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Honda Jazz EX

What type of person buys a Honda Jazz? The last generation model certainly had a “that’s one for the grandparents” feel about it. It’s a car that has been lauded for its practicality and excellent reliability but, as part of a sales pitch, those qualities are hardly likely to get pulses racing.

Honda are clearly hoping to change that with the arrival of the fourth generation Jazz. It has been given a new look – the angular lines have been replaced with softer curves and a profile that looks, in this reviewer's opinion, less MPV-like – and a brand new hybrid powertrain.

Much like its big brother, the Yaris, the Jazz combines an efficient 1.5-litre petrol engine with two motors that are powered by a compact battery.

2020 Honda Jazz (44876582)
2020 Honda Jazz (44876582)

It might look less like an MPV on the outside but climb inside and the high seating position is very much reminiscent of a people carrier. That impression is reinforced by the large and remarkably flat windscreen.

You do get a great view of the road, especially with the additional front three-quarter windows, but I couldn’t help but feel just a little “Postman Pat” perched behind the wheel. It is, as it turns out, a deliberate effort on Honda’s part to provide the driver with excellent visibility, not to make me feel uncomfortably exposed.

The side and rear windows are quite deep but the thick rear pillars do impact on your view at the corners. Front and rear parking sensors are fitted as standard from mid-spec SR trim while the top-of-the-range EX and Crosstar EX models benefit from the addition of a rear-view camera.

You should be able to get comfortable thanks to a steering wheel that offers a good range of adjustment and a height-adjustable driver’s seat on every trim level. Everything – the wheel, seat and pedals – all line up nicely so you won’t find yourself sitting slightly askew but there’s no adjustable lumbar support.

2020 Honda Jazz (44876615)
2020 Honda Jazz (44876615)

The ergonomics are sound with delightfully chunky controls for adjusting the air conditioning while all the other switchgear is thoughtfully positioned.

Every car in the range is fitted with bright LED headlamps as standard with high beam assist that automatically switches between high and low beam.

Entry-level SE models are fitted with five-inch colour LCD screens and are equipped with Bluetooth, DAB radio, USB sockets, a four-speaker audio system and steering wheel-mounted controls.

Splash a little more cash on SR trim and you get a nine-inch colour LCD screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and, to be honest, you’ll probably want to use them because the standalone system isn’t really up to scratch. The graphics are a little basic and that’s not helped by the relatively low resolution of the screen.

2020 Honda Jazz (44876563)
2020 Honda Jazz (44876563)

Built-in sat-nav is only available on top-of-the-range EX trim while the Crosstar EX – a slightly higher-riding, plastic cladding-wearing, pseudo off-road version – is fitted with an upgraded eights-speaker audio system with a subwoofer.

Lower down in the cabin, tucked away in those areas that people generally don’t go poking with their fingers, the plastics feel a little brittle and scratchy – it’s like that in most small cars – but for the most part the quality is excellent. There are lots of soft-touch materials, particularly in the centre of the dashboard, and all the buttons and dials feel impressively damped.

The Jazz is the roomiest kid in the (small car) class. Up front there’s ample room for even the tallest of passengers thanks to a generous amount of head, and shoulder, room and seats that slide a long way back.

There are three cupholders (yes you read that right) in the front – one just behind the gear selector and another two situated at the outermost reaches of the dashboard. The door pockets are large enough to hold a 250ml bottle.

2020 Honda Jazz (44876561)
2020 Honda Jazz (44876561)

You don’t get just one glovebox, you get two, one above the other, plus a tray at the base of the centre of the dashboard and a cubby below the centre armrest.

Space is just as generous in the back where there’s enough for a couple of grown-ups to lounge around in the two outermost seats – as long as you’re not trying to accommodate a third passenger – without fear of deconstructing their meticulously coiffed hair against the roof or feeling the front seats pressing against their knees. Even if you are carrying a trio of passengers it’s hardly a crowd and, because the floor is flat, there’s plenty of room for six feet.

It's pleasantly hushed in the cabin, particularly if you’re pootling around town using the battery. Even when the engine does start up it does so seamlessly and is quiet enough at low speeds not to disturb the peace and tranquillity.

Sadly the same can’t be said when the engine is being taxed a little more. It’s largely down to the CVT gearbox that allows the engines revs to rise and keeps them high until you reach your cruising speed and lift off. It can sound as if you’re sitting in the wrong gear and the situation isn’t helped by the fact that the engine has a rather coarse, unrefined, tone to at high revs and sends vibrations through the controls.

2020 Honda Jazz (44876567)
2020 Honda Jazz (44876567)

There is some wind noise from around the mirrors while road noise permeates the cabin a little more than you would hope. The regenerative brakes are well-judged, though, which makes slowing the car smoothly, often an issue with this system, easy.

The only engine in the line-up is the 1.5-litre petrol-electric hybrid. Power output is 108bhp and that propels the Jazz to 60mph in a reasonable 9.5 seconds according to the manufacturer.

This is a self-charging hybrid – you don’t plug it in to anything when you get home – and the system keeps the battery topped up using a combination of engine and braking energy. The range on pure electrical power is tiny but that’s not what the Jazz is all about. Instead, in Hybrid mode, the system determines the most appropriate times to run on electrical power and when to fire up the petrol engine so you end up with mostly silent running in built-up areas – particularly with a delicate right foot – and a combination of both when the speeds rise.

It's a very comfortable cruiser, gliding along smoothly on motorways for the most part, but when you encounter sharper-edged imperfections there’s a thud from the suspension followed by a poorly-controlled shudder as the car settles again.

2020 Honda Jazz (44876573)
2020 Honda Jazz (44876573)

You won’t emerge from the Jazz after a cross-country jaunt with a big grin on your face. It doesn’t deliver a driving experience as involving as a Fiesta or Ibiza – it isn’t meant to – rather it’s safe and predictable as opposed to fun and feisty. There isn’t massive amounts of grip and the Jazz’s tall profile means that it is prone to greater body roll than other cars in its class but it’s never an overwhelming cause for concern.

The Jazz isn’t cheap, quite the opposite in fact, but it is very generously kitted out with even the entry-level SE trim coming with automatic lights and wipers, adaptive cruise control, power-folding door mirrors and a whole raft of safety equipment. If you want alloy wheels you have to step up to SR trim which also adds front and rear parking sensors, part-leather seats, more attractive interior trim and a much-improved infotainment system.

You also get space, and lots of it, for your hard-earned. Passenger space is second-to-none and the wonderfully flexible, and unique, rear seating arrangement enhances its practicality. It is neither the most fun nor the most comfortable car in its class but it is still easy to live with on a day-to-day basis. All-round visibility is excellent so it’s a great little runabout in urban areas where space is at a premium while the hybrid powertrain helps keep running costs reasonably low.

Honda Jazz EX

Price: £21,385

As tested: £22,035

Engine: 1.5-litre 3-cylinder petrol

Transmission: CVT

Max power (engine): 97PS

Max power (motor): 109PS

Max torque (engine): 131Nm @ 4,500 - 5,000rpm

Max torque (motor): 253Nm

Max speed: 108mph

0-62mph: 9.5.sec

Economy (WLTP)

Combined: 61.4mpg

CO2 emissions (WLTP)

Combined: 104g/km

For more information visit www.honda.co.uk

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