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Honda Jazz 1.4 i-VTEC ES

Click to view picture galleryDownsizing customers want more
  economical cars but without
  compromising too much in the way
  of space and comfort. For them,
  Honda
s new Jazz hits all the right
  notes...


WITH THE GENERAL MOVE IN THE UK'S NEW CAR SALES MARKET OF DOWNSIZING to more fuel-efficient and lower CO2 models, Honda has timed the introduction of their latest second-generation Jazz five-door supermini well. The new models go on sale from 17 October (2008).

The previous Honda Jazz was such a successful car that creating its successor was always going to be a challenge. But that hasn't stopped Honda's engineers enhancing the model's strongest qualities and successfully moving it on to the next stage. The result is a five-door hatchback with even greater flexibility, more interior space and a 'bigger car' feel. Although the overall length of 3.9 metres remains more or less the same, the latest-generation Jazz's wheelbase has been increased to offer more rear seat legroom while a slight increase in width provides more elbow room. More good news: the rear seat will accommodate two adults easily, or three children.

A lower facia level, slimmed-down A-pillars and larger door-mounted mirrors give improved visibility out of the car. That said, I would still recommend fitting rear parking sensors to limit bumper damage whilst reversing!

Tardis-like packaging makes the new Jazz a clever and versatile car with a high level of general specification, one that's finished with high quality materials and trim. Honda says the new Jazz offers all the benefits of a large car, but in the mould of a small one. I cannot disagree with that but this newcomer sells in a very competitive market sector. The new and very much improved Ford Fiesta has raised the bar even higher for standards.

The Honda development team looked at the few areas where the previous model Jazz had come under criticism — and have moved to improve them. The latest Jazz is said to have improvements to the ride and handling: changes to the suspension settings have made the ride more supple and comfortable — particularly at the rear — while the steering feels more natural, and handling is more stable, creating a 'big car' feel but remaining as manoeuvrable as ever. Noise intrusion levels have also been reduced.

I cannot totally agree with all those claims. Yes, the car does have sharper responses; it doesn't respond lazily but the ride is firmer and can be choppy over poor road surfaces. And the suspension now seems unable to absorb bumps and potholes as well as it did before.

The outgoing model excelled with its clever passenger accommodation and load carrying packaging. In this area the new Jazz is even better. There's greater versatility with easier-to-use, one-motion Magic Seats and an innovative new Double-Trunk (on 1.4-litre models) with a clever and useful suspended netting section in the load area. There is also increased cabin space. The folding rear seats can easily be dropped down to create a completely flat load floor without first having to take out the rear head restraints, giving a luggage capacity that ranges from 399 to 883 litres. And the Jazz will tow a 1,000kg braked load.

The interior trim of Jazz always set high standards in its sector; hence its genuine appeal to customers who appreciated quality and refinement. The new model also takes this a step further, with a more contemporary cabin design and the use of high quality materials and trim. Being a small car doesn't necessarily mean sparse — there's a comprehensive equipment list, including iPod connectivity.

All models are well equipped but the best value for money is the ES specification which includes as standard such items as alloy wheels (15-inch), Vehicle Stability Assist, electric power steering, front and side airbags, air conditioning, four electrically-operated side windows, power-operated and heated door mirrors, on-board computer, Magic Seat and flexible two-tier boot systems, 60:40 folding rear seat with foldaway head restraints, tilt-and-reach adjustable steering, height-adjustable driver's seat and remote central locking.

A word of warning: not all Jazz models have Vehicle Stability Assist as standard and none have a spare wheel as standard — only a repair kit. I'd advise all buyers to opt for the 90 optional space-saver spare wheel and tyre.

Arriving at a time of escalating motoring costs and shrinking home budgets — especially for buying and running a car — the latest Jazz offers a range of lively economical new 1.2 and 1.4-litre petrol engines which will appeal to the increasing number of cost-conscious motorists and downsizers.

In place of the two-valve i-DSI technology used in the previous Jazz, the latest range is powered by newly-developed four-valve i-VTEC petrol engines — a 89bhp 1.2-litre and 99bhp 1.4-litre engine. Both deliver lively performance with increased power and torque, and notably good fuel economy. They are both impressively quiet, especially at tickover and from inside the car they just cannot be heard.

A capacity of 1,198cc makes the new 1.2-litre engine slightly smaller than its predecessor yet power rises from 76 to 89bhp at 6,000rpm. Similarly, torque increases from 81 to 84lb ft at 4,900rpm. Take-off acceleration is improved as well as acceleration in higher gears, so it's nippy enough for city driving. However, fuel efficiency is the jewel in the crown for the 1.2-litre engine, which achieves an exceptional 53.3mpg (combined), while CO2 emissions — at 125g/km — are also improved.

In testing this week on busy roads and winding country lanes around the Thames Valley towns of Marlow and Henley, my car returned 57.5mpg. Compared to the 1.4-litre unit it is a little slower for acceleration and hills marginally take their toll on speed — but impressed I certainly was.

Road tax for both engines is currently 120 a year but it is proposed that from April next year these CO2 levels will fall into a new rating band costing just 90.

It's a similar story with the new 1.4-litre engine. Compared to the previous i-DSI unit which produced 82bhp and 88lb ft, power has increased to 99bhp (at a slightly higher 6,000rpm) and torque is 94lb ft at 4,800rpm, with improved fuel economy now 52.3mpg (combined) for the ES and 51.4mpg (combined) for the EX manual models. CO2 exhaust emissions are 128g/km for the ES and 130g/km for the EX grade.

My test model, a 1.4 ES, which is the likely best-selling version, returned no less than 61.7mpg — same route, same type of driving, same conditions as the Jazz 1.2. A fantastic real-life driving result (no wonder Honda UK has said that the fuel economy offered by these new engines meant no diesel engine was necessary). The 1.4-litre engine provides that little better acceleration and copes with hills more easily; and this improves the fuel economy.

I also drove this model with Honda's i-Shift automated six-speed manual transmission and, over the same course, the fuel economy dropped to 51mpg. Although the semi-automatic gearbox is much improved over the previous CVT type, it dulls performance and has to be pushed harder up hills and for overtaking power, hence the conspicuous fall-off in fuel economy although official figures say it is more economical. Not so, I'm sorry to report, in real life.

As already mentioned, the latest generation Jazz is not perfect: unsettled and harsh ride over typical poor UK road surfaces, some wind noise intrusion and no spare wheel as standard let it down. However, there is a great deal to recommend it, including its compact size, the flexible and responsive engine, clever boot, numerous storage compartments, easy-to-use controls and the brand's reputation for long lasting and durable products.

Overall the new generation Jazz is a really clever car for seating and load carrying combinations, with great fuel economy potential and very soon it will be built in Britain. Another 'plus' is the 'Honda Happiness' five-year servicing plan that costs 550 for the Jazz. All good reasons to buy one. — David Miles

Honda Jazz 1.4 i-VTEC ES
| 11,490
Maximum speed: 113mph | 0-62mph: 11.5 seconds
Overall test MPG: 61.7mpg | Power: 99bhp | Torque: 94lb ft
CO2 128g/km | VED Band C 120 | Insurance group 5