Road test: Honda Jazz SI 1.4 i-VTEC

As vehicles progress through their lifecycles, manufacturers continue to enhance specifications and add technology. Honda’s latest Jazz has been with us for half a decade and while it has aged reasonably well, leaks of a new model in 2014 will challenge sales.

So, to brighten-up the range, SE Plus and Si trim levels have been added; this week we have the Si on test at Motor Writer to see how it fairs with the competition.

The Si is purportedly a sports model but while it carries some additional styling components, it doesn’t offer anything in the engine department to differentiate it from its siblings (although it is only available with the larger 1.4 i-VTEC engine, not the 1.2). The concession the Si does make to sportiness is the slightly tweaked suspension.

Trim-wise, it sits above the SE but still nudges under the EX (missing out the panoramic glass roof and Bluetooth kit). In fact, despite the fancy alloy wheels, there isn’t a great deal of trim on the car – no auto lights or wipers, no Bluetooth and seats are cloth not leather. That said, it is neat with the sporty steering wheel, Si mats and pewter/graphite-coloured front seats.

The deeply raked windscreen makes the cabin feel spacious. Seats are comfortable (although not as heavily bolstered as one might expect from a sports model). The dash is starting to look its age with its choice of plastics but is otherwise pleasingly simple to look-at and straight-forward to use.

Lacking in power

Heading off to find some twisty roads to review the handling, I opened it up but found it very lacking in power. Delivery is pretty even all the way to the quoted peak at 6,000 rpm but there isn’t a single high spot which could be described as fun. If you are questioning the relevance of this in a small, sensible hatchback, I need only point out the fabulous three-cylinder EcoBoost engine from Ford, or Fiat’s TwinAir two-pot, which both deliver modest power, but in the most delightful, sonorous fashion. The competetors’ CO2 figures are lower, too. On the plus side, the i-VTEC unit is exceptionally smooth, pulls cleanly from low revs and is incredibly quiet (although that last quality isn’t always considered an asset in something sporty!).

On the motorway, it’s happy once up to speed. The Si has just a five speed ‘box and in top, 70 mph comes in around 3,400 rpm which is high but the engine is smooth and doesn’t feel stressed doing this. Longer runs might be a little tiresome, though.

Balances comfort and safety

With only modest power on-tap and the fairly low-geared steering (3.25 turns lock-to-lock), turn-in feels weak; enthusiastic cornering is merely rewarded with safe understeer. Ride quality is actually quite good. The suspension changes and the 16” wheels, running 185/55 profile tyres, give a modestly firm ride but this Jazz still feels pliant over bumps. So overall, Honda has done a fair job with the suspension on the Jazz Si, balancing comfort with safety.

The Jazz Si certainly looks smart – and this red press car is quite striking. As the enormous number of Jazz owners will agree, Honda’s B-segment contender is extremely easy to live with. With Honda topping the What Car? reliability chart for the eighth year running, you also know it won’t let you down . Excellent luggage space and Honda’s clever flippy-up rear seat swabs make it among the best for flexibility. It is not cheap, though (nearly £15k), a couple of aspects are showing their age and the sporty wheels and bumpers on this Si model significantly over-promise on the car’s actual performance. I’ve always considered the threshold for acceptability to be around 10 seconds for the 60 mph dash; the Si sneaks-in just under 12.

If you want even a warm sports hatch, this isn’t the car for you. If you want a smart Jazz, it probably is.

Honda Jazz Si 1.4 i-VTEC £14,760 (range starts at £11,695 for the 1.2 S).

Power: 99PS (@ 6,000 rpm), torque: 127 Nm (@ 4,800 rpm), emissions: 129 g/km CO2 (band D), 0-62 mph: 11.8 secs.

Motor Writer rating: ●●●○○

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