The Honda Jazz: Tuning into the Jazz

Published on April 7th, 2015

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The Honda Jazz or more internationally known as the Honda Fit is quite literally an interesting proposition for a city car that has been with us for the past 2 generations. A bit of a history lesson here, officially Honda Malaysia only began to offer the Jazz at the start of the second generation. The first generation was such a hit in the market wherever it went as its overall packaging was appealing to a broad spectrum of consumers. When the first generation came in unofficially via the grey importers, it proved to sell like hot cakes that Honda joined into the bandwagon by introducing the Jazz in Malaysia from the second generation onwards.

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For many, the winning strategy of the Jazz is with it’s strong, traditional, compact hatchback look matched with the versatility of its cabin has found many uses from carrying anything under the sun to being a pocket-rocket which can be derived from its highly capable drivetrain that is a boon of many tuners. It has amassed quite a following on these shores. To get a better judgement on what the fuss is all about with the new 3rd generation Jazz which was launched only recently, Honda Malaysia has kindly lent us the 3rd generation Honda Jazz 1.5 V for a couple of days to find out.

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Exterior

We are all too familiar with the shape of the Honda Jazz, which in the past generations have been the all typical boxy hatchback form. The new one we have here does share the same basic hatchback design that we all come to appreciate and love however, now it really ups the ante with a more fashion forward design which has more rounded bulbous profile on the whole. This are then countered by some sharp edges that can be seen at the edges of the car with the back combination lights seemingly protruding at the back to emphasize a wider design footprint. It further accentuate on the high and pronounced shoulder lines at the sides that stretched upwards to form a muscular profile. In its standard form I personally have an aversion to the design of the car as it resembles an egg that is about to explode or a cat assuming its fighting stance.

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With the Modulo body kit on the other hand, I have to confess that the egg-like shape is diminished and the pronounced muscular shoulder line starts to take shape like a purposeful cat right at the moment it wants to pounce on its prey. The Modulo kit comes complete with front, rear and side skirting. It also comes with a roof spoiler which I don’t think looks out of place in this design. Heck, it does complete the design somewhat. But in my opinion, this Modulo kit really hits the spot design wise and is the complete package with its fog-lights. It really does look menacing in the flesh.

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Interior

The moment you enter the Jazz, you would not be mistaken of the commonality which it shares with the Honda City in which it shares the same platform. Upon entering you get the same view and feel with the 7-inch touchscreen audio entertainment dominating the centre dash area complete with Bluetooth and HDMI connectivity for phone mirroring if you are using Android devices. For iPhone lovers, it comes with Siri voice activation for ease and eyes-free command and navigation of your playlist. The touchscreen could also provide navigation under the mirroring.

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Sound coming in from the 6 speakers are pretty decent and could serve you well with your daily driving. As the car we tested is in the top most V spec trim, HVAC controls are done via a touch-screen which is rather intuitive to use as per the Honda City located under the touchscreen audio entertainment. With the Jazz coming in to be the sportiest among the two, the angled dashboard makes much more sense as you can feel the car cocooning around you with any switches a mere arms-length away from.

This driver- centric cabin exacerbates further with the seats that are quite literally cushy without having you sucked-in the seats but offering better support. From the waist and up to the shoulders it does hold your body comfortably with adequate amount of support to hold you into your seats. Although I would not say it is bucket-like but more than once I felt really at home in the seat that I find myself dozing off quite a couple of times while waiting in the car. The cockpit is a cozy place to be in.

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To continue with the theme of previous generations where any little space is useable space the Honda Jazz truly brought another different dimension to Honda’s current theme of “Man Maximum, Machine Minimum”. Yes the legroom and headroom is quite surprising for a small hatchback but unlike the City where overall passenger space is huge, the chassis in hatchback form it takes on a totally different path with the inclusion of ULTRA seats where the amount of seating configuration that you could make to further use the space inside is truly amazing. With the ULTRA seating arrangement, the Jazz dimensions could really hide anything that you could possibly think of for example the kitchen sink, the kitchen door. And if you put your back into it probably the whole kitchen cabinet as well. That is truly how flexible this seating arrangement is.

In short, the cabin is a huge space in itself to accommodate the tiny rear space in the trunk that could possibly fit a camera bag and a days’ worth of multimedia junk. Although the time with the Jazz a short and hectic one, I did manage to try two modes out of four possible modes. First up is the Utility mode when I had to transport a huge luggage bag that just wouldn’t fit into the rear trunk. The next mode that I managed to try on was the Refresh mode which turns the whole cabin into a huge king-size bed, in my case for the time I was virtually exhausted with a day’s work that a rest is necessary on the road.

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Driving Dynamics

It comes as a no brainer that the handling of the Jazz is one of the most talked about topics when it comes to the car. This comes as a no surprise as Honda has been renowned to be the sportier for each segment it competes in. With such a small and compact design, the handling can be described as unexpectedly honest and fun where the car will go wherever you point it without much drama. The Jazz chassis can be attributed to this excellence that made it almost easy for any type of drivers to be able to jump into the car and drive it however they want.

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Although the Jazz may not be a hot-hatch in terms of outright performance but it makes quite a good case if you just want to have a go at being fast on the road. That is mostly the reason that the Jazz is so liked by tuners around the world. To me the ride is a bit harsh and bumpy in slow driving traffic but not uncomfortable that you can’t sit still while traversing KL’s many potholed roads. It does however get better once you progress into highways at higher speeds with the chassis being calm and uneventful. Steering is a bit light though than I am usually comfortable with for spirited driving as although it points in the direction the steering goes. It is the disconcerting feeling that bothers me the most, as the steering somehow takes on a very artificial feel to the way it translates driver input to the road. I think the electric power steering that is the culprit.

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The drivetrain is the familiar L15A engine that furnishes the City as well with 120hp coming on song at a heady 6,600rpm for a normal daily driven car and 145Nm of torque arriving at 4,600rpm. Paired with the latest Earth Dreams CVT it promises to be a fuel efficient vehicle which I can attest to with a returned mileage of 11km/l in the short stint in the Jazz.

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But… and it is a big BUT, the pairing of the engine with a CVT does pull out some of the fun in the sporting pretentions it had against any competition out there. Sure it does have a strong pull right from the off but it somewhat tapers off at the higher end of the range. This is more pronounced if you were coming in a corner and wanted to power out of it, you would be left out of breath which I find a few times frustrating if you were at a corner trying to outmaneuver an 18-wheeler trailer. It really is a downer as the chassis shows a lot of potential with its ability to handle around corners well but disappoints with the lack of grunt and the absence of any feel in the steering. Or am I spoiling myself with the amount of torque available to me in my last review which is the Colorado?

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Verdict

The Honda Jazz throws a strong proposition for anybody who is in the market for a car that has a broad range of uses. With prices starting at RM72,000 for the Jazz 1.5 S right up to the highest spec Jazz 1.5 V at RM87,000 that we are in it could potentially appeal to a wide-range of drivers. With the addition of Honda’s 5year unlimited mileage warranty, this car could potentially appeal to college-going students to first-time car owners and onwards to those who seek a more thrilling ride.

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The Honda Jazz does show it is a capable all-rounder and have that bit more potential for tuners to exploit. Judging from the concepts done by Mugen, it sure is one hell of a thing to look at. I may not like hatchbacks that much but spending time in this amazes me to the wonders of what a hatchback has to offer. This car really lives up to the fun factor that my colleagues has been harping about of what a hatchback car has to offer. I myself am actually amazed at the versatility of this car. For those who have an active lifestyle, do not give the Jazz a miss as it may throw at you some interesting stuff and do not miss the Modulo bodykit.

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Words: Azri

Photos: Qhalis Najmi

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