Review: Honda Jazz has a youthful look and unrivalled space

The Honda Jazz comes with a 1.3 petrol engine and six manual or CVT automatic gears
The Honda Jazz comes with a 1.3 petrol engine and six manual or CVT automatic gears
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Driving a lurid yellow hatchback in the places I drive can cause offence. It was called, ominously, Attract Yellow. It’s Birds custard with sparkly, pearly bits.

At least the Honda Jazz had some “cred” as a brand you would bet your granny on – in fact she may well be driving it. Older drivers like the Jazz. All four doors have high apertures and open wide, which is appreciated by creaking joints and for getting toddlers/babies into a car seat. These doors reduce the risk of rigging your back and banging your noggin.

The latest Jazz has a more youthful look, with a stance which makes it seem to hug the road – back in my youth the word was “planted”. It is one of those models that buyers return to for their next car, Jazz for Jazz. Dealers like that because (a) they get another sale with the profit they need for a winter break in the West Indies and (b) they can sell the trade-in for someone moving onto or up the Jazz ladder. That’s more money towards a spa weekend for their dearest.

If I were wanting a smallish used hatchback it’s a model I’d target. You might wake up one morning and think the Attract Yellow was just a bit shy-making after all but (a) you can always spot it in a car park or street and (b) I am searching for a “b”. Oh, it shows off the latest curves and facets of the bodywork.

My workout for the Jazz included a few hundred miles of motorway, where it was fine as long as you did not expect too much lift-off after the slow sections without changing down a few cogs from its relaxed sixth gear.

On the other hand, from a grid start, facing off a van at your side, it will sprint to 60 in about 11 seconds and (somewhere legal) reach almost 120. That’s amazing for a 1.3 engine with just 100bhp but the van will still be with you. My Lotus 7 used to throw the towel in at 95 (wind under the wings, you see). A Morgan +8 never went faster than 125. My mildly tweaked Morris Mini Cooper could just exceed the ton.

I grew up going fast, in the days when fast for most people was not all that fast. So I can’t humble the Jazz for its performance. It’s just that the world is packed with reps and whizzers and wide- boys in (often) German road-burners. When you are, as I was, breezing along at a regulation 70 in an Attack Yellow, so sorry, an Attract Yellow car the whoosh of (usually) an Audi or BMW at a very illegal pace is more noticeable than when you are pushing along at 80 to 90. Speeders warning: there are new covert speed cameras on motorways as police enforce the limits. Also, police are being tough on single-figure excesses on all roads. Finally, don’t be tempted to “race” anything modern German with silvery grey paint. They are favoured as “plain” cars by the police.

Play safe, get a Jazz. It has a cruise control button, which keeps your speed at a set mph. The snag then is you inevitably get blocked by other vehicles and have to brake. However, the Jazz also has a speed limiter which will resist you going faster than a set speed. This is useful on roads you don’t know – like French ones. There, the cameras are in low-level inconspicuous boxes.

The briefing notes on the third generation Jazz tell me that it has unrivalled space and versatility. It does indeed. Headroom and rear space is generous and the back seat can be tipped up to make an extra cargo space between front and rear seats. Ideal for dumping bulky bags to stop them rolling about. There’s more: “Occupants also benefit from a refined ride and interior quality, advanced safety and infotainment technologies, as well as a highly efficient and dynamic driving experience.”

Yes, all but the S model have alloy wheels, internet browsing, real time traffic and news flashes and a decent array of things like touch screen input and storage areas. I suppose it can be a dynamic driving experience but it didn’t thrill me in that way. I’d also question its ride refinement. Its manner is firm, rigid enough to find ripples in a road which looks flat. The back can jolt over more obvious road flaws and there is a soundtrack from the Michelin Energy 185/60/15 tyres. I also marked it down for a notchy gear change.

Verdict: The more you think about the Jazz the more you tune in.