Soichiro Honda, the founder of Honda is famous for saying ‘if Honda doesn’t race then there is no Honda’ and that emphatic statement is the core ingredient (albeit not exactly F1) of the new Jazz RS e:HEV. The brand’s popular hatchback has been given some RS treatment and I got to spend some time with it.
Alright, so the thought of Honda’s compact city-dweller being sporty may raise a smirk or two, especially as it now has a clever hybrid powertrain, but I’m here to say that the RS model is both bolder looking and more performance led.
In terms of dimensions and core panelwork, the Jazz RS’s footprint remains the same as its dialled-down counterparts, even the Honda badge has a blue surround to indicate that it’s a e:HEV. However, being an RS means that it gets a new RS specific grille complete with the coveted RS letters, a bolder RS front bumper RS and bigger air vents for better airflow.
My review model came in a pirate-loving Crystal Black Pearl that contrasted well with the subtle red and chrome accents and rode on 16-inch alloys that hugged the road surprisingly well. The rear has an RS specific roof spoiler, more RS (and e:HEV) badging, an RS bumper and also an RS exhaust tip – and despite its compactness, there’s still enough luggage space for z trip to the racetrack and even a flip up floor that reveals an extra stowage area (for stuff you want to keep out of view).
Under the tiny bonnet is the new and very smart Honda’s e:HEV system which is basically two Motors in one, what a deal. It’s a 1.5L VTEC engine that acts as a generator (so doesn’t actually touch the wheels) sending power via a converter to a small battery that drives an electric motor that moves the wheels. Both the conventional engine and electric motor have had their output increased over the regular e:HEV and (so you now have 78kW/127Nm and 90kW/253Nm respectively), and yet can still boast 3.8l/100km fuel-efficiency and 68g/km in emissions.
Not only is the Jazz RS more sporty on the outside but it embraces some of that sporty character on the inside too with bright yellow contrast-stitching tastefully being found on areas such as the dashboard, steering wheel and seats.
While on the matter of seats, not only have they been specifically designed for anti-fatigue (something I was thankful for during my road test) but they also come coated in a tactile ultra-suede fabric that’s easy on the eye and even easier on your rear.
There are a huge amount of stowage and storage areas, not just for such a small hatch, just in general, with a dedicated space for your smartphone. There are also a couple of strategically placed cup holders that allow the AC to help heat or cool your beverages, it’s a clever and very useful touch.
The 9-inch infotainment screen is the standard set up to the other Jazz models, modern and easy to use with colour-coded apps, however, for some bizarre reason the clock had the 12 sitting where the 3 should be, not really an issue unless you’re a military buff – ‘watch my six’ would have a whole new meaning!
Again the instrument cluster is the same as in the non-RS e:HEV, with a digital centre screen bookended by two fixed gauges that show the petrol and battery levels – although you only really have control over the fuel. Personally I would have liked more RSness about the screens, but that’s just me.
My time with the Jazz RS had me head north to Whangarei for a weekend away for my son’s football, a chance to stretch the hatch’s legs and test out those seats.
Now as some of you may know, my partner (bless her), tends to overpack so I was a little concerned. I needn’t have been. Not only does the Jazz come with Honda’s ‘magic seats’, meaning that the rear seats can be configured in eighteen different ways, but the three LARGE bags actually fitted in the rear without any ‘magic’ being required.
Visibility in the Jazz is exceptional thanks to the large, 90.2 degree wide angle windscreen, it makes the view out front so good and uncluttered, even the wipers are hidden below the eyeline. And for those that need additional help, Honda sensing is there to eliminate blind spots and keep you in between the lines (even though the lines were blurred on the road north – did someone say road cones?).
Admittedly the RS is not mind-blowingly quick off the line (just under 9s 0-100km/h) and the eCVT doesn’t help with the sensation of oomph, but it gets up to speed well and holds it there throughout the drive.
Despite the rough road surface, the Jazz RS handled the tarmac well, low road and wind noise and feedback through the steering wheel made me feel connected to what was going on below. Particularly since not only has the engine and body work been fettled with but the suspension and steering has been improved too. It’s certainly no Civic Type R but it certainly can stand up for itself around the corners, when allowed (both by the road conditions and family) I took bends with a bit of vigour and it hung on no problem, even with its skinny-ish tires.
Then there’s the hybridness of the RS, something for which in these days of high fuel prices I was additionally grateful for. Although I made good use of the 4-stages of regen braking (via the paddles) I didn’t exactly go easy on the throttle to Whangarei and back and I averaged 4.3l/100km on my 377.5km trip, meaning that I returned the Jazz RS to Honda with around 316km of range still available – not bad after a week’s use (and from a fuel tank about the size of my thumb).
I have to say that I rather enjoyed my time with the RS. Sure it’s not exactly ferocious in its sportiness but it’s the quickest in the range and when you throw in its enthusiastic handling ability you get a Jazz that’s bolder looking and really fun to drive. It’s Soichiro’s racing spirit wrapped up in a compact city-dwelling hatch.