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Honda Jazz i-VTEC HE Hybrid CVT road test report

i-VTEC HE Hybrid CVT

Freshened up for 2011, the enhanced Honda Jazz builds on the characteristics that has made the Japanese supermini one of the most popular in its segment. A new front, reintroduction of a CVT gearbox, improved magic seats and revised engine choices can’t disguise the fact that the introduction of hybrid technology is the big story with this small, yet spacious car.

Road Test Reports Says4.5 star rating
A front-facing image of the Honda Jazz

Image number 2 of the Honda JazzImage number 3 of the Honda JazzImage number 4 of the Honda Jazz

Performance Performance - 5 stars

Taken from another of Honda’s growing stable of hybrid-powered cars, the Honda Jazz on test has a whisper quiet 1.3-litre petrol (i-VTEC) engine coupled to Honda’s IMA (Integrated Motor Assist) technology. This cutting edge powertrain means that the Jazz is the very first supermini available as a hybrid, and while its headline environmental credentials can be matched, and in some cases bettered, by the latest frugal diesel engines, CO2 emissions of 104g/km are still impressive. Coupled to the powertrain is the reintroduction of Honda’s CVT gearbox. This ultra-practical automatic provides the driver with seamless and smooth acceleration, meaning that that frustrating pause of most autoboxes as you press down on the pedal is a thing of the past. The complete powertrain package is ideal for motorists that want the simplest of drives – in fact it’s hard to envisage an easier, more motorist-friendly experience behind the wheel. It really is a joy to drive. As you would expect from a hybrid, the Jazz is also economical with its use of fuel – the IMA takes some of the strain away from the petrol engine when accelerating, and in certain circumstances the car can run for short distances purely in EV mode – it’s a challenge to find these circumstances, but satisfying when you do so. Honda literature states a combined fuel economy figure of 62.8mpg, and while on test we didn’t approach that figure our mainly busy city centre driving saw mpg at over 50 which is impressive. The Jazz hybrid also benefits from being fitted with an auto stop-start system, which helps conserve precious fuel, and regenerative braking which tops up the battery in the IMA system. Finally, Honda has also included a big green ECON button on the Jazz for drivers that really want to maximise the car’s economy – when in this mode there’s less power to call upon, the air-con is modified, and the CVT gearbox is tweaked but you’ll barely notice these subtle changes on busy urban roads.

Ride & Handling Ride & Handling - 4 stars

Ideal for the city and drivers wanting a light touch at low speed, the car’s handling is unashamedly very light, and is perfect for the urban environment. When looking at the complete package of light steering, CVT gearbox, and the exceptional visibility offered to the driver then this Jazz is THE perfect city car. The usual stresses and strains of city driving seem to melt away behind the wheel. Obviously, there’s plenty of occasions when the car will be required to venture onto the motorway and it is here where the revised Jazz has seen the engineers at Honda tinker away as the handling stiffens up considerably, giving pleasant and precise feedback. The hybrid weights in at 70kg more than a standard Jazz but thanks to tweaks to the damper settings the car handles and feels like any other 2011 Jazz.

Build Quality & Reliability Build Quality & Reliability - 5 stars

Typical of all Honda produced vehicles the build quality of the Jazz is top class. It’s their most popular model, even out-selling the Civic, so there are plenty of them around, over 3.5 million examples in fact around the world. The Jazz has clocked up some impressive reliability awards too – including an impressive second place in Which? Car’s 2009 awards, and best in class in the 2010 JD Power Survey. Inside the Jazz, practicality and durability seem to be the watchwords, with hardwearing materials used, and a real sense of utilising all the available space. A nice touch are the cup holders used as “bookends” on the dash – great use of space and without doubt the best cup holders in the automotive industry! There should be little to worry drivers of the Jazz Hybrid either when it comes to reliability of the IMA/1.3 litre engine combination, as it is also used in the Honda Insight, which has been sold in the UK for over two years with little cause for complaint. In fact the IMA system comes complete with a 5-year guarantee from the manufacturer, for additional peace of mind.

Safety & Security Safety & Security - 5 stars

The Jazz has an ace body, literally. Known as Ace Compatibility Engineering, or ACE for short, the Jazz designers have created a cocoon for occupants should it be involved in a variety of crash types. It’s a concept that is now being rolled out with all new Honda models. As you’d expect the Jazz also comes with the usual long list of airbags, as well as ISOFIX fittings for child seats. Electronic stability control (ESC) comes as standard across the range, and back in 2009 the Jazz was awarded 5 stars in its Euro NCAP test. So overall, you can be sure that the supermini is a safe little car.

Space & Practicality Space & Practicality - 5 stars

Perhaps the Jazz’s star turn is how flexible and practical it is. While it might sit on a small wheelbase (it is shorter than a Ford Fiesta), the Jazz genuinely offers enough space for four adults to travel in comfort. There is also enough space in the rear for a third adult for shorter journeys. The five-door configuration makes it simple to access the rear seats, ideal for those slightly less supple or with a young family. The Jazz also benefits from revised “magic seats”, standard across the range, which comes for the first time with the rear seats able to recline. Configured in a classic 2:1 formation, the seats can be quickly and easily folded flat to create a large storage space. Finally, the car’s skinny A-pillars and large expanse of windscreen ensure that visibility for the driver is excellent - noticeably so!

Ownership & Value Ownership & Value - 5 stars

Prices of the Jazz Hybrid start at £15,995, for the entry-level HE trim on test, rising to £19,305 for the top-of-the-range HX with integrated satnav, at May 2011 pricing. The Hybrid is available in a choice of 3 trim levels (or 6 if you count the additional expense of integrated satnav), HE, HS, and HX. For the additional expense HS gets you alloy wheels, cruise control, leather steering wheel, and retractable wing mirrors, while the top spec HX adds such things as a large panoramic sunroof and leather upholstery. All 3 come with the same Stereo/CD package, although for some strange reason only the HS and HX comes with a USB socket. For drivers wanting the integrated satnav, then “-T” is added to any of the trim levels, and you can add £1,400 onto the car’s price. Advantages of opting for the hybrid over a conventional powered Jazz is that the car’s running costs will be noticeably lower, with trips to the petrol station less frequent, and the car will be cheaper to tax. Unfortunately, a change to the exemption scheme for the London Congestion Charge in January 2011 has meant that the Jazz Hybrid fails to qualify. All new Hondas come with a 3 year/90,000 mile manufacturer warranty, with the IMA coming with a 5 year guarantee.

Performance Performance - 4 stars

Available in 1.2, 1.3 and 1.4L petrol engines since February 2011, the 1.3 four cylinder i-VTEC model we tested made a good impression upon firing up with the increasingly common ‘is-it-on?’ engine noise associated with lithium-ion infused vehicles. However this tame introduction is quickly forgotten given a straight sprint, hitting 60mph in just short of 12 seconds courtesy of the 102PS torque, and that was in ECON mode; a fuel management setting which cuts torque by 4% and optimises throttle to limit consumption. That little green ECON button - located beneath the steering wheel – is a godsend should you find yourself in a rush hour jam. The typically frustrating and mundane stop/start process is relieved by a slender electric motor kicking in and painlessly powering your low speed crawl without using any fuel or spewing a trace of CO2. Despite effectively being an EV at this stage, it’s a nice added bonus that the battery doesn’t require recharging. Aside from sticking a shrub on the roof, there is little else Honda could have done to highlight the ‘super eco’ credentials they’ve aimed for during the design of the world’s first hybrid supermini. The eyecatching vibrant lime green exterior informs all bystanders just how much you care about the environment, however with CO2 emissions of 104g/km, it counts for little when you consider Honda’s very own Insight Hybrid boasts 80g or see diesel models like the VW Polo 1.2 TDI Bluemotion pumping 91g. An Azure Blue exterior is also available if the radioactive pea-look isn’t for you. Honda should be lauded for sticking a petrol-electric system in their best selling UK model but for all the well-meaning talk, its treehugging walk isn’t as smooth as Honda would have you believe.

Ride & Handling Ride & Handling - 5 stars

Thankfully what is smooth is its ride. Scooting round the town is a breeze and Honda’s claim of delivering a quality city car aren’t without basis, thanks to the Intergrated Motor Assist system, the gliding automatic CVT gearbox and optimised friction-reducing powertrain. Steering is super light with the Vehicle Stability Assist system making city centre dashes slick and fuss-free. This solid confidence remains during motorway runs with handling holding firm. Also bang on the money is the ABS braking system which feels assertive but never jolty - another ideal balance. Suspension has been given a rethink to improve the overall ride while slim pillars, a vast windscreen and front quarter windows maximise visibility to enhance driver confidence.

Build Quality & Reliability Build Quality & Reliability - 4 stars

The Jazz isn’t Honda’s best selling model for nothing and has built an admirable list of honours, most notably JD Power’s Best in Class for the last three years. One glimpse around the cabin is enough to know Honda haven’t cut corners when it comes to piecing this vehicle together. Leather upholstery is a first for the Jazz while chrome rings around the air vents and a smartly-lit dashboard play their part in upping the classy factor.

Safety & Security Safety & Security - 4 stars

No one is left behind when it comes to safety. Dual front and side airbags, full length side curtain airbags, front active headrests and three-point ISOFIX seatbelts come as standard on all Jazz models. You can also rest assured that Honda has subjected the Jazz to plenty of abuse at their Tochigi crash test centre in Japan. The Jazz Hybrid features Honda’s ACE body (that’s Advanced Compatibility Engineering to you and I) which has become a common feature throughout the Honda range, ensuring all occupants are kept safe by a protective cocoon. A front polygonal main frame, designed to stomach collision with vehicles of many shapes and sizes, keeps those in the front seats extra safe.

Space & Practicality Space & Practicality - 5 stars

It may be a supermini but perhaps the term ‘supersize’ would be more fitting considering how accommodating and flexible the Jazz Hybrid can be. Stretching to 883 litres with the back seats folded down, there are few in its segment that can beat it for capacity. ‘Magic Seats’, which come as standard, allow owners to fold rear seats completely flat or in a variety of formations, suiting most situations from airport runs to furniture removal. The ULTR Double-Trunk (1.4L models only) consists of a clever floor folding system to facilitate those more awkward shapes, upping available boot space even further. Spilt drinks should be near impossible with 10 cup/bottle holders dotted around the cabin. A front passenger storage area along with multiple pockets ensure loose articles like mobile phones, wallets and MP3 players won’t be flying around the cabin.

Ownership & Value Ownership & Value - 4 stars

The entry level HE trim comes at £15,995 on the road (or £16,435 with the VAT, number plates, delivery and a year’s tax on top). For £16,495 OTR, the middle tier HS trim offers 15” alloy wheels, cruise control, USB socket, driver armrest, auto lights/wipers and leather steering wheel. Topping out at £17,995, the HX trim includes all this as well as heated front seats, panoramic glass roof, and leather upholstery. Opting for the –T trim adds an integrated sat nav with Traffic Message Channel, Bluetooth hands-free phone system and £1,310 to the asking price. The Premium Pack (£485) will see the introduction of elegance floor carpets, side body protectors, front and rear mud guards and doorstep garnish, while the Elite Pack (£875) includes all this plus rear parking sensors. As can be expected with hybrid technology, mpg is one of the hybrid’s biggest pulls and as impressive as it may be a combined fuel consumption of 62.8 mpg might not be enough for those who have spotted the 80-ish they can get from the £1,000+ cheaper Volkswagen Polo Bluemotion 1.2 TDI or 74 from the Toyota Auris. Also if being C-Charge exempt is important then you will be disappointed as with emissions of 104g/km, the Jazz Hybrid fails to qualify. On the plus side, road tax is free for the first 12 months, and just £10 a year after that.

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