Get jazzed up with a 'greener' supermini
With a name like Jazz you would expect Honda's supermini to be the choice of trendy young things wanting a set of wheels as much to impress with, as drive. In reality, it became a favourite of, how can we say this, the more mature driver.
The reason is the remarkable flexibility of the car's interior, which almost certainly offers more useable space than any other car of its size.
Its wide-opening doors make it easy to get in and out of, the slightly higher seating position is welcomed by many and the above-average rear cabin and boot is to be marvelled at.
All of this also makes the Jazz a real possibility as a family car; plus those looking to downsize and reap the financial benefits will not feel they have had to compromise too much on their driving pleasure.
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Honda says the average age of a Jazz customer (and there are about 28,000 of them each year) is 56 and it doesn't expect that to change much. But one of the remits for the latest refresh of a model that has featured at, or near, the top of the sales charts every year it has been on sale in the UK was to sharpen its looks so it will also appeal to younger drivers.
Sleeker front and rear bumpers are the key styling changes and the "projector"-style headlights give it a sharper look.
The major news, however, centred on the car's powerplant and the introduction of a Hybrid engine alongside the 1.2 and 1.4-litre petrol offerings. It is that car we are testing here.
The Jazz Hybrid has been given the same powertrain as found in the Honda Insight – the 1.3-litre i-VTEC petrol engine with Honda's IMA technology and automatic CVT gearbox. This brings CO2 emissions down to 104g/km and delivers 62.8 miles per gallon on the combined cycle. These figures mean free road tax for the first year and only £10 per year thereafter.
More importantly perhaps, Honda has managed to include the technology without compromising the incredible versatility of the Jazz. Often, some hybrid offerings will have severely limited bootspace (because the batteries have to go somewhere).
But the Jazz Hybrid still features all the practicality of the petrol variant, most notably, the famed Magic Seats and an impressive load-lugging space of up to 883 litres.
I undertook a round-trip to London during the Olympics and found the car handled a long journey really well. Because of its spacious feeling and lack of road noise, we exited the other end, despite being caught up in jams through Greenwich, without feeling at all frazzled.
While there, we scooted around town with five on board without any complaints and its compact size, tight turning circle and good all-round visibility meant we could find our way in and out of the busiest spots.
On the return journey and a need to press on because of negotiating another huge jam, the engine, with a very smooth semi-automatic transmission, which could be changed via paddles on the steering wheel, performed wonders, allowing us to maintain a consistent high speed without impacting overmuch on the quoted economy figures.
While travelling, the clever "Eco Assist" gives you a constant update on how economically you are driving and provides real-time information on how fuel consumption is being affected by how harshly you brake or how fiercely you accelerate.
As mentioned already, one of the Jazz's biggest selling points is its space and versatility and this is down, mainly, to the so-called "Magic" seats in the rear, which offer multiple seating and load- carrying configurations. The 2:1 split seats drop-down in one motion without the need to remove the headrests or adjust the front passenger seat position. For added versatility, the rear seats now recline 73mm to increase rear passenger comfort and flexibility.
Utility Mode: With the seats folded down, Jazz offers a perfectly flat load floor that is 1720mm long; enough for four large suitcases or a few kids' bikes. With just two of the rear seats collapsed there is sufficient space and length for a surfboard or two 26in frame mountain bikes stood upright.
Long Mode: For all flat-pack furniture transporters out there, this mode uses the full length of the Jazz. By fully reclining the passenger seat and dropping the Magic Seats flat, a massive 2.4m long load space is revealed.
To return the rear seats to a seating position, you simply lift the assembly back up; the seat bottom remains locked to the seat back and is simply released by pulling up the leg frame
Tall Mode: Locking the seat base in the "up" position against the seat backs creates a second load area between front and rear seats to stow taller items in the rear foot-wells. The clearance here is 1280mm tall and items such as bikes, golf clubs, a folded wheelchair, tall plants and furniture can all fit in.
Design features have also been added to distinguish between the Hybrid and petrol versions. As an example, the front grille, headlights and tail lamps on the Jazz Hybrid are all finished in a chrome blue surround to mark it out from the petrol models.
Trim levels start at HE and progress through HE-T, HS and HS-T models before arriving at the flagship HX and HX-T variants. The HE model features stability control, climate controlled air con, a CD stereo with AUX-IN, and twin front, side and curtain airbags. HE-T adds sat-nav and hands-free phone.
The HS version gets a leather- trimmed steering wheel, 15in alloy wheels, cruise control and a USB socket, while the HS-T adds the nav and phone setup. The HX is the one to go for if you need leather seats that also have a heating option plus the very nice panoramic glass roof.
Downsides? None really to the Jazz range. As far as Hybrid goes you will, of course, pay a premium – the Jazz range starts at £11,605 on the road, Jazz Hybrid starts at £16,300.
Only you can decide if this works for you but it is, most definitely, a serious option if a "greener" car is high on your agenda.