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Car reviews - Honda - Jazz - 5-dr hatch range

Our Opinion

We like
Improved in almost every way - especially ride quality, steering, dynamics, looks, cabin space, interior presentation and ambience
Room for improvement
No stability control Price hike on VTi and VTi-S Five-speed auto not as frugal as old CVT ‘auto’ gearbox No cruise option on sub-VTi-S Overtly female promotional skew Still not fun like a Mazda2

29 Aug 2008

HONDA’S outgoing Jazz may have been a revolution in compact packaging and efficiency, but it was nothing short of being a disappointing driving experience.

Curiously lifeless steering is one thing in a light car, but having that coupled with a lumpy and busy ride on anything other than super-smooth surfaces is quite another, meaning that the old Jazz was best enjoyed as a static mobile storage unit.

Actually, that’s a bit harsh because the car’s brilliant fuel consumption – especially in the CVT automatic version – made it exceptionally frugal in an area that virtually no rival (bar the Mitsubishi Colt) could match it in.

And the Jazz has always been a well made and nicely presented device, with an easy going nature and a resale value that owners of the more expensive European competition would kill for.

But a device it was, for you would never want to take one out for a long drive just for the joy of it.

Now there’s the MkII Jazz, and Honda has fixed much of what made the original a bit of a drag to drive.

Yes, with a redesigned electric power steering system, you will never mistake this Honda’s handling response and feel for a Lotus Elise’s. But it is now nicely weighted and measured, and not at all affronting to tastes.

Better still, the ruinous old ride has been replaced by a far-more supple experience, even in the big-wheeled VTi-S that we (briefly) drove.

Owners of the current Jazz are also likely to appreciate the improved forward and rear vision, easier to use rear-seat folding mechanism, stronger brakes, greater high-speed stability, quieter cabin and much more grown up dashboard and instrumentation.

And you don’t have to be movement-impaired to appreciate doors that open big and wide. Good one, Honda!

Of course, there is a downside to a larger and heavier car, and that is increased emissions and fuel consumption.

But in the slick five-speed manual version, with its eager 1.5-litre engine and sprightly mid-range pick-up, we managed to eek out as little as 4.2L/100km in a suburban ‘economy’ run.

Sadly, however, the super-duper efficiency of the old CVT is out of reach in the new five-speed automatic, which – in our impromptu economy run – could not better 5.6L/100km.

That’s still a great effort for an automatic light car, but it is not progress if you already own a CVT Jazz and are looking to update into something that can match its economy.

Still, Honda claims that at highway speeds the five-speed auto is actually more economical than the CVT, but that remains to be seen in everyday Australian conditions.

And while we’re whingeing, it is a crying shame that ESC stability control is not yet available (you’ll have to go to the Hyundai Getz or Mazda2 for that for under $20,000 and five seats), while cruise control should be made available on lower-end models.

So that’s the latest Jazz’s lot. It looks great – more like a (better-resolved) Mercedes A-class than a Toyota Yaris competitor – and is undoubtedly a much-nicer vehicle to sit inside, use and drive.

We think that it will prove to be at least as successful as the previous Jazz, since the steering and ride will no longer put off keen drivers.

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