Honda Jazz review - a slice of practical magic

Let’s be blunt, the Honda Jazz has a bit of a reputation in this country. While in the US it’s a hit with the youths, here it’s seen as the preserve of the older, less thrill-seeking section of society.

Where I live, for example, there are hordes of Jazzes, all piloted at a steady 40mph by people of pensionable age. It’s hardly a great advert for the car but the fact there are so many out there holding up the traffic indicates the Jazz must be doing something right.

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When you dig a little deeper it’s not hard to see its appeal. The Jazz has always focused on being spacious, comfortable, practical and reliable - the kind of things that appeal to many more mature motorists.

So for its all-new version, Honda has remained true to that formula.

Honda Jazz EX

  • Price: £21,385 (£22,035 as tested)
  • Engine: 1.5-litre, four-cylinder with two electric motors
  • Power: 109bhp
  • Torque: 187lb ft
  • Transmission: E-CVT automatic
  • Top speed: 108mph
  • 0-62mph: 9.5 seconds
  • Economy: 61.4mpg
  • CO2 emissions: 104g/km

Aesthetically, the Jazz has always been fairly bland but even in a single colour like our white test car, the latest model’s looks can be kindly described as slightly odd. In white it looks like a fairly anonymous small hatchback but other shades expose a seriously lumpy and gawky looking thing with protruding headlights. Here is a clear case of function over form, designed to create as much space as possible in a small footprint.

And it's here that the Jazz shows its strengths. At 4m long and 1.69m wide it’s the same length as a Fiesta, Corsa or Clio and between 3cm and 10cm narrower yet it feels far more spacious. Specifically, it feels taller and somehow wider and there’s better legroom in the rear. It easily passes the four six-footer test - a miracle in a supermini - and only drivers well over six feet will start to feel cramped in the front. Even then, there’s plenty of headroom and the seats, with their attractive woven-fabric finish, are very supportive and comfortable.

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Honda used to be famous for its unbreakable but ugly interiors with plain shiny black plastic. The Jazz is a long way from that. The gloss cream buttons on the steering wheel and finish to the centre console feel modern and fresh and the whole interior has charm and character along with a feeling of quality. There aren’t too many buttons cluttering up the central stack but there are nice knurled metal dials for the air con and a clear display to go with them. Almost everything else is run from the nine-inch touchscreen which is another big leap forward for Honda. The brand has been responsible for one of the worst HMIs in recent years but this new one looks good, responds quickly and has all the functions you’d expect such as nav, trip computer, connected apps, plus Honda’s own voice assistant.

The interior is a riot of other practical touches that just emphasise the Jazz’s strengths. There are deep door pockets, a decent space ahead of the gear lever, two glove boxes - including a neat leather topped one that looks like a dashboard feature - extra cupholders in the dash (like a Transit van), plus twin USB ports for the back seats and little phone pockets in the top of the front seat backs. And, of course, there are Honda’s famous Magic Seats, which fold up to give uniquely wide and tall storage in the back.

The 304-litre boot is on a par with most rivals but there’s an annoying lip at the rear where the seats fold, making it hard to sit more than a couple of shopping bags flat.

All new Honda Jazzes are powered by a e:HEV full hybrid system. Built around a 1.5-litre petrol engine, the hybrid drive uses two electric motors and an electronically controlled CVT fixed-gear transmission.

Total power is 109bhp - in line with rivals - and around town it’s a smooth user-friendly setup. The hybrid system works really well, slipping between modes unobtrusively. It starts in EV for a smooth pull away and the electric motor means there’s plenty of torque for nipping around in town.

However, on the open road the engine becomes coarse and noisy. A soft right foot keeps the worst of the engine’s aural excess under control but at anything above urban speeds there’s a lot of noise until you settle into a cruise. Nought to 62mph takes around nine seconds and the Jazz isn’t a car you’ll thrill in driving but the payoff for a dull drive is an easily achievable real-world economy of 56mpg, rising to 60mpg with just a little care.

For a car aimed at urban use, the Jazz’s ride is a strange weak point. It’s surprisingly bad at coping with potholes and bad surfaces, with an unexpectedly crashy ride quality. Hopefully the incoming Crosstar might address that but apart from the poor ride the Jazz is a great urban runaround - not too big, and smooth and responsive thanks to the hybrid setup.

It’s also packed with equipment. Even entry-level SE-spec cars feature adaptive cruise, lane keep assist and auto-dipping headlights while our EX added heated seats and steering wheel, a reversing camera and the nine-inch screen with integrated Garmin sat nav for the £22,000 list price.

In the UK the Jazz’s core demographic has always been the older buyer who wants something small but roomy, comfy and reliable. That’s unlikely to change with this new model but that’s okay, because for them the new Jazz is more of the same, just better than ever.