Car review: Honda Jazz Hybrid

Covered mag, presented by Gocompare.com
  • | by Kristian Dando

What’s this, then?

This is the Jazz Hybrid, the cleaner, greener, more economical version of Honda’s best-selling Jazz compact car. It’s a relatively recent introduction to the Japanese manufacturer’s range and it’s brimming with smart eco technology, which Honda reckons is not only better for the environment, but will help slash the cost of filling up, too. The Jazz is a consistent performer in consumer satisfaction surveys and Honda has a well-deserved reputation for reliability. But with the Jazz Hybrid starting from around £15,995, the build quality doesn’t exactly come cheap. The kit-laden example that we’ve been driving comes in a shade under the £18,000 mark, but it’s still one of the smallest and least expensive options for drivers wanting to make the switch to hybrid motoring.

What’s it like?

It’s a fairly swish-looking car, particularly in the zingy shade of lime green which the one we’ve been driving came in. The front lamps give it a bug-like look, and the general feel is that of functional, uncluttered simplicity with a side order of funkiness.

How about inside?

Now, this is where the Jazz really comes into its own. Despite the cars outwardly dinky dimensions, the cabin is impressively spacious, to the extent that we’ve heard reports of owners of Great Dane dogs using the Jazz to ferry their colossal canines around. The aptly-titled ‘magic seats’ fold flat in a jiffy, and there’s bucketloads of hidden storage space, too. The car feels much bigger than it actually is.

The list price might seem a bit steep, but the specifications are pretty generous. Our Jazz featured USB connectivity, allowing the driver to interface with their iPod (or similar) from the dashboard. However, the large central dial takes some hardcore twiddling in order to locate what you’re after, but the interface is simple enough to get to grips with. The sound system itself is clear, with tight bass response. The glass roof – easily covered up if it’s too hot with the push of a button – makes the cabin a bright and pleasant place to spend your time.

Meanwhile, the dashboard relays all sorts of information about how the hybrid technology is working to the driver. Even the speedometer changes colour in accordance to whether the battery is being charged, or whether the electric motor is coming into play. It’s all very nice and hi-tech, but might be considered a bit distracting for some....

How does it drive?

Not too shabby, actually. Even when switched to ‘ECO’ mode (which decreases torque by four per cent and smoothens the throttle, delivering better efficiency) the Jazz’s 1.3 litre petrol engine delivers enough clout to make overtaking unproblematic. It’s zesty rather than thrilling, but one suspects that the Jazz’s target market won’t be overly concerned with the pursuit of a lot of high-speed action.

At low speed, when the engine is being assisted by the electric motor, the Jazz is smooth and quiet. It’s less impressive at higher speeds – it can get a little loud above 60 mph on the motorway, but the noise isn’t overly intrusive. It’s pretty handy around town, with light steering making short work of tight spaces. The hybrid technology means that economy is good, although the sensation of the engine stopping at traffic lights is a bit unnerving to begin with. Honda’s continuously variable transmission (CVT) is a mixed performer – sometimes it’s smooth and responsive, and others it can be a tad unpredictable and jerky.

There are F1-style ‘paddle shift’ gear changers too, which allow the driver access to a virtual set of gears. Perfect if you fancy doing an impersonation of Jenson Button on a local ringroad….

What about the economy, then?

Honda reckons that the Jazz Hybrid can muster above 60 mpg, but during our week with the car, that figure was more like 50 mpg.

However, as a caveat we should add that the air conditioning was mostly switched on, and the soundsystem set to ‘cranked’. The car produces about 104g co2/km, which is a shade over the 100g co2/km ceiling for cars which dodge the central London congestion charge and road tax.

But the latter is fairly inexpensive - free for the first year and just £10 a year thereafter.

What do other people think of it?

The Jazz caused a pretty big stir with most people it met – the glass roof was a hit with folks at Gocompare.com Towers, while the storage options and space were greeted with universal astonishment. Furthermore, a trip back home to see your humble writer’s parents saw the Jazz becoming a big hit.

They’re even considering getting one themselves.

Who’d drive one?

We reckon that the Honda Jazz is pretty suited to active lifestyles – it swallows up bikes, outdoor equipment, camping stuff and even large pets with ease.

What are the alternatives?

The Volkswagen Polo Bluemotion offers excellent consumption (up to 80 mpg, apparently) without the hybrid technology, but doesn’t have anywhere near the versatility of the Jazz’s loadspace. If you’re looking for something in the same class without a hybrid engine then there’s plenty of choice.

The Ford Fiesta and Vauxhall Corsa are consistently among the biggest sellers in the class, while Citroen’s striking DS3 is a striking recent entry to the small car bunfight. Meanwhile, the new KIA Picanto is the most credible yet.

Verdict

A highly liveable and practical car which is great for active people with lots of stuff…but some might find it a bit lacking in refinement.

We like: Splendid cabin, awesome storage space, nifty technology, good fuel economy, low road tax, general feeling of sturdiness, lots of gadgets.

We don’t like: A bit noisy above 60 mph, doesn’t quite make the 100g co2/km threshold, price might be considered a bit steep.

At a glance

Honda Jazz Hybrid i-VTEC HX IMA Hybrid

Engine: 1,339cc, petrol engine and permanent magnet motor, with 0.6kWh nickel-metal-hydride battery

Power: 87bhp/89lb ft (Engine)/ 10kW/58lb ft (electric motor)

Top speed: 109mph

Acceleration: 0-62mph in 12.3 sec

Fuel economy: 61.4mpg EU Urban (claimed)

CO2 emissions: 104g/km

Price as tested :£17,995

Our Honda Jazz came with the following selected goodies: alloy wheels, heated leather seats, USB connectivity, cruise control, glass roof, Bluetooth functionality.

Fancy adding some Jazz to your life?

Then why not see how much it might cost to insure using Gocompare.com?