You usually associate hybrids with Toyota and Lexus, but not Honda – Honda makes high-revving VTEC engines, right? However, the torque-rich nature of electric motors mean they’re ideally suited to a synchronous life with a petrol engine that produces power at high revs. And with the launch of the new, facelifted Jazz, Honda has squeezed an electrified powertrain into its sensible supermini.
It’s the company’s fourth hybrid, which means Honda offers as many electrified models as Lexus in the UK, and more than Toyota. But things are a little complicated: not content with having the £16,675 Insight as the cheapest hybrid on sale in the UK, Honda has now undercut itself and will flog you the mechanically similar Jazz Hybrid for £680 less.
So how does the new Honda Jazz Hybrid differ from the Honda Insight?
Both utilise the same 1.3-litre petrol engine, electric motor and CVT gearbox, but thanks to a lower, slipperier shape, the Insight is marginally cleaner and greener: 64.2mpg and 101g/km plays 62.8mpg and 104g/km. Honda’s excuse for the Jazz missing out on the tax-free (and smug grin-inducing) sub-100g/km mark is that such a feat would have necessitated a bigger set of batteries. Still, you can hardly keep up with the Joneses if your prospective new car isn’t as saintly as their pious Prius.
However, on paper it looks good against other Jazz models. No diesels are available, but the 1.2-litre manages 53.3gmpg and 123g/km, the 1.4 achieves 51.4mpg and 126g/km, and a CVT-equipped 1.4 is a marginally better with 52.3mpg and 125g/km.
How does the Jazz Hybrid drive?
Despite sharing the engine and electric motor with the Insight, the experience is less raw and raucous, though the CVT ‘box still means the engine drones away at high rpms when you accelerate. And while the CR-Z coupe sports weightier steering and a low-slung driving position, a stint in the lofty Jazz with its pensioner-friendly light helm will come as a bit of a shock.
Inside you get the same green-is-good/blue-is-bad glowing dials as the Insight, and the same display of fledgling saplings that can be lovingly grown if you’re light on the pedals, or instantly devastated if you’re a lead foot. It’s a constant reminder that how you drive can be as important as what you drive.
Of course, what you drive counts too, and if you use the Jazz for just urban driving then it theoretically makes sense: it stop/starts and isn’t a dirty, NOx-emitting diesel. But the Jazz rarely switches into EV mode, and no matter where you’re driving, you're always lugging around those weighty batteries.
Hybrids may make sense to an anti-diesel company like Honda, but in Europe we’re taxed on CO2 not NOx, so a small diesel supermini like a Fiesta Econetic or a Polo Bluemotion will cost less to buy, less to tax, and return better fuel figures. And the extra this electrified version of the Jazz costs over and above its conventional petrol-powered cousin will take time to recoup as well, if it will actually return the improved fuel figures it promises in laboratory tests. Plus the Jazz Hybrid is imported from Japan rather than being built in Swindon, so if you're honestly eco conscious then you need to factor in the emissions that come with the extra transport.
What else is new on the new Jazz?
The Jazz Hybrid arrives just as the range has endured a mid-life ‘lift, and thus adopts drag-reducing bumpers, low-rolling resistance rubber and (yes, really) more aerodynamic brake calipers, while blue-tinted lights differentiate this electrified version.
The easy-to-fold Magic Seats remain, and gain a reclining function, but the 70kg battery pack in the lower section of the boot means the clever double-decker load space is lost. Still, the Jazz Hybrid’s 300 litres of space is second-in-class only to the conventional Jazz.
The new Honda Jazz Hybrid is the cheapest hybrid in the country, but if money, CO2 or going green are your concerns then there are other solutions. If you must have the cleanest Jazz then we’d recommend it, but even then there’s little wrong with a conventional petrol-powered Jazz.
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