Honda Jazz - the perfect family car?

How does one put this without causing offence? The Honda Jazz might have an image problem in that it is often seen as a car for the more mature driver.

I have never had a problem with that because that age group tend to be the generation with money to spare, having got rid of financial burdens such as kids and mortgage; but, even more so, I too have always been a big fan – no, make that a huge fan – of Honda’s little hatchback for two reasons.

One is that it is so reliable that it never seems to break down and the second is that it has by far and away the cleverest, most practical and most family-friendly interior of anything in the class.

Now we have the third generation Honda Jazz just arrived in the showroom and after a quick spin in one, this is what I thought:

Red Honda Jazz Driving  Image

Honda Jazz Styling

Honda has tried to give it a more youthful look and has adopted the Civic styling theme for the front and back. I don’t like it on the bigger car, but it seems to suits the smaller Jazz very well.

The front end has what Honda calls the ‘wing’ design radiator grille and a more substantial looking and heavily sculpted bumper unit. It may not be as head-turning as some, but, few would argue against it being a smart looking car.

Honda Jazz Interior

Here we get to the nub of the Jazz, the whole point of it really, and the reason why there is simply nothing else that comes even close to it for practicality. Because it has what is called the Magic Seat device, a brilliantly clever unit that no other car maker has for the simple reason that Honda has patented it!

The system has four modes, as follows:

  • In the Utility mode, the rear seat back folds forward as the seat base itself lowers into the rear passenger footwell, creating a long and flat floor.
  • In the Tall mode the front of the rear seat base rises up and back and is locked in a vertical position, creating a big floor-to-roof space so you can get taller items behind the front seats. It is ideal for prams or pushchairs.
  • In Long mode, the front passenger seat back folds back horizontally as the rear seat back folds forward so you have virtually the entire length of the cabin to play with.
  • The fourth is possibly used the least, the Refresh mode letting the backrest of the front seat reclines flat to meet the base of the rear seat so you have a long settee-like space to stretch out on.

Honda Jazz Driving

Even on our roads the Jazz delivers a nice, compliant ride and does a good job of isolating its occupants from the bumps. If anything, I would say the best part of the way it drives is the high level of comfort it provides. The seats and position behind the wheel are spot-on and I very much approved of the excellent driver visibility around the A pillar.

Honda has repositioned the door mirror and enlarged the little window by it which has always been a Jazz feature and I noticed the difference. On roundabouts it makes it easier to place the car and safer too. As the A pillars on modern cars get stronger and often thicker in the interests of safety, so it gets ever easier for them to obscure something small, such as a cyclist.

The 1.3 is carried over from the previous model, but the European market now gets a 1.5 petrol unit too, and both are available with either a six speed manual or a CVT transmission which is what I had in my test car. The CVT is typically smooth and the Sport model I was in had the option of those little paddles behind the steering wheel if you want to change up or down the simulated ratios yourself. Best leave it in fully auto mode and use it as intended would be my advice.

Red Honda Jazz Rear Image

It has enough performance around town and on faster roads I found it settled down into a happy rhythm at around mid-60 mph.

However, being a CVT and having Honda’s VTEC cylinder head technology, it does tend to rev more than most other cars and as well know, revs can mean increased fuel consumption. I found that 60 mph translates into about 2,300 rpm and peak torque for both engines is delivered much higher up the rev range than in several of the latest turbocharged three cylinder 1.0 engines you find in rival cars , so there is a little room for improvement here.

That said, and in the interests of fairness, I should point out that last autumn a 1.3 taking part in an annual MPG contest which covers some 350 miles of roads in everyday driving conditions and is a realistic test, recorded an average of 89 mpg which is a considerable improvement on its official figure of 55. Even allowing for some expert driving, that is still a very impressive result.

Red Honda Jazz Front  Image

Honda Jazz Specification

Another good score here because Honda is quite generous with its kit and especially with its safety technology. For a start, every version has a system to avoid those silly bumps such as where you are second in the queue to pull out of a junction or onto a roundabout, you see a gap and go – only to find the car ahead hasn’t and you’ve just driven into the back of it. Insurers love this system and so should you.

Building on that and standard on mid and upper models and optional on the entry level one, is the Honda Advanced Driver Assist System (ADAS). ADAS is a suite of driver assist and collision prevention technologies such as a warning if you are getting too close to the vehicle ahead and at risk of a collision and you can set the minimum distance you consider safe.

A traffic recognition sign displays things like speed limits or No Passing sections of the road in case you have missed them. This facility underpins the Intelligent Speed Limiter which, once you activate it, automatically keeps you within the maximum permitted. It governs the engine’s power so you cannot exceed the limit even if you floored the accelerator and I find these things most handy on parts of the motorway with those variable speed restrictions.

The Lane Departure warning system does what it says on the tin and the final element is the feature that dips the headlights if they are on full beam at more than 25 mph and something is coming the other way.

Safety is nice but doesn’t always sell the car. What tends to these days is the connectivity/infotainment and the Jazz is pretty good in this regard with internet based services for live traffic info, social media, music and so on and you can either use the clear touch screen as you would a smartphone, or use some of the menu controls on the steering wheel.

Honda Jazz Test Drive Verdict

The Honda Jazz retains its core strengths, showing everyone else how to design a practical interior and how to build a car so reliable that it sends shockwaves through the industry if so much as a washer starts to rattle. There are things it needs to watch; the engines and possibly the price. Would I buy one?

Sure, if I had a young family I would definitely put it my list of cars to consider, mainly because I would pat myself on the back and feel very pleased with myself for making the right decision every time I saw other parents struggling to fit everything into the car while I just used the Magic Seat technology!

The Jazz makes family motoring easier and that’s worth a lot isn’t it?



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