Honda Jazz (2020 on)

5
reviewed by D J Cook on 18 November 2020
4

1.5 i-MMD Hybrid SR

reviewed by Shugs on 25 October 2020
4
Overall rating
4
How it drives
5
Fuel economy
4
Tax/Insurance/Warranty costs
4
Cost of maintenance and repairs
5
Experience at the dealership
5
How practical it is
4
How you rate the manufacturer
5
Overall reliability

Great car, truly awful infotainment system

This is my first Honda - I was attracted by the new Jazz's practicality, potentially great economy and an interior that's much tidier and more tasteful than the previous Jazz, which my mother owns. I opted for the SR, solely because it's the first version with parking sensors, otherwise I would have happily done without alloy wheels which are styled to look just like cheap steel wheels with plastic trims (they do actually have plastic trims).

Let's start with the good stuff, of which there is plenty. The Jazz has bags of interior space, made even more useful by the rear 'magic seats' where the seat base tilts upwards, leaving enough room across the car to park a small Shetland pony, should you wish. The floor's flat, so no 'legacy' transmission tunnel. Up front, the outlook is airy and spacious, and the front seats are frankly superb, with decent squab length and great lumbar support. The front footwells are wide, so plenty of room for even the biggest feet. The windscreen design is such that the view forwards is truly panoramic, with virtually no blindspots - such a nice surprise after cars with huge A pillars that obstruct vision when at junctions etc. Over the shoulder visibility is rather good too, and far better than in most modern cars. Honda have managed to achieve very low wind noise too, which is nice after my last car, a truly disappointing and noisy SEAT Arona.

The new Jazz has a clever hybrid system that hides its cleverness very well, and just gets on with delivering a very pleasant drive with minimal intrusion. Unlike the horrible Arona with its hesitant DSG transmission, the Jazz is very responsive at junctions etc; and if you want it to be, brisk enough. That said, if anyone expects the Jazz to be driven like a sports car, then it will respond with soaring and noisy engine revs, masked only slightly by a faux-stepped gear effect. Drive it sensibly and gently, and the Jazz is an agreeable, quiet thing, particularly since road noise (on Yokohama economy tyres) is quite well suppressed. Economy on a run is an easy 60mpg plus, and even around town it's a very decent 40mpg or so, once warmed up. I'm surprised at just how much time the Jazz spends running on electric only power, often signalled only by the dash indicator, such is the refinement of this little car.

Some reviews have criticised the ride and handling of the new Jazz, but all those reviews were of the top spec EX model, with larger wheels and stiffer tyres. My Jazz SR actually rides very comfortably, particularly around town, and on the open road it's also OK - there is a bit of bump/thump over ridges, but nothing that delivers a nasty kick in the kidneys like the aforementioned SEAT Arona did, constantly. The superb seats complement the supple suspension as well as in any small car that I've known.

So, to the bad bits.

The horrible SEAT Arona had a superb infotainment system that was quick to start up, responsive to use, and easy to navigate - everything seemed to have a function and the whole thing didn't grate much at all. The Jazz's infotainment touchscreen looks pleasant and tasteful at first glance, but in use is hopelessly confusing in layout and logic, and simply useless. It does not even work when the car is switched off. Worse then useless. Surely Honda benchmark this sort of thing against key competitors such as VW? Apparently not. The DAB radio reception is patchy too. At least the Jazz has separate heating and ventilation controls, which have a lovely weight and precise action. You can use Android Auto or Apple Car Play, but that does not cure the woeful radio interface. The awful infotainment system might well put off someone who depends on such features (I don't).

The Jazz SR has power folding mirrors, which are large and give a really good rear view, but the power folding function only works when the car is switched on, so you have to remember to fold them before turning the car off. That's a recurring annoyance.

Some professional reviewers criticised the driver's main display as looking cheap, but that's a little unfair. It does what it needs to, but the layout of certain display modes suggests that Honda don't have anyone competent in ergonomics, nor design at hand. The display is quaint, untidy, but it does what it needs to.

Interior quality is fine, but hard plastics abound, as you might expect at this price point. The doors feel and sound tinny, but are probably just as robust as any competitor's.

My last complaint concerns the Road Departure Warning and Lane Keeping Assist functions, which are badly thought out and inconsistent in operation, particularly in wet conditions. It is genuinely disconcerting to suddenly have the steering wheel tugging away from your intended course of travel, when there is clearly nothing ahead that might require an intervention. I can imagine these intrusions being very scary for drivers not used to such systems, and maybe Honda's is just as bad as everyone else's, now required to be fitted to new cars, I believe. My 4 star 'How It Drives' rating is a reflection of how poor these systems seem to be - otherwise it would receive 5 stars.

Overall, the new Jazz is a fantastic, refined, thoughtfully practical and economical small car that is let down only by truly awful design and implementation of its infotainment system. Luckily, most key functions of the car don't reply on the touchscreen, but it's a major failing in this day and age.

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