First Drive

2015 Honda Jazz 1.3 i-VTEC review

All-new Honda Jazz gets a new engine, revised suspension, better practicality and the latest infotainment system for 2015.

Words ByRory White

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Strictly speaking, the Honda Jazz is a rival for small cars such as the Ford Fiesta, Skoda Fabia and Volkswagen Polo, but its class-leading space makes it look and feel more like a mini MPV.

Honda obviously wasn't satisfied with the old car, because for 2015 its new, third-generation Jazz is 95mm longer than before. Its wheelbase is 30mm longer, giving the rear passengers more leg room, while its boot is bigger by 17 litres, so it now holds 354 litres with the rear seats in place.

That's just the beginning. This Jazz is based on a new, lighter chassis and it has new suspension, quicker steering, improved interior quality and Honda's latest infotainment system.

Gone are the 1.2 and 1.4 petrol engines, both replaced by this new, 101bhp 1.3-litre unit, which is said to have more punch than the 1.4 while being more frugal than the 1.2. There are currently no plans for a hybrid Jazz in the UK.

What is the 2015 Honda Jazz like inside?

Even more spacious than before. Four tall adults will sit in comfort, with the rear passengers' knees well clear of the front seatbacks and very good head room on offer. Shoulder room has improved front and rear, but seating three adults across the rear seats will still be a squeeze.

Drivers of all shapes and sizes will be able to get comfortable because the steering wheel and seat adjustment allows for a good range of different positions. The pedals also line up nicely with the driver's seat and the Jazz's tall windows and thin pillars allow good all-round visibility.

The boot has good access and isn't obstructed too much by the rear wheel arches, plus it offers the most space in this class. The rear seats fold completely flat in a 60/40 configuration using levers to the side of the rear headrests, leaving no step in the boot floor.

The front passenger seat can also be folded flat to allow longer items to be slid right through, while Honda's unique 'Magic Seat' system is standard, meaning you can fold the rear seat's bases up against the backrests to create an almost flat tunnelled space in the rear cabin for transporting tall items such as plants or bikes.

Interior quality has been improved but it still doesn't match the class best; our SE Navi test car's switchgear didn't feel as substantial to the touch as a Polo's or even a Fabia's.

Honda's Connect infotainment system (standard from SE and up) features a responsive 7.0in screen that's nice and bright and comes with large, easy-to-hit buttons. The menu system is relatively easy to get your head around, too. Our Navi model's navigation system was quick to load, easy to follow on screen and gave clear instructions.

Entry-level cars forego alloy wheels but do get a DAB radio, Bluetooth, automatic lights and wipers, electric mirrors and air-con. We'd spend the extra on SE trim, though, which adds 15in alloy wheels, the Connect infotainment system, front and rear parking sensors and an alarm for not a lot extra. Sat-nav is Β£610 extra.

What is the 2015 Honda Jazz like to drive?

This new 1.3 might be quicker than the old 1.4, but it's still sluggish. It feels most alive at the top of its rev range but has to be pushed there if you want a good turn of acceleration. You'll find yourself continually changing down a gear in order to access it, too.

The gearbox itself has a pleasingly short shift and snappy action and there's only a hint of buzz through the pedals at very high revs. Unfortunately extra sound deadening in the wheel arches and dashboard hasn't stopped a lot of engine noise entering the cabin, even at medium revs.

We also tried the CVT automatic, which is best avoided unless an automatic gearbox is absolutely necessary. As is common with CVT transmissions, it allows the Jazz's engine to rev high and expose its refinement weaknesses. It also makes the Jazz feel decidedly slower when accelerating.

Driving the Jazz hard through corners isn't an enjoyable experience either. The steering feels vague around the straight-ahead, only to weight up too much beyond that and feel nervously quick. The body suffers from more lean than the best-driving small cars through tight bends and chicanes.

Our German test route didn't feature any broken roads, but even so, at low and high speeds the Jazz's body tends to bob about as it struggles to keep its body under control over bumps and crests. In short, the Fiesta remains the best of the small car bunch to drive, but the Jazz lags behind the Fabia and Polo in this area, too.

Should I buy one?

In our favourite, 1.3 manual SE, guise the Jazz is cheaper than the equivalent Fiesta but costs more than a similarly specced Skoda Fabia or Volkswagen Polo. PCP finance usually make up most of small car sales, but the Jazz's traditionally older, cash-rich cash buyer makes up 50% of sales, so this could be an issue. PCP finance starts from Β£139 per month for an S-trim Jazz with a Β£4000 deposit. Competitive, but it's around the same money for the classier Polo.

In the Jazz's favour is its brilliant space and practicality. It's simply the best in the small car class in this respect, trumping even the Skoda Fabia for interior space and flexibility. It's also well equipped, comes with important safety kit such as city braking as standard across the range and has an impeccable reliability record.

However, despite being quicker and more frugal, the Jazz's new 1.3 still feels old-school next to the newer turbocharged units found in the Ford, Skoda and VW. It emits more CO2 and uses more fuel and is slower and noisier than its rivals' best engines. The Jazz's chassis doesn't reward drivers with the same sense of poise or directness as the class best, either.

What Car? says...

The rivals

Ford Fiesta

Volkswagen Polo

Honda Jazz 1.3 i-VTEC SE Navi

Engine size 1.3-litre petrol

Price from Β£15,205

Power 101bhp

Torque 91lb ft

0-62mph 11.2 seconds

Top speed 118mph

Fuel economy 56.5mpg

CO2 116g/km