Coming soon: the all-new Honda Jazz5 min read . Updated: 02 Dec 2014, 07:54 PM IST
Honda will launch the new Jazz hatchback in India in March to compete with the Volkswagen Polo and Hyundai Elite i20
The new Honda Jazz that we test-drove in Singapore will come to India soon. But unlike the Singaporean Jazz that comes with 1.3-litre and 1.5-litre petrol engines, the Indian Jazz models will get the same 1.2-litre petrol and 1.5-litre diesel engines as the Honda Amaze.
Let’s start with the diesel engine. The 1.5-litre unit belts out about 99bhp in the Amaze, City and Mobilio. Assuming Honda doesn’t tweak it, it will make the Jazz the most powerful premium diesel hatchback this side of the Volkswagen Polo GT TDI. The i-DTEC engine is about excellent drivability rather than outright punch, and also delivers great fuel economy. Honda will most likely couple the Jazz with the Amaze’s five-speed manual. But Honda could also go with the set-up in the City, the same engine mated to a more efficiency-oriented, six-speed manual.
As for the petrol version of the India-bound car, its 87bhp i-VTEC engine is the same as the previous Jazz sold in the country. It will come with a five-speed manual and there could be an automatic as well. Currently, the Amaze and Brio are sold with a five-speed torque converter unit in India, though the Jazz models abroad are available with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) too.
The CVT on this Jazz 1.3 works well to keep the engine efficient and quiet. In fact, refinement during city drives is great and noise, vibration and harshness levels are low. Sure, when pushed hard, the revolutions increase a lot before a corresponding rise in road speed but the paddle shifters aid in driving it like a more conventional automatic.
It’s on imperfect roads that the Jazz’s suspension gets a workout, and there’s a bit of pitching. Stability, though, is good and even at speeds above 100 kilometres per hour, the Jazz feels planted. Over fast and slow lane changes, the electric power steering seems adequately weighted too. However, when driven hard around corners, the Jazz doesn’t come across as an engaging driver’s car. The steering feels lazy. You just don’t get that sense of connection you would in a Swift, Punto or even Polo. There’s also plenty of body roll, which just hurts the driving experience further.
Moving on to the details, the front seats are slightly flat but comfortable. The cabin feels familiar largely owing to the fact that lots of elements are shared with the City. The chunky steering, the instruments and the basic layout of the centre console are all very similar. There are a number of generous cubbies for storing small items too. Overall quality is also pretty much the same, with hard but seemingly long-lasting plastics in use throughout the cabin.
But there are some differences. The Jazz’s asymmetrical dashboard extends further forward towards the wind-screen, the portion above the glovebox is more layered, there’s a cup-holder at the driver’s end of the dashboard and there are generally fewer silver plastics all around. In most markets overseas, it also comes with a 7-inch touch screen, but top-end variants of the Indian version will, in all probability, use the City’s 5-inch unit. Honda has learnt the hard way that Indian buyers like features, so it’s likely to sell the Jazz in fairly loaded form.
One of the issues, though, is the driver’s vision past the thick A-pillar. The blind spot easily hides large vehicles and is bound to be a problem on crossroads. Otherwise, visibility is good, be it out of the front or rear wind-screens. The large windows allow lots of light in and make the cabin look larger than it already is.
The rear-seat space is good enough to humble many larger mid-size sedans. There is enough headroom and legroom, and there’s sufficient width to seat three abreast. Unfortunately, the middle-row seat is hard and not all that comfortable. The other two occupants might find their well-cushioned seats slightly short on thigh support, but will like the gentle upward slope of the floor that serves as a natural footrest.
That upward slope is thanks to the relatively small 40-litre fuel tank sitting under the front seats rather than in the traditional position under the rear seats. The positive of this set-up is that the Jazz’s cargo-holding capacity is flexible. The rear seat can be folded flat and also flipped up to fit tall items, and the front passenger seat can also be folded to make space for long items. There’s also an interesting feature for the chauffeur-driven. Remove the front-seat headrests; push the backrests fully till they meet the rear-seat base, and what you get is a proper recliner.
Talking about the design, the new Jazz retains the basic silhouette of the previous car. The large, angular headlights that gel into the grille look attractive, while the large air dam lower down on the bumper adds aggression to the front. There’s also a strong belt line that runs across the body. Sadly, the mass of metal above the rear wheels makes the car look like it has tiny shoes despite its 15-inch rims. At the tail too, the reflectors that run up the wind-screen seem like an unnecessary add-on while the faux air vents lower down on the bumper look out of place. The practical elements, though, are the tailgate that extends low on the bumper and the doors that open nice and wide.
The Honda Jazz is a car that focuses on practicality and ease of use. Although it’s not really a driver’s car, it is easy to live with and brilliantly versatile. The cabin is spacious and comfortable, and is also expected to be a lot better equipped this time around.
Expect Honda to launch the Jazz at a competitive price. Localization will help it price the car closer to rivals such as the Volkswagen Polo and Hyundai Elite i20. If anything, a good price tag will only add more desirability to the hatchback when it comes in March.
HONDA JAZZ 1.3 i-VTEC
Price: 5.5-7.5 lakh (estimate, ex-showroom, New Delhi)
Kerb weight: 1,040kg
Engine: Four-cylinder, 1,318cc, petrol (98.6bhp at 6,000 revolutions per minute)