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Honda Jazz 1.4 i-VTEC ES

Click to view picture gallery“Downsizing and all that jazz —
  Honda
s Jazz supermini is an ideal
  candidate for downsizers because
  it probably offers the most space,
  seating and load carrying versatility
  in the supermini segment and
  prices start from 9,990
...

DOWNSIZING IS HAPPENING THROUGHOUT THE MAJORITY OF THE NEW CAR MARKET and the recent scrappage system announced in the Budget might further stimulate sales, especially where price matters, in the City/Mini car and Supermini sectors.

Whether or not Honda participates in the voluntary scrappage scheme has yet to be confirmed at the time of writing, but with over 10 million old cars in the UK eligible to be scrapped and with a limit of only 300,000 vehicles allowed to be traded in under the new scheme, there should be a bit of a rush to dealerships.

Jazz customers can choose between two i-VTEC variable valve timing petrol engine options — a 1.2-litre 89bhp unit or a 1.4-litre 99bhp powerplant. A semi-automatic transmission is offered as an option on the 1.4-litre models. There is a choice of four trim and equipment levels: S, SE, ES and EX although not all engines can be specified with all these options.

A top of the range Jazz 1.4-litre EX will cost 13,160 but the favoured 1.4 ES version costs a more affordable 11,860 (plus, of course, the added cost of the many option packs). However, residual values are strong — an estimated 51 to 58% retained over the normal 3-year/36,000-mile period.

The new Jazz certainly hits all the right notes as it is a five-door hatchback, just 3,900mm in length, with great seating and load carrying flexibility and a 'big car' feel. The wheelbase length over the highly-rated 'old' Jazz has been increased to offer more rear seat legroom while a slight increase in width brings more elbow room. However, the egg-shaped 'envelope' adopted for the body design provides less headroom for rear seat passengers. That said, the rear seat will easily accommodate two adults or three children.

Compared to the previous generation Jazz, the latest version has a lower fascia level, slimmed down A-pillars and larger door-mounted mirrors that give improved visibility out of the car although I would definitely recommend fitting rear parking sensors to limit bumper damage whilst reversing.

Overall, Tardis-like packaging makes the new Jazz a clever and versatile car with a high level of general specification, finished with high quality materials and trim.

The Honda development team looked at the few areas where 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 are claimed to have made the ride more supple and comfortable, particularly at the rear. The steering is also said to feel more natural and handling to be more stable. More good news: noise intrusion levels have also been reduced.

Small car doesn’t
necessarily mean sparse
— there’s a
  comprehensive
equipment list, including
iPod connectivity
for more tuned-in-an
d-
turned-on users...
I cannot totally agree with all of these claims. Yes, the Jazz has sharper responses and it doesn't respond lazily. But the ride is firmer and can be choppy and fidgety over poor road surfaces — 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 respect the new Jazz is even better. There's increased cabin space and greater versatility with easier to use, one-motion 'Magic Seats' and, on 1.4-litre models, an innovative new Double-Trunk with a clever suspended netting section in the load area. Also handy are folding rear seats that can easily be dropped down to create a completely flat load floor without first having to take out the rear head restraints. Luggage capacity ranges from 335 to 883 litres.

The interior trim of the Jazz always set high standards; hence it was liked by customers who appreciate quality and refinement. The new model 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 for more tuned-in-and-turned-on users.

All models are well equipped but the best value for money is the ES specification which includes as standard such items as 15-inch alloy wheels, 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 Seats and flexible two-tier boot systems, 60:40 folding rear seat with fold-away 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 that is nowhere near as practical. I'd advise all buyers to opt for the 90 optional space-saver spare wheel and tyre.

Although the 1.2-litre engine is willing, by far the better option is the uprated 1.4-litre unit. It gives more power when needed, copes with carrying heavier loads, especially on hilly routes and, to be honest, in real life it returns better fuel economy because it doesn't need to be worked so hard.

The 1.4-litre puts out 99bhp and torque is 94lb ft at 4,800rpm, with 52.3mpg (the official combined figure) for the ES test version. In actual driving conditions my test car returned 48.4mpg — really good for a family vehicle of this size with a petrol engine. CO2 exhaust emissions are 128g/km which means 120 in annual road tax.

Reasons to look elsewhere include an unsettled and harsh ride over typical poor UK road surfaces, some wind noise intrusion, no spare wheel and no ESP as standard on all models.

Good reasons to buy one include its compact size, fuel economy potential, the flexible and responsive 1.4-litre engine, clever boot and rear seating features, numerous storage compartments, easy-to-use controls, long-lasting and durable construction and, very soon, the Jazz will be built in Britain. — David Miles

Honda Jazz 1.4 i-VTEC ES
| 11,860
Maximum speed: 113mph | 0-62mph: 11.5 seconds | Overall test MPG: 48.4mpg
Power: 99bhp | Torque: 94lb ft | CO2 128g/km | Insurance group 5