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Used test: Honda Jazz vs Toyota Yaris vs Volkswagen Polo interiors
The latest Jazz and Yaris are hybrids, while the Polo sticks to petrol power, but which of these small cars makes the best used buy?...
Driving position, visibility, build quality, practicality
The Honda Jazz has always been an outlier in the small car class because, while its footprint is similar to a Ford Fiesta’s, its driving position is more akin to an MPV’s. Put simply, you sit farther from the road than you do in most rivals, including the two it’s up against here. That makes the Jazz easiest to get in and out of, and while the sit-up-and-beg stance won’t be to everyone’s taste, it’s tough to fault for comfort.
Neither the Jazz nor the Toyota Yaris has adjustable lumbar support, although that’s more of an issue in the latter car, because there’s less support for your lower back to begin with. The Yaris’s seat base is also on the firm side, but there’s a bit more side support than in the Jazz to hold you in place through corners. And there’s plenty of seat and steering wheel adjustment, so drivers of most shapes and sizes should have no problem getting settled.
On balance, the Volkswagen Polo has the best driving position. You get adjustable lumbar support to help ward off lower back pain on long journeys, and there’s even more adjustment than in the Yaris to help set everything up just the way you want it.
Unlike many modern cars, all three have proper physical buttons and knobs for their air conditioning systems, so there’s no need to faff around with touch-sensitive pads or delve into menus on the touchscreen when you want to tweak the interior temperature. Mind you, the Polo’s controls could do with being a little higher on the dashboard.
The Jazz has the largest touchscreen here (measuring 9.0in) and it responds reasonably quickly to prods. There’s also a proper volume knob that’s easy to reach.
The Yaris' screen is positioned nice and high on the dashboard, and it’s flanked by physical (if rather small) shortcut buttons to take you directly to the feature you’re looking for. Go for our test car's Icon trim and you’ll get a 7.0in screen.
The Polo's 8.0in touchscreen is super-crisp and the operating system intuitive and quick to respond. We would prefer proper shortcut buttons instead of the fiddly touch-sensitive pads, but that’s a relatively minor gripe and one that doesn't stop us from crowning the Polo's infotainment as the best here.
All things considered, though, the Polo has the classiest interior. The main part of its dashboard is made from dense, squidgy plastic, and the leather on the steering wheel and gearknob feels surprisingly upmarket for a car in this price bracket. Yes, the interior is quite grey, but if you want to brighten things up, you can always seek out an example that had the optional colourful dashboard inserts fitted from new.
The Jazz isn’t far behind, though; its interior feels really well screwed together and some of the buttons and knobs actually feel more expensively engineered than their equivalents in the Polo. A smattering of glossy white plastic on the steering wheel and around the cupholders helps lift the otherwise sombre colour scheme, although it’s a pity there’s no leather covering on the steering wheel in SR trim. You need to upgrade to a more expensive example in EX trim to get that.
In this company, the Yaris fails to impress. True, its dashboard is soft to the touch in places, but there’s also plenty of hard, matt grey plastic. Still, as with the Polo, there are at least interior packs that some colour should you desire it.
How much space is enough? That’s the question you ought to be asking yourself here, because our research tells us that only one in three small car buyers considers interior space a top priority, falling to one in five for boot space.
So, even the most cramped of our protagonists, the Yaris, might suit you just fine. Like its rivals here, it comes with five doors and a couple of six-footers will fit in the back; they just won’t be very comfortable, because there isn’t a great deal of head or leg room. The rising windowline doesn’t let much light into the rear seat area, either, making it feel more cramped than it really is.
The Polo is much roomier. Those same six-footers won’t be grumbling, even on a long trip, although they’d be even happier in the back of the Jazz. The latter has the most leg and head room in the entire class, and its tall side windows flood the rear seat area with light.
The Polo is also the easiest car here to get in and out of and the best for carrying three adults in the back, thanks largely to its flat floor. Indeed, it’s a better choice for carrying passengers than many cars from the class above.
Without removing the parcel shelves, you’ll fit five carry-on suitcases into the boots of both the Polo and Jazz. The former’s is slightly longer, but the latter’s is taller and, at its broadest point, wider. The Yaris, meanwhile, has a relatively short, narrow boot with a big lip at its entrance; it can swallow only four cases.
All three cars have 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks for those trips to Ikea, but the Jazz has another trick up its sleeve: cinema-style flip-up seat bases, which free up space in the rear seat area for a dog, a few pot plants or even a bike.
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