THE all-new Honda Jazz is a smart cookie that doesn’t flaunt its clever approach to motoring life, going instead for understated ease-of use.
The first indication of its cleverness is the feeling of space as you slip behind the driving wheel. The Jazz falls into the ‘compact’ category yet the cabin feels anything but. With a touch of the Tardis about it, the latest iteration of the Japanese manufacturer’s long-running favourite feels airy and roomy.
The Jazz also has hybrid power and a wealth of hi-tech, usable features. And in our road test car, a Crosstar model, a touch of SUV-inspired ruggedness.
The Crosstar’s increased presence comes from a bold front grille design, substantial black trim and stylish side sills and roof rails. The Crosstar-specific alloy wheels, which widen towards the rim, create an increased sense of stability and enhance the overall robust visual effect.
We’re not entering in-your-face SUV territory here, but enjoying the benefits of a slightly raised ride-height, some protective side-mouldings for the wheel arches and outer sills, and those roof rails to help carry your outdoor activities kit.
For all its fresh looks, the car doesn’t stray from the winning formula that has made it such a hit since it first laid tyre on tarmac in 2001. For the smooth contours follow the short nose, long roof line and cabin-forward style of previous generations, to form an instantly-recognisable but thoroughly modern silhouette.
The cabin is a welcoming place to be, the five-door hatchback configuration benefiting from wide-opening doors for good access and great ergonomics, with all major and minor controls falling easily to hand and foot for the driver. The uncluttered, user-focused dashboard incorporates a slim instrument panel that sweeps horizontally across the cabin.
Seating is comfortable, of generous dimensions, and easily adjustable. And the Jazz has Honda’s ‘magic seats’ set-up, with seat-backs folding easily for a flat floor, giving acres of carrying-space if needed, aided by a low lip for the rear door to make loading easier. Load capacity is 298 litres rising to 1,199 litres with the rear seats folded down.
Our top-of-the-range EX variant also boasted three-stage heated front seats, a boon in the chilly weather which greeted our road test stint. They were one facet of a generous helping of equipment, which included hands-free connectivity, DAB radio, auto headlights with see-me-home function and high beam support system, auto wipers, heated power-folding door mirrors, climate control, front and rear parking sensors, reversing camera, satnav, heated steering wheel and adaptive cruise control.
On the safety front you will find the likes of an intelligent speed limiter, lane departure warning and a traffic sign recognition system to go with a plethora of airbags and a collision mitigation braking system.
The car has newly-developed hybrid technology which consists of two compact, powerful electric motors connected to a 1.5-litre petrol engine, a lithium-ion battery and an innovative fixed-gear transmission via an intelligent power control unit, which all work harmoniously together to provide a smooth and direct response.
With 107bhp on tap the Crosstar has a 0- 62mph time of 9.9 seconds and a maximum speed of 109mph while returning 58.9mpg on the combined cycle (maker’s figures).
The power-train system might sound highly technical but is seamless and unnoticeable in operation and pure simplicity from the driver’s point of view as the car automatically selects from three interchangeable drive modes.
These are – EV drive: the lithium-ion battery supplies power to the electric propulsion motor directly; Hybrid drive: the petrol engine supplies power to the electric generator motor, which in turn supplies it to the electric propulsion motor; Engine drive: the petrol engine delivers drive to the wheels.
The automatic gearbox is of the CVT (constantly variable transmission) type. Some CVTs sometimes feel as though the engine’s revs are ahead of the car’s actual speed but Honda has a clever device to ensure a more linear feeling, with power and pace in harmony.
The sweet transmission enhances the car’s easy-to-use, nimble characteristics. Ride and handling are well-judged and the whole motor has a feeling of integrity. A clever blend? You bet.
Price as tested: £23,585.