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First drive: Jazz Hybrid extends Honda’s green cred

Hybrid hopes: Honda is looking to boost hybrid sales in Australia with its Jazz Hybrid, two years after its release in Japan.

Honda takes aim at Toyota’s Prius C at cheap end of the hybrid market


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25 Feb 2013

HONDA hopes to find at least 50 buyers each month for its newly released Jazz Hybrid, which would make it the Japanese company’s most popular hybrid offering.

Released this week in Australia after over two years on sale in Japan as the Fit Hybrid, the petrol-electric Jazz is priced from $22,990 plus on-road costs, making it Australia’s cheapest hybrid.

Last year, Honda sold fewer than 800 Civic, Insight and CR-Z hybrids combined in Australia.

Coming in a single specification, the five-seat Jazz Hybrid will take on the Toyota Prius C hybrid and also the economical Volkswagen Polo 66TDI turbo-diesel, with Honda expecting most buyers to be conquest sales from other brands.

Private customers are expected to account for about 70 per cent of sales, with the remainder made up of fleets seeking an inexpensive, economical and practical petrol-electric hatch.

Women buyers are expected to narrowly outnumber men.

The Jazz Hybrid uses essentially the same Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) hybrid hardware as the longer Insight.

The transverse layout of the GE-series Jazz was designed from inception to accommodate electric technology and uses its unique centrally mounted fuel tank (beneath the front seats rather than under the rear ones, as in most cars) to minimise interior packaging intrusion.

Starting from under the bonnet and moving back, there is an internal combustion engine, electric motor, transmission and fuel tank, with a battery pack sited directly behind the rear seat under the cargo floor area below the temporary spare wheel.

Consequently, the boot floor is several centimetres higher than the regular Jazz, cutting cargo volume to the window line from 337 to 223 litres with the backrests erect and 848 to 722 litres in two-seater ‘utility mode’.

The floor is not flush when the ‘Magic Seats’ are folded down, but a variation of its acclaimed ‘cushion up’ functionality is carried through.

The engine is Honda’s familiar 1.3-litre i-VTEC single-cam four-cylinder petrol unit, boosted by a DC brushless motor to drive the front wheels via a continuously variable transmission (CVT) with Honda’s Grade Logic Control that adapts to driver inputs and immediate terrain.

Modified with a low-friction piston design and more efficient catalytic converter, the engine delivers 65kW of power at 5800rpm and 121Nm of torque at 4500rpm.

Combined with the compact electric motor’s additional 10kW at 1500rpm and 78Nm at 1000rpm inputs, the Jazz Hybrid’s peak total output is 72kW at 5000rpm and 167Nm from 1000-1700rpm.

Combined fuel consumption is 4.5 litres per 100km on 91 RON unleaded petrol, with 107 grams per kilometre of emissions.

This is considerably less than the standard Jazz GLi 1.3-litre petrol manual, which achieves 6.6L/100km and 157g/km, but the Prius C – a series/parallel hybrid that unlike the Honda allows pure electric operation for a few kilometres including from take-off – comfortably eclipses its rival with just 3.9L/100km and 90g/km.

Honda says that, if conditions are favourable with minimal torque demand during low-speed cruising or coasting situations, cylinder shut-off technology enables the Jazz Hybrid to run for brief periods on pure electric mode.

Aiding efficiency is idle-stop technology, combustion that ceases during deceleration to minimise pumping losses and resistance for more effective motor/generator operation, increased energy recovery to recharge the Nickel Metal Hydride battery, and sealed cylinders with trapped air that works like a spring, removing the need to decouple the engine.

The NiMH battery is covered by an eight-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty.

The Jazz Hybrid has the same suspension layout as the regular model – MacPherson struts up front and a torsion beam at the rear – with firmer anti-roll bars and damper rates to cope with about 70kg of extra weight differences.

Steering is by electric-powered rack-and-pinion while safety features include dual front, side and full-length curtain airbags.

Visual exterior differences include chrome-blue treatments for the headlight surrounds and grille (which is clear and altered in design for optimised airflow), clear LED tail-lights, and chrome tailgate garnish.

Inside, the instrument cluster is a darker hue for starker blue backlighting contrast, ‘ECO Assist’ is fitted that changes from green to blue according to how inefficiently the car is being driven, and climate-control air-conditioning is included.

An upgraded multi-function dash display provides graphic indicators of the powertrain’s state of operation, trip computer functions, green driving status and other related operations.

An ‘ECON’ button promotes improved economy via reduced engine outputs, softer throttle feeds, more linear CVT shift patterns, stronger regenerative braking and reduced fan and air-con performance, with the latter deactivating during idle-stop.

Standard features include climate-control, cruise control, Bluetooth phone connectivity and aux-in input with steering wheel audio controls, four power windows, remote central locking and 15-inch alloy wheels.

The Jazz Hybrid is built in Thailand, alongside the rest of the GE-series range (except for the limited-edition Vibe models, which are sourced from Japan).

2013 Honda Jazz pricing*
GLi 1.3 $14,990
Vibe 1.3 $15,990
GLi 1.3 (a) $16,990
Vibe 1.3 (a) $17,990
VTi 1.5 $17,790
VTi 1.5 (a) $19,790
Vibe-S 1.5 (a) $20,740
VTi-S 1.5 (a) $20,990
Hybrid (a) $22,990
*Plus on-road costs

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