All that Jazz

The B Segment is awash with interesting, economical and fun models. So what does the petrol-electric Honda Jazz – the smallest hybrid on the market – have to offer that much cheaper, conventionally-powered cars don’t have?

Visually, this Jazz Hybrid in HX trim has a clean shape, funky blue headlight lenses, ‘crushed-ice’ tail lights and a fabulous panoramic roof. Under the bonnet sits a stop-start 1.3 88PS petrol engine and a clever 14PS electric motor between the main engine and gearbox.

Inside, there is leather trim, cruise control, climate control and heated seats. There is plenty of black trim but there is enough glass – especially with the clear roof – to make it feel light and airy. It’s roomy, too and the seats fold easily to turn your Jazz into a small van. Controls are all fairly conventional (no bad thing) and the buttons on the central console are large and easy to read.

There is a variety of data to help the driver eek out as many miles as possible from each tank of petrol. The speedo varies between an attractive blue (reporting bad driving) and a lurid green (well done!). It’s difficult to keep it green when trying to hold motorway speeds or climb any number of Peak District hills but a light throttle and gentle braking are rewarded appropriately.

The central LCD display provides different pages to show your eco-credentials. You can grow or kill virtual flowers, match your current journey’s economy with the three previous runs or watch whether your propulsion is by petrol, electricity or both (and see if you’re charging the battery). There’s also an Eco button which changes various settings including reducing torque by 4%, which works well on congested A-roads (to help grow those flowers).

On first drive, a mere couple of miles, I chose to ignore all the eco information thrust at me and the Jazz pottered around perfectly well, competently soaking up the large potholes and demonstrating its fine city car capabilities. The CVT automatic gearbox is well-suited to the crawl in traffic, the controls are light and easy to use and all-round visibility is good.

The next task for the Jazz was an 80-mile round trip with a busy motorway sections; this started to flesh-out a few niggles. The ride feels unsettled at speed, road noise is on the high side, the centring action of the steering is a little enthusiastic and the seats are not particularly supportive. The 1.3 petrol engine is smooth at low revs but becomes noisy as it climbs above 3,000 rpm. And despite complaining, it still feels sluggish.

Automatic climate control failed to distribute the warm air and managed only to bake my feet. The stereo head unit gave up talking to my iPod after two days (just like the Accord I reviewed last year). Over 35,000 internet hits indicate this problem isn’t rare; a hard reset of the iPod is needed (even though the device still talks to everything else).

So, if motorway journeys and spirited driving are infrequent events in your life, this Jazz is fine, if a little virtuous. If it is economy you seek, you’ll need to cover over 60,000 miles to see the benefit of the hybrid version over the Jazz 1.2 i-VTEC (about £6,000 cheaper in S trim). And clever though it undoubtedly is, there are small diesel-engined cars with higher quoted fuel efficiencies than this hybrid, too. I managed mid-40s in busy traffic making the additional cost of the hybrid even more difficult to justify.

Honda Jazz 1.3 IMA Petrol Electric Hybrid HX tested costs £17,995. Jazz hybrid range: £15,995-£19,305

Petrol power: 88PS (5,800 rpm), torque: 121Nm (4,500 rpm); electric power: 14PS (1,500 rpm), torque: 78 Nm (1,000 rpm), emissions: 104 g/km CO2 (band B), 0-62 mph: 12.3 secs, economy: 62.8 mpg (combined cycle).

Motor Writer rating: ●●○○○





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