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Honda Jazz Hybrid

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Road Test

Honda Jazz

Model/Engine size: Hybrid HE

Fuel: Petrol-Electric Hybrid

Fuel economy combined: 62.8 mpg

Green-Car-Guide rating: 8/10

Petrol-electric hybrid technology is now coming to smaller cars – and the Honda Jazz hybrid is the first supermini to use this technology to improve its fuel economy to 62.8 mpg .

This makes it the most economical petrol-powered supermini – and the one with the lowest emissions, at 104 g/km CO 2 .

Combine this great economy with the fact that the Jazz has excellent packaging for its size, and with Honda’s excellent reliability record, and surely this car must be a winner.

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Although the Jazz is a supermini-sized car, it has pretentions to be a people carrier. No, it doesn’t have a third row of seats, but it has an unbelievable amount of space inside the car, and a multitude of storage areas – ranging from drink-holders at each end of the dashboard, which are very convenient to accommodate mobile phones, to a large amount of space under the seats.

Even the seats themselves are clever – in fact Honda calls them ‘Magic Seats’. No, they don’t disappear upon a secret command, but they are incredibly versatile; the rear seats can recline back, stow upright to create a deep storage space, or fold flat, and the front passenger seat can also fold down to fit long items such as dreaded flat-pack furniture.

Despite the extra hybrid components, this version of the Jazz has the same seating capability and total potential luggage space, at 883 litres, as the petrol version, because the IMA system’s battery pack and power control unit sit under the boot floor rather than encroach into the interior space.

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While we’re discussing the interior, if you’re looking to move to a Jazz from a car in this class with more basic levels of equipment, when you see the dashboard of the Jazz you’ll be like a child opening new toys on Christmas day. There are lots of switches and controls, both on the dash and on the steering wheel, as well as lots of different displays and colours – almost to the extent that it’s all a bit overwhelming.

On the green side of things, there’s an ECON button that changes the car’s settings to help tease out maximum miles per gallon. There’s also Eco Assist lighting which glows green when you drive economically. And there are flowers that grow as you drive carefully, which may be a gimmick that’s not to everyone’s tastes.

The launch of the hybrid model coincides with a mid-life exterior refresh for the Jazz range. The rear end looks better than the old model, and the front is also an improvement, although the front of the hybrid model appears slightly more fussy.

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The IMA hybrid system is identical to the one used in the Honda Insight – a 1.3-litre i-TEC engine combined with a CVT gearbox, with an electric motor sandwiched between the two to create a parallel hybrid system. The hybrid system boosts economy and brings CO 2 emissions close to the best diesel models – but the hybrid has much lower NOx and zero particulate emissions, so it’s better than a diesel in terms of local air quality issues.

Having a hybrid system mated to a petrol engine also means that the Jazz is very quiet – most of the time. In common with most cars with CVT transmissions, if you accelerate hard then the revs will rise, together with the engine noise, yet there will not necessarily be any direct increase in your rate of progress.

Most hybrids are therefore best driven slowly and gently, and by doing so you will be rewarded with a smooth and quiet drive, and also with excellent fuel economy.

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If you do need to get somewhere in a hurry, the Jazz does have a useful trick up its sleeve – you can change gear with paddle shifters behind the steering wheel to give manual control of the ratios. It’s unlikely that most people will use this feature very much, but if you need to overtake, changing down using the steering wheel-mounted controls really helps. When the paddles are used in ‘D’ mode they can bring the car into a lower ratio for a kickdown effect; in ‘S’ mode they give full manual control.

Apart from the CVT transmission, the levels of grip are another reason why you shouldn’t make a habit of driving too enthusiastically in this car. Although their very narrow width helps with ease of driving and fuel economy, the tyres don’t provide huge amounts of grip during fast cornering – and the light and indirect steering combined with the relatively tall and narrow shape of the car doesn’t help to provide a feeling of handling stability. Compared to the Honda Insight, the Jazz feels more solid and better damped – but it is engineered to make it easy to drive rather than for a direct driving feel.

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So does the hybrid system make sense in this car? Well it does offer improved economy – if you drive it carefully. And it enhances the quiet, smooth and easy nature of the car around town – where it’s likely to spend most of its time.

The Jazz can operate on electric-only power under certain low speed conditions, but the IMA system isn’t a full hybrid system as found in cars such as the Toyota Prius. This means that you can’t drive for any distance in electric-only mode. But it is simpler and therefore cheaper than the rival Toyota system, and in most cases it still cuts the engine when at a halt, which makes complete sense from a CO2 emissions-saving and local air quality point of view – so much so that most manufacturers are now going down this road with some form of stop/start system.

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Despite the Jazz being a hybrid, it is not exempt from the London congestion charge, or from the other tax benefits that sub-100 g/km cars enjoy, because its emissions are 104 g/km CO 2 . However you still get free road tax for the first year and pay just £10 per year thereafter.

Interestingly, Honda seems happy to proclaim that the average age of a Jazz customer is 56 years old; it is hoped that the hybrid model, which is expected to account for around 10% of total Jazz sales, will help to attract a younger customer base.

If you’re still not sure about the hybrid, the Jazz also comes with 1.2-litre and 1.4-litre i-VTEC petrol engines. The 1.2-litre returns 53.3 mpg along with 123 g/km CO 2 , so the hybrid definitely offers an advantage in the area of economy and emissions.

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Summary

While we were testing this car, we noticed a huge amount of other Jazz models on the roads. This happens with whatever car you’re driving, but never to the extent that we experienced with the Jazz. And this really sums up the car – it goes about its business in a quiet, understated way that may not get noticed, but lots of people obviously think it is an ideal car for them – as proven by its consistent placing near the top of new car sales figures.

The Honda Jazz hybrid makes a great deal of sense if you want to minimise your fuel bills and emissions around town. Unlike electric cars, you can drive the Jazz far out of city limits – but that’s not where it’s at its best.

If you like automatics then you probably won’t mind the CVT transmission. If you prefer manuals then the indirect nature of the CVT may not be to your liking, but the steering wheel-mounted paddles certainly help to give you more control.

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The Jazz is more practical than most superminis, and if you have children who insist on taking lots of small toys into the car, then the Jazz, with all of its storage spaces, is ideal.

When NOx and particulate matter emissions are taken into account, the overall emissions of the Jazz are lower than diesel models, however you have to drive carefully to get the claimed fuel consumption and even then it can’t match the fuel economy of the best diesels.

At £15,995 it is expensive for a supermini, but it is technologically advanced, well equipped, and pretty much guaranteed to be reliable.

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The Honda Jazz hybrid gets a Green-Car-Guide rating of 8 out of 10. It has excellent packaging, it’s easy to drive, and it has low emissions – both in terms of CO 2 and emissions that impact upon local air quality.

It would be excellent if Honda could get the emissions of the Jazz hybrid down to 99 g/km CO 2 , and so benefit from exemption for the London congestion charge and other sub-100 g/km tax incentives.

Paul Clarke

Fuel economy extra urban: 64.2 mpg

Fuel economy urban: 61.4 mpg

CO 2 emissions: 104 g/km

Green rating: VED band B – first year £0

Weight: 1209 Kg

Company car tax liability (2011/12): 10%

Price: £15,995 (From £11,295 to £19,305)

Insurance group: 16

Power: 87 (petrol) / 14 (electric) bhp bhp

Max speed: 109 mph

0-62mph: 12.1 seconds

Honda Jazz hybrid review, Honda Jazz hybrid road test