What Car? says...
The Honda Jazz is one of those cars that – like contestants on Britain’s Got Talent – are gifted in various ways but have so far not had the universal adoration they perhaps deserve.
While the Jazz has always stood out for its practical interior and reputation for unimpeachable reliability, it has never really hit the heady sales heights of some of its more conventional small car rivals.
This fourth-generation Jazz wants to grab a bit more of the limelight, though, and Honda has given it some clever new tricks to wow the crowds, including the ability to juggle. No, not balls or fire sticks – it juggles between petrol and electric power to improve efficiency, in much the same way as the Toyota Yaris does.
The petrol-electric hybrid system uses two electric motors, powered by a compact battery, working alongside a frugal 1.5-litre petrol engine.
So, does the Honda Jazz deserve to do well in a popularity contest against the very best small cars? That's the question we'll be answering in this review, as we compare it with the main rivals, including the Skoda Fabia, the Vauxhall Corsa and the VW Polo. Read on to find out...
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox
You don't need to worry about choosing an engine for the Honda Jazz because there’s only one: a 1.5-litre petrol-electric hybrid. With a total of 96bhp, it can accelerate more quickly than our favourite VW Polo (the 1.0 TSI 95) or the Toyota Yaris GR Sport, getting from 0-60mph in a respectable 8.6sec in our tests.
The Jazz is a regular hybrid car so it can't go very far on electric power alone, and you don't need to plug it in for the best efficiency (as you do with a PHEV).
In default Hybrid mode, it does a better job of working out when to deploy the electric motor and when to fire up the petrol engine than the Yaris does. That generally means it does more electric motoring in urban environments (especially if you drive with a light right foot) and a combination of both power sources on faster roads.
Suspension and ride comfort
Overall, the Jazz is one of the best small cars for comfort, and wafts along smoothly, especially on a motorway.
The suspension is on the firm side, meaning that the Jazz manages to deliver that waft without becoming unsettled. It never suffers from the floaty effect you’ll feel over undulations in the soft-riding Citroën C3.
It's not perfect, though. If you hit a pothole or an expansion joint, you get more of a shudder through the body of the car than you'd experience in the Peugeot 208 or the Polo.
The Jazz is not all that fun to drive, but it’s safe and predictable, and perfectly pleasant to steer around at moderate speeds. The Seat Ibiza is a much better option for driver enjoyment.
It doesn't give you a huge amount of grip, and with a body that's unusually tall for a small car, it leans more than many rivals through corners – but never in an alarming way.
Blasting along a twisty road isn’t the model’s forte, but it's right at home in town and city centres, where the light steering makes it easy to navigate even really tight turns.
Noise and vibration
If you spend most of your time in town and drive with a delicate right foot, you’ll find that the Jazz is remarkably hushed. That’s because the electric motors have enough grunt to power it along without the assistance of the petrol engine in start-stop traffic, making progress virtually silent. Even when the engine does cut in, it's quiet enough at low revs not to disturb the peace.
The calm is interrupted if you put your foot down, because the revs are sent soaring to the stratosphere, and are held there until you back off. Sometimes it sounds as though you're stuck in first gear, which isn't a relaxing experience, but it’s still quieter than the CVT automatic in the Yaris. The Jazz’s 1.5-litre petrol engine is a bit coarse at high revs and sends some vibration through the controls.
There’s a bit of wind noise from around the door mirrors, and tyre and suspension noise aren't as well suppressed as they might be. The regenerative brakes are well-judged though, allowing you to stop gently without doing an impression of a learner driver.
The interior layout, fit and finish
Driving position and dashboard
If you like a lofty driving position, the Honda Jazz has you covered. You sit high up, which gives you the impression that you’re driving a mini MPV rather than a small hatchback. There’s a good range of adjustment to the steering wheel and the driver’s seat has height adjustment.
The steering wheel, seat and pedals line up well, so you’re not sitting skewed at an angle, and the seat is well padded and comfortable. Our only real complaint is that the lumbar support isn't adjustable, although most drivers will find that there’s enough lower back support.
Like most of Honda’s other models – including the new Honda Civic – all the dashboard buttons are positioned thoughtfully, and we love the chunky knobs that make it so simple to adjust the climate control. They’re far easier to use than the touch-sensitive buttons and sliders in the VW Polo.
Visibility, parking sensors and cameras
If you’re a nervous parker, the Jazz might well be the car for you. Honda has designed it specifically to have excellent visibility. Looking forwards, you’re greeted with an almost panoramic view of the road ahead. The tall windscreen, narrow front pillars and deep side windows give a much better view at junctions than you get in the Peugeot 208 and the Vauxhall Corsa.
The rear window is deep, and makes it fairly easy to judge how much room there is directly behind you when you're reversing. Our only sticking point is that wide rear pillars hinder the view over your shoulder (something that's true in most rivals). Front and rear parking sensors come as standard from entry-level Elegance trim, while Advance and range-topping Sport models get a rear-view camera as well.
All trims get bright LED headlights as standard, as well as a system that automatically dips the headlights so you don't dazzle other drivers.
Sat nav and infotainment
All models get a 9.0in touchscreen system that comes with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Honda's operating system is not particularly good, and the resolution of the screen could be better. Check out the Mini 3-Door Hatch if you want a small car with a really great infotainment system.
Upgrading to Advance or Sport trim adds built-in sat-nav plus extra USB sockets in the front and rear. You get a four-speaker stereo across the range, with none of the sound system upgrade options you can get with some rivals.
Once you start to poke around, you’ll find that the plastics lower down are a little scratchy and brittle-feeling, as they are in most small cars. Advance models get a leather-covered steering wheel and gear lever, both of which give the interior a welcome lift.
Overall, the Jazz isn't as classy inside as the Mini or Peugeot 208, but feels more upmarket than the Fiesta and the Toyota Yaris.
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
With its boxy, MPV like shape, the Honda Jazz is one of the most spacious small cars out there. Six-footers will have no trouble getting comfortable in the front, thanks to a huge amount of head room and surprisingly generous shoulder room. Unless you're really long in the leg, you'll find that the seats slide back far enough.
Each front door has a pocket big enough to accept a 250ml bottle of water. There's a cupholder just behind the gear selector, with a second and third on the outer reaches of the dashboard.
There are also two small gloveboxes (one below the other), plus a cubby under the centre armrest and a tray below the air-con controls.
The Jazz’s class-leading interior space extends to the rear. Two tall adults can sit in the outer seats with their heads well away from the roof and their knees clear of the seats in front. In fact, there’s enough leg room for occupants to sprawl out.
While it will become more of a squeeze if a third adult joins the party, the flat, unobstructed floor means the person in the middle won't struggle for foot space. In short, no other small car – not even the VW Polo – caters for its rear passengers as well as the Jazz.
Each front seatback has a map pocket and a pocket for your mobile phone, and each door has a small but useful bin large enough for a 250ml bottle.
Seat folding and flexibility
As in most small cars, the rear seatbacks split and fold 60/40, but what makes the Jazz unique is that you can also flip up the seat bases, a bit like at a cinema. Doing so creates loads of vertical space for tall items – that plant you’ve just bought from the garden centre, for example. It’s a brilliant feature.
When you fold down the rear seats to increase boot capacity, they lie flat because the base drops down into the footwell. Many rivals have a simpler mechanism that only flops the seat back on to the seat base, leaving you with an inconvenient incline that makes it harder to load longer items.
The Jazz has a very big boot by class standards, and its floor is not too high off the ground. There’s a lip to lift bags over, but it's much smaller than the one in the Renault Clio.
The load bay is a useful square shape, helping you to make the most of the space. There’s enough room for a large pushchair or five carry-on suitcases below the parcel shelf, and folding down the rear seats turns the Jazz into what is effectively a mini van. When the seats are folded, there's a little hump in the extended floor, but a handy flap that runs the width of the boot ensures that long objects don’t get snagged as you slide them in.
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
Costs, insurance groups, MPG and CO2
The Honda Jazz is more expensive than its small car rivals but many of them – including the Ford Fiesta and the VW Polo – have increased in price recently, so the difference isn’t huge. It comes very well equipped as standard, and is predicted to hold on to its value much better than most rivals, excluding the Toyota Yaris.
The slow depreciation means that if you buy a Jazz using PCP finance, payments probably won't be much higher than for one of the rivals. The model's efficiency should help to keep bills down too.
It did very well in our real-world True MPG test but not quite as brilliantly as the Yaris. The Yaris emits less CO2, but the Jazz beats just about every other rival on that score and is a relatively cheap company car because of it.
Equipment, options and extras
The Jazz is a very well-equipped car. In fact, we'd be reluctant to call our favourite Elegance spec car 'entry-level' because it comes with alloy wheels, automatic lights and wipers, climate control, adaptive cruise control, power-folding door mirrors, front and rear parking sensors, and a whole host of safety equipment.
Mid-spec Advance introduces useful additions such as keyless entry and start, a heated leather steering wheel and sat-nav but we're not convinced it's worth the extra outlay. Nor is the range-topping Sport, which simply gets aesthetic changes to give the car a sportier look.
Those after a slightly more rugged-looking Jazz will appreciate the Crosstar trim. Costing around the same as the top-spec Sport model, this version is for ‘people with an active lifestyle’ and comes with plastic wheel arches, water-resistant upholstery and roof rails.
Honda finished an impressive sixth place out of 32 manufacturers in the 2023 What Car? Reliability Survey. The Jazz did well in the small car category too, finishing in seventh place out of 19 models.
Every Honda comes with a three-year warranty as standard for most parts, but the hybrid system in the Jazz is covered for up to five years or 90,000 miles. Kia beats that with a seven-year warranty as standard, while Hyundai and Renault give you five years.
Safety and security
The latest Jazz received the full five stars when it was tested for safety by Euro NCAP in 2020. It gets lots of safety systems as standard, including lane-keeping assistance, traffic-sign recognition, automatic emergency braking (AEB) and Isofix child-seat mounts on the outer rear seats.
If you upgrade to the Advance trim, you also get blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic monitoring, which issues a warning if you’re about to reverse into the path of another car.
As for security, all versions get an engine immobiliser and an alarm.
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It's not available as an electric car but every version has hybrid car tech. That means there’s a small motor working alongside the car’s 1.5-litre petrol engine, allowing the Jazz to travel short distances on electric power. As a result, your fuel bills should be lower than with a regular petrol-engined car.
There’s only one engine option in the Jazz, but thankfully it’s a corker. The Jazz’s hybrid setup means you can make swift progress on city streets, and the system does a good job of switching seamlessly between petrol and electric power. We think the entry-level Elegance trim is the best choice.
By the standards of the small car class, the Jazz has a big boot with a capacity of 304 litres. We managed to fit in five carry-on suitcases during our tests, although it’s worth noting that two rivals – the Seat Ibiza and the Skoda Scala – can carry even more. You can fold down the rear seats to liberate extra space.
|RRP price range
|£26,395 - £28,695
|Number of trims (see all)
|Number of engines (see all)
|Available fuel types (which is best for you?)
|MPG range across all versions
|62.8 - 62.8
|Available doors options
|3 years / 90000 miles
|Company car tax at 20% (min/max)
|£1,256 / £1,366
|Company car tax at 40% (min/max)
|£2,512 / £2,733