Honda space ace better than ever

By Dave Moore

Apart from the fact that Honda has been able to put the new Jazz III into the showroom with more than $2200 worth of sat-nav and connectivity, plus alloy rims and other kit, and offer them in a vehicle that costs less than the old model, probably the most astonishing thing about Honda's third-generation Jazz is that no competitor has attempted to mimic or better its amazing packaging.

Just to remind you, the first Jazz appeared in 2002 with a platform that placed the fuel tank under the front seats, leaving better front-rear weight balance, a more appropriate centre of gravity and best of all, the most useful rear seat arrangement in its segment - or the one above, for that matter.

As with everyone else's hatchbacks, the Jazz's rear seat backs fold for more load space, but the Honda differs in that the rear cushions can be made to flip up too, locking in position to accommodate upright items on the floor. The front passenger seat also leans all the way back to make room for extra-long storage. Even when the rear seats are in use, there's space underneath those cushions to stow business and sports bags, and of course valuables when you're parked.

Magically, the Jazz also allows five tall people to comfortably use its cabin without getting in each others' way, though Honda would be the first to admit that the centre-rear row passenger doesn't have the best seat in the house, just the best centre-rear seat in the segment.

Fully-dressed Jazz III: This is the Mugen model with full bodykit and alloy wheel regalia. It's as quick as it looks.

If you were another carmaker and saw how Honda has managed to get more out of its wee road footprint than anyone else, wouldn't you have a go at using the same technology? After all, there's no mortgage on clever ideas as obvious as this. Simply, Honda could have merely stuck with that first design and have done with it. After all, the others haven't caught up, even after a dozen years.

The 2015 Jazz remains as much a packaging marvel as the first car, and has been redesigned to provide more headroom and legroom for taller adults, a change achieved by taking away about 142mm of conventional cargo space with the rear seats up. The volume is still 363 litres, so there's nothing to be concerned about, thanks to the way those rear seats' bases are engineered - as we've just described. In addition, all you have to do now is pull the levers controlling those seats and they quickly topple to provide a flat, uncluttered load space measuring up to a massive 1622-litre volume.

And there are up to eight drink holders and cubbies, pockets and slots everywhere, without mentioning the space under those rear seats again. The car is the automotive equivalent of a pair of oversized combat pants.


Drivetrain: Transverse fwd 16 valve ivtec dohc fours; with cvt automatic or six-speed manual, and hill-start assist.

1.3L Atkinson cycle – 73kW at 6000rpm, 119Nm at 5000rpm, 5.1L/100km and 117g/km CO2.
1.5L Direct injected – 97kW at 6600rpm, 155Nm at 4600rpm, 5.26L/100km and 120g/km CO2. (manual) 123g/km (CVT).

Chassis: Front MacPherson struts, rear torsion beam, adaptive electric power steer, sports-type in 1.5s, Front-vented disc brakes, rear discs on 1.5s, drums on 1.3s, alloy rims on all models. 

Safety: City-brake assist on RS; six airbags, ABS, traction control, ESP; reversing camera; hill-start assist; 5-start NCAP crash safety.

Touchscreen sat-nav (7.0 inch LCD) standard in all Jazz models; Bluetooth hands-free; text inboxes; iPad, iPod, iPhone; Android, USB, MP3 and SD card compatibility with sound and video.

L 4300mm, W 1770mm, H 1475mm, W/base 2665mm, weight 1268-1336kg, fuel 50 litres.

Jazz S $23,700 (CVT only),
RS $25,500 (man) $26,900 (CVT), Sport adds $1500 to RS, Mugen adds another $2500. A 3-year service plan is $950, 5-year plan $1500. Free five-year unlimited kilometre warranty and roadside assistance plan.

 Crisp styling; packaging; great safety and equipment levels with sat-nav and full connectivity; amazingly, cheaper than the older car, model-for-model; massive space as usual and fun drive with bigger engines.

Not: Unable to de-content sat-nav and alloys to reduce sticker price, maybe later; no EV or hybrid. Brash Mugen models add nothing except for naffness and cost, but youngsters might like it.

The new Jazz is 55mm longer than its predecessor overall, with the wheelbase also up by 30mm and, when this is coupled with suspension improvements - MacPherson struts front, torsion- beam rear with stabiliser bars front and back - it adds up to better handling and a noticeably smoother ride.

On the mechanical front, the biggest piece of good news for New Zealand is that the previous model's five-speed automatic has been dumped in favour of a continuously variable transmission, or CVT. Also positive is the furnishing of a new version of the 1.5-litre engine, a direct-injected iVTEC unit that now puts out a lusty 97kW - the kind of power associated with two-litre units or turbos in many cars. The engine also churns out 155Nm of twisting power at 4600rpm and it has to be said that it's a quick, powerful car with either the standard six-speed manual transmission (up a ratio on the previous 1.5s) or the paddle- shifted CVT. The CVT is brilliant, and with paddle shifters on all but the base 1.3 S model.

Curiously, you can't get a manual transmission at all on the base 1.3-litre car, which is a pity because that gearbox also features fuel-friendly Idle- Stop on the 1.5-litre unit and probably contributes to its 5.26L/100km fuel-consumption level.

Fitted to the 73kW, 119Nm 1.3-litre Atkinson-cycle engine, it would probably pull that engine's posted 5.1L/100km consumption level to something around the mid-4 litres area (or about 60mpg).

The benefits of the new Jazz III motor's better fuel efficiency is that it can travel from 112km (1.3) to 147km (1.5) further on a tank of gas than a Jazz II, despite a two litre- smaller tank on the new car.

The standard spec list reveals a barrowload of extra kit even the base car gets.

Every Jazz now fronts up with standard sat-nav and alloy wheels. The sat-nav also provides a wide seven-inch screen to give you a reversing camera guide and a touch- screen audio control.

There is an information interface for the standard connectivity package - again in all Jazz models, which includes Android, iPod and MP3/WMA compatibility, as well as AUX and USB input, music streaming and WiFi for Bluetooth hands-free phone use. The steering wheel has audio controls, too, while the sound output is speed sensitive.

It would be churlish to complain about having too much kit, but it would be nice to see what the sticker could have been for a base model with a conventional stereo and nice steel wheels, and I have a feeling that an awful lot of the Jazz's standard equipment may never be used by some older potential owners. However, being a grey- connected driver myself, I'd snap up this gear as soon as look at it, especially when the old 1.3 automatic asked $24,900 to the new car's $23,700.

The rest of the standard kit is impressive too, with every new Jazz except for the base S model having City Brake Assist, which gives audio and visual warnings when sensors detect a potential high-risk collision. It uses a radar unit fitted behind the interior mirror to detect closing objects in front of the car. If the driver doesn't brake, the system will do it for them. It also takes over if a driver presses the accelerator instead of the brake (not uncommon at all) giving a warning first and taking over altogether if necessary.

All the other safety elements are in every Jazz, including ABS, traction and stability control, hazard-light activation when braking hard, three-point seatbelts in all five positions, front-side and curtain airbags, as well as hill- start assist.

That Honda is looking at broadening its intended market positioning for the Jazz is obvious, for the lineup offers three 1.5-litre RS models, each with sports suspension, and with Sport and Mugen levels of body add-ons and three alloy-wheel variations: two 16-inch choices for the RS and RS Sport and a 17-in option for the RS Mugen. Even the wee $23,700 1.3-litre Jazz S gets a set, albeit 15-inch items. The RS 1.5 manual starts at $25,500, and the RS Sport from $27,000, while the RS Mugen comes in at $29,500.

With seven models spread from $23,700 to $30,900, , Honda's marketing people say they expect to pump out 1800 annual Jazz units after several years of being well below the 1000-unit mark.

There's no doubt the younger, possibly more dynamic, buyer is afforded a more engaging feel in their potential Jazz purchase this time.

Every 1.5 has what Honda calls sports suspension, but the RSs feel different because of their wheels. The RS Mugen, the most overdressed of the selection, is afforded plenty of grip thanks to its 17-in wheels, and is a little compromised, as it can prove a tiny bit wayward over mid- corner bumps.

The RS and RS Sport 1.5s each have 16-in rims, with the latter car having a 6.5 in-wide footprint to the former's 6-in, and among the cars I drove on Auckland's unfamiliar storm- ravaged roads, the 6.5s seemed to be best all-rounders for ride and handling, and certainly recommended for districts with bumpier roads.

While we raved about the terrific new six-speed gearbox, many launch attendees found the CVT was almost as much fun, with well-chosen paddle- shifted steps, and longer gearing, which made the cars equipped with it that much more refined at highway speed.

Anyone aspiring to own a B to C segment car should be looking at the new Jazz - it's simply too good to ignore.

© Fairfax NZ News