WHEN Jazz first hit the Honda playlist 12 years ago it immediately soared up the popularity charts. It was cool, original and just a little bit uptown compared with its rivals. Along with the Honda Accord Euro, Jazz made the brand fresh and exciting again for younger buyers.
Since then Honda has retreated into its shell a bit, and Jazz lost its edge in one of the most fashion-conscious segments in the market. It never stopped being a good little car but it was drowned out by newer sounds.
Now there is a new Jazz which Honda hopes will return some pizazz to its line-up, and it is priced to be one of the in-crowd.
We sampled the top-of-the-range VTi-L but it is a fair representation of the entire Jazz band. All models are powered by a 1.5-litre petrol four with 88kW peak power and 145Nm of torque. It has a continuously variable automatic transmission, which every other Jazz has as well, apart from the entry VTi, which is available in a cut-price five-speed manual version. There are heated leather seats too in the VTi-L, along with automatic climate control and alloy wheels (also on the mid-level VTi-S) and some trim changes, but mechanically and technologically a Jazz is a Jazz.
On the plus side, every Jazz picks up Honda's very cool touch-screen display audio, complete with smartphone connectivity and downloadable "apps" - a must-have for many young, hip buyers. The Jazz looks all-new as well, inside and out.
We spent most of our time in the Jazz wandering around town - doing the cliché thing of swinging by various cafes. Not every potential Jazz owner would do this, but we suspect a few will.
The driving experience is what we would expect: competent, efficient, comfortable and unchallenging. It does exactly what a city car should do.
When pushed on the open road, Jazz is a little noisy due to a CVT which allows the 1.5-litre engine to rev a bit, but no more so than almost every other city car.
The interior layout is neat and still mostly a step up from the obvious competitors. The steering wheel, instruments and display audio suggest something a bit dearer, as do the VTi-L's leather seats. There are, however, some hints of cost-cutting like hard plastics (not necessarily a bad thing for what may potentially be a first new car for many buyers). The touch sensitive screen could also be a bit more touch sensitive too.
The Jazz's "magic seats" remain a highlight though. We've heard the previous Jazz referred (perhaps unkindly) as a "motorised shopping cart" but truthfully the clever modular seating can quickly turn Jazz into an extremely effective delivery van with 1500 litres of space.
With a new face and all the good gear, Jazz should be back in vogue once again. It is cool and clever.
And with a starting price of $14,990 plus on road costs, $2000 more for the CVT, and $22,490 for the VTi-L, Jazz should hit the right note for many.
Your local dealer is Ballarat City Honda: 5331 5000
Honda Jazz VTi-L
ENGINE: 1.5-litre petrol inline four
POWER: 88kW at 6600 revs
TORQUE: 145 Nm at 4500 revs
TRANSMISSION: continuously variable CVT automatic
FUEL: petrol, 5.8-l/100km combined cycle (ADR 81/02)
BRAKES: ventilated discs front, drum rear, with ABS, stability control and brake assist
ANCAP SAFETY RATING: five stars
FEATURES: heated leather front seats, display audio with Bluetooth connectivity, rear view camera, keyless entry, automatic climate control, 16-inch alloy wheels
BASE PRICE: $22,490 plus on road costs
OTHERS TO CONSIDER:
FORD FIESTA TREND: from $17,825
HOLDEN BARINA CDX: from $19,690
MAZDA2 MAXX: from $16,930
TOYOTA YARIS YRX: from $21,390