Anton Andres / Kelvin Christian Go | August 16, 2017 12:35
Tweaking a successful formula
Success is a tough formula to tinker with, especially when it comes to cars. Get it right and you end up with a great product that will win the hearts of critics and customers alike. Get it wrong however, and it will be a car that will languish on the showroom floor.
Since its launch back in 2014, we've hailed the Honda Jazz as one of the overachievers of the B-segment hatchbacks. We've held the little hatchback in high regard, be it in entry-level guise or top-of-the-line trim. So what is the Jazz's formula for success? Since its first generation, the Jazz has held the fine line between style and versatility.
Now, Honda has updated the third-generation Jazz and the question now is this, how does one improve a tried and tested formula?
What we have here is the Jazz RS model with all the bells and whistles you come to expect from top-spec hatchback. Also, the RS badge adds a bit more sporting cred to Honda's capable hatchback by giving it unique front and rear bumpers, a bigger rear spoiler and healthy doses of gloss black trim. It gets a set of black alloy wheels too. The slight nip and tuck enhanced the Jazz's already handsome exterior. The headlights have been tweaked for a more aggressive look while the LED daytime running lights are now connected to the chrome strip on the grill.
So does the RS treatment bring out the sporty side of the Jazz? In some ways, it does, especially in this striking shade of Rallye Red. I applaud Honda for giving the Jazz RS its own set of bumpers, rather than tacking on a kit. As a result, it looks cohesive and not like an afterthought. The changes may be relatively minimal on the design front, but it's hard to mess with success.
The conservative redesign carries over to the inside but that's not a bad thing. That means you get the same ergonomic layout as seen in the pre-facelift Jazz. It still looks fresh and contemporary given that the car has been around for three years now. There's still loads of storage pockets in the Jazz and a clever cupholder right by the air-conditioning vent. Every switch and button is logically placed right in the line of sight. The updated Jazz retains the flexible ULT seats which comes in very handy when the need to carry bigger items arises.
In RS form, the Jazz gets a unique set of seats which come with orange contrast stitching and special graphics. There's orange stitching on the steering wheel too and more of this color can be found on the door panels. This combination, along with the large windows, lets in more light into the cabin and boosts the feeling of spaciousness.
Also, the Jazz RS comes with a redesigned infotainment system which comes with more functionality. Aside from the usual bluetooth, auxiliary and navigation, the system allows for internet connections and allows you to browse the internet (for as long as you're not violating any laws) while inside the car. This new infotainment screen is also used in the VX models as well. Also standard in the RS are a pair of tweeters, which did good job of enhancing sound quality. Like the exterior, it's all about minor enhancements for the interior.
What is unchanged is under the hood. As with all B-segment Hondas, the Jazz carries over the 1.5-liter i-VTEC engine from the pre-facelift model. Power is rated at 120 PS and 145 Nm of torque and if shifts via a continuously variable transmission with a seven-speed mode. Manual shifting can be done by simply flicking the paddle shifters while response is enhanced by putting it in to sport mode. If saving fuel is more your thing, there's an Econ mode to assist you as well.
So how do these small updates feel out on the road? Let's just say that the Jazz nearly feels like it's competing in a higher segment. The cabin was noticeably quieter than before thanks to more rubber insulation around the doors. As far as B-segment hatchbacks go, it hushes out road noise pretty well, given the fact that it is on relatively sporty tires. It is perhaps one of the more refined offerings in its segment.
The seats are worth a mention too as it seems like they added more lumbar support. There wasn't really anything wrong with the old seats but its nice that they found a way to improve them too. With a wide array of adjustability, finding the ideal driving position is easy in the Jazz thanks to height adjustable seats and that tilt and telescoping steering wheel.
As for its ride, it is on the firm side but not uncomfortably so. Like in the pre-update Jazz, there is minimal impact harshness when driving over bumps. With this suspension set up, it allows the Jazz to be a nimble and precise handling hatch. At the same time, there is a touch more steering feel compared to before, a good thing especially if you prioritize driver involvement. That said, it still isn't the most dynamic car in its class but it doesn't detract from the Jazz's fun to drive characteristic.
With 120 PS under the hood, it is an impressive sum for a small hatchback given the fact that it's primary purpose is a daily commuter. At the same time, the engine itself is well-matched to the CVT. The engine is willing to rev if you fancy a spirited drive while putting it in sport mode sharpens up response. Like in the pre-updated Jazz, the power delivery is smooth and linear and picks up the pace in a relatively sprightly manner. It's no hot hatch but the engine is more than enough for most.
At Php 1,029,000, the price may come as a shock to some car buyers but you do get a lot for your money. Aside from the enhanced audio system, special exterior treatment and a generally more refined driving experience, there is a generous amount of safety equipment standard. Stability control is standard, so are a host of airbags and full LED headlights, a first for its class.
If ever there are points to improve on the Jazz, perhaps a more involving driving experience would be at the top of the list. Other than that, the small tweaks made to Honda's versatile hatch have improved the general feel of the car. It does make you wonder what Honda will be doing to the next-generation Jazz. But as of now, their small improvements to the car's successful formula is a step in the right direction.