Exterior enhancements increase appeal
Honda's ever-popular Jazz has found plenty of willing buyers looking for a highly practical supermini with solid build quality and reliability, but it has lagged behind some of its rivals when attracting youthful buyers after something a little sporty. To redress that it has introduced the Si edition, with unique interior and exterior details and enhanced driving dynamics.
The Jazz in standard form is well made, spacious on the inside, refined, comfortable, affordable, easy on the eye, reliable and classy. That it's been Honda's best selling car speaks volumes for its broad appeal. Whether it's your first car, the family's second car or just something for the commute into work, the Jazz oozes quality and performs admirably.
Where the Jazz has lagged behind mainstream rivals is attracting the younger buyer, who appreciates low running costs just as much as the next owner but wants a car with a sporty edge – even if this is centred around looks and handling rather than extra performance.
The Jazz Si follows this template to the letter, and is based on the manual 1.4 ES model. On the outside the Si is distinguished by deeper front and rear bumpers with pronounced spoilers with additional front fog lights. 16-inch wheels are standard, as is privacy glass and a prominent Si badge on the boot. The Si is also limited to four of the bolder colours in the palette, including red, white, black and blue.
In terms of pure performance the Si remains the same as the 1.4 ES model, but for a sportier drive the suspension has been revised solely for this version. The changes comprise of new dampers all round with a stiffer overall setting as well as a larger front anti-roll bar. The electric power steering system has also been revised for improved response.
The Jazz Si neatly fills an obvious gap in the range. It provides a modestly improved driving experience and sharper looks but in doing so does not sacrifice any of the traits that make the Jazz such an attractive car in the first place: easy to live with, easy to drive, practical and reliable.
While the Jazz isn't the cheapest option in the supermini market, the combination of its solid performance, durability, versatility and above average levels of kit and refinement should count for something. Factor in the improved engine range boasting increased efficiencies and your wallet can be spared some of the usual horrors.
Although pitched as a small car, you'll be surprised by how big the Jazz is on the inside. Sit in the front and you will be impressed with the space allocated to each passenger – it's a similar feeling when sat in the rear. The car's 'magic' rear seats boast an impressive level of flexibility, and can be positioned to accommodate cycles and other awkward objects, resulting in a flat load bay.
The Si model's layout remains identical to that of the standard car. All controls and dials are chunky and have a solid, connected feel to them. The layout of the stereo controls on the dash is straightforward and simple to fathom, while the main instrument binnacle is backlit.
Even with the stiffer suspension the Jazz remains a comfortable car. At motorway speeds the Jazz's interior is a relaxing place to be despite the hard work being done by the engine. Supportive seats and light-action controls complete the picture.
At this end of the scale there isn't much to talk about. Apart from the usual remote central locking and imobilisor package that's pretty much your lot. The car's sturdy rear load cover does ensure prying eyes are warned away, though.
The Jazz is a solidly constructed car and comes with a good range of safety kit. Airbags aren't in short supply and the electronic stability control is also present for added peace of mind.
With an easy driving nature the Jazz is a stress-free experience from behind the wheel. All the controls are light, the gearbox is very slick and the engine is smooth and refined. The changes to the steering and suspension on the Si model are marginal but effective: body roll is reduced and the Jazz is keener to turn into bends. Overall it is mildly sporting drive rather than a hugely exciting one, but keener drivers will find it significantly preferable to the standard car.
Most superminis fail at this hurdle but, thanks in part to the Jazz's spacious cabin, flexible seating and modest running costs it's a capable alternative to something larger. Hardwearing fittings dominate the cabin – another reason to make it onto your shopping list.
There's no question that the Jazz would make an ideal first car. It's easy to drive and hardly a performance fireball, making it a great low risk option. With its lofty driving position and low running costs it's a solid choice for anyone seeking a practical car that's one step above the traditional novice runabout.
Europeans still regard Japanese cars as passion-less white goods designed for getting people from A to B, but the Jazz Si offers a little extra welcome sparkle in the way it looks and drives over and above the standard car. The cabin is built to a high standard, which also helps.
With its elevated seating positions and generous door apertures, access to the cabin is easy. In reality, only those rear adult passengers over six feet tall will struggle for headroom but that's not uncommon in cars like this. At the rear, the wide opening tailgate allows for equally easy access to the boot.
The standard fit system delivers a good standard of sound quality, while the steering wheel-mounted audio controls are a welcome inclusion and the unit's position in the fascia makes the display easy to read at a glance.
The reduced colour range on the Si focuses on bolder shades which suit the car's enhanced appearance, particularly the strong red and icy blue shades. On the inside the Si is largely as standard although the seats are tastefully trimmed in black and silver and the leather steering wheel help to set it apart from the standard car.
The car's assisted steering is feather light and makes parking a piece of cake. A generous amount of glass and a nicely elevated seating position make the Jazz a delight to park.
A tyre inflation kit is fitted as standard.
Petrol engine options – 1.2-litre (90bhp); 1.4-litre (100bhp); 1.2-litre petrol-electric hybrid (88bhp). Transmission options: 5-speed manual transmission, CVT auto (hybrid and optional for 1.4 variants). Trim levels: S, ES, EX. Hybrid trim levels: HE, HS, HX, Si.