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Car reviews - Honda - Jazz - Hybrid

Our Opinion

We like
Packaging, design, ease of operation, improved dynamic feel, doesn’t shout it out
Room for improvement
Reduced cargo capacity, no extended pure electric drive, CVT transmission drone, ageing series

Honda logo26 Feb 2013

By BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS

WE’VE always liked the current-model Honda Jazz.

Launched in September 2008, the second-generation light car has long served as a reminder of what the company is all about in terms of efficiency, clever engineering, great design and minimum compromise.

In fact, in our books at least, this makes the Jazz the truest “traditional” Honda you can buy.

And that’s ironic when assessing the new Jazz Hybrid because, as a concept, tradition has nothing to do with what Honda is trying to achieve.

This is very much a vehicle for those looking forward, not back.

Yet the petrol-electric urban runabout normalises the one-time exotic hybrid experience in regular – and still quite striking – GE-series Jazz clothing, so it’s a bit of a quiet achiever a modest mouse, if you like.

Unlike the uneven current-generation Insight, there is nothing outlandishly futuristic or ‘show off’ going on inside or outside.

Only a higher boot floor (that eats into the series’ otherwise amazing versatility as a result of the battery being underneath) and a more intricate and colourful instrument panel give the hybrid game away.

Everything else should be instantly familiar to owners of Honda’s lauded light car – a good driving position, ample vision all round, comfy front seats and a rear bench that folds down flatter than in any other hatch due to the forward relocation of the fuel tank.

Considering niceties such as climate-control air-con, alloy wheels, cruise control, Bluetooth phone connectivity and all the electric technology are included in the $23K asking price, the value equation seems to add up as well.

There’s nothing to scare off people who don’t want to be bamboozled by too much technology.

On a relatively short drive, we found the Hybrid’s normality to be the key personality trait.

After a seamless and near-hushed start-up, acceleration is quite energetic and builds strongly as the electric motor quietly provides extra boost.

Only the CVT transmission’s rev flaring as you press the accelerator breaks the inherently smooth and refined drivetrain operation.

In the context of low consumption and emissions, we found the Jazz Hybrid’s performance more than adequate.

Cruising along at freeway speeds proved particularly easy, with ample power in reserve when required. The flowing effortlessness of the Jazz Hybrid exceeded our expectations after the raucousness of the related Insight.

Although it weighs more, the newcomer seems to feel more planted over country roads than the regular Jazz – though you would never call it sporty – while the steering doesn’t feel as remote or light, which came as a pleasant surprise.

More time is needed to assess if Australia’s cheapest hybrid works as convincingly in the environment it was designed for – the rough and tumble of inner-city traffic.

But we’d go as far as saying that – despite the model’s advancing years – the Jazz in Hybrid guise is a fresh and convincing alternative to a number of smaller turbo-diesel hatchbacks out there.

Better still for fans of the series, it is clear that the Jazz’s integrity does not seem to have been unduly compromised in its evolution into the sometimes patchy world of petrol/electric eco motoring.

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