2015 Honda Jazz - First Drive Review
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When the Jazz came to India, it was pretty much one of the most radical cars - not just in its segment but as an individual as well. It was a hatchback that looked like no other hatchback, it had space which was more than most sedans and along with those flexible seating options, it did what most MUVs couldn’t do. However, as radical as it was, it was still conceived as a hatch in the Indian market and was put head on against the likes of the Swift and the others. While it was leagues ahead of the competition, it was also leagues ahead when it came to the price. As a result, the Jazz’s sales numbers never really took off. It was clearly a car much too ahead of its time. But times have changed now and premium hatchbacks have gained a lot of popularity, case in point being the VW Polo and the Hyundai Elite i20. With the premium hatchback market booming, Honda couldn’t have chosen a better time to bring out its all-new Jazz. We drive all the variants on offer to tell how the car has evolved.
The Jazz was quite a radical design since its inception in India. And even in its latest avatar it’s pretty unmistakable thanks to the mono-volume design. In the front you get stylish angular headlights that blend into a City like grille which is now thankfully black and not an overdose of chrome. However the most striking design element is the prominent shoulder line, which despite its depth, is hard to notice on the lighter colours, but looks great on the darker shades.
The Jazz also comes with a completely new alloy wheel design which compliments the looks, but, we still think that 16 inch rims would have made the Jazz look way more cooler. Coming to the rear, the tailgate is one of the best in class with chunky LED lights. The adjoining reflective elements between the C-pillar and the windshield to give it a seamless design. There’s a wide band of chrome that runs along the width of the boot. We like the way the new Jazz looks and it has definitely evolved in the right direction.
The maturity in design continues on the inside as well. The interior has an all-black theme, with subtle dull silver accents. The door pads and the seats are upholstered in beige, which gives it an upmarket feel. Amongst the first things to grab your attention is the three-pod instrument cluster which has a cool blue backlight. It houses a tachometer with gear indicator, the speedometer and an MID for information like time, current efficiency etc.
The centre console is finished in Piano black, which as you might have guessed, is a fingerprint magnet. It houses a 5 inch touchscreen music system, with Bluetooth, USB and AUX connectivity. The touchscreen also doubles up as the display for the rear camera. The controls for the audio and calls are conveniently placed on the steering wheel. A bigger, 6.2 inch touchscreen unit will be available in higher spec versions.
The automatic climate control interface sits right below the music system. This too is a touchscreen, similar to what we’ve been seeing in the Honda City.
The wheelbase of the new Jazz is 30mm longer than it’s predecessor. Thanks to this, Honda has managed to liberate an extra 3 inches of front- to - rear seating room. The Jazz is definitely one of the roomiest cars in its segment, far surpassing the likes of the Swift and the Polo.
The seats themselves are a comfortable place to be in. It offers a similar level of comfort as it’s sedan sibling - the City.
The rear bench is fairly wide and can accommodate three adults. Headroom and knee room is great, although under-thigh support might be a slight issue. However, the party piece of the Jazz continues to remain its ‘Magic Seats’ which can be folded or flipped up in a variety of combinations which makes the Jazz a very versatile people and luggage mover. These magic seats can be reclined as well, giving you that extra bit of comfort - if need be.
The boot is generous too, measuring in at a whopping 354 litres. Tuck the rear bench away, and what you get - is a MASSIVE 881litres of boot.
Engine and Performance
The 1.5 litre I-DTEC engine has the same figures as the Amaze and the City, putting out 100 PS and 200 Nm of torque, however Honda has altered the gear ratios to suit the Jazz’s character. Now, the Jazz is lighter than the City and the I-DTEC unit is a strong performer and as a result the Jazz feels quite brisk off the mark. As long as the rev counter is over 1500 rpm, there is ample power to keep you cantering at decent speeds. Drivability is quite decent too and it’s only when we hit some pretty steep inclines that we needed to use that slick shifting 6-speed gearbox. Issues? Well the only one we found, was the noise emanating from the diesel motor. Now, this was already the case with the Amaze and although Honda has tried to suppress it as much as possible, it's still quite audible especially when you start to appear even near its limits. Its not like the engine is rough, its just that the aluminium block just cannot suppress the noise as well as the other iron blocks.
The other option here is the 1.2 litre i-VTEC unit that kicks out 90 PS @ 6000 rpm and 110 Nm of torque at 4800 rpm. Now immediately after the diesel, the small capacity i-Vtec unit does feel a little anemic but then once the rev counter starts heading north, you realise this is an ‘i-vtec’ and not a ‘i-DTEC’. Like all Honda petrols, it loves to rev and comes into its character only in the upper levels of its powerband. What we need to see is how this engine performs with a full load of passengers once we get it for a thorough test. If you plan to buy a petrol you get the option of an automatic CVT transmission apart from the 5-speed manual. The autobox is sure to rope in a lot of buyers thanks to the added convenience it offers.
Out on the road, the CVT feels effortless. You can either keep the shift lever in D or in Sports and use those lovely paddles behind the steering wheel for shifting gears. CVT means you do get that rubber band effect, but its still quite responsive as you go up and down the gears. We still feel the diesel is the pick of the lot despite it making a bit of a cacophony; with the AT being the next best option.
Ride and Handling
Honda has really been getting its suspension setup right off late and the Jazz is no different. While the suspension components are the same as the previous car, they have been completely redesigned. The Jazz feels extremely planted on most roads and even the bumpiest sections of Goa’s backroads did not manage to upset this Honda. Yes, the ride quality at the rear can be termed a little stiff - but we think this was a case of over inflated tyres.
The steering felt quite direct too and this is thanks to the new electronic power steering unit. In fact, the steering in the diesel felt a tad bit better than in the petrol and the difference might be because of the added weight of the diesel motor - which garners a slightly altered steering feel. While we did not really get to test the cars dynamic abilities, it felt like the new Jazz shouldn’t disappoint around corners. We'll just have to wait a little to confirm that.
So what can we expect?
The first look has been extremely promising and we are happy that Honda hasn’t changed what the Jazz was all about. It’s still radical in design, boasts a humongous amount of space and retains the versatile seating arrangements. However that’s not it. The new car gets a diesel and an AT option to choose from as well. However the Jazz has some really tough competition this time around with the main competitor being the Hyundai i20 Elite/Active. Hyundai has really hit gold with its premium hatch and now it’s up to Honda, how they tackle the Korean giant. Honda has the premium brand image advantage and a brilliant product. But then, that wasn’t enough the last time as well. Pricing will play a key role and we hope Honda gets it right this time so that this car finally gets the success it deserves.