Product Type: Honda cars
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HONDA JAZZ 1.4 SE CVT-7 - AUTOMATICALLY BETTER?
Honda Jazz 1.4
Member Name: Richada
Honda Jazz 1.4
Advantages: Great Transmission. Smooth Engine. Low Running Costs. Hugely Spacious Interior. Build Quality
Disadvantages: Messy Dashboard Styling. Uninspiring Exterior Styling.
The Jazz is Honda's entry into the highly contested and ever popular "supermini" market. It is a five door hatchback, a very simple range to choose from as there are no variants; saloon, convertible etc, all Jazz models therefore share the same "two box" styling. For those of you to whom it may be important, the dimensions are as follows:
Length 3845mm x Width 1878mm x Height 1525mm.
It is therefore a fairly short, yet wide and tall small car, having a tardis affect inside where it seems much larger than you would think looking at the car sitting next to the pavement.
There are any number of competitors from Japanese, Korean and European countries, probably its' most likely competition can be found in the form of the Ford Fiesta, Mitsubishi Colt, Nissan Micra and Vauxhall Corsa, all of which offer a much larger range of body styles and engine options.
Having said that, the little Honda Jazz has one terrific ace up its' exhaust pipe - it consistently heads all of the customer satisfaction surveys, primarily the well respected J.D. Power one, which concentrates on reliability and owner satisfaction. This is no mean feat and an achievement of which Honda are justifiably proud.
WHICH SPECIFIC MODEL?
I have driven all three models of Jazz, the basic 1.2, the manual 1.4 and the car that I am reviewing here the 1.4 SE CVT-7. I have chosen to review, this the most expensive, top of the range Jazz, as I spent a day behind the wheel of one only last week.
The most interesting thing about this specific model is its automatic transmission. As any of you who have read my car reviews in the past will know, I have driven just about everything and anything available on the market currently. However, what had so far slipped the net was a car with a CVT - standing for Constantly Variable transmission "gearbox". This is a transmission system in fact without gears, or a conventional "box" come to think of it. Originally pioneered by Dutch company, Daf, later taken over by Volvo, the CVT, or belt driven transmission, was left to die for two decades before being given a thoroughly modern work over. It is now to be found in a wind ranging variety of cars from Ford, through to Nissan and indeed in this small Honda.
Only until I drove it last week, that fact was news to me! Indeed when I did drive it I was, to start with, thinking that it was a rather well set up conventional automatic.
IN WHAT CAPACITY AM I REVIEWING THIS CAR?
I am reviewing this car from the point of view of a very thorough 60 mile test drive last week. On arriving at Honda Chiswick, handing over my Accord for a 50,000 mile service, the service receptionist asked me if I would like a manual or automatic courtesy car. Knowing that the fleet of manual Jazz courtesy cars are bottom of the range 1.2 litre cars, without air conditioning, I opted to take the 1.4 automatic.
At this point I should say that, having driven many different ones over the last twenty years, I have never been a fan of small automatics. My sole reason for choosing this car was that we wanted to visit a country house some thirty miles away, and prefer the comfort of an air conditioned car!
Whilst, dimensionally at least, this is a small car, in terms of accommodation space, both for passengers and luggage, pound for pound in my experience it has all of the opposition licked.
PURCHASE COST 7 / 10
A glance at the £11,695 list price, and the discovery that almost no discount will be on offer (2 to 5% if you are VERY lucky), is quite likely to cause a sharp intake of breath.
On the face of it, that looks very expensive when a Mitsubishi Colt "Allshift" (as they call their CVT automatic model) retails for £2000 less. However we need to take into account the Jazz's very comprehensive specification and obvious tip top build quality. The trouble here is that there may be many who do not want their Automatic Jazz to come with items such as air conditioning, alloy wheels, electrically folding mirrors and very good quality stereo, there are many who would happily buy a stripped out version for £10,000. Honda's policy here ensures that unless they buy a used one, that simply is not possible.
THE OPTIONS GAME: 9 / 10 or "How much do I need to spend to make it habitable?"
The Honda Jazz 1.4 SE CVT-7 is absolutely inhabitable on the road in standard specification. It even looks quite good in the standard, non-metallic blood red paintwork.
The only options that I personally would advise adding are; metallic paint at a very reasonable £350, and a leather steering wheel at an exorbitant £190.
Yes, you could rack up the price by another £3500 by adding satellite navigation, a full leather interior, sun roof, central arm rests front and rear, but at over £15,000 you would be better off buying something larger rather than building your own "mini-limo" in the shape of a Honda Jazz.
The Honda Chiswick loan car was finished in deep metallic blue paint and therefore would have hit the road at just the wrong side of £12,000.
DEPRECIATION 8 / 10 - Always the biggest running cost.
8 / 10 is a brilliant score in this category. Had this been a basic, or mid range Jazz, that score would have been even higher. Top of the range models will always take a larger hit on depreciation, although small automatics, especially good ones, tend to hold their value very well as they are extremely rare on the second hand market.
As a range the Jazz is known to be one of the least steeply depreciating cars on the road. If you are looking for a cheap second hand one, you will need to spend a lot of time seeking out an abnormally high mileage car. Generally the Jazz tends to spend its life in cities, often as a useful second car, therefore covering a low mileage.
This very well equipped automatic one is very likely to have been made as a retirement purchase, with the intention of keeping it "for good". This makes them very rare on the second hand market, probably only dealer registered cars like the one I drove will become available and at a premium price at that.
Whereas your average Ford, Peugeot or Vauxhall ex-dealer £12,000 supermini would sell at 6 months to a year old for £9000, this particular Jazz is likely to fetch closer to £11,000.
FUEL ECONOMY 8 / 10: Small automatics guzzle fuel. What's different about the Jazz?
My mother once owned an Austin Metro 1.3 Automatic. It had all the performance of a constipated snail and drunk petrol at the rate of 23 miles to the gallon. My step-mother had an Automatic Peugeot 205, a 1.6 which whilst having a reasonable turn of speed still drunk fuel at 23mpg!
I once had a 2.5 litre V6 Cavalier, again an Automatic, on average, over 18,000 miles, that very quick, car covered 28 miles on every gallon of fuel!
Small automatics drink fuel!
They USED to!
We covered 60 miles in this particular Honda Jazz, on a brilliant mixture of just about every type of road to be found in the south east of England. Firstly, we drove through heavy traffic in South West London, winding up in Kingston upon Thames. Then we drove down to leafy Dorking to see Polesden Lacy, that being on fast flowing A roads, followed by narrow country lanes. From here we returned to Chiswick by making a fast clockwise M25 run, cruising at between 80 and 85mph, just as I would have done in my own diesel Accord.
At no time was any attempt made to drive the little Jazz economically, indeed, as with any other small engined (below 1.6 litre) automatic gearbox car that I have ever driven, I was conscious of driving it really rather hard.
Over that demanding, but highly representative 60 miles, this particular Jazz achieved a fuel consumption of 43mpg.
Admittedly, in the last Jazz driven, I recorded 52mpg, but that was a 1.2 litre manual gearbox car which had a very gentle 60mph motorway run out to Windsor and back.
SERVICE & MAINTENANCE COSTS 5 / 10: are you going to make the dealer rich?
If you drive a big mileage in a Jazz then yes, you just might!
I have two colleagues, who between them, have actually owned five Honda Jazz cars, all being 1.4 manual versions. Their one and only complaint has been the cost of servicing these cars - that being carried out by our local dealer, Brighton Honda. Indeed, they are equally as costly to run on this score as my much more sophisticated diesel Accord. All of their competitors would be cheaper to run on this score - especially the Fords and Vauxhalls.
Even this £12,000, top of the range, Jazz falls into a lowly group 3 insurance band. It will not cost therefore even a newly qualified driver an arm and a leg to insure.
Let the "fun" begin! You want to know what this car is like to live with and to drive and be driven in…….
STYLING 6 /10: A very subjective category here.
Well let's face it, there are not many superminis that you would want to look twice at and the Jazz is really no exception. It is neatly styled and obviously purposeful, although the bottom of the range models do look very basic with their plastic wheel trims.
This 1.4 SE model comes equipped with very attractive alloy wheels as standard. The latest, very mild, facelift has seen Honda fit indicator repeater units into the door mirror housings which has had more impact in modernising the look of the car than you would think.
The Jazz however lacks all pizzazz on the outside demonstrated by its' newer sister the Civic. It is, in my eyes at least, rather a "box on wheels". Knowing this themselves, Honda do offer the Jazz in a stunning range of colours, probably not all to your taste though!
OVERALL BUILD QUALITY AND FINISH 9 / 10 Does it look as though it was slung together?
No, it does not!
Here, at least partly, is what you are paying for. This is one of the best built cars on the market. It puts many other, vastly more expensive models to shame. All those J.D. Power awards are not for nothing, well built cars last the distance and seldom go wrong, in every respect the Jazz is living proof of this.
SAFETY 7 /10 If it comes to the worst, how well are you and your family going to come out of it.
When all said and done, this is a small car and a large car will invariably protect you better should the worst happen. The Jazz carries an NCAP (crash test) rating of four out of a possible five stars. This is highly class competitive, few small cars do as well, fewer still achieve a five star score.
This top of the range Jazz comes equipped with four airbags.
On a passive, rather than active (airbag, crash protection etc) note, driving in any of the Jazz's loaned to me over the last two years, I have always felt entirely safe and secure. This is not always the case when behind the wheel of a much smaller car than the one that you are used to driving every day. In the Jazz part of this is due to the superb all round visibility and almost 4x4 "command" driving position.
ERGONOMICS 7 / 10 Before I can start the engine and drive away I need to feel at home in the "working environment". The relationship between the controls and how I, the driver, am able to instinctively operate those controls is, all important. This for me is make or break, before I drive a car, if it does not instinctively "feel" right in this department then I will never like it or ultimately buy it.
In the Jazz it comes very close to "make". However, unfortunately, rather in Japanese tradition, they have tried to impress the driver by placing as many buttons as possible across the dashboard. The result is that there are far more various controls to take in than should really be necessary.
The primary controls are excellently laid out. I eventually discovered that the steering wheel was height adjustable, although the lever to do this is none too easy to find. The relationship between all of the controls, accelerator, brake, gear lever and hand brake are all excellent.
Where the little Honda starts to fall down is in the placement of the window, door mirror, heater control and radio buttons. It is good to have all this equipment in a car, but of little use if you cannot work out how to operate it!
It also took me a distracting couple of miles trying discover how to turn on the vital rear windscreen wiper.
VISIBILITY: 8 / 10
Two black marks mar the otherwise excellent all around visibility here - one of those will be irrelevant on a dry day.
Firstly, the rake of the front screen pillars causes an MPV type blind spot approaching certain traffic junctions. Secondly, Honda really should have gone the extra mile and fitted this car, in common with European "big windscreen" cars with central parking "clap-hands" windscreen wipers. The current wipers leave large unswept areas at the top of the windscreen, which in heavy rain on the M25 is not a great safety aid.
Otherwise the view, front, back and immediately to the sides is unparalleled in my experience. From this point of view it always feels a much bigger car than it is. That in a good way! Reverse parking in a Jazz is particularly easy, as is positioning it on the road.
This would make a perfect "first" car for a newly qualified driver.
SPACE: 9 / 10: Small cars are cramped inside.
This one isn't!
Here is where the tardis affect kicks in. Due to the high seating position front and rear, the Jazz is extraordinarily spacious inside. I am not going to kid you on that a car this size will be comfortable for five people, three abreast in the rear is pushing it a bit, but for four people, and unusually in this sector, their luggage it is perfectly acceptable.
A lot of superminis with spacious passenger accommodation have pathetically sized boots, in the Jazz this is not the case. This is also an amazingly adaptable car in that the rear seats fold individually down into the rear footwell space, creating a small van with a completely flat floor, that last factor being unusual in any class of hatchback. It is also well designed inside with plenty of oddments storage spaces.
The Jazz would make a really useful second car if your first is a conventional saloon or indeed an impractical sports car.
STYLE 6 / 10:
To my eyes at least, the interior styling generally has a rather "over-worked" appearance to it. In small cars I tend to think that a rather more utilitarian style works better.
MATERIALS, FIT & FINISH 9 / 10: Aspreys or Ratners?
Here we enter the Aspreys of the small car world. Like the style or not, you cannot fault the materials used, nor the way they are fitted together with millimetric precision. Indeed, I sit in this Jazz and wonder why my much more expensive Accord has not been fitted out with interior materials as consistently faultless as these.
Indeed, where my Accord has always rattled and creaked inside, not one of the many Jazz's driven has ever shown a sign of so doing.
AUDIO & CLIMATE CONTROL SYSTEMS 6 / 10: Strange grouping?
Here is where all those buttons and an over styled dashboard start to fall down. The centre console containing the audio and heater controls is particularly confusing as the buttons, particularly for the audio system are rather confusing in layout.
This is a pity, as once you have managed to work out that in order to run the air conditioning that the fan needs to be switched on, the heating / air conditioning unit works well and unobtrusively. Similarly, having familiarised yourself with the huge number of audio control buttons, the sound of the system itself is impressive.
ON THE ROAD……..
……Time to start it up and to offer you a driving assessment.
NOISE, VIBRATION & HARSHNESS 8 / 10 Silk purse or sow's ear?
SURPRISE! This is the ideal town car, smooth, largely quiet and vibration free. The CVT transmission may catch you out to start with as the engine seems to be over-revving. Once you realise that you do not need to accelerate so hard, it settles down well performing very smoothly in the mid (3,000 - 4,000rpm) range.
If you drive it hard, unlike the smaller engined 1.2 Jazz, this car does not become unacceptably noisy. The noise that the engine does make is not particularly pleasant though.
Road and wind noise are excellently well suppressed, certainly better than any other small car on this score in my experience.
PERFORMANCE 8 / 10 Sh*t off a shovel or a constipated tortoise?
Neither. The 1.4 Honda engine and this development of the CVT transmission actually provide an ideal compromise between the two.
On our very mixed route I found myself increasingly impressed with the overall performance of this particular Jazz. Having driven both 1.2 and 1.4 manual versions, this one is actually the best in sheer performance terms.
You have the choice of two entirely different driving modes, which I found the most appealing thing about this car. Drive it like a conventional automatic and it is seamlessly smooth (there are no gears to change in the conventional sense) and it will get you from A to B as quickly as you want to go and with no fuss, or effort on the drivers part at all.
The second mode provides you with an artificial gearbox of sorts. It introduces no fewer than seven "steps" into the transmission, operated by Formula One style paddle switches on the steering wheel. All you have to do is press the right hand button on the steering wheel and you can play Formula One ace games by changing up and down through the seven transmission steps. In all honesty, whilst being great fun to play with, this facility makes the Jazz actually go very little faster, makes far more noise and causes it to drink far more fuel due to the increased revs used. I did find that it offered me more control over the car on steep hills as well as driving on twisty country lanes.
RIDE & HANDLING 7 / 10
Again, for a car of this class it is pretty close to, or indeed at the top of the class. A class containing the Fiesta is a talented one at that in terms of ride and handling. This particular Jazz was far better than any previously driven, I suspect that the minor face lift has seen really useful suspension tweaks on this car.
As we took the very tight slip road from the M25 onto the M4, I was holding station with a Porsche Cayenne, driving at around 65mph……my wife actually commented 'my goodness it stays flat through this sharp corner' my reply was that; 'at THAT price it should!' To which she said 'no this one, not the Cayenne!'.
Take it from me that is the highest praise that could be heaped on this cars' handling abilities!
Along with good handling, it is no surprise to find that the Jazz has, if not a big car ride, a more than acceptable one. Unlike previous Jazz's driven I was particularly impressed with this one at speed on the motorway - not usually a small cars forte.
CONCLUSION - Would I buy one myself and would we want to drive it to Poland in a day?
Yes I would buy one, but as a second car. No, I would not attempt to drive it to Poland in a day, ultimately for making that trip, it is too small. On top of that, the seats are not really supportive enough for a very long journey.
For largely town bound motorists, or for low mileage drivers who do a broader mixture of motoring, I would whole heartedly recommend the Honda Jazz 1.4 SE CVT-7. For me it answers ALL of my previous criticisms of small engined automatic cars. It is THAT good!
FINAL SCORE: 127 / 170 - 74.7%
(A totally different class of car, but as a comparison the Saab 9-3 1.9TiD scored 68.2% using identical scoring criteria.)
Summary: A surprisingly enjoyable drive from an automatic supermini. Not cheap to buy though.