2015 Honda Jazz Review Test Drive
2015 Honda Jazz – Click above for high resolution picture gallery

Honda Jazz Review

Car Tested: 2015 Honda Jazz

Price OTR Mumbai: Rs. 6.31 – 10.37 lakhs

The Honda Jazz is a very spacious and versatile hatchback, now with a diesel mill

Premium hatchbacks have defied the general consensus of bigger is better, a rare reality in the size conscious Indian car market. Honda was first to bring in a premium hatchback with the second gen Jazz last decade, the vehicle being the most expensive hatchback at that time. A facelift and a massive price correction did no wonders and the Jazz continued to do rather poorly on the sales chart, leading to its ultimate discontinuation. Honda India pulled the plug on the Jazz a couple of years back so it could focus on mass market products like the Amaze and now with the compact sedan doing well, the big Honda hatch is making a return. The Jazz is a very successful product for Honda, the company having sold more than 5.5 million units across 75 countries, with 11 countries producing the vehicle. So why should we sit up and take notice? Because in its last outing, the Jazz did not have a diesel mill, it was also lower on local content but this time around, the Earth Dreams oil burner finds its way to the Jazz (India is the sole country in the world were a diesel Jazz exists as Europe doesn’t get it and no diesel Jazz exports will be done by Honda India) and the vehicle has more than 90% localisation!

Motor Quest: The Jazz is popularly known as the Fit in many markets and was first launched in 2001. Honda launched the second generation of the Jazz in 2007, bringing it to India in 2009 while giving it a facelift in 2011. The company discontinued the Jazz in early 2013 while the third generation Jazz made its world debut in late 2013. Honda showcased the new Jazz at the 2014 Auto Expo.

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The Honda Jazz carries the H design language which is also seen on the City

Exteriors – The Honda Jazz has a strong design identity of its own and thus all three generations of this hatchback show an evolutionary direction. One might be tempted to call this car a compact MPV as certain angles does make it look like a shrunk down MPV. There are certainly some nice design elements which make the Jazz look premium like the headlights which are similar to the City (they are single barrel while the City gets dual barrel), they merge into the grille that gets a piano black finishing and a chrome line below. Honda’s angular design does make the Jazz look attractive at the front while at the side, the Jazz come across as big which is largely due to the glass area, the vehicle getting both front and rear quarter-glass for added green house.

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The profile is similar to the previous Jazz but the styling has evolved

The B and C pillars are blackened which will certainly look good on light colours like white while a strong belt line runs from the door, merging with the rear tail light at the top and flowing through the rear bumper on the bottom. The tyres look small on the car and bigger wheels (at least on the top spec trims) would have made the car look more balanced. The rear is nicely done with reflectors right next to the windscreen while a large chrome bar is right below, featuring the Honda logo. The reflector and rear LED tail lights together make the rear portion look a bit like the Volvo V40. There is also a rear spoiler (the VX trim gets a bigger one) with stop lamp while the bumper has a black rectangle mesh finish on either side to reduce the visual bulk. Just like all other Hondas, the design of the Jazz isn’t outright exciting or eye catchy but it does have subtle appeal.

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The Jazz shares its interiors with the City but gets multiple changes on the dash

Interiors – The Jazz shares its dashboard with the City and is almost as wide as the latter but there are minor changes to different both cars. The Jazz doesn’t get the silver design mould on the left of the dashboard which is present on the City, it also doesn’t get the mirror adjustment buttons below the right most AC vents, they have been shifted to the door, next to the power window controls because the said space is now occupied by a cupholder which is positioned to chill your drink. Honda has removed the dedicated lock/unlock button from the driver’s door, the car doesn’t auto lock once you drive off either. Another cost cutting is made evident by the lack of keyless go and push button start because the placement of the keyhole (below the door handle) looks like an after thought while the place where the push button start is on the City, is patched up on the Jazz with a dummy panel. Other features missing from the Jazz which are present on the City include rear AC vents and three power sockets, the Jazz getting just one. The vehicle comes with a space saver 14-inch tyre in spite of it running on 15-inchers while export markets (the Jazz exported from India) gets 16-inchers.

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Magic Seats are offered on top-end VX trim only, offers a load of flexibility

The doors open wide for easy ingress and egress. The Honda Jazz comes with a black dashboard while the seats are finished in beige on all variants except the VX, the top trim getting a sporty all black interior with black seats. The VX trim also gets Magic Seats which adds a ton of flexibility to the Jazz. There are four modes on offer – Utility (drop the rear seat flat), Tall (fold up the rear seat for carrying things like plants), Long (fold the left side seats, both front and rear, to be able to fit long objects) and Refresh (recline the front seat all the way down after removing the headrest to make the front and rear seat bed-like to sleep). Space inside the cabin is very generous and the fuel tank is placed in the centre, resulting in space under the seat to rest your feet, there is tons of legroom at the rear, with headroom being good even for tall passengers. Honda states the Jazz has increments of 139-litres for overall passenger volume, 35 mm for front shoulder room, 65 mm for knee clearance, 80 mm for rear tandem distance and 115 mm for rear legroom (over the old Jazz). The only thing lacking is under thigh support. The bigger issue is the fixed rear headrests while the centre portion of the rear seat is hard, making the car a four-seater at best. The rear seats also recline for added comfort, another segment first.

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The rear seat of the Jazz has acres of legroom, easily class leading

The Honda Jazz comes with a ton of storage options, there are a total of 9 cupholders but surprisingly there are no magazine pockets on even the V trim (offered on the VX variant only). The Jazz doesn’t have the same arrangement around the handbrake as the City as the former has the handbrake on the left while the City has it in the centre, the Jazz gets more cubbyholes. The instrument cluster is the same as the City with blue illumination, it also gets EcoAssist Lighting. The audio system has a 5-inch screen and has all the connectivity options you expect from a premium hatchback like Bluetooth connectivity, CD, AUX, USB and telephone functions (there are steering mounted controls too but there are no buttons on the right side as the said place is where cruise control buttons are placed on the City).

The big USP of the Jazz is no doubt the flexible storage options it offers

The Jazz gets a reverse camera with three views and one can adjust the brightness of the screen. However, the touch-screen climate control system can get a bit difficult to read in bright sunlight, more so when you are wearing sunglasses. The top-end VX variant comes with a 6.2-inch touchscreen AVN system that gets Navigation along with video playback through DVD and USB. Quality inside the cabin (the plastics are hard though) is good and so is the visibility but the A-pillars do hamper visibility a bit. The asymmetrical dashboard does look good but the talking point of the cabin is the space it has on offer. The boot is the largest among all hatchbacks sold in India although it’s down by 30-litres over its predecessor.

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Honda has carried the petrol engine from the Brio/Amaze, diesel comes from the City

Performance – Honda is offering the Jazz with both petrol and diesel engines. The 1.2-litre petrol motor is the same unit that powered the old Jazz and does duty on the Brio and Amaze. It outputs 90 PS and 110 Nm, being paired to either a 5-speed manual or a 7-step CVT. Mid-range performance is the best and one does have to rev the motor a lot to get going quickly as the bottom-end isn’t strong. Performance post 4000 RPM is exciting as some enthusiasm is shown by the motor but that also gets amplified by the increase in engine sound, the i-VTEC mill getting quite loud. 100 km/hr comes up in third while doing the ton in top gear results in the engine spinning at just under 3500 RPM. The Jazz is positioned as a spacious car so chances of having more people in the vehicle can’t be ruled out and when there are more passengers on board, one really needs to wring out every juice from the mill to get going quickly, this 1.2-litre powerplant is just about adequate for the Jazz and Honda has no plans to offer the car with the City’s praise worthy 1.5-litre mill, due to higher excise duty it attracts.

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The CVT gearbox comes with paddle shifts while the diesel gets a smooth shifting 6-speed

The petrol engine of the Jazz doesn’t pack in the expected VTEC punch

The manual gearbox on the petrol Honda Jazz offers smooth shifts while the CVT comes with steering mounted paddles, a segment first feature. One does enjoy using the paddles to shift gears but the motor lacks punch to scorch the tarmac. Then there is the rubber band effect which is a given with a CVT unit, the Jazz suffers the same fate, thus the revs rise for no reason as the car still doesn’t get going as quickly as the tachometer would suggest. There is a Sport mode too and the Jazz automatic gets a gear position indicator in the tachometer pod. Upshifts happen at 6000 RPM (the manual Jazz redlines close to 7000 RPM) while downshifts don’t happen immediately even after you prod the big pedal for some thrust (in Sport mode). NVH levels are good but in CVT form, the added revs are heard loud and clear while the petrol motor is audible at high revs although the engine is silent at idle. The ARAI fuel economy numbers are 18.7 km/l for the manual and 19 km/l for the CVT.

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The diesel engine is quite eager but has high NVH post 2000 RPM

The big news is, Honda has equipped the Jazz with a 1.5-litre diesel engine that belts out 100 PS and 200 Nm. The motor gets the same tune as the City as it’s not limited to 140 km/hr and comes paired to a 6-speed gearbox. NVH levels are good but only at idle because as you mash the throttle, the diesel clatter becomes very audible inside the cabin. The oil burner is almost lag free, has good low-end punch and redlines early at around 4100 RPM. Honda says it has widened the gear ratios over the City for better acceleration and higher fuel efficiency, on the latter front, the Jazz becomes the second most frugal car in India, returning an ARAI certified 27.3 km/l. The diesel Jazz certainly feels fun to drive as it doesn’t feel underpowered like the petrol model while the good low-end poke and strong mid-range makes it quick off the line. The car reaches 100 km/hr in third gear while at the same speed in top gear, it ticks the tacho at just under 2000 RPM. The diesel Jazz certainly feels more refined than the City while the 6-speed gearbox also offers smoother shifts.

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The Honda Jazz is lighter and sharper than the old model, offers good handling

Driving Dynamics – The third generation Honda Jazz gets a new chassis with new suspension, new steering and reduced body weight (by at least 11 kgs). Like all other Hondas, the suspension is on the stiffer side and thus sharp bumps do make themselves felt although ride quality on the whole is good. Our test car came equipped with Michelin XM1 tyres and this series from the French tyre maker isn’t the latest but it does provide decent grip to the Jazz, although far from leech-like which is something you expect from Michelin rubber. Not all cars will come with Michelin tyres as multiple vendors are used. The turning radius is small but has increased by 0.2 m over the old car.

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Ride quality is good but the suspension setup is on the stiffer side

The Jazz is a fun to drive car as it’s light and the steering is quite quick

Due to the height of the Honda Jazz, body roll as expected is present but is very much in control and the car handles nicely, offering some fun behind the wheel. The steering is light at low speeds and weighs up decently at high speeds, it’s quite quick too so one can enjoy a lot through a series of bends. It is not in the league of the Fiat Punto or Volkswagen Polo though. High speed stability is good and the hatchback remains firmly planted. Brakes are sharp but the smaller rubber isn’t upto the job of stopping this car sans drama from triple digit speeds. A big complain with Honda cars is the ground clearance and the company has improved the ground contact performance on the Jazz by changing the exhaust layout around the wheelbase centre, making it less prone to scraping its underbelly on speed-breakers, on our drive, we had no issues with the ground clearance of the vehicle.

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Honda is offering ABS and airbags on multiple variants as standard

Safety and After Sales Service – The Honda Jazz got a 5-star rating from ANCAP but the model tested was equipped with side airbags which aren’t offered in India. Honda is offering ABS and airbags as standard on more than one variant which is a good thing. However, side airbags could have been offered as an option, considering this car is targeted at those who travel with more people frequently. The Japanese automaker’s service network is close to 240 outlets strong and the service offered by dealers is mostly good.

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The Jazz makes for a strong case in the premium hatch space, offers loads of practicality

Verdict – The Honda Jazz is a top selling car in Japan but can it beat its rivals in India? Well, that seems unlikely as Honda has priced the car at a premium. This Honda hatchback is big on space and offers flexible storage too, it doesn’t feel like a hatchback from the inside which is a big plus for the Jazz. Till now, no car has been able to give the Hyundai Elite i20 a run for its money but the Honda Jazz is the vehicle which comes closest to do so because it is a genuinely good premium hatchback which has a lot going for it.

The Honda Jazz is a very practical hatchback, in fact, more practical than some more expensive sedans too. It is big on space, storage and comes decently equipped too. With a highly fuel efficient diesel engine under its belly, the new Jazz should sell in decent numbers in the country.

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The primary rival of the Honda Jazz is the Hyundai Elite i20, a tough car to beat

What’s Cool

* Jazz = City minus the third box, this Honda hatch offers a very similar experience as the popular sedan
* Massive interior space, if you want to be chauffeur driven in a hatchback, this is it
* Flexible storage and seating, the Magic Seats work very well
* Diesel engine offers good performance and is extremely frugal

What’s Not So Cool

* Petrol engine lacks low-end punch, doesn’t have the performance to make you skip a beat
* Diesel engine is quite audible post 2000 RPM, top-end is lacking
* In spite of more features on offer, the Jazz still misses out on a lot of features offered in the i20

Alternatives: Hyundai Elite i20, Volkswagen Polo, Fiat Punto Evo, Maruti Suzuki Swift

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Honda benchmarked the Volkswagen Polo when they developed the third generation Jazz

Honda Jazz Specifications

* Engine: 1198cc, i-VTEC, 16V, SOHC (P); 1498cc, i-DTEC, 16V, DOHC (D)
* Power: 90 PS @ 6000 RPM (P), 100 PS @ 3600 RPM (D)
* Torque: 110 Nm @ 4800 RPM (P), 200 Nm @ 1750 RPM (D)
* Transmission: 5-speed manual (P), 7-step CVT (P), 6-speed manual (D)
* 0-100 km/hr: 12.95 seconds (P), 14.37 (CVT), 11.31 seconds (D)
* Top Speed: 170 km/hr
* Fuel Consumption: 12 km/l (Petrol), 18 km/l (Diesel)
* Fuel Type: Petrol, Diesel
* Suspension: McPherson Strut (Front), Torsion Beam (Rear)
* Tyres: 175/70/14 (Lower Trims) 175/65/15 (V Trims)
* Brakes: Ventilated Disc (Front), Drum (Rear), ABS
* Safety: Front Airbags, ABS, Reversing Camera

Honda Jazz Dimensions

* Overall length x width x height: 3955 mm X 1694 mm X 1544 mm
* Wheelbase: 2530 mm
* Turning Radius: 5.1 metres
* Ground clearance: 165 mm
* Boot Volume: 354 litres, 881 litres (with rear seats folded)
* Fuel Tank Capacity: 40 litres
* Kerb Weight: 1007 – 1044 kgs (Petrol Manual), 1062 – 1066 (Petrol CVT)

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The Honda Jazz is proof that size doesn’t matter always

Testers’ Note:

“The Jazz doesn’t feel much different from the older model because the second gen too offered a lot of space the silhouette is similar. The new model does drive better and the diesel engine brings much needed performance to the car. What is largely disappointing is omission of certain equipment which comes as a surprise because the Jazz didn’t work last time around and needs everything to compete with Hyundai’s i20 which has a massive fan following in India. If Honda undercuts the i20 in prices, then the lack of equipment can be justified.” – Faisal Khan, Editor, MotorBeam.
“The third generation Jazz has evolved which has made it a much better car overall. The petrol engine loves to be revved while the diesel, albeit noisy, is more fun behind the wheel and will woo a lot of buyers in India. The versatility in space is the biggest USP of the Jazz but it is to be seen if the Jazz can take the fight up to established rivals such as the Hyundai Elite i20 which trumps the Jazz easily on the goodie list. If Honda can price the Jazz competitively, the segment is poised for an interesting battle.” – Javeid Khan, Deputy Editor, MotorBeam.

Further Reading –

Honda Jazz vs Hyundai Elite i20
Hyundai Elite i20 vs Honda Jazz vs Maruti Baleno

Picture Editing – Sri Manikanta Achanta