Honda’s sporty new Jazz model

Can Honda’s practical Jazz supermini show a convincing sporty side? Steve Walker takes a look at the Si versions.

Some people can get away with sportswear and others should avoid it at all costs. The trick is recognising which category you fall into before you glimpse yourself in a shop window running for a bus in your vintage Reebok Pump trainers and purple velour tracksuit.

It’s the same with cars. Some models respond well to a little ‘sportification’: you know the kind of thing, alloy wheels, lowered suspension, spoilers. Others don’t. My first reaction to the news that Honda had unveiled a sporty Si version of its sensible Jazz supermini was that this might not be the best idea but let’s give the car the benefit of the doubt.

The Honda Jazz is a very versatile and user-friendly small car but it’s one of the least sporting models in the whole supermini sector. The Si trim level aims to change that with some styling enhancements aimed at attracting a different kind of buyer. The Si cars look more dynamic but are unlikely to go far enough to convince people who hadn’t settled on the Jazz anyway.

It isn’t hard to see what Honda’s game is with the Jazz Si. The standard Jazz is a first rate supermini but its long list of attributes doesn’t include sportiness of any kind. With most of its rivals playing the sporty card vigorously any chance they get, the Jazz is missing out on an important chunk of the available market. Having had considerable success with Type-S and Type-R derivatives of its Civic family hatchback and with a lower priced Si version of that car also going down well, Honda’s thinking was that a Jazz Si might attract the attention of customers who wouldn’t have considered a Jazz before.

There are two petrol engines available with the Si trim level and neither is in any danger of melting your shell suit with its fiery performance.

The basic design of the Jazz is geared towards maximising interior space within a supermini-sized body. It achieves this very well but at the expense of an exterior that’s tall, flat-sided and has more in-common with small MPVs than leading superminis like the Ford Fiesta and Volkswagen Polo. The look is modern but lacking much in the way of dynamism and that’s what the Si version attempts to address. Adding an attractive set of Chronos 16” alloy wheels, a sports front grille and a rear spoiler, the Si definitely adds some extra sparkle to the Jazz exterior but there’s a question mark over whether it’s enough to prise more youthful supermini buyers away from the alternatives.

The cabin of the Jazz feels extremely roomy compared to most other superminis, making this a great choice for buyers who regularly carry rear seat passengers. Honda cleverly repositioned the fuel tank from beneath the rear seats to a position under those at the front to free-up space. It gives the cabin a flat floor and allows the seats to be folded into all sorts of permutations.

The car features the Honda Magic Seating system through which the back seats can fold down in one fluid motion into the footwell with the headrests in place. What’s more impressive still is that this action doesn’t involve scurrying around the car to manually slide the front seats forward, it can all be accomplished from the rear door thanks to a convenient set of levers.

You can also fit a surprising amount into the Double Trunk boot which can divide its 399-litre capacity into four different configurations for carrying different loads. Fold the rear seats and there’s 883 litres of space available.

Sitting in the middle of the Jazz trim level line-up, the Si grade is the plushest you can get with the 1.2-litre engine and sits a step below the EX in the 1.4-litre range. Honda values the alloy wheels, sportier front bumper, rear spoiler, special Si floor mats and Si badging that come with the car.

Standard safety equipment looks very generous on the Jazz, with dual front and side airbags, plus full length curtain airbags on all models. There are also five three-point seatbelts with reminders for the belts in the front and the back.

Honda’s VSA stability control system is available as an option on all models.

The Honda Jazz has a great focus on economy and its advanced petrol engines do a grand job. Insurance is also affordable with the cars falling into groups 4 and 5.