When Honda first introduced the Jazz locally, it came as no surprise that the little hatch became the popular choice in the hatchback segment. Even the second generation lived up to the success of the original when it came out in 2008, featuring even more room and cargo space, better engines and more features.

Now it's 2011, and the Jazz is faced with much more serious competition from other brands, most notably the Fiesta. As a response to the new challengers, Honda gave us the upgraded version of the Jazz. How will it stack up when the bar in the subcompact class seems to have been significantly raised?

On the design front, this 1.3L version only has very minor tweaks. The bumper has been reshaped and restyled, though the difference is hard to notice over the original. Not that there was anything wrong with it, but I do wish the aggressive kit seen on the new 1.5L version was also retained for the 1.3L version. The wheels are new, as now the Jazz has 7-spoke rolling stock as opposed to the 5-spoke ones it had before. The taillights and rear bumper are also new for 2011, though again, the aggressive new look of the 1.5L is really the one to have.

Inside, it's really hard to notice the difference over the first version of the 2nd gen Jazz. Actually, I had to search for a photo of the old interior to compare to the new one, and from there it really became a game of spot the difference; there's a new amber backlight to the stereo as well as the addition of a USB port. There was nothing wrong with the old one, in fact I like the interior design, configuration and control layout of the car, but I was hoping for a bit more effort to make buyers feel like they've bought a newer, upgraded car.

Under the hood is the same 1.3 liter powerplant. It's a much better engine compared to the old 1.3 i-DSI engine, and thanks to i-VTEC, outperforms its 1.3 and 1.4-liter competitors with an output of 100 metric horsepower. The Jazz's engine is ideally matched with a 5-speed automatic, giving it decent acceleration despite the engine's size. It's great to drive around in town, easily nipping in from one street (or lane) to another. Given the dimensions of the body, an uphill slope and some cargo or passengers, however, and the 1.3L does have to rev quite high to get going. There really is no substitute for the extra horsepower from its 1.5 liter big brother.

It may not be inclined for performance, and as a 1.3, it can't even hope to be. What it is truly great at is fuel economy, especially in the city. Driven by a discreet (read: balanced) right foot, the Jazz rewards its driver with a commendable 10.3 kilometers to the liter moderate traffic, 9.2 km/l in heavy traffic, and a superb 17.7 km/l on an open highway.

And then there's the space. Lots of it. Thanks to Honda's great ULT (Utility, Long and Tall), the Jazz promises maximum space for passengers or maximum space for cargo, whatever the need may be. The rear seats can fold down way flat and accommodate so much from such little real estate on the street, something I was able to put to the test as (thanks to Gran Turismo 5) I was able to transport a full-size driving rig for my PlayStation 3 complete with a full size racing seat inside the Jazz. No problem.

There are other things too, like the excellent ergonomics. Every control is placed quite instinctively, even though it may not look like it is. The pertinent controls for the airconditioning and stereo are very easy to use. I love the sporty nature of the deep dish steering wheel and other details like the cupholders on the dash and the clever storage compartments and pockets around the cabin.

On the outset, yes, today's competition does seem to have a leg up over the Jazz on some fronts like design, pricing and features. However, there are still many things that the Honda have yet to be matched like the class leading space, versatility, and fuel economy... and last time I checked, those are top priorities what many of us demand in our cars.
  • Make:Honda
  • Model:Jazz 1.3S
  • Engine:1.3-liter SOHC 16-valve Inline-4 i-VTEC
  • Max Power:100 PS @ 6000 rpm
  • Max Torque:128 Nm @ 4800 rpm
  • Transmission:5-Speed A/T
  • Price as Tested: