Outside looking in
Whether it's the vivid blue paint, the Honda Jazz's boy racer look (due to the optional styling package) or that fact that it's a small car built for the traffic-clogged streets of Metro Manila, people of all walks and sizes take long looks at the car. Bring the car into a college campus and the curious flock to enjoy even a glimpse of Honda Jazz. In fact, a curious student came up to the author as he took pictures of the Jazz within the UP campus and asked him various questions about the car. And it was just not any student; she was a freshman coed, recently graduated from the Poveda Learning Center, taking up broadcasting at the College of Mass Communications and with a face and build reminiscent of (model) Nicole Hernandez. The student was incidentally shopping for a new car and apparently thought that the author was the best person to provide information about the car.
Missed flirtation opportunities aside, another object of curiosity for the Jazz is its interior. Most Filipinos were not fond of Honda's first hatchback models in the Philippines - the EF and EG Civics - primarily because the said cars gave distinct impressions that they would not be able to swallow large and often odd-shaped cargo, such as balikbayan boxes, travel luggage, potted plants and four-by-four plywood pieces. But with the Jazz's ULT (Utility, Long and Tall seating) feature, the hatchback easily swallows almost any type of large-scale bric-a-brac. The rear seats can be folded flat or tumbled up to accommodate most types of cargo.
Case in point: on a trip to the airport to pick up a relative, the car managed to fit in a regular-sized balikbayan box, two large travel luggage components the length of a balikbayan box, a wheeled-type travel bag the size of a mini-refrigerator, the author and a shotgun passenger. Guess Honda wasn't joking when they said that the Jazz allows maximum storage of 1.8 to two meters of width in Utility mode (when the rear seats are folded flat) and 2.6 meters of length, also in Utility mode.
The seats offer a grey-on-grey moquette combination and are comfortable to the derriere, but needs a lot of improvement in lumbar support department. The author could never find a great driving position for the duration of the test drive, but loved the way the moquette-wrapped seats gave comfort to his hamstrings and bum. The dashboard layout is driver-friendly, easily visible and requires almost no consultation of the owner's manual. Although the glovebox is small, a canal that stretches from the driver's side door to the front passenger side door, front occupant backrest seat pockets and several containers within the interior are there to provide passengers with opportunities to place all sorts of stuff. The cupholders (two in front of the a/t shift knob and one behind the e-brake handle) provide ample seating for a large-sized McDonalds softdrink cup, but won't hold a one-liter mineral water bottle. The airconditioning unit nearly rivals Nissan vehicles for their ability to provide constant blasts of cold air, and has huge knobs right smack at the middle of the center dashboard cluster for easy reach of both front occupants.
The Jazz's silver-grey leather wrapping on the steering wheel and the a/t shift knob should be ditched, because it calls too much attention to themselves and sticks out too much like a sore thumb. In fact, onlookers staring at the Jazz whenever it is parked claim that the steering wheel and shift knob is the first thing they see upon coming across the interior. There is no clock located within the dashboard or the instrument cluster, a detriment to the yuppie in a rush to go to work. Also, Honda would do better if they didn't get Kenwood as their OE head unit supplier. Why? Because the layout of the Jazz's in dash, single-CD Kenwood head unit forces the driver to squint his/her eyes in order to look for the correct button to press. And the placement of the fuel tank right underneath the front occupants may annoy your shotgun passenger, especially during rides for dates. The author observed that front passengers often complain of feet hitting solid carpet and metal every time they rode in the shotgun seat.
Driving the Jazz 1.3L CVT is a fun experience, due to the fact that even the straight-four, 1.3-liter, i-DSI (Intelligent Dual and Sequential Ignition), 82 Ps and 11.8 kg-m seven-speed automatic engine provides as much fun as its 1.5-liter VTEC brother. But the crown jewel of the Jazz (in terms of engine performance) is its CVT, which gives you the choice of normal a/t driving or Formula One (F1)-style driving. Engaging the a/t in "D (drive)" is particularly helpful in stop-and-go traffic, with a nearly linear power and torque curve and no shift shock. On the other hand, engage the a/t in "S(sport)" mode, and the engine response is much better. Combine that with the Steermatic feature and you can hang or even out-accelerate compact sedans of higher displacement. All one has to do is press the "7-Speed Mode" button (placed at the four o' clock side of the steering wheel) and the seven-speed virtual gear display (located at the rightmost side of the instrument cluster, right beside the fuel gauge) lights up. Press either the buttons marked as "+(upshift)" or "-(downshift)" on the three o'clock or nine o'clock positions on the steering wheel (they are highlighted in silver) and the shift mode indicator (a big "M" underneath the seven-speed virtual gear display) lights up. Then you can do your best (BAR Honda F1 driver Jenson) Button or (fellow Honda F1 driver) Takuma Sato impression, but with the use of steering wheel buttons instead of F1-style shift paddles.
This feature works best when you have lots of open straightaway in front of you; in fact, the author registered 140 kph (in Steermatic and "Sport" mode) with the Jazz on an early (like 0700H early) drive to pick up a relative at the NAIA. Couple that with the sharp response of the Jazz's electric power steering (EPS) helping out on sudden, sharp turn requirements and one will experience little body roll and understeer. And if you miss a shift, the Jazz's built-in computer will do the shifting for you. Just don't use the Steermatic mode whenever you wish to make a turn, because it can be distracting. If you wish to cancel Steermatic, simple press the "7-Speed Mode" button again.
In normal city driving, steering felt responsive but heavy at certain times, particularly when making turns in narrow, crowded streets. The suspension is taut, but the rear tends to bounce a bit more after exiting humps and crossing over road irregularities, such as the bumps on the southbound part of the EDSA-Shaw underpass. Maneuvering the Jazz through cramped streets is a breeze, thanks to its 2450 mm wheelbase, 3830 mm length and 1635 mm width. The Jazz's brakes, although a disc/drum combination without ABS, bit quickly and without hesitation as if one were driving an ABS-equipped car. And consumption is great; in fact the Jazz registered eight kilometers per liter on six days of city driving.
This is a car Filipinos can and should fall in love with. It is not surprising that since its introduction last year, the Jazz boasts of over 900 units sold. And that was just the 1.3-liter version such as this here test unit. Imagine if the 1.5-liter VTEC version was also peddled simultaneously during the 1.3-liter Jazz's debut; most probably the Jazz will be able to give the Toyota Vios more than just a scare. And if you're concerned with price, this version of the Jazz is Php 672,000, a great investment for the rookie yuppie, the middle management wannabe or the can-drive student who needs to have a decent form of personal transportation while simultaneously making a good impression on his or her barkada and without providing a huge monetary headache for mom or dad.