The all-new third-generation 2014 Honda Jazz will be making its local debut later today. While we wait for the official launch event to take place later, here's a quick look at what consumers can expect from Honda Malaysia's latest B-segment hatchback.
The previous generation locally-assembled model made a big impact with its RM74,800 price tag. Surprisingly, crucial safety features like electronic stability control (or as Honda calls it, VSA), dual front airbags, three-point seatbelt for the middle-rear seat, and ABS with EBD were retained as standard features. Add that with a well-proven and economical engine, the security in a badge we all trust, and it becomes easy to see how the Jazz quickly became the segment's best-seller.
Here with us in Thailand, the third generation model is expected to be even more affordable than the last one, and is said to set a new benchmark for the segment, just like its sedan-twin the all-new 2014 Honda City.
In terms of interior space, nothing else on the market matches the Jazz. It's a small car with a big car interior, packaged so efficiently that only a tiny portion of the car's footprint is taken by the engine bay. More on that later.
Bear in mind however, that the test car seen here is a Thailand market model. Certain features like the paddle shifters, fuel saving ECON mode, and that bright yellow exterior paint seen here are not applicable for our market.
Early model Jazzes were known for their sprightly performance, but that was then. Today, the B-hatchback segment is dotted by many worthy rivals like the Ford Fiesta and Volkswagen Polo, both of which trumps the Honda Jazz in terms of driving excitement.
Let's make it very clear that if driving excitement is your top priority, you should be looking elsewhere. However, if your priority is space, economy, and reliability, then you’ve come to read the right review.
Don't get us wrong. The Jazz is far from being a slow car, but the way it goes about its business is not going to excite you much.
The 1.5-litre i-VTEC engine, carried over from the previous model with minor updates, is also shared with the all-new City. Vital statistics include 120 PS of power at 6,600 rpm and 145 Nm at 4,600 rpm. That's 25 PS and 15 Nm more than the Suzuki Swift 1.4, 13 PS and 5 Nm more than a Ford Fiesta 1.5
It is also 20 PS more than the Volkawagen Polo 1.6, but loses 12 Nm of torque (produced 800 rpm lower too) to the German alternative. Interestingly, the normally aspirated 1.5-litre Honda can hold its ground against the significantly more expensive 1-litre turbocharged Ford Fiesta Ecoboost - matching its output, but losing 25 Nm of torque to the Ford.
Being a Honda, the engine revs with a certain level of charisma and smoothness.
The City is already quite a lively car to drive, something which Honda bolsters by saying it’s the fastest in the segment to accelerate from naught to the century mark. With that in mind, the smaller Jazz's lighter kerb weight should aid in even better straight line performance. Although we didn't get to compare them side by side, but it is safe to say that the Jazz won't disappoint bursting away at the traffic lights.
Where the Jazz disappoints is in its steering feedback. Like many Hondas, its motorised power assisted steering rack is setup too lightly for any enthusiastic driving. Although its European competitors may be down on power, they are more communicative, making it easier to exploit the vehicle's dynamic abilities.
In Honda's defence, the light setup is intentional as this is what the company believes its target buyers prefer for their daily drives in the city. Fair enough.
Steering feel aside, we expect the Jazz, with a smaller, lighter hatchback body to be more nimble than the City but again, our test route didn't really allow us to explore the Jazz's dynamics. The only corners we took were junctions and U-turns.
Ride comfort and convenience
In terms of comfort, the City is clearly superior. The Jazz is best used only as city car. Long distance highway drives can become quite tiring, especially to the passengers in the rear.
It is a natural characteristic for hatchbacks to exhibit more noise in the cabin compared to a sedan, which benefits from an enclosed 'box' to shield out exhaust and tyre roar – something that the Jazz is guilty of.
In front, noise levels are relatively well suppressed but wind noise from the door seals becomes apparent above 100 km/h, which is quite average for cars in these segment, not exceptional but merely acceptable. Occupants behind however will quickly be worn out by the noise from the exhaust and rear wheel arches. Tyre roar in the rear is surprisingly severe, even for a hatchback.
The roads on our test route in Hua Hin, Thailand is very smooth and even so there wasn't much to experience, but generally hatchbacks are sprung stiffer than their sedan counterparts as their shorter wheelbases are trickier to maintain balance.
As mentioned earlier, the main highlight of the Jazz is space, something you have to see to believe. In case we haven't said it enough - it is far more spacious than any of its peers. The party piece is its Ultra Seats, which can be folded flat or even flipped up carry long items. Perfect if you, like me, don't like to put groceries in the boot, where it is hot. Instead of cramming them in a tight floor space or leave them rolling around in the rear seat, they can be arranged neatly on the expanded floor area now.
There is however a concern over omission of a rear parcel shelf,at least it was missing on our Thailand market specifications car), but we understand that this feature will be included in the Malaysian market model. Apart from some minor differences in the instrument binnacle and air-conditioning vents, the Jazz's dashboard is similar to the City's, however we noted that fit and finish and materials used appears to be a notch lower than in the City. The seam lines on the Jazz's leather wrapped dashboard appears to be less refined than in the City.
Across more than 60 km of straight highways, the Jazz achieved an average of 14.2 km/litre on the trip computer but I am a relatively light-footed driver. Two more driver swaps later, the average dropped to about 13 km/litre after some high speed sections and mildly congested town areas over the 180 km plus total distance.
Claimed fuel consumption of the Jazz is 17.81 km/litre, slightly better than the City's 17.5 km/litre, but we doubt real world figures will be as close as principles of aerodynamics meant that the vertical rear of a hatchback will generate more drag than a sedan (regulatory mode fuel consumption tests are done on a rolling dynamometer, and does not take into account aerodynamic drag.
Still, assistant large project leader Daisuke Uragami assures that the real world fuel consumption figure will not be poorer than the City as the all-new Jazz features aerodynamically designed rear bumpers, air spats at the wheel arches and a flat underbody panel (different from the unit used in the City) to compensate for the poorer aerodynamics of a hatchback.
As mentioned earlier, this is just preview test drive with a Thailand market car so it is not a full representation of what Malaysian buyers will be getting, but it is close enough.
Based on the short 180 km plus experience in the car, the Jazz is a decent, sensible purchase for anyone looking for a city runabout – maybe even the best the market has to offer right now. For those who need their cars to cover longer distances, we recommend that they look to the City or a higher range car from the C-segment even.
However, we can't help but notice that the third generation model contributed little else to move the Jazz's lineage forward.
Yes, it is now more affordable than before with better safety features but the credit for these goes to Honda Malaysia. As far as Honda Motor Co. Ltd., is concerned, the third generation Jazz appears to be a rehashed version of its predecessor. Yes, the Ultra Seats and the ingeniously space efficient packaging is still second to none not only in its segment, but the entire industry! It is just that after seeing the same unique features for a third time, we were hoping to see something new that could propel the Jazz nameplate further forward.
Presumably, that's where the upcoming Jazz Hybrid will come in. Using an all-new i-DCD full-hybrid powertrain, it is a big leap over the previous IMA mild-hybrid model. In the gallery below, the yellow car is the highest specifications model, while the black car is the base model and the white car is the mid-range model. Key differences include paddle shifters (not available in Malaysia anyway), cruise control, steering wheel control switches, front-centre arm rest, automatic air-conditioning, touch-screen infotainment system, front fog lights, wing mirror integrated turn signals, wheel size and design.
Note that the actual specifications for the Malaysian market Jazz will differ slightly from the models seen here.
The 2014 all-new Honda Jazz will be launching in Malaysia on Wednesday afternoon. Check back here again for more updates.