Wednesday 13 December 2017

First Drive: Eddie Cunningham discovers a ‘Little Giant’ in Honda’s new Jazz

2015 Honda Jazz
2015 Honda Jazz
2015 Honda Jazz
2015 Honda Jazz
Eddie Cunningham

Eddie Cunningham

Honda's new Jazz will cost from €17,395 when it goes on sale in Ireland in September.

That is for the entry-level SE model of the large supermini; they don’t have an official price for the other trims (ES, EX) yet.

The new 1.3 i-VTEC petrol engine (road tax €190/€200 depending on model and trim) now takes over from the current 1.2-litre and 1.4-litre powerplants.

We await a price too for the ‘automatic’ Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) line-up which uses the same engine and grading structure as the manual.

That entry price, incidentally, is a step up of €800 on the old one – purely on a euro for euro basis. But Honda, naturally, insist the new car is not alone bigger, roomier and better all round but has lots more equipment as standard. That extra equipment includes cruise control Bluetooth, electric rear windows and their City Brake Active system.

The Jazz has always been a big favourite in Ireland – and retains a loyal following despite intense competition from the likes of the Ford Fiesta, Toyota Yaris and Nissan Note to mention just three.

This third generation model is about many things but mostly it is space. By repositioning the petrol tank (under the front seats), in particular, they’ve opened up extra room.

As if to make the point, some Honda quick thinkers back in Japan decided they would do something few people would think of.

They ‘imposed’ the space inside a new Jazz on the current Mercedes S-Class saloon – one of the biggest cars on the road.

And guess what? Honda say their ‘little giant’ Jazz had more rear knee and legroom than Mercedes’ ‘big’ giant.

You know what else? I don’t think they are exaggerating. I sat into the back of the Honda today before taking it on a couple of drives and it was easy to see how they could make that claim.

Those drives showed up a few things, by the way. There was the room, of course, and the sense of driving a mini-MPV with that large windscreen, and really decent quality materials in the cabin.

But the 1.3-litre (102bhp) engine in the 6spd manual version was surprisingly raucous for a Honda. I was disappointed in that.

The ‘automatic’ version, or Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT), was, in contrast, excellent. So much so I would advise you consider it even if there is a small price premium. Ideal for getting around town – or cruising on the motorway for that matter. It also has lower emissions than the manual. And the old ‘boom-in-cabin’ CVT characteristic has been all but banished.  

The chassis is now lighter and the re-engineered suspension helped give it a nicely comfortable feel on a variety of roads around Frankfurt today. As reported previously it shares a platform with the new HR-V compact crossover.

There will be three trim grades. Standard spec (SE) includes air con, cruise control, Bluetooth, City Brake Active, auto lights/wipers, remote audio controls, electric windows, CD/radio with 5ins i-MID.

SE spec adds front/rear parking sensors, Honda Connect with 7ins infotainment touchscreen, electric folding mirrors, a Dynamic Safety Pack comprising forward collision warning, traffic sign recognition, lane departure warning, intelligent speed limiter and high beam support.

And EX adds smart entry/start, 16ins alloys, reversing camera, climate control, front fogs, six speakers and privacy glass.

But everything in this smart-looking newcomer returns to the space it manages to conjure. It’s 95mm longer and has a 30mm increased wheelbase – two other key reasons they claim best-in-class leg, shoulder and headroom front and rear.

A wide tailgate and low lip height should also mean loading is easy – and there are nifty little tie-downs in the boot which is now up to 354 litres. That expands to 884 litres with the rear seats down. It’s even more when you drop the front passenger seat-back - the ‘Magic seats’ facility allows for all sorts of passenger/luggage combinations.

I think I can see why they call it a ‘little giant’.

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