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Car reviews - Honda - Jazz - Hybrid

Our Opinion

We like
Australia’s cheapest hybrid, interior quality, still spacious for a light-car, sprightly performance, acceptable economy
Room for improvement
Loses petrol version’s hallmark practicality, dull steering, extra mass of battery in rear means the back bottoms out with rear-seat weight

Honda logo7 Jun 2013

By BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS

Price and equipment

WHAT is the essence of Honda’s Jazz?

For us, it’s maximum interior space efficiency, followed by city friendly ease, economy, reliability, and quality.

The GE series, now in its twilight months, has held up such values especially well over the last five years, and is still in a class of its own as a result.

Fiesta may be more fun, Polo is posher, and the Micra definitely cheaper, but the Jazz still has a strong place in the pantheon.

The question is, though, are the $22,990 Hybrid’s 2.1L/100km and 50g/km economy and emissions gains respectively worth cost penalties of 33 litres in boot space, 70kg in weight, and $6000 in cost penalties over the standard GLi auto?

In fairness, besides all the IMA Integrated Motor Assist gubbins, the better-equipped, Thai-built Hybrid also includes idle-stop tech (to aid efficiency), eco-driving indicators, climate control air-con, cruise control, alloy wheels, and alarm, on top of the standard petrol car’s Bluetooth phone connectivity, AUX-in input with steering wheel controls, four power windows, and remote central locking.

By the way, this car’s only direct rival is the well-equipped Toyota Prius C – and that’s a sub-100g/km, sub-4.0L/100km sipper with its own style, for just an extra $1000.

Interior

How timeless is the current Jazz’s styling? Five years on, it still has a crisp freshness, making this a modern design classic.

Inside, the deep glass areas and proliferation of (thin) pillars add to a feeling of contemporariness.

Aiding vision, they help with manoeuvrability too, backed up by a lofty driving position.

Plus, the Jazz is also probably the easiest light car to get in and out of. Little wonder the Honda’s so hip with the hip-replacement set.

Frankly, it seems churlish to dismiss the proliferation of hard plastics for a car this (relatively) cheap, especially when the driving position, dashboard, and build quality are first class.

And by that we mean that the fascia is a triumph of function as well as aesthetics, with ultra-clear dials that glow intriguingly, large buttons, excellent ventilation, and a myriad of storage solutions.

Only the rather rubbish aftermarket Bluetooth installation (placed on the A-pillar) betrays the Jazz’s age.

We’d like a bit more support from the front seats, for the cushion is quite flat the rear bench is fine for two but a bit of a squeeze for three.

Furthermore, the reduced boot capacity (223 litres versus 337 litres) caused by the battery placement below also spoils the Jazz’s most famous party trick. There is no longer a flat load space from the rear of the front seat to the back of the car when the ‘Magic Seats’ are folded down.

Lastly, the weight of five adults and battery back may cause the rear suspension to bottom out over suburban speed bumps – and that’s without anything in the boot.

Check if this is going to be an issue before you buy.

Engine and transmission

Sharing its technology with the Insight and CR-Z, this particular Jazz’s regular 1.3-litre petrol engine and electric motor drive the front wheels via a continuously variable transmission (CVT) in unison, with no pure electric motivation except off throttle in certain conditions, where the engine is shut off.

Sounds complicated, but all you need to know is that smooth is the word. Note, though, that unlike the Honda, Toyota’s Prius C is able to run in electric-only mode.

Thanks to the Hybrid’s CVT ‘box, there’s nothing even remotely jerky about the way this car drives, as it slickly and speedily pulls away from standstill.

And that’s in ECON mode. Switch that off and the Jazz feels sprightlier still, offering the sort of mid-range oomph you might expect from a larger-engined light car.

In the Sport setting, responses feel even quicker, with the Hybrid really only running out of puff above the 100km/h mark, which it hits in 12.6 seconds, and can reach 177km/h where allowed to.

Conversely, fuel consumption is decent, with ours averaging around 5.5L/100km around town – assisted by Honda’s idle-stop tech (which extinguishes the engine even as you’re slowing down to a halt).

To help save fuel, the dash glows green when the car is being pussyfooted around, changing to a scolding electric blue when the driver puts his or her foot down.

As an eco measure it really works, as does the myriad of trip computer functions encouraging frugality through images of growing trees and congratulatory stats.

, Ride and handling

Sadly, after the relative surprise of the Hybrid’s performance, its steering really begins to show the Jazz’s advancing years.

Yes, the helm is great for light and tight turns around town, but there just isn’t the weight or feedback expected from the better electric power steering systems in cars like the Fiesta. It’s enough to discourage keen drivers.

In the dry, the 175/65 R15 eco tyres grip well enough, but wet roads can have them reaching the limits of their adhesion earlier than you might expect. Luckily, the Jazz’s chassis tune is one of naturally predictable handling and high road-holding capabilities.

The Hybrid also avoids that ‘dead’ brake feel of other such vehicles, so it stops in a progressive and natural manner.

Meanwhile, the ride is nicely absorbent in urban situations, except when the back seat is loaded with people, as mentioned earlier.

Safety and servicing

The NIMH battery is covered by an eight-year warranty, while the rest of the car falls under Honda’s three-year/100,000 kilometre protection plan.

Currently Honda offers no fixed-cost servicing scheme for the Jazz Hybrid.

Verdict

If you like your hybrid vehicle to be subtle as well as affordable and effective, the greenest Jazz is it. Only the funky Prius C competes for pricing.

Over our week driving all around town (and beyond), we increasingly grew fonder of just how easy and relaxing this boxy little Honda is, even though the mute steering didn’t grow on us at all.

Throw in decent economy, more than sufficient performance, and the company’s usual resale attributes, and the Jazz Hybrid has some likeable aspects.

That being said, the regular petrol version is a fair chunk of change cheaper, and more practical to boot. For the economy minded, a light-sized diesel such as Ford’s Fiesta is also worth a look.

Rivals

Ford Fiesta LX TDCi
, From $20,290 plus on-roads
, Manual only, but otherwise the diesel-powered Ford is the driver’s choice here, bringing brilliant steering, handling, and road-holding, to a modern and funky little package. Our choice.

, Volkswagen Polo 66TDI Comfortline DSG(br>, From $23,990 plus on-roads
, After driving hybrids, the Polo’s sheer torque feels tremendous, as does a cabin oozing class, quality, and soft-touch materials. Dynamic as well as refined, only a jerky DSG grates.

Toyota Prius C
, From $23,990 plus on-roads
, A dreary interior and CVT drone detract from what is otherwise a perky, well equipped, nice handling and obviously very economical city car. Low-speed electric-only capability is another plus point.

Specs

Make and model: Honda GE Jazz Hybrid
, Engine type: 1.3-litre four-cylinder petrol with electric assist
, Layout: FWD
, Power: 72kW @ 5800rpm
, Torque: 167Nm @ 1000-1700rpm
, Transmission: CVT auto
, 0-100km: 12.6s
, Fuel consumption: 4.5L/100km
, CO2 rating: 107g/km
, Dimensions: L/W/H/WB 3900/1695/1525/2500mm
, Weight: 1178kg (tare mass)
, Suspension: MacPherson struts/torsion beam
, Steering: Electric rack and pinion
, Price: From $22,990

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