Honda New Zealand is about to shake up the small car market with the new 1.3-litre Jazz five-door which goes on sale on August 10.
The well-equipped car will go toe-to-toe with the segment leader, Toyota's Echo and runner-up Holden's Barina.
And at a highly-competitive price of $20,500 for the five-speed manual (the CVT auto version is $22,400).
On brief acquaintance at the Jazz's media launch last week, the car's only real failing seems to be a lap rather than a lap/sash seatbelt for the centre rear seat passenger.
Other wise, it looks good, handles nicely, goes well and has a reasonable ride quality.
We drove the five-speed manual and CVT (continuously variable transmission) automatic on a variety of surfaces from corrugated gravel to smooth tarmac.
And it acquitted itself very well.
The 1330cc inline four cylinder develops 61kW at 5700rpm and a creditable 119Nm of peak torque at 2800rpm. Ninety percent of that peak is available from 2000 to 5000rpm.
The Single Overhead Camshaft motor is unusual for a modern 1300 in having two valves per cylinder. That's to make the most of the torque generated by the long piston stroke.
And each cylinder has twin sparkplugs to burn fuel more efficiently.
The plugs fire sequentially, with the interval between the firings depending on engine speed and load.
The engine provides nippy performance and reasonably refined cruising.
We didn't get a chance to check fuel economy, but Honda says the Jazz is very frugal.
The manual gearshift is slick and positive and the CVT worked well, though we'd prefer one with gear ratio "steps" that can be shifted manually. The CVT offers a Sport mode.
The steering is direct and communicative and the car has a small amount of passive rear wheel steering built into the trailing arm/torsion beam rear suspension (front suspension is by MacPherson struts).
Honda's aim was to make the Jazz the roomiest, safest and most comfortable small car in the world. It has huge interior space and great versatility.
It can carry mountain bikes or bulky items of furniture and Honda NZ demonstrated its maximum cargo capacity - 1321 litres with the seats folded down - by unloading a seemingly endless stream of boxes from a sample car.
The Jazz is 3830mm long and rides on a 2450mm wheelbase. It's 1675mm wide and 1525mm high.
Front headroom is 930mm, rear headroom 884mm. Front cabin shoulder room is 1341mm and there's 1316mm in the back seat.
That adds up to a roomy cabin.
The manual weighs 1046kg and the auto 1068kg.
Honda designed the Jazz to achieve a best in class crash safety rating, and have an air of big car quality.
It's the first car built on Honda's new Global Small Car platform.
Its floorpan and suspension design allows a variety of body styles to be engineered around the same basic understructure. One of its features is a centrally mounted fuel tank. Honda says that's a supremely safe location.
It's as far away from any impact forces as possible and is protected by the chassis rails. The tank's positioning frees up additional space for both luggage space and rear passengers.
Honda has developed a seven-seat MPV-type vehicle, the Mobilio, based on the same floorpan.
The Jazz's interior includes what Honda calls the magic seat which can be folded in various ways. Combined with a totally flat cargo bay, it provides more opportunities to carry loads of various sizes and shapes.
With the seats in five-passenger configuration, there is still excellent cargo space - 380 litres.
The body structure design was based on extensive computer analysis and a real-life crash testing programme.
Honda thinks the Jazz will achieve Euro NCAP ratings of four stars for occupant protection and three stars for pedestrian protection.
Security includes keyless entry, a rolling-code immobiliser and a wave-type ignition key.
Standard equipment includes a single-disc in-dash Compact Disc player; manual air-conditioning, power windows and exterior mirrors; ABS anti-skid braking; dual front airbags and a tonneau cover for the cargo bay.
Honda NZ expects the Jazz to sell well. It's looking to sell around 500 between now and March.
Given the almost universally positive reaction to the car from the NZ motoring media last week, that may be conservative.
Honda says it has more than 700 test drives booked with Honda dealers by prospective customers.
And in the case of firm orders, black is proving a popular colour with buyers in Auckland. Silver is doing the business in Wellington.
Though the car is selling extremely well in Japan and elsewhere, Honda NZ doesn't expect to have supply problems. Jazz production has been increased to meet the high demand.
The likely Jazz buyers?
Younger people and the young at heart, says Honda NZ.
With its blend of excellent space, versatile layout, good performance and handling, and generous standard equipment, all at an outstanding price, the Jazz can't fail to do good business for Honda.