Honda has added SUV styling to its ultra-practical supermini the Jazz. The Honda Jazz Crosstar won’t be anyone’s idea of a bug-out vehicle, but the pseudo-SUV styling upgrades are a rare case of automotive designer stubble, a veneer of ruggedness with a positive transformative effect on the car’s appearance. Some genuinely practical additions, meanwhile, ensure the changes are more than just superficial.
On the face of it, Honda has stuck to the pretend SUV formula here - See the Ford Fiesta Active or Citroen C3 Aircross. Add a chunky black plastic body kit to beef up the silhouette, raise the suspension a few millimeters and Bob’s your uncle.
But you get more than black cladding and raised springs for the £1,200 extra the Crosstar costs over the EX model on which it’s based. Roof rails, some pretty fetching bespoke 16-inch alloy wheels and a custom front grille complete the styling upgrades, but the best addition is the water-resistant interior seat upholstery - something that might make the ears of parents with grubby little children, dog owners or the seemingly thousands of wild swimmers that have begun to descend on my local beach every morning, prick up.
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Our test car also had optional surf blue metallic paint and the illumination pack which adds ambient lighting to the cabin.
The interior is a real highlight and the difference between this fourth generation Jazz and the second generation offering I hired to kart around the Algarve a year or two back is night and day.
The cheap plastics are gone, replaced by hIgh gloss plastic detail on a soft-touch base. Fabric-wrapped dashboard and door inserts (colour-matched to the seats) and the aforementioned mood lighting make the cabin a pleasant, modern-feeling place to be. The big touchscreen monitor mounted to the dashboard is easy to use and everything feels well thought out layout-wise.
Driver visibility is excellent with a big wide expanse of windscreen set against narrow A-pillars and, for a car that’s firmly in the supermini class, rear passenger space and headroom is very good indeed.
While easy to use, my one black mark against the Jazz in terms of technology was the Bluetooth system’s inability to remember my phone details, my fairly modern iPhone needing to reconnect afresh with every new journey. Going by the list of saved devices, though, this doesn’t seem to have been an issue for colleagues at other publications.
The Honda Jazz has a single engine option across the range, so like any other Jazz the Crossstar is powered by the 1.5-litre petrol hybrid engine with the 95bhp petrol attached to an 80kW electric motor. There are some performance differences across the range and the Crosstar has slightly higher emissions (110g/km compared with 104g/km on the EX) and is slightly less fuel efficient (58.9mpg combined, versus 61.4mpg) than the rest of the range.
The throttle is responsive and power delivery feels smooth from low to higher speeds. The Crosstar accelerates slightly slower than lower specification models, but there feels like there is plenty of torque from the hybrid system and in both city and motorway driving, power is plentiful.
With an extra 37mm of ground clearance compared with the EX, the ride should be improved on the standard Jazz. Driving around the pockmarked and potholed streets of my local town it was surprisingly firm, however, an occasionally juddering experience at odds with the otherwise smooth drive.
The other side of that coin is the control when cornering at higher speeds, which is excellent, the raised springs having done nothing to destabalise the handling. The Jazz is no hot hatch, but it’s a surprisingly enjoyable drive. I’d much rather navigate the single lane roads and steep inclines of the Algarve in this Jazz than the older model.
There’s a lot to like about the current generation Jazz, but there’s no getting round that it has something of an image problem as ‘an older person’s car’. The combination of Honda’s reputation for bullet-proof reliability and the Jazz’s practical proportions seems to be catnip for a certain generation of buyer.
Honda hopes that the Jazz Crosstar will appeal to younger buyers with active lifestyles and, with bags of space, wipe clean, water resistant seats and a great sound system, it might well be perfect for chucking the dog, the tents and a picnic hamper in the back for an adventure somewhere picturesque and exciting.
With an OTR price of £23,185 and PCP deals from £269 per month though, younger buyers that aren’t priced out will have a sorely tempting field of competitors to weigh up against the Honda for similar money. That sort of monthly payment will comfortably get you a genuine small SUV like the Skoda Kamiq or the trendier Volkswagen T-Cross.
The Jazz Crosstar retains all of the appeal of the standard Jazz and adds to it. For that reason, the Crosstar is sure to carve out its own niche with buyers, whatever their age.
Honda Jazz Crosstar
Price: £23,385 (£25,180 as tested); Engine: 1.5-litre, four-cylinder petrol, 80kW electric motor; Power: 107bhp (combined): Torque: 187lb ft; Transmission: E-CVT automatic; Top speed: 107mph; 0-62mph: 9.9 seconds;
Economy: 58.9 mpg combined; CO2 emissions: 110g/km combined