Car Reviews Reviews

Honda Jazz: Test Drive Review

Honda Jazz: Test Drive Review
Parichay Malvankar
Written by Parichay Malvankar

Honda first introduced the Jazz hatchback in India in 2009. That time, B-segment hatchbacks were not really a segment which was taken seriously by Indian buyers. Also, Honda being Honda, priced the hatchback over ambitiously with on-road prices close to the City sedan. That too for a petrol version only. Indian buyers responded with a thumbs down and eventually, Honda gave up on their unrealistic demands and reworked on the pricing strategy. With almost 1 lakh shaved off, the Jazz suddenly started rolling out in decent numbers. But while doing so, the company was not happy with the profitability. To create another dent into Honda’s Jazz strategy, the Hyundai i20 came in & took the market by a storm. Suddenly, the B-segment market grew but Honda could not get a piece of this cake. The Korean rival even offered a diesel engine option which straight away sidelined the Jazz. Eventually, Honda discontinued the Jazz from the Indian markets in 2013.

2nd generation Jazz (Blue) with the 3rd generation Jazz (Yellow)

2nd generation Jazz (Blue) with the 3rd generation Jazz (Yellow)

After two years of being gone, Honda is now geared up to launch the third generation Jazz hatchback in India. After understanding the Indian marketplace much better than before, the new Jazz will come powered by petrol as well as a diesel engine which also powers the Amaze, Mobilio & City. The Jazz has always been a competent product, but was killed initially due to Honda’s pricing strategy which was far from ideal. This time though, Honda wants to play the volumes game and has worked to achieve over 90% localisation for the Jazz unlike 70% on the older model. This will surely help the Japanese manufacturer price the hatchback sensibly. However, even though Honda prices it right & customers ask for it in big numbers; Honda does not have the bandwidth to deliver as many units as Hyundai pumps out for the Elite i20. Pre-launch activities have already begun & customers are eager to know more about the Jazz. So can this new model Jazz up the sales charts for Honda? Does it have what it takes to fight the segment benchmark, the Hyundai Elite i20? Let’s find out…

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Exteriors:
Although an all-new model, the Jazz still looks like a… Jazz. The mini-MPV like design language is unique to the Jazz. However, the new model has a fair share of modernity compared to the older model which was discontinued. The Jazz is built on an all-new platform which is shared with the City sedan. Also, there is plenty of part sharing with the City, to keep costs under check.

The new Jazz measures 3,955mm in length, 1,695mm in width, 1,525mm in height & has a wheelbase of 2,530mm.

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At the front, you have a wide black plastic grille connecting the headlamps on either ends. To add a touch of premiumness, there is also a chrome strip running under this plastic section. We’re glad Honda did not add chrome everywhere. This is just right, and classy. Headlamps are sleek & swept back. The clear lens unit is split in two parts, one for the headlamp & one for the turn indicator. International models get projector setup, but not here in India. Below, the bumper is sharply styled and looks funky. Round fog lamps are enclosed in a black plastic housing. International models also get vertically stacked DRLs next to the fog lamps, but not here in India. The lower end (centre) of the front bumper is blackened & gels well with the air dam. The bonnet is steeply raked, as was the case with the older model. Packaging is tight, build quality is at par with the segment.

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Come to the side and you notice that the car will surely be spacious inside. The height of the car shouts out good headroom. Side profile is dominated with a bold waistline & another crease line running at the bottom, on both the doors. The Jazz gets 15″ 5 bi-spoke alloy wheels in silver and the B-pillar has been blackened. ORVMs are shared with the City sedan and get LED turn indicators. These units are mounted on the door. The Jazz gets keyless entry with a request sensor on the front door handles to unlock or lock the car. Front & rear quarter glass take up a generous amount, and will ensure that extra light coming inside to make the cabin feel airy.

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Come to the rear end and there’s more than just one highlight here. 1st, the chrome accent on the tail gate is XL sized and runs end to end. The 3d effect, Christmas tree tail lamp might be loved by some, but are not to everyone’s taste. Rear bumper is aggressively styled with air ducts with mesh inside on either ends. The top-spec variant will also get a noticeable roof spoiler. A short antenna is mounted on the roof, towards the rear end. Badging on the rear includes ‘Honda’, ‘Jazz’, ‘Variant’ & ‘Engine type’. Rear wash & wipe wraps up the looks department of the new Jazz.

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Overall, the new Jazz looks really good with a fresh new design. We only wish that Honda could have provided larger 16″ rims on the Jazz since the car does look under-tyred from some angles.

Interiors:
Open the doors and you will notice that ingress / egress is made fairly easy thanks to the wide opening & higher stance. Honda will be offering the Jazz in all-black as well as black + beige interior colour options. The Japanese manufacturer claims that the Jazz is the most spacious hatchback in the segment and the most practical as well for day to day as well as occasional travel requirements.

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If you have been inside the Honda City, the new Jazz will be a familiar territory. The dashboard is a cut-copy-paste job & almost identical. The dashboard all-black with silver accents to break the monotony. All AC vents get silver surround. Steering wheel is identical to the city but misses out on the cruise control buttons. It features the bluetooth telephony & audio controls. Wrapped in leather it feels good to hold. Instrument cluster is split in 3 parts. A larger central section for the speedometer, tachometer to the left & a digital display to the right which houses the MID. MID displays odometer reading, trip meter, fuel gauge, fuel efficiency, time, etc. Instrument cluster is backlit in blue.

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Centre console is similar to the City with a gloss black panel housing the touchscreen AVN (Audio Video Navigation) system on the top-spec variant. Touch & feel of the AVN system is average. Below, you get feather touch AC controls which are a segment first and will surely wow customers. The engine start / stop button is conspicuous by its absence. Below the AC controls you get a few storage spots & your phone charring point. USB & aux inputs are get shabby wires placed in the glovebox.

AC performance is decent, however, the unit is a little noisy on higher blower levels.

Gear lever feels average and does not suit the car overall. Although wrapped in leather, it does not feel premium to hold & the one on the Elite i20 is much better. Even the leather wrap on the gear stick is not very classy to look at. Gear console also gets a silver surround. There’s another spot for storing oddities behind the gear lever. Honda has not worked on the floor console and the handbrake is biased to the passenger side which is clearly left-hand drive spec.

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The Jazz gets textured fabric seats which are well contoured to keep you in place. The beige variants get all-beige seats while on the black interior models, it is all-black. Seat compound is decent, and should support you well during long drives. Honda does not offer a driver armrest on the Jazz, and this will surely be missed by owners. A dead pedal is provided though to rest your left foot.

Rear seats are also well bolstered & contoured to provide decent comfort. Rear seat space is again claimed to be best in class thanks to the 30mm extra legroom due to the longer wheelbase. The seat base is raised in the centre though, which will make the 5th occupant feel a tad bit taller. Floor hump is minimum and there will be enough foot room for 3 at the back. Honda does offer seat back pockets & bottle holders on the rear doors. Another segment best feature is that the rear seats can be reclined to a certain extent to suit your seating style. Rear AC vents are missing and for a cabin this big, one might surely feel the heat on a hot summer day.

2015 Honda Jazz seating

The new Jazz comes with the famous ‘magic seat’ layout. These seats can be split into 60:40 & folded flat or flipped upwards based on your cargo requirement. This adds a lot of flexibility to carry things. Additionally, the seat can also be converted to form a recliner with the front passenger seat reclined & pulled backwards. Boot space is rated at 354 litres with the second row seats up in place. Spare wheel provided will not be an alloy.

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Honda continues with the ‘Man Maximum, Machine Minimum’ philosophy with the new Jazz and this has resulted in a very roomy cabin indeed. Practicality is surely a plus point on the new Jazz. But if you ask us, does the new Jazz feel all that premium compared to the Elite i20? Well, although subjective, we don’t really think so. With interiors similar to the City, the Jazz fails to WOW us.

Engine, performance & handling:
While the 2nd generation Honda Jazz was offered only in a petrol avatar, the new model gets the now familiar i-DTEC, Earth Dreams diesel engine as well.

Powering the Jazz petrol is a 1.2L, 4-cylinder, SOHC, i-VTEC petrol motor producing 90 PS of power @ 6,000 RPM & 110 Nm of torque @ 4,800 RPM matched to a 5-speed manual gearbox or CVT automatic. Honda claims that this 1.2L motor can deliver up to 18.7 kmpl in manual avatar and 19.0 kmpl on the CVT automatic version.

The petrol motor is as refined as any other Honda product till date. The engine is smooth and idles without too much of noise. NVH levels on the petrol are at par with the segment standards.

Driving the Jazz is petrol in the city, the engine has decent pep to move around. Also, themotor is revv happy and when on the highway, you would love to occasionally redline the motor. Not to forget the engine sounds great while revving it hard. The petrol motor on the Jazz is much better than the Hyundai i20, which really feels underpowered. Also, with 90 PS on tap, it is the most powerful B2 segment hatchback. Kerb weight of 1,007 kg makes way for swift performance.

The CVT automatic of the Jazz gets 7-stepped ratios as compared to the 5-speed on the manual version. The CVT gearbox is lighter than the manual gearbox by 16%. Within the city, the seamless gearshifts of the Jazz CVT will be loved by sedate drivers. Typical of CVT gearboxes, there is no shift jerk felt at all. However, press the pedal hard and the CVT rubber band effect is noticeable. However, for enthusiasts, Honda offers paddle-shifts which can be used to move to the ratio which suits your driving style. Paddle shifting can also be used as engine braking while cornering or coming down from a hill.

Powering the diesel Jazz is the same 1.5L diesel motor plonked in the City, Mobilio & Amaze. This motor is a 1,498cc, 4-cylinder, DOHC, i-DTEC motor producing 100 PS of power @ 3,600 RPM & 200 Nm of torque 1,750 RPM matched to a 6-speed manual gearbox. Honda has now entered the numbers game of ‘Kitna Deti Hai’ as the Jazz will claim the top spot of being the most fuel efficient diesel hatchback delivering 27.3 kmpl of mileage.

Fire up the Jazz diesel and the NVH levels are still poor compared to the Hyundai i20. There is noticeable clatter audible inside the cabin at idle & even at speeds. Producing 100 PS of power, the new Jazz is the most powerful diesel hatchback available in the market. City performance is brilliant and the diesel motor is very tractable. It is not as good as the Renault 1.5 K9K, but still, it does the job well. Out on the highway, engine performance is good by hatchback standards and the acceleration will keep enthusiasts happy. With a kerb weight of under 1,100 kg, power to weight ratio is amongst the best in class.

Honda is known for light steering wheels, and the Jazz is no different. Steering is a breeze to use at city speeds and will surely be loved when stuck in traffic. It weighs up nicely when driving on the highways. Suspension setup is also acceptable delivering good ride quality. While cornering, the Jazz holds up the line well and feels well planted. Body roll is well contained too. The Jazz is a neutral handling hatchback in the segment slotting in between the likes of Punto (best) & i20 (not so great). With a ground clearance of 165mm, the new Jazz manages to tackle the Indian roads well, without scraping the bottom.

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Tyres provided are 175mm Michelin XMs. While they provide decent grip, a fatter section for a car this size would be more apt. Thinner tyres would have been chosen to maximise fuel efficiency. Braking performance comes from disc brakes at the front & drums at the back. The brake pedal provides decent feedback and the Jazz stops in a straight line during panic braking as well.

Safety features on the new Jazz include ABS, EBD & dual front airbags.

So if you’re in the market for a reliable & versatile hatchback which can eat up luggage space as much as a sedan can, the Jazz is surely the car for you. With Honda’s reliability, post sales experience is sure to be a plus. However, if you are taking a test drive in the Jazz after you have a look at the Elite i20 from the inside, things here are a bit average to look at. The Jazz rounds up the package well, but dethroning the Elite i20 is currently unachievable for Honda. Also because they do not have the capacity to produce those numbers. That said, it’s a fun place behind the wheel of the new Jazz.