The Honda Jazz’s versatility, solid build quality, and overall value quickly makes it a major player in the compact hatchback segment.
Attracting some the youngest buyers among the company’s portfolio of vehicles (i.e., millennials), Honda says that roughly 70 percent of Jazz buyers are new to the brand. This makes the car particularly important to the company, as it offers an early opportunity to create life-long customers. Indeed, when it comes to attracting new drivers, the Honda Jazz has some healthy competition.
Finding a balance between versatility, features, and affordability has always been the core concept behind the Jazz, and it’s a mission that continues with the 2018 Honda Jazz as the automaker looks to keep the car at the top of its game with a mid-cycle refresh.
The third generation Jazz originally debuted in 2015 on an all-new platform that increased both cargo space and passenger volume while shortening the car’s overall length. After a few years on the market, Honda was looking to breathe new life in this subcompact and turned to customer feedback for direction, adding more emotional appeal, both in styling and driving dynamics.
Along with an updated exterior and reworked suspension, the latter of which includes revised damper tuning and additional chassis bracing throughout the vehicle for more rigidity, the 2018 Jazz benefits from tech upgrades like an available seven-inch touchscreen that supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Also available for the first time in the Jazz is the Honda Sensing suite, which includes lane keep assist, collision mitigation braking, and other active safety features. These components can be outfitted to any Jazz model and are equipped as standard on certain models.
Slotted between the LX and EX models is the new Sport trim level we had for test test. As the name suggestions, the Sport trim adds a more aggressive look to the Jazz with a more sculpted body kit at the front, sides and rear end of the vehicle, along with unique 16-inch black alloys, a three-strake rear diffuser, and other subtle visual tweaks. Inside, the Sport trim receives unique cross-hatched fabric for the seats and door trim and orange accent stitching, along with a leather-wrapped steering wheel and gear knob.
Trim levels & features
Regardless of which trim level is chosen, the Jazz’s power plant remains unchanged from last year — a naturally aspirated and direct injected 1.5-liter DOHC i-VTEC motor. The motor can be paired with either a CVT automatic (which includes steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters on Sport models) or a six-speed manual gearbox.
LX models get LED tail lights, rear-view camera and Bluetooth functionality as standard. Moving up to the Sport trim adds the seven-inch touchscreen display with premium audio as well as the aforementioned styling tweaks.
Being among the most affordable cars sold in Mzansi., it’s understandable that the Jazz doesn’t have an over-abundance of tech features on hand, but the seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system offers solid bang for the buck.
The system boasts responsive internals and all the features we’ve come to expect in modern cars, including support for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which will make the available navigation upgrade moot for most buyers. Below the center stack is a USB port as well as a 12-volt power port that can deliver up to 180 watts of power.
One’s typical level of concentration behind the wheel will largely determine the value of most of the Honda Sensing tech. Features like lane departure warning and forward collision warning are nice to have, but are there more or less to save inattentive drivers from themselves. They may come in handy even for focused pilots if they happen to start to dose off behind the wheel, however.
Although diminutive in stature, the Jazz can seat five adults in reasonable comfort, although there’s no shortage of hard plastics throughout, the large gauge cluster, brush aluminum-style accents, and realistic design overall feels uncluttered without flirting with austerity. Stepping up to EX-L trim adds features like heated seats and more leather (along with the power moonroof that’s standard on the EX model) for those who’re looking to elevate the luxury factor of this subcompact.
Though the 1.5-liter motor isn’t likely to help the Jazz win any stoplight drags, the car’s quick response to steering inputs and light weight makes for a spritely vehicle nonetheless. Those willing to row their own gears will be treated to a light clutch with a satisfying shifter, as well as less buzz from the motor at speed versus their CVT-equipped counterparts.
With a freshened up look and a more extensive feature set on offer, the latest Jazz fulfills Honda’s goal of keeping the car relevant within this highly competitive segment. Though a legitimate performance model still eludes us, even enthusiasts have something to get excited about with the optional HFP upgrades on offer here, while the availability of Honda Sensing offers Jazz buyers more safety features than ever before.
Though most of the revisions are incremental rather than game changing, Honda’s tweaks to the Jazz for 2018 offer enough subtle enhancements throughout the car to yield a tangible improvement to the vehicle on the whole.
The new Jazz Sport is available in a choice of seven vibrant colours: White Orchid Pearl, Lunar Silver Metallic, Shining Grey Metallic, Milano Red, Brilliant Sporty Blue Metallic, Skyride Blue Metallic, and Helios Yellow Pearl.
The Jazz Sport retails for R310 000 – the same price as the Jazz Dynamic CVT it replaces, but offering a much more comprehensive package, ensuring superior value.