Cheap and cheerful 2014 Honda Jazz finds love
MORE than likable, the new Jazz is a lovable thing.
It's not often we've said that about a Honda in recent years. Natural disasters pummelled the Japanese manufacturer and the global financial crisis pulled no punches, leaving Honda battered and bruised.
Since then there have been some lukewarm releases as the brand struggled to get back in the game, yet the CR-V sports utility vehicle was a step in the right direction.
Now the third-generation Jazz hatch sits in the new-arrivals arena backed by some ultra-sharp pricing and an impressive features list.
Young buyers want gadgets and gear along with value for coin, and there isn't much to dislike about the $14,990 starting price. Our experience was in the range-topping VTi-L, which gets all the fruit for an extra $7500.
Small on the outside yet big on the inside, the Jazz has always found favour for its internal nous and now it's even bigger.
Interior volume is up by 139 litres courtesy of an 80mm increase in load floor length and rear legroom is up by a healthy 115mm.
Most adults should have no issue yielding enough head and legroom no matter which row they sit in, as long as front-seat passengers don't slide too far back.
Doors open wide for easy access and three teenagers can fit across the back seat - they hug a lot nowadays so they obviously like touching.
The VTi-L variant gets the best of what's on offer, including leather trim. It adds an element of excellence, although the cabin materials are mostly hard plastics - typically what you expect in this light-size world.
Both front seats are flat and need some additional bolstering at the base. It's especially noticeable if you get too willing in the corners.
On the road
Despite being a pint-sizer, the Jazz proved a friendly long-distance ally. It generated some road noise at highway speeds, yet was better than most small cars.
Sending power to the front wheels is a 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine, which does a reasonable job.
The most popular transmission will be the continuously variable automatic (the five-speed manual is only available in the base model), which can get flustered and noisy if pushed too hard.
Best results are achieved by linear acceleration and there are steering-wheel paddle-shifters for manual-style control if you want more punch uphill.
Overall it does the job well, able to gain speed promptly without having to wring its neck, while the steering is light and helps makes the Jazz easy to manoeuvre into car parks.
What do you get?
All Jazz offerings come with a 17cm touch-screen, four-speaker CD stereo, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity and cruise control, but the VTi-L also has 16-inch alloys, front fog lights, side skirts and a rear spoiler, leather-wrapped steering wheel and gearshift knob, leather seat trim, heated front seats, rear parking sensors, a rear-seat centre fold-down armrest, keyless entry and push-button start.
Most importantly, safety is well looked after with anti-lock brakes, stability and traction control, as well as full-length curtain airbags.
Honda's interface supports a HDMI cable, which allows video files to be played when the vehicle is stationary.
Stiff competition comes in this sector. At this range-topping level there is the Ford Fiesta Sport EB ($20,525), Hyundai i20 Elite ($17,590), Kia Rio SLi ($19,990), Renault Clio Dynamique ($23,790), Toyota Yaris YRX ($21,390), VW Polo 81TSI ($20,790), Holden Barina RS ($21,390) and the soon-to-be released all-new Mazda2.
Some long highway travels helped achieve the official figure from Honda, smack on 5.8 litres for every 100km.
Capped-price servicing is available for five years, although maintenance intervals are short at six months or 10,000km. Hondas do have a good reputation for quality and maintaining strong resale values.
Here's where the Jazz clinches many deals, for there is "magic" in the back seats, and it has nothing to do with being parked at the local lookout. The seats roll and fold into 18 different configurations - it makes easy work of everything from animals to flat-screen TVs.
We fit in an adult's road bike without removing any wheels, and still had a child and car seat in place.
Other great inclusions are the two USB ports, HDMI cable input and 12-volt plugs, which are perfect for phones, portable video players and MP3 players.
Aerodynamics were at the forefront of design thoughts and the Jazz looks like half an arrow head - purposeful and speedy.
What matters most
What we liked: Awesome internal flexibility able to carry just about anything, honest engine performance, cheap to run.
What we'd like to see: Dash and console material upgrades, longer servicing intervals - most are now annual.
Warranty and servicing: Three-year/100,000km warranty. Capped price servicing for five years or 100,000km with intervals every six months or 10,000km. Average price for servicing is $254.
Honda is pitching at a youthful market, but the new Jazz has widespread appeal.
It's a tidy little offering that is a useful second car for the growing family, or a brilliant friend for the 20- and 30-somethings who are always on the move and need reliable transport that is cheap to run.
Best of all is the internal space and those "magic seats" offering the finest flexibility available in this segment.
Model: Honda Jazz VTi-L.
Details: Five-door front-wheel-drive compact hatch.
Engine: 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol generating maximum power of 88kW @ 6600rpm and 145Nm @ 4600rpm.
Transmission: Continuously variable automatic (five-speed manual also available in base model).
Consumption: 5.8 litres/ 100km (combined average).
Bottom line plus on-roads: $22,490 (a).