Gareth Butterfield tries to find out why buyers keep coming back to the Honda Jazz
PEOPLE often ask me what car I’d recommend to them if they just want a fuss-free, practical and reliable hatchback for their A-to-B runabout. And, if I like them, I’ll almost always recommend a Honda Jazz.
It’s not fast, it’s not exciting and it’s not especially attractive, but there are people that aren’t bothered about those sorts of things. The type of people who would rather ask me for car advice than pore over magazines for a few weeks, for example.
The Jazz has been with us since 2001, believe it or not, and this is the latest version from the third generation of a car that has been credited with being the first “supermini”.
These days, it’s not really fair to call it a supermini any more. It’s grown up a bit, so it’s bigger and roomier and there is now a host of smaller cars that can rightly pick up the title. But that doesn’t mean it’s lost its way in life.
Another bold Jazz claim is the number of customers who wouldn’t look twice at any other car. Its success over the years lies squarely with brand loyalty, and most Jazz owners will happily buy another, and another, and another.
A lot of that is down to its target demographic, but that doesn’t mean it has a narrow appeal. I’ve got as many friends who had a Jazz for their first car as I do who have owned one as their last car.
But its biggest appeal is in its interior design. Practicality and simplicity was very much a strong suit of every Jazz, and the latest version is no different.
Controls are simple and well laid out, there’s no confusing smattering of buttons and switches, it’s just easy, straight-forward, and a doddle to grasp.
It’s always been the most spacious car in its class and, now that the Jazz is a little bit bigger than its predecessor, it still holds this crown.
For example, the fuel tank is fitted below the front seat, which means the entire floor is free to swallow up seats and the number of ways they can be moved around is remarkable.
It’s a concept called Magic Seats and Honda’s instruction manual will talk you through a series of “modes” from tall mode, which folds the seat base away to create a 1,280mm load height behind the front seats, and there’s a clever long mode, which allows you to drop the rear seats and the front passenger seat to create room for anything from surfboards to rotary washing lines.
And if you’re passenger has had a funny turn, or a dodgy tequila, there’s even a way of folding down the front seat’s backrest to meet the rear seat, effectively creating a bed.
It’s this unique layout that’s among the reasons Jazz owners rarely stray, and it’s a good thing, because it’s not a car you’d buy for thrills.
The engine choices see a return of the popular 1.3-litre, 100bhp lump, and there’s now a much better 1.5-litre four-cylinder i-Vtec engine with 128bhp.
While that might sound pretty perky, you’ll need to rev it strongly to get it going, so expect to make plenty of use of the six-speed manual gearbox, or hear lots of noise from the optional CVT automatic.
That said, it’s entirely possible to top 50mpg from the 1.5-litre version I tested, which is really impressive for a hard-working petrol engine.
And any shortcomings in handling, of which there are a few, are comfortably made-up for in ride quality.
To be fair, it’s probably better than you’d think around the corners. Improvements to the setup have been made through the generations, and it also now looks better than ever.
It’s possible to buy a Jazz for less than £15,000 – but you might want to hop up a few trim levels to add in some equipment upgrades.
Having said that, there’s plenty of standard kit with Hondas, including safety essentials, and you can be pootling around in a relatively lavish version for less than £18,000.
I’ll be honest, it’s not my cup of tea, but that’s hardly the point. The Jazz is a straight-forward, trustworthy tool for people who value practicality, reliability and comfort over style, speed and substance.
And that’s why it’s still one of the few cars that, despite the fact I’d never own one myself, I’ll always extol its virtues.