2001 doesn't seem so long ago. So some might find it a little difficult to believe that 20 years have passed since that eventful year. It was a good year for Honda, too, as they launched the Jazz all those years ago.
Yes, folks, the hatchback is turning 20 in 2021.
Honda introduced it on June 21, 2001, as the Fit in Japan. While the name Jazz wouldn't appear until the first quarter of 2002 in Europe, the small hatchback quickly became a hit in its home market. It also presented a new way of maximizing space in subcompact cars.
The Jazz was quite the revolution when it was first revealed. Among the innovations in the first-generation model was the ULT seats. ULT stands for Utility, Long, and Tall modes and, according to Honda, creates “an unprecedented amount of cabin space for such a small vehicle”. That allowed the rear seats not just to fold down flat, but also let the seat bottoms to flip up to load in tall items. It's become so associated with the Jazz that even the all-new model still has that feature.
We would wait two more years before we got our hands on the Jazz in 2004. Upon launch, there were two variants available, the basic 1.3 L and the higher-spec 1.3 S. It was later joined by the 1.5 S a few years later. The first-generation Jazz was sold here from 2004 to 2008.
Some might remember the novelty of the i-DSi engine. It had two spark plugs per cylinder, meaning you had to change eight spark plugs every time you brought it in for service. While that brought up running costs, it made up for it by delivering high fuel efficiency. That Jazz was also one of the first cars sold in the country with a CVT or continuously variable transmission. Of course, the Jazz still catered to the enthusiasts by offering a five-speed manual even on the 1.5-liter versions.
The second-generation Jazz landed here in late 2008. Longer, wider, and taller than its predecessor, the Jazz of that era offered even more space. The range was simplified to just two variants, the 1.3 S and the 1.5 V. Honda reverted to a five-speed automatic for this one, and the 1.3-liter twin-spark i-DSi engine was replaced by a more conventional arrangement. It would also be the last Jazz to offer a 1.3-liter engine.
Now, the outgoing model and it's the largest so far. Launched in 2014 in the Philippines, there was no longer a 1.3-liter on offer. All Jazz models came with a 1.5-liter engine that makes 120 PS and 145 Nm of torque. Thankfully, a manual is still available, albeit reserved for the entry-level variants. Speaking of variants, the initial lineup consisted of the 1.5 E, 1.5 E CVT, 1.5 VX CVT, and 1.5 VX+ CVT. It was facelifted in 2017 and all E variants were dropped. From 2017 onwards, the variants are the 1.5 V, 1.5 VX, and 1.5 RS.
We now arrive at the fourth-generation Jazz that was introduced during the 2019 Tokyo Motor Show. It's been on sale in Japan and Europe since last year with a new hybrid powertrain and updated 1.3-liter and 1.5-liter engines. However, it seems that it won't be coming here anytime soon. That's because, for ASEAN, Honda came up with the Honda City Hatchback.
While it doesn't bear the Jazz name anymore, it still uses the all-new hatchback's platform. If anything, the Jazz has been the backbone of the City since 2003. Without the Jazz, we wouldn't have the City to this day.
Looking back at the first-generation Jazz, it still looks like a contemporary car. It's almost unimaginable that it's a 20-year old design by now. You can say that the original model was far ahead of its time and one of the reasons why more manufacturers are coming up with more ways to make small cars feel more spacious. The 2001 Jazz is, perhaps, one of the most important cars Honda launched in the last 20 years.