As Versatile As A Swiss Army Knife
The Honda Jazz has always been Honda’s popular fun little hatchback that possessed as many virtues as a Swiss Army Knife. It is a hatchback that has the versatility of an MPV, the compact dimensions of, well, a hatchback, and the fun to drive nature that is akin to a go-kart. Three generations later, and the Honda Jazz is completely new from the ground up for the 2014 model year, ready to go head-to-head with other subcompact hatchbacks in the segment.
The Honda Jazz is the first Honda to feature the brand’s new design language called EXCITING H!!!, and no, I’m not kidding. The design theme’s name is properly spelled out in that manner. All caps, and with three exclamation points, each one symbolizing high touch, high tech, and high tension. I’m not here to discuss what that means though. What it means to you and me is that it made the new Honda Jazz look funkier and more attention grabbing. It took me some time before I appreciated the “Solid Wing Face” grille though. A sharp crease that starts from the rear wheel arches and ends with a sharp angle down towards the front doors add a sharp and futuristic character to the Jazz’s side profile, while the Volvo-like tail lamps in the rear do look handsome. I actually showed a friend of mine a picture of a blue Honda Jazz’s rear, and he actually mistook it for a Volvo V40 with Polestar kits. Jokes aside, this new little Honda has the proper funkiness that only this Jazz can offer.
If the exterior is all about fun and funky, the interior is a different story. A properly futuristic and modern interior easily impresses. Like the Honda City, the Honda Jazz also has faux stitching on the dashboard, and unlike the ones found in the Toyota Vios and Yaris, the faux stitching is done in high-quality padded soft-touch materials, lending it a very upmarket interior ambience. I actually criticized its predecessor’s interior for the use of fabrics on top of the door panels, and thankfully, those are gone, replaced with more upmarket and solid feeling plastics. A finger-print magnet, but responsive touch panel center stack devoid the Jazz’s interior with any buttons, which further give it a more modern and high-tech vibe. Like the Honda City VX, the Honda Jazz VX+ also has the most upmarket interior in this segment, bar none.
Space and Practicality
Space and practicality has always been the Jazz’s name of the game. The Honda Jazz is the epitome is the brand’s “Man Maximum, Machine Minimum” principle, and it clearly shows in how well packed the Jazz’s body is. The dimensions remain largely unchanged, yet Honda’s engineers have managed to increase the Jazz’s interior volume, partly thanks to the wheelbase being stretched. The lengthening of the Jazz’s wheelbase also meant that the front and rear overhangs have become much shorter.
Flexible seating gives the Jazz’s interior limitless possibilities as what kind of seating configurations you can do to it. Honda calls it their ULTR interior, with U for Utility Mode, L for Long Mode, T for Tall Mode, and R for Refresh Mode. Past these marketing terms, what they really mean is that, the Jazz’s rear seats can be arranged in configurations that are perfect for scenarios such as carrying a tall plant, a surfboard, or transform the Jazz’s interior into a king-sized bed. Well, maybe not king sized, but, you get my point.
Just as impressive as its seating flexibility are the number of storage places inside. The Honda Jazz has plenty of cubby spaces, including a pair of small rear door bins, which are perfectly suited for carrying bottles. Just in case the front center cupholders aren’t already enough for you, there’s another cupholder by the driver’s side air vents. A total of 7 cupholders are strategically placed all around the cabin, should you consider your Honda Jazz as a drinks cabinet.
Being the VX+ model means that this unit is kitted to the brim. Honda’s Display Audio is easy to use, and being an in-house developed infotainment system brings inherent advantages over the ones from third-party manufacturers such as AVT, Pioneer, or Sony. For instance, the graphical user interface is consistent and cohesive to use. Another plus is that, since it uses a capacitive touch screen, just like on our smartphones, rather than the resistive ones, the touch response is very seamless. The touch panel automatic climate control system is also responsive, but takes a bit of getting used to, since I am more accustomed to buttons rather than touch points. A segment first HDMI port, meanwhile, is equipped in order for you to mirror your smartphone’s screen onto the Display Audio infotainment system.
While it must be noted that this is the top of the stack VX+ variant, there are actually some features from the City VX that I tested before that aren’t equipped as standard on this Jazz VX+. The City VX gets two power ports in the back seat, while this has none, and when compared to the City VX+, it doesn’t have leather seats, nor does it have 8 speakers, and instead, it has 4. While there are some differences, it’s hard to beat the Jazz’s selling proposition. Its interior flexibility that even puts some larger MPVs to shame.
Reversing in the Honda Jazz shouldn’t be a challenge. Aside from the Jazz’s fishbowl-like all-around visibility, it is also equipped with a Multi-Angle Rear View Camera with Dynamic Guidelines, and this should further remove the hassles when parking this already compact hatchback.
The Honda Jazz is powered by a 1.5 liter L15A i-VTEC engine, which is a carry over from the previous generation. It produces 118 hp @ 6,600 rpm and 145 Nm of torque @ 4,800 rpm. It is mated to a new Earth Dream’s CVT with a 7-Speed manual mode, propelling the front wheels. Honda has dropped the 1.3 liter L13B i-VTEC engine in favor of a completely 1.5 liter line up.
How It Drives
A hallmark of the Honda Jazz has always been its fun-to-drive nature, and thankfully, it carries over to this generation. While I think that the new electric power steering system has a little less feedback compared to its predecessor, it isn’t numb, and it still makes you feel connected to the road, and while the handling has remained unchanged, the ride has actually gotten a lot better. The revised McPherson strut front suspension and rear H-shaped torsion beam suspension has been perfectly balanced by Honda engineers to give the new Jazz a perfect compromise between handling and comfort, a polar opposite of what its ride used to be, because its predecessor tends to crash and bang all over the place. The Jazz’s chassis has also been strengthened, with the use of much more high tensile steel in the car’s body, improving its rigidity, and making it feel more agile and tossable around the corners in the process. Stretching its legs further on a twisty back road, and there is sufficient grip, giving the driver enough confidence when pushing this hatchback. When things become too fast for you to handle, excellent and progressive feeling brakes are there to bring you to a full stop.
Another substantial improvement over the old model are the improved levels of refinement in the cabin. Along with the new Honda City, the new Honda Jazz is one of, if not, the most refined subcompacts I’ve ever driven. Thanks to plenty of sound insulation in strategic places, including the doors, road and wind noise is kept to a minimum. Further enhancing the refined nature of the new Jazz is the new 7-Speed CVT. I normally hate CVTs for having this “rubber band effect”, wherein the transmission tends to hold revs at let say, 3,000 rpm when accelerating from 50-100 km/h. While it is good for fuel economy, it heavily sends a lot of engine noise inside the cabin, whilst eliminating all the fun of driving in the process. Thankfully, this Earth Dreams CVT has less of that effect, downshifting like a traditional automatic whenever the driver demands it to do so, and with a 7-Speed manual mode via the paddle shifters, leave it in S or sport mode, and the transmission definitely impresses. The CVT simulates a 7-Speed automatic transmission, and playing with the paddle shifters really brings out all of the fun in the Honda Jazz’s powertrain.
Because of this new CVT, the new Jazz’s fuel economy has been substantially improved over its predecessor with the 5-Speed manual or automatic transmission. A steady 70-90 km/h in the highway yielded me a fuel economy in the 16-20 km/l range without even trying hard to do so. If you are still unacquainted as to why CVTs are very fuel efficient, it’s because a Continuously Variable Transmission doesn’t have gears in the first place. It’s essentially a belt or a chain that changes its ratios to best suit the driving situation.
On The Downside
I am really sorry, but just to sound picky and not to make this review sound more like an advertisement, I think that even if the brakes do have excellent feel and bite, the Honda Jazz does the job with rear drum brakes instead of discs. It must be noted though that even the top-spec Ford Fiesta has drum brakes, but both the predecessors of the City and Jazz already had disc brakes in the rear in the first place. Perhaps the new Honda Jazz is such a very good car, its only potential downside is its price. At P948,000, its price is nearing the P1,000,000 mark. Even if the price is easily justified on how well equipped and how well improved it is when compared to all of the Jazz’s competition, it opens up other possible, bigger alternatives for potential buyers at this price point.
Surely, the Honda Jazz may be priced really high, but like what I said, it is really well improved and equipped over its predecessor and its competition. The new Honda Jazz feels like a much more premium product over its rivals, yet it must be noted that even the 1.5 V models are well equipped, fitted with Bluetooth telephony and audio, USB, and other connectivity features as standard. Truly, Honda has different plans with their model line up. Removing the 1.3 liter models of the Jazz and City meant that they are ready to bring in a new vehicle to fill that duty instead, and these models are known as the Honda Brio and Brio Amaze. The new Honda Jazz is finally here, a hatchback that is as versatile and as commanding as a Swiss Army Knife.
Exterior Design: ★★★★☆
Interior Design: ★★★★☆
Interior Quality: ★★★★★
Fuel Efficiency: ★★★★☆
Value For Money: ★★★☆☆
OVERALL: 4 out of 5
What The Others Say…
“The Jazz is now being marketed as something like a “semi-premium” subcompact in Honda’s new model stratification plan; that’s the reason why both the Jazz and City are significantly more expensive, significantly better equipped and noticeably better in overall quality. That’s all well and good because Honda is getting ready to introduce a new model to fill in the spot the Jazz vacated with the upcoming Brio hatchback.”