Honda Jazz: Raising Bar To Affordable Lifestyle Motoring

By Lee Pang Seng
THE Honda Jazz is now into its third generation model and it is seen as raising the bar for cars in its segment: lifestyle motoring in a subcompact form and as a petite but sporty looking hatchback rather than an MPV. The model designation is clearly blurred in this new age but the Jazz finds among its admirers the younger set with a zest for living, not so much for the speed although that might be useful too.

Honda’s original intent when it first launched the Jazz (marketed as the Fit in Japan, China and the US) was to provide an affordable beginning to MPV motoring. The Jazz was developed on a small car platform that was also applied to other models within the compact range: For Malaysia, these were the City and Freed.

Following its launch in 2001, Honda’s project caught the imagination of many targeted car owners and more than 4.8 million cars had been sold since then, winning awards and recognition from early on. With the third generation model, the Jazz has lost none of its appeal with a further evolvement of its body styling and motoring concept.

In Malaysia, Honda’s strategy to include the Jazz as a locally assembled model has gone down well with customers: since the CKD project took off in the second half of 2013, more than 6770 cars have been sold in less than a year, compared to an annual average of 650 cars with the imported model. This firmly established the strong appeal of the Jazz as a practical lifestyle car that is now truly affordable.

We like the aggressive touches made to the front of the latest Jazz, continuing with the broad sweep of the headlamps and the clean one-piece grille carrying the Honda badge that is also seen on the new City. Lower down, the two foglamp sections and the wide air bib in black lend a bold look that underscores the youthful vibrancy of the Jazz persona. Honda calls this the ‘Solid Wing Face’ that was developed on the ‘Exciting H Design’ concept.

The rear may look tamer by comparison but there is a balance of sorts with two defined ‘black’ spots to complement the foglamp areas in front. Reflectors on the hatch door flow seamlessly into the rear light clusters to impress with a single and cohesive look, bringing to life its cheerful and carefree character.

We also like the enhanced design of the waist line. It was a simple line in the second generation Jazz but the body designers have given the latest model a grooved effect that highlights the aerodynamic profile of the car with a striking flourish. The added emphasis of the lower line at the wheel level sums up its smart and speedy good looks.

The latest Jazz is only about looks as the smart interior carries the equipment and fittings that the model was fitted with in the first generation model (and which have been found to be practical) as well as newer items to fulfil a contemporary and modern ambience. The push button start/stop feature is a welcome one even though it does not come with a keyless entry facility.

There is a big 7-inch multi-information display located centrally on the dashboard, touch panel auto air-conditioning and hands-free telephone switch on the steering wheel. These items may not be found on all the three model variants that are made available here, these being the Jazz 1.5L S, E and V versions. What is standard to all three models are the six airbags, nine cupholders, and front centre console with armrest-cum-cover.

Dimensionally, the new Jazz is a bit longer than the previous model with a body length of 3955mm (the previous Jazz was 3900mm) while retaining similar height and width at 1524mm and 1694mm respectively. It is about right for a car of this design as the interior space layout remains generally good.

The flexible space also allows items, including tall ones, to be accommodated. The rear seats continue to be the ‘Ultra seats’ that were introduced right at the beginning, and which were also featured in other compact Honda models. The seat cushions could be folded away neatly to transport tall items and we could stand up, though not fully erect, in the rear seat area as an indication of the good headroom.

The rear seatrests could be reclined for better ride comfort and they are split 60:40 to extend luggage space. The space is long enough for you to catch 40 winks in some cool highland area if you wish. If there has to be a negative note, it would have to be the lack of a flexible top cover that would keep things kept in the luggage area hidden from view.

Its 1.5-litre engine is the same as that powering the new City, this being the single overhead camshaft (SOHC) 16-valve all-alloy unit with i-VTEC (electronically controlled variable valve timing). It retains the same undersquare configuration with 73.0mm bore and long 89.4mm stroke to displace 1497cc. The output generated is the same as before at 88kW (120PS) at 6600rpm and 145Nm at 4600rpm.

Honda has again gone back to using the CVT (continuously variable transmission) for the seamless ‘engagement’ of gears as it is electronically done, while improvements have been made for a positive surge in acceleration to match that for automatic transmission, while contributing to good fuel mileage. It comes with additional Sport and Low modes: in the former, a higher ‘gear’ is selected pushing engine revs above 3000rpm so that more useable torque is readily available for quick overtaking. In Low mode, the CVT electronically selects a ratio that is similar to that of a third gear so that there is engine drag when going down descents to ease brake fade from frequent use.

With a more polished body profile, we believe the aerodynamic efficiency could have been improved slightly. During the media preview drives in the new Jazz in Hua Hin, Thailand that were conducted mainly on highways, we heard noticeable wind rustle around the door mirrors and roof area. When seated at the rear, we could hear air turbulence around the roof area where the spoiler or bib is located.

The important thing is that this wind noise did not intrude much into the passenger cabin and we could conduct a normal conversation all round. This was the scenario at average cruising speeds of 130-140km/h, based on the lead car’s pace. While the road roar in front was well subdued, it was noticeably intrusive at the rear. We believe the minimal use of impact bushes for the suspension links and padding for the body and door panels might have a hand in this.

The three Jazz variants provided in Thailand were running on Bridgestone Turanza tyres of 175/55 R15 size, which were locally made there (you can expect the Jazz in Malaysia to run on Goodyear or Continental tyres). The Bridgestones complemented the MacPherson strut front and torsion beam rear of the Jazz suspension system with reasonably good ride comfort and low noise generation. However, the rear torsion beam set-up made ride quite jolting when going over speedbumps and we had to ride the bumps slowly to spare our rear passengers the discomfort.

It might have been a brief acquaintance but it was sufficient to impress on its improved status to make lifestyle motoring more appealing. Honda Malaysia is launching the latest Jazz in mid-July and we would expect it to remain attractively priced to maintain its strong run in customer draw and vehicle sales.

Photo Gallery