Honda's new Jazz offers more room, vroom and versatility
A big little car The Honda Jazz is now bigger with more room for passengers and cargo. -- ST PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER TAN

We often use the phrase "the car shrinks around you" to describe how some cars feel as easy to control at the helm as smaller models.

In the case of Honda's newest Jazz, the opposite is true. No, the car is not unwieldy - far from it. Rather, the Jazz feels like a far bigger car than it is.

Part of this has to do with the changes to the car's dimensions. The car is 55mm longer than its predecessor, with 30mm of the expansion going to its wheelbase.

In automotive terms, those numbers are not to be sniffed at. But when they apply to a subcompact, they translate to a vastly bigger percentage increase than in, say, an executive sedan.

The change is immediately noticeable once you step inside. Everything else being equal, rear passengers benefit the most from this spatial change.

Not only do they enjoy more legroom, they get more headroom too. While the height of the Jazz is hardly changed, the floor is now lower. This means its ability to accommodate tall cargo - such as potted plants - is enhanced.

As before, the car's rear seats can be folded and flipped up to free up floor space.

The flattish floor also means three people can fit in the second row without the one in the middle suffering the indignity of sitting with his legs apart.

The space between the front seats and the floor is also quite decent, making the car roomier than it seems.

All these small but thoughtful features remain in the new Jazz. But the car offers more, such as a slightly bigger boot. It still will not take the kitchen sink, but it is a lot more useful than before.

If, however, you want to carry more stuff, the car offers lots of versatility. The rear seats can be folded flat to free up space enough for a bicycle; and the backrests of the front and rear seats can recline all the way to form a flat surface to accommodate something as long as a ladder.

Likewise, you can recline the backrests of the front seats to create a long lounge area - something courting couples might appreciate.

Clearly, Honda has made clever use of space in a car that is still less than 4m long and 1.7m wide. The Jazz feels as roomy as a car one size bigger.

Its "big car" feel can also be attributed to its high trim and equipment levels. The plastics employed in the cabin are of high tactile quality. And although unnecessary for a car in its segment, it boasts leather upholstery (locally fitted).

It offers keyless access and ignition, climate control, cruise control, multi- function steering wheel (with paddle shifters), 7-inch touchscreen colour monitor and LED headlights.

Its climate control is worth special mention because it is so powerful. As a testimony to its efficiency, a cold drink in a drink-holder in front of a driver-side vent (a nice touch) remains cold as long as the air-conditioning is on.

Like the Odyssey and City, the car offers iPhone connectivity, allowing you to make hands-free calls and access a navigation service.

All well and good, but is the new Jazz as spunky at the wheel as its predecessor? In a word, yes.

With a direct-injection engine mated to a CVT gearbox, it does the century sprint in under 10 seconds. Not bad for a normally aspirated power plant.

Top speed is now close to 200kmh, while consumption remains more than decent. Over a weekend of mixed driving, the car averaged 14km a litre - not quite Honda's claimed 18.8km, but still respectable.

The car always pulls willingly, even with five persons onboard. Its nimbleness and agility remain intact, with excellent manoeuvrability and sharpness. Its lowered floor also gives it more of a hatchback feel, rather than the mini-MPV feel sometimes associated with its predecessors.

For a small car, it feels very settled at speeds approaching 100kmh. But at crawl speeds, even small bumps get into the cabin.

As always, visibility is excellent, thanks to its size and generous glass area. In fact, its reverse camera is rather redundant.

The only thing that diminishes the driving experience is its unmitigated CVT whine. Thankfully, that is obvious only during acceleration.

As you can see, the Jazz looks a lot more sophisticated now. With its new grille, headlamps and character lines along its sides, it is stylish and grown-up, yet recognisably Jazz. In this area, it has another big-car feature - lit panels on the door sills spelling its name.

The only serious blemish is a keyhole that is positioned far south of the door handle - a pockmark on an otherwise attractive body.

All in all, the new Jazz is another winner. For those who drove the previous generations growing up, they can stick to the model and still enjoy a tangible upgrade.

CAR INFORMATION

Honda Jazz 1.5 RS (A)

Price

:POA

Engine Type

:

4-stroke DOHC i-VTEC

Engine Cap

:

1,498 cc

Horsepower

:

129 bhp / 6,600 rpm

Torque

:

155 Nm / 4,600 rpm

Transmission

:

CVT (A)

Acceleration

:

9.6 sec (0-100 km/h)

Top Speed

:

196 km/h