David Linklater reviews the bright, brash and sporty Honda Jazz RS CVT.
Base price: $26,900.
Powertrain and performance: 1.5-litre petrol four, 97kW/155Nm, continuously variable transmission with sport and seven-step manual-hold modes, front-drive, Combined economy 5.4 litres per 100km.
Vital statistics: 3955mm long, 1525mm high, luggage capacity 359 litres, fuel tank 40 litres, 16-inch alloy wheels with 185/55 tyres.
We like: Striking style, sporting character, Magic Seat system.
We don’t like: Lacks refinement, unresolved ride, vague centre-console touch controls.
How it rates: 8/10
WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW? The all-new Jazz is built to much the same recipe as the previous generations: tall body, clever folding seats and thrifty engines. But Honda New Zealand wants something a little bit more out of this car: it’s hoping the sporty-looking RS model will inject a bit of enthusiast appeal into the Jazz range.
WHAT’S IT LIKE TO DRIVE? The Jazz RS is not merely sporty looking: it does have 200cc extra engine capacity over the entry-level S model and it produces some pretty impressive numbers: nearly 100kW from just 1.5 litres.
That’s the good news. The bad news is that this little engine only really gets lively when you get high in the rev range. Peak power is at 6000rpm and maximum torque isn’t available until 4500rpm, so you have to work hard for your performance.
Quiet it ain’t. But this is a remarkably strong powerplant and doesn’t feel the least bit fragile at high revs, eagerly spinning around to 6000rpm and beyond.
You can have the RS with a manual gearbox (which is rather good). Our test car was fitted with the automatic continuously variable transmission (CVT), which is not the sportiest choice but will be the preferred specification for the majority of buyers. This is, after all, still a city car at heart.
The CVT does come with a sport mode, which instantly adds at least 1500rpm to engine speed and gives you lots of engine braking if required. It certainly gets your attention.
The chassis is actually quite sporty as well. The steering is light but there’s quite a lot of grip at the front end and the attitude of the tail is easily adjusted with the throttle. It’s a bit like an old-school warm-hatch in that regard – both good and bad. The rear can feel awfully light under heavy braking.
IS IT EASY TO LIVE WITH? There’s a high-tech look and feel to the Jazz cabin, with layered instrumentation and a glossy centre console with every control – sat-nav, climate – controlled by touch. It’s a nice idea but with nothing tactile to guide you, it’s a bit awkward having to stare at that large expanse of plastic to try and find the right button at the right time.
Sat-nav is a welcome feature on a car in this price range, though. The system is a bit slow to start up but the screen is generously sized. It runs on an Android operating system and is quite smooth once you get it going.
The Jazz RS also has keyless entry and start, although in CVT specification it oddly it misses out on the automatic lights and wipers of the manual version.
The Jazz’s genius remains its interior space and the Magic Seat system. As with previous models, there are four layouts available: utility (seats flat, like a van), tall (rear squabs folded upwards for floor-to-roof loading in the rear footwell), long (front passenger seats also folded flat) and refresh (left and right sides converted into beds).
There’s still nothing quite like Magic Seat in any other car on the market. It’s brilliant.
SHOULD I BUY ONE? If Honda wanted to inject a more sporting edge into the Jazz, it’s succeeded with the RS. The raucous engine and slightly nervous chassis certainly get your attention – although it might al come as a shock to the system for long-time devotees of the car.
That’s not to say the Jazz RS is particularly fast or pin-sharp in corners. But it is quite entertaining in its own way.
- Air conditioning: Climate
- Audio: CD, iPod compatible
- Automatic lights/wipers: No (manual model only)/No
- Blind spot warning: No
- Bluetooth: Yes
- Cruise control: Yes
- Driver footrest: Yes
- Head-up display: No
- Heated/ventilated seats: No
- Keyless entry/start: Yes/Yes
- Lane guidance: No
- Leather upholstery: No
- Parking radar: Camera only
- Power boot or tailgate: No
- Power seat adjustment/memory: No
- Rear ventilation outlets: No
- Remote audio controls: Yes
- Satellite navigation: Yes
- Seat height adjustment: Yes
- Self-parking technology: No
- Split/folding rear seats: 60/40
- Steering reach adjustment: Yes
- Stop-start: No
- Trip computer: Yes
Want one? Find a Honda Jazz for sale on Autotrader.