2014 Honda Jazz Petrol Full Review - Still Playing A Youthful Jive
Times certainly have changed.There was a time not too long ago when the Honda Jazz was the only non-Malaysian hatchback of its category that you could buy. Back then, the Thai-built fully-imported Jazz’s price tag stood at RM99,800, which was a huge sum more than what Honda was charging for the locally-assembled City sedan. While the Jazz didn’t make much financial sense, it became a status symbol for the young at heart in its own right. Think of it along the lines as the “Japanese MINI” and you are about there.
Now the story is a little different, the Jazz is still with us, but it has to share the market with several new competitors ranging from the Korean Kia Rio, to the European Ford Fiesta and Volkswagen Polo. With Honda’s new #2 Line already operating and producing a steady supply of locally-assembled Jazz models, the price has been lighted to RM74,800, but is it enough to make the ageing Jazz a worthwhile buy today?
The locally-assembled Jazz, now called Jazz Petrol to differentiate it from the Jazz Hybrid, has RM25,000 knocked clean off its asking price from the Jazz Grade S, while retaining the same amount of features. Only the pearlescent white colour option has been dropped in favour of stoic shades of metallic brown and solid white, shared from the locally-assembled City’s colour chart.
Looking past the rather ‘mundane’ choice of colours , the Jazz Petrol proved to be the same practical and fun-to drive hatchback that it has always been, even if you take into account the presence of its many younger rivals.
Spec: 2014 Honda Jazz Petrol
Engine: 1,497cc, 4-cylinder SOHC i-VTEC
Transmission: Five-speed automatic, front-wheel drive
Max power: 120PS (88kW) @ 6,600rpm
Max torque: 146Nm @ 4,800rpm
Fuel Consumption: 8.54L/100km (observed)
Likes: Practicality, handling
Dislikes: Ride, cabin quality
Ride And Handling – Going About With A Verve
It may be a product of 2007, but the way the Jazz still darts about to your every input certainly gives you the impression that it is far from being ready for retirement. With minimal body roll and plenty of road holding grip, the Jazz certainly handles the corners well. Feedback is a little lacking though, which is expected of the electric power steering it comes fitted with, but Honda at least manages to dial in some steering weight to ensure that the Jazz doesn’t feel too twitchy at highway speeds.
Though it still handles well, the ride certainly feels unrefined. Over rough roads the stiff suspension failed to absorb the bumps properly, and the ride is best described as far from being compliant and comfortable over pock-marked roads.
The 1.5-litre unit is smooth and peppy as is the characteristic of most Honda engines, whereas the five-speed automatic shifts smoothly though it prefers to do the deed in a more leisurely fashion. With 120PS and 146Nm of torque to play with the Jazz really comes alive when you push the engine into the upper reaches of the rev range.
Features & Refinement – Showing Signs of Ageing
The Jazz’s dashboard still remains as a piece of futurist art, the curved instrument pods and asymmetrical dashboard looks as fresh as they have been for the past seven years. Its layout is neat and well thought out, even though remembering the sequence of the vertically arranged air conditioner dials takes some getting used to.
However, where the Jazz starts to show signs of ageing is in the refinement department. The sound proofing lets too much external noise through, and the build quality of certain components doesn’t feel up to scratch as the quality seen on some of its newer rivals.
Though it comes with the standard dual airbags, ABS with EBD and brake assist, and the all-important VSA stability control systems, the Jazz certainly lacks the new “connective” functions that are being offered in its segment rivals. The 4-speaker audio system only has to make do with a USB port and the standard AUX jack, and it still has a manual adjustment air-conditioner.
Living With It –Space For All
To give you an example of the cabin’s handiness, where most cars are content with giving you space for two water bottles and one glove compartment, the Jazz comes with six water bottle holders and two glove compartments thrown in just for good measure. There are so many useable storage bins littered all around the cabin that you wouldn’t be in want even if you are the kind who can’t leave their house with half their earthly possessions.
That generosity in storage capacity also translates into the bootspace where it is big enough to accommodate a large 80-litre container, with enough room for the average suitcase.Flip the rear ultra-seats to form a flat floor and the luggage capacity is raised to a huge 1,321 litres, which is more space than one can expect to have in a 3.9-metre long hatchback. So much so that I think Honda has mastered the trick of bending space and time to achieve the Jazz’s level of roominess.
As a city runabout the Jazz is certainly beyond reproach. With huge expanses of glass around offering a great amount of visibility all around, including its extremities, the Jazz feels more like a glasshouse than a compact-sized car.
Rivals – Age Is No Issue
From the features list at least the Jazz certainly has an uphill fight when facing off with its fresh-faced and newer market rivals on the showroom floor. The RM73,888 Kia Rio 1.4EX is not only pert and pretty in its looks, but fantastically well equipped with projector headlights, LED daytime running lights, and six airbags with traction control. Its only failing is that the Rio isn’t all that exciting to drive and its engine isn’t as peppy on the go.
Slightly higher up the price range comes the simply delectable-to-drive Ford Fiesta Titanium at RM86,988. That premium does add some toys to the mix in the form of a six-speed dual-clutch transmission and a multimedia headunit with Bluetooth connectivity and voice recognition capabilities. Unfortunately it has to be said that the whole controversy surrounding the reliability of dual-clutch transmission does dampen our confidence and recommendation of the Fiesta by a fair bit.
However if you are looking for big car refinement in a small package you cannot do any better than the Volkswagen’s new RM87,888 locally-assembled Polo hatchback. If it is anything like the CKD Polo Sedan, the Polo hatchback will come with a refined and torque-laden 1.6-litre engine with a hardy and simple six-speed automatic, and feel quiet and comfortable on the inside even at “Autobahn” speeds. That said, our description of the Polo being “a small package” does take on a literal form as rear legroom and bootspace is nowhere near as generous as any of its rivals here.
Verdict – Old is Gold
The goalposts certainly have been moved by a fair bit ever since the arrival of its younger rivals. The Jazz may lack the kind of features and higher level of comfort and refinement offered by the new upstarts, but it still managed to impress us with its packaging and practical aspects, as well as its sharp handling characteristics. It is true that this Jazz is already teetering on the edge replacement street, and having driven its successor in Japan, I can say that there are some aspects of this current Jazz Petrol that I’m going to miss.
The new third-generation Jazz feels a touch more refined on the inside with better cabin materials and more mature looks, though I’m not quite sure about its exterior looks and practicality. It looks bloated facsimile of the sharp shape of the Jazz we have now, and the cabin doesn’t boast as much practicality nor could I find any notable improvements in the handling department. But then again we have been wrong about our pre-notions on Honda’s new cars before, the Honda Accord did turn out far better than we originally expected, and we are not discounting that the next Jazz will have the ability to surprise us equally as much when it gets here.
That said the new Jazz has to be really good because the Jazz as it is already is as good as an all-round everyday hatchback can get. Even if its successor bests it objectively, I’m not quite sure if it will subjectively.