly. Otherwise, just check the interior for signs of damage from unruly kids. And inspect the alloy wheels for kerbing damage. Otherwise, it's only a case of insisting on a fully stamped-up service book.
(based on a 2016 Jazz - ex VAT): A front brake pad set is about £33. A front brake disc is about £27.
An air filter is around £15. A wiper blade set is around £18-£23, while an oil filter is about £8.
On the Road
Jazz buyers get a single engine option, a 1.3-litre i-VTEC petrol unit offering 102PS and mated to a sweet-shifting six-speed gearbox. The engine has to be worked quite hard to give of its best, but if you push along, 62mph from rest can be covered in 11.2s en route to 18mph. Optional is a CVT automatic gearbox, which enables the Jazz to return very reasonable efficiency figures - 61.4mpg on the combined cycle and 106g/km of CO2. We'd suggest this variant to be appropriate for urban-based buyers only though.
Around the corners, this third generation model feels a little sharper then before thanks to more feelsome steering and an 'AHA' 'Active Handling Assist' system that helps get traction down through the bends. Over longer distances, you'll notice the improved refinement too. There's some clever technology too, like the 'Intelligent Speed Limier'. Working in conjunction with a 'Traffic Sign Recognition' system, this set-up knows what the prevailing speed limit is and limits your pace accordingly, so here's no chance of absent mindedly creeping past 30mph and getting zapped by a roadside camera.
Ask almost any motoring expert to recommend the supermini they'd buy with their own money and a large number will plump for this one. It isn't the feistiest car of its kind on a twisty road, but we'd trade that for this model's superb gearbox and long journeying refinement. At the end of the day though, that isn't really why we'd suggest that so many supermini buyers might really like this Honda. No, for us, it's still the cleverness of this car's packaging that impresses most, with its neat 'Magic Seat' flexibility and tardis-like cabin.
It's also a pleasant surprise to find this Jazz to be so relatively affordable, this despite the fact that it's one of the best-equipped models in its segment. It's also one of the safest too. Add all of this together and you begin to appreciate just why this car has such a dedicated following. Try one and you'll understand.