Long Term Test: Honda Jazz - Pt. 6

By Byron Mathioudakis, 23 Mar 2016 Car Reviews

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Long Term Test: Honda Jazz - Pt. 6

The Honda Jazz, the baby of the Japanese carmaker's line-up, has crept under Byron’s skin.

To paraphrase the legendary Prince (via Sinead), as I write this, it’s been seven days and 15 hours since Honda took 518-TXQ away and, well, nothing compares to living with the latest Jazz.

Like an earworm, the Vivid Sky Blue Pearlescent VTi burrowed deep into my daily routine, and made itself so harmoniously useful there’s now a 4m x 1.7m x 1.52m gap in my existence.

This realisation dawned on me the moment a last-minute supermarket dash, just before dinner during a rainstorm in my inner-city suburb, highlighted how easy it all used to be. Usually, before even thinking about it, I’d be seated in the Jazz, unimpeded by the usual supermini obstacles like small doors and low roof, zipping to the shops and back in no time at all, aided by excellent vision, darty performance and a tiny turning circle. Once I did it inside the 5min 58sec duration of Blur’s Coffee & TV, as it was still playing on my return. Woo-hoo!

Not now, though. Compact and manoeuvrable most rivals might be, but now they all feel cramped and restricted, especially by their urban-unfriendly, modishly slot-like windows.

The point is, the Honda’s unique space-creating packaging has made it pretty much perfect for easy and effortless commuting. The Jazz was always our short-haul transport of choice, even when five of us needed to get somewhere quickly. And, as a makeshift panel van, those tuck-down ‘Magic Seats’ always surprised and delighted.

Likewise, the Honda impressed on the open road for its responsive performance, relatively unobtrusive CVT, leggy cruising ability, consistently low fuel consumption and comfortable front seats.

Honda Jazz side

In six months in my care, not a single item broke, rattled, failed or fell off, even after two unsolicited assaults from foreign objects waylaid it for a few weeks.

I can’t believe how much respect I have for 518-TXQ right now.

But love? The Jazz’s steering is too light and remote for that sort of intimate connection. Previously, I’ve also whinged about road noise intrusion on some highway surfaces, though after Wheels' supermini Megatest (Wheels, March 2015), the Jazz ain’t so bad, especially compared with the Mazda 2, Toyota Yaris and Holden Barina. Read the full small car comparison review here.

Of more concern is Honda’s decision to drop the previous models’ rear discs for drums. While no braking issues arose, consider that this company used to make taking the technological high road its mantra. Safety cost-cutting is a disgrace.

And that’s a curious thing because it’s not as if the Jazz is grudgingly equipped. Indeed, our $16,990 VTi CVT is staggeringly well specced, coming with a reversing camera, cruise control, Bluetooth telephone and audio streaming, a trip computer, audible speed warning, power windows all round, touchscreen multimedia system (albeit with annoyingly fiddly ‘capacitive touch’ for the volume), HDMI ports and two USB outlets.

Note, though, that the six-month servicing requirement rather than 12 might be an inconvenience for some.

In the final wash-up, the drum brakes sore point, along with the fact that the team at Wheels put a strong emphasis on dynamic capability and driving pleasure, means the latest Jazz would be a top buy for thousands of people, but not for me.

Honda Jazz front

What we have here is an outstanding-value everyday car for the realities of today. But Honda used to make outstanding premium vehicles for the dreamers of tomorrow. The world has changed and the company has adapted. At least there’s still enough differentiation in the Jazz to make it packaged like no other supermini. 

And that’s why I miss it. Rushing to finish this piece before darting out yet again to purchase the ingredients for dinner, nothing can chase away the blues I’m feeling now that my Jazz has gone away.

SHAKE THAT BODY

The project leader of the (Jazz-based) Honda HR-V, Naohisa Morishita, told Wheels the rear-door shaking we experienced testing our hatch over rougher surfaces might be an early Thai-build manufacturing defect affecting a small run, rather than an inherent issue. Claiming he’d never heard of such a thing, the worried engineering veteran promised to look into it immediately. If your Jazz’s back doors jingle over rough roads, our advice is to drop Honda a line straight away.

PRELUDE TO A REALITY CHECK

Buying and living with a halcyon-days Honda while testing the Jazz to see if it lives up to the brand’s 80s hype was misguided in hindsight, like trying to compare Beyonce with Like a Prayer era Madonna. However, that my ’89 Prelude auto feels slow, clunky and hard-riding compared to the VTi is shocking, since the former boasts double-wishbone suspension. As for the old four-wheel steering, it feels artificially gloopy and disconnectedly spooky. Still, the Prelude kicks arse for class.

Click here to read the full review on the Honda Jazz range.

This article was originally published in Wheels May 2015.