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Let's be honest, the Honda Jazz has the rather unfortunate reputation of being the favourite car of Britain's grandparents. That may be so, but it’s a strong seller in its class precisely beacause it's easily the most spacious and practical among its peers.
For 2018, the Jazz has had a very light refresh, giving it a more sporting design, but Honda is aware of its very loyal Jazz customer base who like things fairly conservative, so the changes are subtle rather than substantial.
The bigger change is under the bonnet. Honda has listened to customer feedback and introduced a new, more powerful engine. It’s a 1.5-litre, four-cylinder petrol that becomes the most powerful in the range, sitting above the 1.3-litre petrol, which previously was the solitary choice.
2018 Honda Jazz on the road
The 1.3's performance isn't its strong point, but the new 1.5 has a useful extra 30bhp, so drops the Jazz's 0-62mph time from a lowly 11.2sec to a more sprightly 8.7sec.
The boost in pace is noticeable, and the 1.5 offers much more flexibility, pulling harder from low revs than the 1.3. It is, however, naturally aspirated, whereas many rival units, such as those in the Ford Fiesta and Volkswagen Polo, are turbocharged. This means you have to rev the engine hard if you want a real turn of speed. As a result, you find yourself shifting gears more than in those rivals.
But the real issue is the engine noise: the Jazz has the loudest petrol engines in its class. That isn’t a good thing - after all, it’s not a sporty exhaust note, rather a boomy and strained engine. So, although this 1.5 offers better performance than the 1.3, it’s noisier with it.
At least the Jazz's handling remains predictable and assured, while the light steering makes driving around town easy, even if it doesn’t deliver any thrills on the open road.
Ride quality, though, is quite unsettled, especially at low speeds, and the Jazz generally doesn’t offer the polished and enjoyable drive of the Polo and class-leading Seat Ibiza.
2018 Honda Jazz interior
The real standout positive for the Jazz has always been its practicality. People taller than 6ft will have no problem getting comfortable in the front or, more impressively, rear seats. You won’t find a more spacious small hatchback.
The boot is equally remarkable. It’s comparable to the best in the class, such as the Ibiza's, and the rear seats (and front passenger seat) fold completely flat to give it a very impressive extended load capacity. And those in the rear Honda’s 'magic' seats, whose bases fold up like cinema seats.
The fit and finish inside is not as good as that in the Polo, but the Jazz does get a decent amount of standard equipment in its trims – our favourite being SE which gets an (admittedly poor) infotainment system, 15in alloys and front and rear parking sensors. Standard safety systems include automatic emergency braking, while SE adds traffic sign recognition and lane departure warning.
A new trim level, Sport, has been added as part of the Jazz's update. This brings some sporty styling for the exterior, LED headlights and 16in alloys, but it's far too expensive to recommend, so we'd suggest sticking to lesser trims.
All Jazz models score a five-star safety rating from Euro NCAP.
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