Honda Jazz review

Category: Small car

Section: Performance & drive

Available fuel types:hybrid
Available colours:
Honda Jazz 2020 rear cornering
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RRP £18,985What Car? Target Price from£18,486
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Performance & drive

What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is

Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox

Choosing an engine couldn’t be easier because there’s only one: the 1.5 i-MMD e-CVT petrol-electric hybrid we described in the intro. With a total output of 108bhp, it allows the Jazz to accelerate fractionally quicker than our favourite Volkswagen Polo, the 1.0 TSI 95, getting from 0-62mph in a respectable 9.4sec. 

Being a regular hybrid means there’s no need to plug in and charge up, but you can’t go very far on pure electric power alone. However, in its default Hybrid mode the Jazz does a good job of working out when is best to deploy the electric motor or petrol engine. This generally means lots of electric-only motoring in urban environments (especially if you drive with a light right foot) and a combination of both power sources on faster roads. 

Really, it’s only on motorways and dual-carriageways that you need to work the Jazz hard to keep up with traffic. That’s because at the national limit the engine spends most of its time running without any electrical assistance. On roads like these, lots of other small cars feel noticeably punchier, including the Ford Fiesta 1.0 140 Ecoboost, Peugeot 208 Puretech 130 and Seat Ibiza 1.5 TSI 150, although the Jazz's performance is still perfectly adequate.

Suspension and ride comfort

Ride quality is a mixed bag and depends on the version. In town, over broken surfaces and potholes, the standard Jazz jostles its occupants around quite a bit. It's never harsh, but the Peugeot 208 and Volkswagen Polo are noticeably smoother. It feels more at home on motorways and undulating B-roads, with nowhere near the loose and wayward body control of a Citroën C3; it's just not as well tied down as a Fiesta. 

The Crosstar EX version, though, with its 30mm higher ride height, is almost the opposite. Around town it's less aggressive over potholes, but its taller stance creates more sway and fidget on faster roads. 

It's worth noting that we’ve only driven the Jazz on the 16in wheels, which come as standard on the range-topping EX model. We suspect the ride will be more pliant on the smaller, 15in wheels fitted to SE and SR models.

Honda Jazz 2020 rear cornering

Handling

The Jazz isn’t especially fun to drive (it’s certainly not in the same league as the Ford Fiesta or Seat Ibiza), but it’s safe and predictable. Its steering doesn’t weight up as intuitively as we'd like, but is reasonably accurate. As a result, you don’t need to make the constant inputs that are required when driving the woolly Citroën C3. 

There isn’t bundles of grip and, with a body that's unusually tall for a small car, the Jazz leans more than the Fiesta, Ibiza and Polo, but it never feels alarming. The off-road-inspired Crosstar EX is worse; with softer suspension and a higher stance, it's less willing to execute quick direction changes than other models in the Jazz range.

Noise and vibration

If you spend most of your time in town and drive with a delicate right foot, you’ll find 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. And even when the engine does cut in, at low revs it's quiet enough not to disturb the peace. 

Unfortunately, on faster roads, particularly those with inclines, the Jazz’s CVT automatic gearbox raises the engine revs and holds them there until you reach cruising speed and back off. It sounds like you're stuck in first gear and isn't a particularly relaxing experience, especially since the Jazz’s 1.5-litre petrol engine is rather coarse at high revs and sends vibrations through the controls.

There’s a bit of wind noise from around the door mirrors, too, and tyre and suspension noise aren't as well suppressed as they might be. However, the regenerative brakes (all hybrids and electric cars have these) are much more progressive than the Toyota Yaris Hybrid's and allow you to draw to a halt gently, without jolting your passengers.

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