To be perfectly honest, the similarities between Swindon in the South West of England and Nelson in the lush wine region of New Zealand’s picturesque South Island are pretty hard to find. One is by the coast, the other beside a long-since abandoned canal, one is known for its crafts and art, the other has graffiti and in particular, for Swindon ‘Paddy’s knob’ takes on a whole new meaning. Anyway, one thing that binds these two towns together (well for now) is the fact that they have both produced Honda cars – and (thankfully) Honda New Zealand brought us to the vibrant south island town option in order to present their all-new Jazz.
The Honda Jazz nameplate has been seen on a variety of motor vehicles, from an SUV and scooter to a motorbike and small compact but the Jazz that we really know and love (the successor to the Logo) began life around the turn of the century. Well it’s now in its 4th Generation and the changes are remarkable.
In terms of design language, Honda has adopted the Yoo-No-Bi phrase which (as is often the case) has a variety of meanings based on the same principle, in this case it’s about the merging of the emotional with the rational, a sort of everyday practicality meeting with beauty and comfort – it’s ‘pleasant perception’ and this new Jazz (well three in fact) has oodles of it.
As I just noted, there are now three in the Jazz family, Life, Crosstar and e:HEV, each with their own place in this world, but I’ll begin with what they share. The Jazz’s (or is that Jazzi) exterior has been softened, the ‘face’ is more ‘smiley’ and the profile ‘creases’ have been ironed out. The headlights are now big and bold (and LED – front and rear) and there’s more accent to the lower front valance. There’s been a massive change to the A-pillar and the windscreen with the new Jazz boasting 90.2-degree visibility aided by slim pillars made from ‘world-first’ 3 L shaped steel materials. Also, the wiper blades have been tucked right out of the way until needed.
Staying on the visibility theme, the tech used to watch the road ahead (for the likes of Adaptive Cruise Control) now has a broader span (now 100-degrees) so more aware of those vehicles that cause havoc by sneaking into your lane. NVH (Noise, Vibration and Harshness) has been upgraded to further improve the ride too.
Honda has run amok on the inside, fully refreshing its hardware, software and visual appeal. There’s a horizontal expanse to the dash that feels uncluttered, with a semi-integrated 8-inch infotainment screen (with a range of apps and apple/android connectivity), a clean and clear digital instrument cluster and unmissable start/stop and dimmer buttons.
Below the dashboard ‘tide line’ sits the AC dials, which I have to say are a tactile feast. Bevelled for a luxurious feel, they click like a dial on a safe from the wild, wild West. Two to the left, one to the right, cracking the safe while setting the cabin temperature – I really need to get out more.
The new Jazz has ample storage space including a small nick-nacks compartment above the glove box and a boot that holds 304L.
Our Honda Jazz launch experience began at their National Distribution Centre in Stoke, it’s where all vehicles arrive and get a thorough going over before being shipped to the dealer network, it’s also where modifications, decals and the like are ‘factory-added’ adding extra to the ordinary. Honda has also added a dealership to the front of the facility with drive-up servicing and no cars on the forecourt – it’s a modern interpretation of a dealership.
Following the tour we jumped in our new Jazz for a ‘follow the leader’ tour of the countryside. I opted for the Crosstar variant first. Sitting around 10mm taller and with protective plastic garnish around the wheel arches and sills, a unique design grille, and integrated roof rails. It looks every bit of compact crossover – it even came with a two-toned paint job and water-resistant upholstery for those of us that dribble when we drive.
The 1.5L engine offers up 89kW and 145Nm will go from 0-100km/h in 10 seconds. Admittedly, none of these figures will make a petrol head dizzy but it does feel nippy around town and even as we headed into them there hills. Visibility is outstanding, it’s really goldfish-bowl like and the 2-spoke wheel feels good to touch, especially when combined with a dedicated suspension and steering tuning.
At a predetermined spot we vehicle changed and I got behind the wheel of the Life. It’s a giant leap from the current S model with all the aforementioned upgrades and offers up a really playful ride, particularly around the curves and bends. The 16-inch feet feel well planted for the size of the Jazz and the eCVT doesn’t appear to labour.
Lunch was at the Moutere Hill Winery, no wine was consumed but the pork belly was great and the cheesecake outstanding – I waddled back to the car for the drive back – this time the range topping e:HEV Luxe.
For the e:HEV Honda has basically thrown everything at it. Upon entry you are greeted with the scent of a (in my case Tan) full leather interior. The seats have been specially designed to eliminate fatigue, with pads replacing s-springs. Leather wheel, new ev display, it looks and feels very different to its siblings, and drives differently too.
The EV system is one of the world’s most advanced with the Jazz opting to utilise an either/or method of drivetrain. It has the 1.5L as per the Life and Crosstar but also two compact, powerful electric motors and a 35kWh lithium-ion battery. It has an innovative fixed-gear transmission via an intelligent power control unit, which according to the brochure ‘all work harmoniously together to provide a smooth and direct response; and it does.
The advanced e:HEV hybrid set-up seamlessly selects from three interchangeable drive modes. In EV Drive, the lithium-ion battery supplies power to the electric propulsion motor directly. Hybrid Drive, the engine supplies power to the electric generator motor, which in turn supplies it to the electric propulsion motor and in Engine Drive, the petrol engine is connected directly to the wheels via a lock-up clutch and driveforce is transmitted directly from engine to the wheels.
Maximum power output is 80kW and 253 Nm electric propulsion torque and offers up fuel efficiencies of 2.8L/100kms.
My pick of the day was the e:HEV, yes you heard me correctly. It offers more refinement than I was expecting and feels more complete. Life would be my second pick with Crosstar being a close third. Although I’m looking forward to further examining all three – hint hint Honda NZ.
Prices are $28,000 for the Jazz Life 1.5L i-VTEC, $30,000 for the Jazz Crosstar 1.5L i-VTEC and $35,000 for the Jazz e:HEV Luxe (Two Motor Hybrid & Honda Sensing).