Honda Jazz 1.5 i-VTEC Sport 2018 review: First drive

2018 Honda Jazz 1.5 i-VTEC

The 2018 Honda Jazz has been, well, jazzed up a bit and given a feisty petrol engine to make it more ‘yout’-friendly. Ben Griffin flew to Rome to see what has changed and whether you should consider the runaround over its many, many supermini rivals.

The Honda Jazz is a car everyone has heard of. It’s been around since 2001 and more than seven million cars have been sold to date, making it hugely lucrative for the Japanese manufacturer. But it is also a car that has, how shall we put it, a bit of a reputation (and not the good kind).

In its latest version, Honda has given the Jazz a modest nip and tuck and fitted a bigger engine under the bonnet to try and rectify said reputation– that it is driven by over-70s only. Honda invited us to Rome to take it for a spin, complete with all 128bhp of the new 1.5-litre i-VTEC petrol and its top-end Sport trim.

2018 Honda Jazz i-VTEC Sport review: What is new?

Honda employees describe the refresh as ‘modest’ and that sums it up nicely. The main change is the exterior, which has been given a fresher face that brings it in line with other new Hondas including the latest Civic (Type R review klaxon).

There is no disputing the new Jazz is much trendier. So much so that other road may stop assuming you have started cashing in on your pension. That sharp front end and red accents provide a much-needed dose of sporty aggression – the sort also now enjoyed by the 2017 Nissan Micra.

Sporty and Jazz in the same sentence? Yes, and the next biggest addition is an engine to help it walk the walk. It’s called the 1.5-litre i-VTEC and it outputs 129bhp (130PS) and 114lb/ft (155Nm) of overtaking potential. 0-62mph takes 8.7 seconds for the manual (10 seconds for the CVT) and the top speed is 118mph.

City-Brake Active is also now standard on the new Jazz (as it is on other new Hondas in Europe), which could help you avoid a prang when your mind or eyes are elsewhere. You will need to pay extra if you want the seven-inch Honda Connect infotainment system and rear-view camera, though, but not the pleasure of having six airbags and a basic infotainment system.

You can have the Jazz in one of three trim levels: S, SE and Sport. You can also choose between a CVT or six-speed manual transmission and select a new paintjob called ‘Skyride Blue’, which looks somewhat like that funky colour you get on the 2017 Suzuki Ignis.

There is also a Dynamic grade that gives the Jazz a few extra internal and external aesthetic touches, which will appeal to those who can still see properly.

2018 Honda Jazz i-VTEC Sport review: How does it drive?

Like a tallish, relatively lightweight B-segment car, truth be told. There is a fair degree of body roll and the level of road noise subjected to occupants is hard to miss, but the light steering and overall composure makes it an easy car to keep under control. Having the profile of a tall box also ensures good visibility.

There is no disputing how much of a din the new 1.5-litre i-VTEC makes if you give it some beans, which you will need to as peak torque is at 4,600rpm and peak horsepower waltzes in 2,000rpm later. But at least you are rewarded with plucky linear pace that lets you whizz past the motorway speed limit with un-Jazz-esque enthusiasm. The sort that will make you talk of the town at Bingo (or the young person equivalent).

There is a sense everything in the Jazz was designed to accommodate overly exaggerated, heavy-handed inputs, such as the spongey gears and oversized numbers on the speedometer. It definitely comes across as blunter and harsher than most of its rivals, particularly the Micra and 2017 Ford Fiesta. But then its ride quality never offends, nor does its steering or enthusiastic accelerator pedal.

We highly doubt the new Jazz will set your world on fire despite having more horsepower than ever, yet it remains an easy to drive, inoffensive runaround that also happens to be unusually spacious. Something we will now elaborate on.

2018 Honda Jazz i-VTEC Sport review: Still practical?

When it comes to space, you can chuck up to 354 litres of stuff and things in the Jazz’s boot. This rises to 897 litres if you fold the rear seats down, which makes it really good for over-shoppers and hoarders. A 1,090mm-wide tailgate and low load height of 605mm, meanwhile, save you hassle when loading stuff.

Honda’s Magic Seats make a return, which means you can use four different seating modes to accommodate various combinations of large items and passengers. Or, more likely, the world’s largest stash of Werther’s Original. The ‘tall’ mode (pictured above), for instance, lets you fold up the rear seats so you can more easily carry tall objects.

There is also a ‘refresh’ mode that lets you fold down the front seat to create a leg rest for rear occupants.

2018 Honda Jazz i-VTEC Sport review: What about the UK price and running costs?

Those on the tightest of budgets will be best served by the S model, which includes gloss black alloys and a touch of fancy contrast stitching on the interior, though it lacks the same panache as its rivals. Prices start from £14,115.

Above that is SE, which starts from £15,615 and provides a few extra of life’s luxuries. For those who want all the bells and whistles afforded by the Jazz Sport, expect to pay from £17,115 or, if you prefer, £199 per month on PCP finance over three years. Here, you get a sportier gear knob and a pinstripe on the seats that no other models get.

Being the most powerful engine in the range means CO2 is higher for the 1.5-litre i-VTEC, but 124g/km is hardly going to break the bank in the first year. Its claimed fuel economy of 52.3mpg combined (if you spec the CVT), meanwhile, is competitive.

2018 Honda Jazz i-VTEC Sport review: Should I buy one, then?

With so many compelling rivals for around the same price, telling you to go out and buy the new Jazz is more difficult than ever – regardless of your age. But its mixture of sensible design and reliability will prove tempting for some, especially if interior space is a top priority.

The fact you can have it with a 129bhp punch and it looks sporty will help undo its reputation as a TCP wagon, but it will be a while yet before that stigma is lost completely.

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