The third-generation Jazz remains a popular choice among five-doors in the B-segment thanks to Honda's premium brand cachet, renowned reliability, and clever engineering. Arguably, it's the abundance of space for a car in this class that has made it an attractive proposition for those in the market for a brand-new car. And with this unit’s Vivid Sky Blue paint job, we can’t help comparing its commodious cabin to Doraemon's fourth-dimensional pocket.
This expansiveness is made possible by the versatility of the Jazz's ULTR (utility, long, tall and refresh) seats, the nearly flat second-row floor, wheels that are pushed as far out to the four corners as possible, and a tallish stance at 1,525mm. As a result, the cabin boasts an interior volume of 359 liters in the cargo area behind the rear seats, and as much as 1,622 liters when the rear seatbacks are folded down and the front passenger seat is folded back.
With that kind of space, you can haul stuff of varying length, width, and height, from balikbayan boxes and bicycles to surfboards and tall plants, to name a few. And even with the front seats pushed all the way to the back, there's still lot of knee space and legroom for rear passengers.
Because utility is the name of the Jazz's game, it's no wonder that the cabin is predominantly made of hard plastic. Plush leather doesn't take kindly to snags, after all. Perhaps as a concession to comfort, Honda has fitted a soft-pad console panel on the dashboard for the front passenger, complete with faux stitching.
The Jazz is more than just a pretty workhorse, though; it's a fashionable one as well. The touchscreen multimedia system has an intuitive interface that won't require you to read the user manual to familiarize yourself with it. The touch-panel climate controls, meanwhile, give a futuristic element to the cabin.
The catch to these is that it sacrifices ease of control by eliminating tactile feel, since you have to make quick glances to check if you're pushing the right element--and that means taking your eyes off the road for a few seconds. And in today's slow-crawl Metro Manila traffic, those few seconds could lead to a love tap with the car in front. Also, because the multimedia touchscreen is angled slightly upward on the center console, it's almost always washed out under the sun.
But despite its utilitarian inclination, the Jazz is a delight to drive. Handling through corners is nimble. The seats are well-bolstered, the 1.5-liter engine has a punchy output, and the CVT is quite responsive. We just wish the option to manually swap cogs can also be done through the transmission lever instead of just through the paddle shifters, for those who like to do it old-school.
SPECS: Honda Jazz VX+
Engine: 1.5-liter SOHC 16V I4
Power: 118hp @6,600rpm
Torque: 145Nm @ 4,800rpm
Price: P 958, 000
Up next: Mazda 2
The Mazda 2 has always been a fun car to drive, even when the Japanese carmaker was still under an American firm's banner. With Mazda now on its own, and with its Skyactiv suite of technologies trickling down to its subcompact offering, the all-new 2 promises to be an even better car than its predecessor.
When the Kodo 'Soul of Motion' design language was first unveiled through the concept that eventually became the midsize 6, we thought it would only work for a vehicle with a lengthy stance. We were proven wrong when the shorter 3 and the much shorter 2 came out.
This Midnight Edition is practically a Mazda 2 Speed that's been given a black-and-red color theme, particularly for the bodykit and the aluminum alloy wheels that provide a lowered stance.
For a sub-P1-million car, the black-and-red interior of the 2 seems remarkably opulent. There's leather all around, from the seats, steering wheel, and inner door handles to the accents on the dashboard and the center console. Faux carbon fiber can be found on the steering wheel and inner door panels as well, while faux aluminum is limited to the gear-lever surround, an accent across the dashboard, and the eyeball A/C vents.
As with older and larger Skyactiv siblings in Mazda's current lineup, the biggest draw of the 2's cabin is its Connect infotainment system and multifunction Command Controller. Operation is largely through tactile feel even though the 7-inch display has touchscreen capability, and since the controller is located beside the hand brake, the placement of your hand on it is more natural as opposed to reaching out to the center console. The 2 is designed to be driver-centric, so a palm rest sits just below the Command Controller's volume button. This way, the driver won't overextend his right hand and wrist as he manipulates the buttons and dials.
As gorgeous as the 2 is inside and out, it's even better once you get behind the steering wheel. The seats have ample bolsters, and the tall backs give it a sporting feel. The 1.5-liter engine's output is slightly down by 12hp and 6Nm compared with the Jazz, but the Mazda is lighter by 59kg, thereby negating the handicap. What's more, the longer wheelbase (2,570mm vs. 2,530mm) and the lower ride height (1,495mm vs. 1,525mm) make it feel more planted to the ground.
If the 2 has one weakness, it's the same as that of the 3: the tight cabin, especially for the rear occupants. While the current 2 hatchback is 110mm longer than its predecessor, the cockpit seems smaller. With the front seats positioned all the way to the back, rear occupants are best limited to the guards in your local barangay basketball liga.
SPECS: Mazda 2 Midnight Edition
Engine: 1.5-liter DOHC 16V I4
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Power: 106hp @6,000rpm
Torque: 139Nm @ 4,000rpm
Up next: The verdict
No two vehicles in the same segment are as different as these two. The Honda Jazz espouses utility and function. Its clever use of interior space will always be its bread and butter, making it an attractive proposition for buyers whose main concern is practicality. The Mazda 2, for its part, is all about style and flair. Flash and panache are its main attractions. It’s perfect for those who want to show off and stand out.
That said, both cars have their respective weaknesses as well. Since the Jazz's main selling point is utilitarian capability, hard plastics abound in the cabin. For the 2, it’s the complete opposite. The cabin is tastefully done in black leather with red stitching. Interior space, however, is severely lacking.
In the end, it boils down to what you’re looking for. Your brain tells you to pick the Jazz because it's practical. And with the number of Honda dealers nationwide and the abundance of parts and accessories, it promises a worry-free ownership experience. Your heart tells you to pick the 2 because aside from its handsome design, it's the closest thing we'll have to a Japanese hot hatch on our shores. Mazda still has some ways to go in establishing a strong foothold locally, but distributor Berjaya Auto Philippines has been growing its customer base thanks to the Skyactiv technologies and Yojin 3 after-sales package.
A winner has to be chosen, and we choose the Mazda 2. Tight interior aside, it guarantees more smiles per kilometer thanks to its nimbler handling, dramatic exterior, impressive interior and pain-free ownership. The Jazz is a good vehicle, but you're holding this magazine because you love cars. And the 2, with Mazda's jinba ittai (horse and rider as one) philosophy, simply speaks to your heart.
NOTE: This article first appeared in Top Gear Philippines' May 2016 issue.