"The Jazz is still one of the most practical and efficient superminis money can buy, even though the latest model has gone up in price."
With a quarter of a million cars sold in the UK, the Honda Jazz remains incredibly popular, even though it first went on sale in 2002. The highly practical supermini offers efficient engines, loads of standard equipment and lots of passenger space, sticking to the previous models' winning formula. It has a strong reputation for reliability and its clever interior flexibility is second to none in the supermini sector, even challenging some MPVs for practicality, despite its smaller dimensions. In fact, the improved exterior design actually houses an even bigger interior than its predecessors. You can also now get the Jazz as a hybrid that uses the same battery technology as the Honda Insight and is more efficient than the rival Nissan Note. The hybrid is the range's most efficient model seeing as there's no diesel option, which - combined with the high list price - can limit the Jazz's appeal.
Its upright driving position gives the Honda Jazz great all-round visibility and allows the driver to see the road ahead clearly. The dashboard is oriented towards the driver, with all the controls within short reach of the steering wheel, making it easy to access the stereo and heater, and improving the driving experience. While the suspension has been improved from the previous model, the Jazz still wrestles with poor road surfaces a bit, transmitting bumps and bangs into the interior of the car. Two engines are on offer - 1.2-litre and 1.4-litre petrols, neither of which feel particularly powerful and have to be worked quite hard, especially if you're carrying passengers and luggage. The hybrid model's battery-powered motor actually improves performance, so it feels like the quickest version of the Jazz on the road. However, it does come with a CVT automatic gearbox that is very noisy and best avoided in other models.
Honda consciously tweaked the Jazz's suspension to improve comfort and general driveability when it last updated the car. And the current model does ride noticeably better than its predecessor, especially at higher speeds on the motorway. The raised driving position gives excellent all-round visibility and all the dashboard and centre-console controls are easy to reach and use. You can order a luxurious full-leather interior as an option for an extra premium feel. The tall interior means leg and headroom are both more than ample, and the rear seats can recline to further increase passenger comfort.
The Honda Jazz received a full 100 per cent score for reliability in the 2012 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, continuing its run consistently high scores in ownership surveys. It did drop its overall ranking from 11th to 29th place, however, but the Jazz does still seem to be impervious to breakdowns and mechanical problems. Along the same theme, it also earned a full five-star crash safety rating from the Euro NCAP tests and is equipped with six airbags and ISOFIX child seat anchor points as standard. While it's clearly very safe, it's worth noting that the already slightly expensive entry-level S model doesn't come with electronic stability control.
The Honda Jazz has always been supremely practical and the current version is no exception - only the Nissan Note and Totota Verso can match it for space. The rear seats fold completely flat at the touch of a button. The seat bases flip up like cinema seats to create space for carrying something tall across the back seats. The 399-litre boot is big enough to rival most small family hatchbacks, and has a double-layered floor for storing loose items. And the high roof means even the tallest passengers will comfortably fit. The only negatives are that you lose the boot's lower storage tray in the hybrid model, as this is where Honda stash the batteries - but that hardly impacts on day-to-day practicality - and that a spare wheel is only available as an optional extra. All models do get an emergency repair kit, however.
Value for money
The entry-level 1.2-litre S is not well equipped, lacking air-con, alloy wheels and electronic stability control. Expect to pay nearly £4,000 more for the mid-range ES automatic, which gets all-round electric windows and body-coloured bumpers. The hybrid is priced even higher, north of £15,000, while the top-of-the-range EXL gets heated leather seats and an integrated sat-nav. The range tops out just shy of £20,000. On the plus side, the Jazz does hold its value extremely well, so you should get your money back on the list price when you come to sell it.
Unsurprisingly, the hybrid is the most efficient model, returning 63mpg, but, crucially, not falling below the 100g/km tax-exempt threshold, which most hybrid rivals do. Considering that the hybrid is much more expensive to buy, this significantly reduces any cost benefit. The rest of the range all emit below 130g/km and the 1.2-litre and 1.4-litre petrol engines can return fuel economy north of 50mpg - a figure that does drop dramatically if the car is loaded with people and luggage, however. All in all, these costs are decent but can't quite match the Jazz's key rivals.