What's the used Honda Jazz hatchback like?
If you’re after all the benefits of a good small car, namely easy of use and low running costs, but you need to combine that with the space and practicality of something like a mini-MPV, you should take a look at the Honda Jazz.
This is the third-generation model, and it follows on the tradition of both of its earlier versions by successfully bridging the gap between one class and the other. What this means in real terms is it’s shorter than a Ford Fiesta, but its boot and interior space are larger than a Ford Focus’s. Inside, it’s incredibly spacious in both the front and back, It’s more practical than those rivals, too, with rear seats that can be tilted, slid forward or back, folded down flat or even have their bases folded upwards to accommodate taller items. On top of that, the boot is larger than that found in most family hatchbacks, with very usable space.
After all that flexibility, it comes as quite a shock to discover that there are only two engine options: a rather wheezy 1.3-litre four-cylinder petrol unit and a 1.5-litre VTEC four-cylinder that was introduced along with a mild facelift in 2018. The standard gearbox is a reasonably slick six-speed manual, but there’s also the option of a CVT automatic gearbox.
There are five trim levels, starting with entry-level S, which gets air-con, a DAB radio, Bluetooth, automatic lights and wipers and electric mirrors. However, we’d go for next-up SE, which adds 15in alloy wheels, parking sensors and the Honda Connect infotainment system. It’s also worth looking for SE Navi trim, which, as the name suggests, adds sat-nav, while EX and top-spec EX Navi up the goodie count even higher.
It’s fair to say that this Jazz succeeds in the same areas that the previous iterations did, with its spaciousness, practicality and low running costs, not to mention its top-notch build quality, winning it lots of friends, but on the road it’s let down a little by its firm ride and poor refinement and by being slightly uninspiring to drive.
The 1.3-litre car is rather slow, for one. It comes alive at the top of its rev range but it is in no great hurry to get there. If you do want a bit more verve, the 1.5-litre engine’s extra 30bhp looks rather tempting. It’s worth remembering that this is still a naturally aspirated engine, though. That means you’ll need to wring its neck for the engine to feel brisk; it doesn’t really come alive until over 3000rpm. The CVT automatic gearbox is an acquired taste, and one which works well at town speeds and in low-acceleration procedures, but if you put your foot down it allows the Jazz’s engine to rev too high, exposing its poor refinement.
At low speeds around town, the Jazz's ride never really settles down, either. Its suspension reacts abruptly to cracks, potholes and broken surfaces. Body control is good over bigger bumps, though.
The Jazz isn’t especially fun to drive, but it is at least safe and predictable. The steering is light, and so it's great for town work. Despite the stiff springing, the Jazz’s tall body means it leans more than its rivals.
It also suffers from lots of boomy engine noise. As the speed builds, it’s joined by increasingly distracting wind and road noise, too. The 1.5-litre unit is more flexible so doesn’t need revving quite as hard, but it still gets noisy if you require its full performance. While the engine’s note might be appealing to some when it’s being worked, it does drone at motorway speeds.
Inside, though, things are much more appealing. Even adults taller than six feet will have no problem making themselves comfortable in the front of the Jazz. There’s a huge amount of head room, and shoulder room is generous. The Jazz’s class-leading interior space extends to the rear. Two tall adults can sit in the outer rear seats without their heads touching the ceiling or their knees brushing against the front seatbacks. Three adults will find things more of a squeeze, but the middle passenger has the benefit of a flat floor.
Both front seatbacks come with a pocket for storing maps and other papers, while each outer rear seat gets a generous armrest. Both rear doors get a small but useful pocket for storing a small water bottle. Every model has impressively flexible seats. The front passenger seat has a wide range of fore, aft and rake adjustment, although height adjustment is available only on range-topping EX trim. The seatback can be laid flat, allowing long items to be pushed up to the dashboard. The rear seats are even more flexible. Their backs can be tilt-adjusted, split in a 60/40 configuration or pushed forward completely flat. The bases can also be folded upwards to lie against the seatbacks so that tall items up to ceiling height can be stowed widthways across the vehicle.
The Jazz’s boot is nearly as big as that in some small family cars and is very well thought out. Admittedly, there’s a small lip to lift bags over, but the boot is quite close to the ground so this isn’t a huge issue. There’s certainly enough room for a large pushchair or two large suitcases and other items. Folding the rear seats flat creates an even larger and equally uncluttered load area. Below the boot floor are more storage spaces for smaller items you may wish to keep out of sight.