The Honda Jazz is a perennial favourite of motoring journalists – quite a few of us (myself included) have owned one of them at some stage. They’re great cars – reliable, economical to run, fun to drive and more practical than gumboots in England. But have Honda’s tweaks improved on a favourite?
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Practical? Yip, the Jazz is versatile and spacious, the most brilliant feature being the Magic Seats. These can fold down to make a flat luggage area, or you can flip the rear seats up to the backrests, so that you can fit in something tall, like a mountain bike standing up. The front passenger seat can even fold totally flat, for a nap. They’re genius I tell you. And then there’s the brilliant boot space, rivalling that of many MPVs.
But what makes the Jazz so practical – its upright, slightly boxy shape – also makes it not so sexy, as does its reputation of being sensible über alles.
To make the Jazz sexier and to broaden its appeal, Honda introduced the Jazz Sport, a car with more power, more glamour and racier suspension. But do the extras necessarily add up to more?
Tell us about the bells and whistles
The interior hasn’t been changed much at all, receiving sporty silver pedals and some red stitching. It still features a multi-function steering wheel and a 7-inch touchscreen, with Bluetooth, USB and AUX input, and even an HDMI input. And then there’s the space – so much that it seems as though the clever chaps at Honda have defied the laws of physics somehow.
What has changed is the exterior, but even that isn’t over the top. There’s a piano-black grille trimmed in chrome, with slim LED lights and gloss black mirrors. There’s also a new bumper with integrated fog lamps and black surrounds, while 16-inch black alloys add to the appeal.
But what’s under the hood?
But the real difference between the Sport and the not-so-athletic model has to be the engine, in this case a 1.5ℓ i-VTEC petrol engine that produces a sprightly 97kW and 155Nm, while still achieving an impressive claimed fuel consumption of 5.6ℓ/100km.
Now Honda makes some of the best manual gearboxes out there – even on the standard Jazz. Unfortunately they decided not to make use of them with the sport model, instead opting for a CVT (continuously variable transmission) with steering-column paddle shifters, and this detracts rather than adds to the sporty feel.
Finally, the suspension was firmed up, as was the steering, for better handling. And the Jazz Sport does handle well. But this comes at a cost – the Sport tends to bump and skitter its way across rough roads, which are no rarity in today’s South Africa.
So what’s the verdict?
To me the Jazz Sport is a bit like taking those practical gumboots and pimping them – they just don’t make sense. Gumboots should be practical, first and foremost, and if you fiddle with them too much they lose their identity. The Jazz loses its charm when it tries to be something it isn’t – it should be a little family car with suspension that soaks up the bumps, and an engine that gets the job done without too much fanfare.
And the bottom line?
The Jazz Sport retails for R310 000 – the same price as the Jazz Dynamic CVT it replaces, but offering a much more comprehensive package. This includes a comprehensive 5-year/200 000km warranty and a four-year/60 000km service plan, as well as a three-year AA Roadside Assistance package.
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Words Stephen Smith