2018 Honda Jazz +Sport Review
Dan DeGasperi’s 2018 Honda Jazz +Sport Review with Price, Specs, Performance, Ride and Handling, Practicality, Ownership, Safety, Verdict and Score.
In a nutshell: Rival five-door hatchbacks have taken more than 15 years to challenge the superiority of the Honda Jazz in terms of space and practicality, but roomier new entrants could be flicked aside by this +Sport limited edition plus strong seven-year warranty deals.
2018 Honda Jazz +Sport Specifications
Price $20,590+ORC Warranty five-years, unlimited km Safety 5 stars Engine 1.5-litre four-cylinder Power 88kW at 6600rpm Torque 145Nm at 4800rpm Transmission automatic continuously-variable transmission (CVT) Drive front-wheel drive Dimensions 4028mm (L) 1694mm (W) 1524mm (H) 2540mm (WB) Tare Weight 1103kg Fuel Tank 40L Spare space-saver Thirst 5.9/100km claimed combined, 6.9L/100km tested
TOO many new cars suffer for style. In particular, the ‘coupe SUV’ genre teams a sloping roofline and poor packaging, with excess size designed to compensate for that – and therefore too much weight. Then, add a huge tyre package, to keep it together on the road.
The Honda Jazz has long been the opposite of such inefficiency. It may not scream status-symbol (and coupe SUV buyers do like to shout…) and it may not be sexy, but this little box-on-wheels has since 2003 been the definition of ‘small on the outside but big on the inside’.
It has indeed taken rivals, such as the new generations of Suzuki Swift and Volkswagen Polo launched within the last year, to merely attempt to match the plucky Honda for sheer roominess for the price. In contrast to those competitors, though, the current-gen Jazz is five years old, and this +Sport limited edition is designed to keep interest humming along.
For just over $20,000 before on-road costs with a standard automatic transmission, can this Jazz +Sport continue its unbeaten streak as the thinking person’s five-door hatchback?
What’s The Price And What Do You Get?
Officially, according to the recommended retail price (RRP), the entry-level Jazz VTi starts from $14,990 plus on-road costs for the five-speed manual or $16,990+ORC for the automatic continuously-variable transmission (CVT). However, Honda is currently offering them for $16,990 and $17,990 driveaway respectively, with a free seven-year warranty, seven-year roadside assistance and genuine accessory package.
That seems like good value, though the VTi has been stripped of its formerly standard 15-inch alloy wheels – it now gets steel wheels with hubcaps. There’s a 7.0-inch touchscreen with rear-view camera inside, but no Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone mirroring technology, satellite navigation or digital radio. Cruise control is standard, but even a leather-wrapped steering wheel is missing.
It takes the auto-only Jazz VTi-S at $19,990+ORC to add that latter feature, 16-inch alloys and sat-nav, as well as LED projector headlights, foglights, a tailgate spoiler and electric-fold door mirrors. Meanwhile the model grade tested here, the Jazz +Sport limited edition, further adds black alloys and exterior trim, and rear parking sensors, for $20,590+ORC – a mere $600 extra. However, neither are ‘on sale’ now, with Honda advertising them for $23,168 and $23,786 driveaway, for a $5000-plus hike over the Jazz VTi offer.
Both VTi-S and +Sport also miss out on the leather trim, heated front seats, paddleshifters and keyless auto-entry of the VTi-L, but it costs $22,990+ORC or, Honda is currently offering, $26,258 driveaway. So, is Jazz best at the bargain basement, or can it justify these prices?
What’s The Interior And Practicality Like?
Like the current US president, the Jazz claims to be the biggest, brightest and just downright yuuuge inside – the only difference being, Honda is actually bang-on. Well, mostly. A fuel tank positioned under the front seats, a low-mounted and space-efficient torsion beam rear suspension, plus a tall roof combine to deliver outstanding interior space and cargo volume.
Up front this +Sport limited edition affords an airy feel, with good forward and side visibility, while especially tall rear passengers will enjoy the surplus level of legroom that has only just been broadly matched by the new Swift. Only this Japanese light car goes a step further, with a reclining backrest and excellent headroom, although the bench itself is hard and flat.
The bench, as with the backrest, is split 60:40. As there is only a swinging metal bar beneath it, an owner can choose to pull up the bench to make for a yuuuge centre luggage area perfect for storing pot plants, or flip the whole thing down into the base of the floor to boost the 359-litre boot volume to an expansive 1314L. The former figure has only just been broadly matched by the 351L Polo, but it still only provides a maximum 1125L.
This is the definition of practical motoring – lower case in this instance – but while there’s only one downside, it’s a major one: the driver’s seat and driving position. In this hatch, you sit bolt upright or a little too relaxed, with the backrest overly hard and the flat cushion tilted too far forward. After two hours straight behind the wheel, this tester had a stiff (if not sore) back, and a Google search reveals this to be a frequent complaint from owners…
What Are The Controls And Infotainment Like?
This is where this current-gen Japanese light car starts to feel its age. Simplicity has always been key inside, and the straightforward manual air-conditioning and cruise controls, the easy-to-read instrumentation (though without a digital speedometer) and the surplus storage (including a big centre console bin and third console cupholder) continue the trend.
All of which makes the aftermarket-looking 7.0in touchscreen perplexing. It reacts slowly, with the sat-nav taking ages to boot up as it attempts to find satellites well after you’ve left the garage, and its graphics appear at least a decade old. The single USB port leaves your cord dangling across the interface and the side ‘shortcut’ buttons – which don’t match anything else in the cabin. For infotainment technology, the Jazz runs dead last in its class.
What’s The Performance Like?
Honda produces not only among the most fuel-efficient engines in little cars, but also among the most enjoyable both to the ear and in terms of response. The Jazz’s 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine is no different, with an energetic 88kW of power produced at 6600rpm and a competitive 145Nm of torque; but delivered at a sky-high 4800rpm.
In either case, this is between 600rpm and 800rpm higher than class average, which is fine because the engine wants to rev and it sounds good doing so. With a manual transmission, to keep the 1.5-litre on the ball, this is fine. With this auto CVT, however, there are issues.
In ‘D’ the transmission wants to keep revs low, to help with economy, and indeed the +Sport only raised its laboratory-measured combined-cycle fuel consumption of 5.9 litres per 100 kilometres by exactly one litre in the real world. That’s not bad at all.
To achieve this, though, the driving experience is significantly dulled. When ‘D’ keeps revs at 1200rpm, and the engine makes peak torque at 4800rpm, there’s a frequent but slow surge to get the petrol spinning up there even on slight hills. At 1103kg, the Jazz is light, but about 100kg heavier than a Swift or the Mazda2 that lead the class for performance and economy. Switching to the ‘S’ (for Sport) mode around town is helpful, as it holds revs a bit higher and is more responsive overall – but it isn’t intuitive, so a constant buzzing penetrates the cabin.
What’s It Like On The Road?
It has long been debated whether the Honda Jazz is a five-door hatch or a minivan. It packs so much within four-metre-long dimensions that, clearly, some of the more basic suspension design employed by vans has been adopted here too.
If there has been a major improvement to the way this car drives over the nameplate’s 15-year existence, it’s in the area of steering and handling more than ride comfort – which is odd given the target market. The Jazz now has decently linear steering and tightly controlled handling, though its damping is wafer-thin, so it quickly runs out of travel across bigger bumps.
Not so much on the VTi’s 15-inch tyres, but certainly on the +Sport’s 16s, this can be a tiring hatch to drive due to its constantly restless body motion across speed humps and potholes at low speeds, and its incessant jiggling on ostensibly smooth freeway.
Simply, the Jazz is not fun to drive, or at all finessed, and the +Sport is certainly not sporty. Buyers of this practicality-obsessed hatch arguably don’t need those traits, but they certainly deserve a little car that is quieter and cushier than this.
Does It Have A Spare?
Yes, a space-saver temporary tyre limited to 80km/h.
Can You Tow With It?
Yes, 800kg braked. This isn’t a towing vehicle at all.
What about ownership?
Honda offers a five-year, unlimited kilometre warranty, yet this Japanese brand is renowned for delivering fuss-free reliability anyway. If you must keep your car for 10+ years and put 100,000km-plus on it, look no further.
Servicing is pricey, though – the Jazz needs bi-annual or 10,000km checks, at a cost of $259 and $297 that interchange consistently all the way until four years or 80,000km.
What about safety features?
As with its infotainment technology, every Jazz model grade is let down by a paucity of active safety technology.
While six airbags and electronic stability control (ESC) are standard, and expected, forward collision warning with autonomous emergency braking (AEB) and a blind-spot monitor are unavailable.
The Mazda2 Maxx gets both, while the Swift GLX Turbo further adds adaptive cruise control and lane-departure warning also unavailable here. Both are optional on the Polo 70TSI Trendline, too (and it gets AEB standard).
Honda needs to update its light car with more, as soon as possible, especially for this price.