Honda Jazz defends crown as most desirable car in its segment

Still our favorite after all these years
by Botchi Santos | Jul 15, 2016

Twelve years on, and Honda’s ubiquitous Jazz still remains a strong favorite among the Top Gear Philippines staffers. Vernon, Ferman, Sheng, Mikko and I all owned the first-generation Jazz, while Steph has the second-gen model. I replaced mine with a second-gen Jazz, and now I’m trying to Jedi-mind trick the missus into selling her City for this, the latest and third-gen Jazz. Launched in 2014, the car has grown, become more versatile than ever before, and gained a few toys up its sleeve as well.

I first got to try the current-generation Jazz as soon as it was launched, but felt somewhat disappointed by its lack of outright grunt. The odometer, however, showed that it had barely been broken in with just over 1,000km. From experience, I knew that its venerable L15A7 i-VTEC engine needed a few thousand kilometers under its belt before making its presence known.

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My second stint with the current Jazz is with this high-end VX unit with traction/stability control. It has over 20,000km on it. This one feels like it has a totally different engine from the one I drove a few years back. The CVT feels as responsive as ever, delivering instant thrust and responsiveness, which felt sorely lacking in the first unit I tried.

Power and torque remain the same at 118hp and 145Nm, delivered to the front wheels via a CVT that can simulate seven forward gears. You can select gears via the paddle shifters mounted behind the steering wheel for that racing-inspired feel. Shame that Honda hasn’t been doing so well in Formula 1, but the company remains strong in touring and sports car racing with the all-new NSX GT500 race car and the upcoming GT3-spec NSX.

The instrument cluster is clear and legible with the speedometer right in front of you, the rev counter to the left, and a multifunction display to your right. You also get a tablet-based infotainment system that displays fuel consumption in both real-time and average mileage. Also, the system connects seamlessly to your mobile media device. With an HDMI cable, you can mirror-image your phone to the infotainment system’s massive LCD display, too.

Seating position is excellent, with rear and rake adjustment for the steering--something Honda has been known to get right all the time. There is, of course, the ULT+R seating that allows you to load up very big and bulky objects with ease. And with the refresh mode, you can start a family right inside the Jazz.

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Speaking of family, I took my in-laws out to dinner, and my father-in-law was so impressed with how much room the Jazz had inside. He’s now considering buying one to replace his decades-old Opel. Please do.

Gorgeous 16-inch alloy wheels adorn the Jazz, with a donut space-saver for a spare tire to reduce cost and weight as well. ABS-EBD brakes are standard, and you can get as many as six airbags plus hill-start assist and the aforementioned traction/stability control in the top-of-the-line VX+ variant. As always, the Jazz has many cubbyholes and storage spaces for your gadgets and personal effects.

To drive the Jazz is to find a good template on how to judge other cars: light-feeling, well-balanced and oodles of grip. Talkative (but not intrusive) responsiveness in a car at this price and segment is amazing. Fuel economy remains great--I got just under 10km/L in the city, and a pretty decent 14km/L on a spirited drive to Tagaytay and back. It would have been better had I not been so "spirited" in my driving.

Visibility remains a strong suit as the large greenhouse means minimal blind spots. The reverse camera might seem redundant for a car this size, but trust me, when every inch of parking space matters, you will love that the Jazz has one.

It’s not perfect--competitors have started to catch up with Honda’s much-vaunted build quality and engineering. The ride feels a bit harsh compared to older models, and the driver seat lacks knee support for long drives. I don’t know if I'm just getting older, but the rear suspension feels a tad firm and bouncy when you’re alone in the car. Also, the lights aren’t bright enough for foggy or stormy night drives--something I never experienced with the two older generations we had. And to think this Jazz had very light tint.

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But foibles aside, the Jazz is still our favorite in this segment. It will continue to be so until a competitor unveils a car that is just as fun, practical, tunable and, therefore, as desirable as the Jazz.


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PHOTO: Botchi Santos
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