Just had the chance to drive a brand new 1.4 Jazz, and thought I'd share my thoughts in the form of a 10 minute micro-review:
Looks and appeal
The very fact that I'd had wandered over to one in the showroom points to the fact that it can't be all bad - it has a chunky and purposeful look, albeit a little tall. Maybe the VW Polo designer had a brief fling with the Citroen Berlingo designer (if it actually had one) and then did a quick contract for Honda. The little alloy wheels seem very small and lost in the wheel arches, and there seems to be no real "look" to the car. If asked to draw one, could you?
Inside the car
The quality of this inexpensive box is remarkable. Everything feels absolutely rock solid, despite a couple of the plastic areas initially looking a little cheap. But once you start to operate it, every control clunks or slides so nicely that you get that "I wish my car was like this" feeling.
The seats are comfortable and offer plenty of adjustment, and crucially the driving position is almost correct - the seat, pedals and wheels are pretty close to lining up.
The instruments are clear, but dragged up my Nissan Sunny memories by being bright orange. The stereotypical Japanese car is one that is reliable, has horrible plasticky orange instruments and drives like a dog. So that's one down...
We had to go to B&Q - but suddenly realised that we had the Jazz... Is there space in that little thing? A quick trip round to the boot revealed something almost the size of a Golf boot - remarkable. Honda have used the same tricks they use in the Civ - fuel tank is under the passenger seat and the rear suspension is a compact twist beam setup.
In the front there are plenty of little storage areas and clever touches - the glove box is a bit small, but once you remove the manual (the Jazz mag?) it's fine. As we know, you (or your grandson) can even plug in your mp3 player. There are large trays running across the car, so if you had to swerve to avoid the other car that you didn't see (travelling at well in excess of 48 mph), your clip on sunglasses and bus pass might slide around in an irritating fashion.
I understand that the 1.4 is about £10K, and it came with alloy wheels, aircon, and a radio that sounded excellent. We put a tenner's worth of unleaded in, the gauge shot up to 1/2 full, and we drove for about a thousand miles before it moved (approximately). So this is a car that will really appeal to those of you who feel physical pain when even thinking about opening your wallets.
On the road (excluding steering)
Having driven the 1.4 DSI Civ, I was rather looking forward to this. The 1.4 Civ goes quite well and is quite refined - so the lighter Jazz should be excellent. Or so I thought.
Firstly, the engine seems unnaturally gutless. Relatively little power low down, followed by less-than-you expected mid-range (but with an almost useful amount at upper-midrange), followed by an awful noise. Above 4,000 rpm there's not much extra power to go there for, in fact all you get is a rough, slightly unpleasant vibrating fizzing engine note that's just begging for you to change up. In Jazz-world, you don't accelerate, but with time the engine will assist the wind and the gradients in helping you go a bit faster. Speed eventually arrives, and once at a normal motorway cruising velocity the car is quiet and smooth. It's remarkable that Jayne's old Yaris feels a lot faster and significantly more sporty than a 1.4 Jazz.
The suspension and ride is good - on the firm side but beautifully damped and vice free for the class of car. No bouncing, no jarring and no significant clonking when taking on rough surfaces. The car is a bit vague in bends. But this is all connected to the something that is very wrong. It's the...
Oh dear. Just two pink rinses out of a possible five. What is so wrong? Firstly the wheel is PTFE coated. No part of you that falls off mid-sneeze will irritatingly adhere to the wheel, but neither will your hands - and your hands will be gripping hard.
The steering is electric which traditionally offers little or no feedback. Fine, we can live with that. It is also slow - so more turning is required in order to get a result. Also fine. But it's the weighting that has gone wrong. Normally you steer not by moving the wheel, but by applying a small force. In the old days, the wheel would be wriggling a bit, and the force would cause an average movement and a subsequent change in direction. More force - a faster change. But in the Jazz, the steering is stiff, as if there is some bizarre friction. Apply a small force, and the wheel won't move. Apply a bit more, still nothing. A bit more and it moves - too much. So repeat the whole process in the reverse direction. It's so bad that if you are steady and make a correction, the wheel will turn and will then stay where it is - the self centering action is not enough to overcome this friction and pull it back to centre, so you have to do the unnatural thing and turn it back to centre.
The net result is a wiggling path, never quite putting the car where you want it to be. How Honda have spoilt the car so much by such a small detail is beyond me, but then you have to go back to my stereotypical Japanese car...
It's no wonder they called it the Jazz, and not the hip hop, metal nor even prog. The car is practical, beautifully made, clever, quiet, comfortable and thrifty. Taken gently to 48 mph, then for an amble to the bowling club, it's just great. Hence I give it 4 pink rinses out of 5, not the three I think I ought to.
But I could never have one, simply because it is such a dog to drive - Jayne's £3K 6 year old 998cc Yaris is about as fast, a load smoother and miles more fun.
Jazz. Nice. Ish...