Honda Jazz 1.4 ES i-SHIFT (2008) review

Published:02 September 2008

  • At a glance
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By Ben Pulman

CAR's editor-at-large, co-ordinator, tallboy

By Ben Pulman

CAR's editor-at-large, co-ordinator, tallboy

The arrival of a new Honda Jazz means an old folks' favourite is back. Bigger inside and more versatile than any other rival, the outgoing Jazz was a runaway success with retired types. The new car is longer, wider and more spacious than ever, and offers up all-new engines and a new gearbox, plus a hybrid version is coming. But can it match up to the likes of the brilliant new Ford Fiesta? Read on for CAR Online’s first verdict on the new Honda Jazz.

Ignore the drive for the moment – tell me about the versatility of the new Honda Jazz

The existing Honda Jazz sells well because it’s big inside, and all those clever, practicality-boosting features are easy to use. With the new model it’s business as usual with the cinema rear seats – dubbed Magic Seats in Hondaspeak. Either you can fold the seat squabs up so tall loads fit in the flat passenger footwell. Or you fold the whole seat forward by tugging one lever.

And the boot opening is so big you can then fit a Honda ATV inside. Just what the average 63 year-old owner carts around.

New to the Jazz is the catchy titled ULTR Double-Trunk, standard on 1.4 models. Fold the front half of the boot floor back to reveal storage space beneath, with a cargo net hanging over the hole. Various other (simple) origami folds then mean the net can either divide the boot in line with the axle, hang halfway up the boot, or fold all the way back so tall loads can sit where the spare wheel would otherwise sit.

Naturally, that means the Jazz has no spare tyre; there's get-me-home-foam.

Click 'Next' below to read about the Honda Jazz's latest clean engines

What about the rest of the Honda Jazz interior?

A wheelbase increased by 50mm means space for four adults in comfort, but five will remain a bit of a squeeze. Head, shoulder and knee room are very good, while the (standard on EX) full-length panoramic glass roof keeps it light and airy in the back. But the price you pay for a little extra shoulder room are tiny armrests on the doors.

Up front, the dash is angled towards the driver (to the detriment of his or her left knee space), but not so much as the Civic’s, where the front passenger feels ostracised. Big buttons that are straightforward to use are logically laid out. But the huge expanse on the top of the dash isn’t put to any use, and we question the wisdom of having two small and rather useless gloveboxes rather than one big practical one.

And the exterior of the Jazz?

In bright colours the new Jazz looks spangly and new. But in dark metallics you’d hardly notice the difference, with nothing more than a few nods to the radical Civic. The Jazz is a much more conservative design.

The new car is longer (by 55mm) and wider (up 20mm to 1695mm), but it's the same 1525mm height as before. It looks much longer and lower thanks to larger front quarterlights that stretch the A-pillar into the bonnet. Pity they have little practical purpose.

Anything else?

Gone are the Jazz's twin-spark engines, which necessitated the removal of the cylinder head at the first big service. Instead, in come two new i-VTEC engines with variable valve timing and just one spark plug per cylinder. Both the 1.2 and 1.4-litre petrols (there won’t be a diesel) offer more power and improved emissions over their predecessors.

We drove the 1.4, which develops 98bhp and 94lb ft, while achieving 54.3mpg and 123g/km. Compared to the old model’s 48.7mpg and 137g/km, it’s a decent step forward. And if you pick the new automated manual i-SHIFT transmission, the 1.4 hits 55.4mpg and 120g/km. That’s way ahead of car’s like Fiat’s 500 or Panda.

But if that’s still not clean enough for you, a full IMA hybrid will arrive around the time of the Jazz's mid-life facelift due in early 2011. Should make up for the lack of diesel.

Click 'Next' below to read our driving impressions of the Honda Jazz

Right, now the driving please!

In a nutshell, the Honda Jazz can't match the driving skills of the best superminis such as the Ford Fiesta, Renault Clio or Vauxhall Corsa. But the Jazz isn't designed to deliver the chuckability of the livelier superminis. Compared to the old car, the new Jazz has a smoother ride, while it’s quiet at speed, bar a little rustle from the door mirrors.

The five-speed manual ‘box is slick, but the automated manual – while better than the old CVT – still leaves your head bobbing a little on upchanges. But unless Grandma is seriously nailing every straight she encounters, she won’t really notice.

But whether you pick the manual or self-shifter the gearsticks seem too low set, especially when you sit so high. Luckily there are paddles for the auto, if you so wish, while rake- and reach-adjustable steering is standard on all 1.4 models.

Honda Jazz: the verdict

Those looking for a handling rival to the Ford Fiesta will leave disappointed, but the Jazz excels as a spacious city car. It doesn’t look very different inside or out, but it improves on it in every area, offering more space and practicality than ever.

For those in need of more room than most conventional monobox superminis, the Honda Jazz is perfect. The fact that it's kind to the environment – and your wallet – are added bonuses.

Would you have a practical Jazz over a funky Fiesta? Click 'Add your comment' below and have your say


Price when new: £12,290
On sale in the UK: October 2008
Engine: 1339cc 16v 4cyl, 98bhp @ 6000rpm, 94lb ft @ 4800rpm
Transmission: Six-speed semi-auto, front-wheel drive
Performance: 13.5sec 0-62mph, 112mph, 55.4mpg, 120g/km
Weight / material: 983-1128kg/steel
Dimensions (length/width/height in mm): 3900/1695/1525


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By Ben Pulman

CAR's editor-at-large, co-ordinator, tallboy