Normally, when we get a test unit, it's the top of the line model with all the bells and whistles. Once in a while however, it's nice to go back to basics and focus our attention on the entry-level models. These days however, the term 'entry-level' doesn't mean bare bones. This brings me neatly to a specific variant of the Honda Jazz.
What you see here is the 1.5 V variant with a CVT gearbox, the most affordable Jazz you can get with a self-shifter. To be honest, I wasn't expecting much given that I just came from a premium crossover. Still, the Jazz still holds high acclaim here at Autoindustriya thanks to its comfort, refinement and versatility. But with quite a lot less equipment, will it still impress?
So, what don't you get in the Jazz 1.5 V? From the looks of it, the only markers you have that this is the base model are the lack of foglights, smaller wheels, the lack of gloss black trim and chrome strips. There's also no side mirror signal indicators and a reverse camera. If you want those (along with more amenities), that's an extra Php 100,000 for the mid-spec VX.
The design may be three years old now but it still looks sharp, even without the exterior jewelry. Despite being one of the first cars to come with the 'Solid Wing Face' look, it still looks fresh even beside the boldly redesigned Civic. It's a like it or loathe it design at the front but, for me at least, I say it looks good. I took a particular fondness for the rear end of the small hatchback, especially its tail lights. They may not have LEDs but the design is funky and still fresh after all these years.
Before I have a word about the rest of it's interior, I have to say that the Jazz is still one of Honda's best exercises in interior packaging. Given the diminutive dimensions, there was a lot of space both at the front and rear. Even with a tall adult in front, there's still a fair amount of space for the back seat passengers.
What makes this more impressive is the fact that the Jazz retains a lot of cargo space, which easily took in our camera gear. Plus, the ULT seats adds to cargo flexibility and versatility, boosting the practicality proposition of this small hatchback. As with most Hondas, storage bins are scattered all over the cabin although it does miss out on both front and rear arm rests. A minor thing for some but it's a nice touch to have if you find yourself on a long drive or seated at the back.
As for the dash, I'm glad they made it different from the City. Sure, the middle part comes from its more formal sibling but there's that bit more charm when you step in the Jazz. There's also a handy cupholder right by the air-conditioning vent to keep your drink chilled. Speaking of air-conditioning, this 1.5 V doesn't come with automatic climate control.
You might have noticed the lack of a touch screen. In its place is an integrated 2-DIN audio system which is clearly marked and easy to use. It still comes with a rash of connectivity options such as auxiliary-in and Bluetooth which has pretty much become a must-have, even in a base model. Aside from the arm rests and the touchscreen, you're really not missing out in terms of interior equipment. Remember, you are in a base model.
No surprises for guessing what's under the hood of the Jazz. It's the same 1.5-liter i-VTEC engine found in the Mobilio, BR-V and City. Power is rated at 120 PS and 145 Nm of torque. Power is coursed through a continuously variable transmission but it misses out on the seven-speed mode in the VX and VX+ models. With less weight to carry (at just 1,069 kg), one can expect the Jazz to a bit of a sprightly car to drive
Having driven previous iterations of the Jazz, I was pleasantly surprised at just how much the ride has improved. The old one had a pretty jarring ride, even on relatively smooth roads. This one however was a lot more forgiving. There is still a hint of firmness but it avoids the impact harshness that caused much discomfort to many.
Complementing that smooth ride are the seats. Despite a limited range of adjustability, there is ample support for your lower back, as well as your thighs. It's also possible that the skinny, high-profile tires made it just that bit smoother on the bumps. Another feature greatly appreciated in the entry-level Jazz is the tilt and telescopic adjustable steering wheel and made finding the ideal driving position a lot easier. Combine that with the light steering and the Jazz is a comfortable and easy to drive runabout for the city.
Honda did a good job with this engine and transmission combination. Delivery is smooth and linear while the 1.5-liter engine gets up to cruising speeds with ease thanks to the car's light weight. As much as people like to hate on CVTs, it works well with the Jazz and boosts the small hatchback's refinement. If you do insist on rowing your own, there's also 1.5 V with a five-speed manual. The Jazz was also a surprise on the highway as it maintains a relatively quiet cabin. It can do with a little less tire noise but that's not really the car's fault.
If you do plan to drive the Jazz in a more spirited manner, it still delivers but if you've driven the old models, you could say that it has grown up. The harsh suspension on the previous generations rewarded you enthusiastic handling. That's not to say this one is boring to drive. It's still rewarding to drive but the light steering that makes driving around town so easy means it's not as engaging as it once was.
Another thing that stood out in the Jazz was it's fuel economy. Driven in Metro Manila, it managed 9.5 kilometers per liter over the course of 100 kilometers in stop and go traffic. Venture out on to the highway and I saw a figure as high as 19.2 kilometers per liter as I cruised along SCTEx. That's pretty much diesel territory. Both consumption figures are based on the car's trip computer.
For some, the Php 833,000 price tag sounds expensive for an entry-level variant. However, when you compare it to other hatchbacks at this price point, it somehow starts to make sense. I do wish it came with stability control at the very least as one particular competitor has it standard at a lower price. It's missing a few features here and there but there's enough equipment to make the modern car shopper happy.
The Jazz makes up for it's price tag by being such a good all rounder on the road. On top of that, the interior versatility is a notch above its contemporaries, as well as its packaging. Honda got the fundamentals right with the Jazz and it's still a car one can easily recommend to just about anyone. Even in base-model form, the Honda Jazz is a hugely talented car.