Marcus De Guzman / Kelvin Christian Go | December 11, 2017 17:06
Small changes, big improvements
Sometimes, it's the little things that can make or break a car. While most can appreciate cars that look good inside and out, an automobile that lacks certain standard features can spell disaster for automakers. Not only that, it has to be priced just right or else buyers will look for another bargain.
This brings me to such a vehicle, the Honda Jazz. Recently refreshed for the 2018 model year, the third-generation hatchback has been in the market for nearly three years now and is a favorite among car buyers for its practicality, styling and peppy powertrain. Now given a nip and tuck, and a longer list of equipment, we see if the Jazz VX still offers up quite the proposition.
Once serving as the top-of-the-range model (previously badged as the VX+), it has now been relegated to the middle with the arrival of the RS which comes with a unique bodykit, LED lighting and several other extras. In spite of that, the VX is still quite the looker thanks to some minor exterior retouches.
For starters, the front fascia has been mildly redesigned thanks to a new Solid Wing Face grill and more aggressive bumper. While it does lose the foglights, the refreshed Jazz VX now comes with LED daytime running lights (DRLs). The rear largely remains the same as well apart from several minor updates like the LED taillights and the sportier rear bumper.
Some might say the design updates were kept to a minimum but there was nothing wrong with its look to begin with. All in all, the Jazz kept its sporty look for 2018 but has become more mature than its predecessor. Groundbreaking it may not be, the third-generation Jazz still looks fresh and contempt despite being introduced three years ago.
If the exterior somehow looks the same, the inside gets some noticeable changes, particularly in its features. For the first time, the Jazz VX now comes equipped with cruise control as standard which is a big plus in my opinion. A new seven-inch infotainment touchscreen display also makes its way inside the refreshed Jazz VX. Unlike the pre-facelift version, the new Garmin system is more intuitive to use and is quicker to respond to commands. In fact, it was actually a breeze connecting my phone to the system via Bluetooth, as well as browse through a music playlist on a flash drive.
Other functions like AM/FM radio, navigation, voice command, multi-view reverse camera and HDMI connectivity all come as standard on the new Garmin-based infotainment system. It can even connect to the internet via Wi-Fi which is pretty useful in case you need to check points of interests or your personal accounts.
The interior as a whole, on the other hand, pretty much keeps its overall design and finish from the pre-updated model which is not a bad thing. Much like its four-door sibling (the City), it gets an ergonomic yet intricately designed cabin that is both functional and easy to look at. Meanwhile, getting into a comfortable driving position was easy thanks to a telescopic steering rack and a fully-adjustable driver’s seat.
Both the front and rear seats are comfortable despite the lack of adjustable lumbar support. However, the soft seat cushion on the driver’s side meant that one can 'sink in the seat' as the miles go by. As always, the ULT rear seats offer a lot of cargo flexibility, while the rest of the cabin has generous headroom, elbowroom and legroom.
Under the hood lives the familiar 1.5-liter SOHC inline-four with i-VTEC. Carried-over from the pre-facelift version, the L15Z1 produces 120 PS at 6600 rpm along with 145 Nm of torque at 4800 rpm. Power is then transferred to an Earth Dreams developed continuously variable transmission (CVT) that drives the front wheels. While the engine is not exactly groundbreaking, do remember that this particular engine is near the top of its class, and also among the most fuel efficient.
Strolling around town and along city roads, the Jazz pretty much kept its revs well below 2000 rpm. Both the engine and CVT were smooth and quiet in operation. Also, noise and vibration from the powertrain were kept to a minimum. For those that want a more frugal driving experience, the Jazz VX also comes with Econ (Economy) mode. For those curious about its fuel consumption in light city traffic, the Jazz was able to average between 9.0 – 10.0 km/l.
If you give it a bit more throttle, the 1.5-liter engine allows the Jazz to overtake slower cars with relative ease. It's no hot hatch by any means, but with 120 PS available on tap, it's quick enough to outpace its contemporaries, as well as other cars with bigger engines. It's also quite revvy when driven spiritedly and should one throw the CVT into 'Sport' mode, the Jazz is more than willing to let the driver have some fun. It even comes with steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters which makes for a sportier and more engaging driving experience.
Drive the Jazz sensibly on the highway however, and the hatchback is capable of returning about 17.0 – 17.5 km/l of fuel. With an even lighter foot, one can actually average 18.5 km/l on the highway provided they maintain a constant speed.
Thanks to its small size, maneuvering the Jazz around tight streets was a cinch. The electronic power steering system meant that it was light for everyday city driving. It only becomes slightly heavier when driving along highways. However, I do wished that the steering offered more road feel as the system delivered little feedback.
Take it out on the twisties and the Jazz can can take on the corners admirably. Granted, that it's built for the everyday commute, I have to commend Honda for making the 2018 Jazz an agile hatchback. What makes this feat even more impressive is the fact that it retains a good ride.
So what's our verdict for the 2018 Jazz VX Navi? Well, much like the refreshed City, it's hard to fault the updated hatchback. What was already a nicely-packaged five-seater is now packed with even more amenities than the last one. Its design may be relatively the same but again, it only needed a slight redesign. What's more is that its price has only gone up by Php 1,000 compared to the 2014 model.
But at Php 949,000, the Jazz VX is already knocking on the price on certain entry-level C-segment cars. Put it this way, are you willing to buy a fully-equipped B-segment sedan / hatch? Or will you put up with a bare or moderately-equipped C-segment four-door / five-door? It's up to you which priorities matter more.
For those that want something with pep, style and features in a fairly small package, the 2018 Jazz VX Navi is worth looking.