Honda has gone hot with a juicy new Jazz that gives more wooma and sporty looks while still offering class-leading versatility and economy. Forget mom's taxi, this one's for outgoing go-getters.
The new Honda Jazz 1.5 VTEC is an additional model to the Jazz range.
Sitting above the current 1.4i DSI version, the 1.5 comes in with a brand-new VTEC 16-valve engine that offers swift performance, as well as body enhancers designed to get the best out of the new-found get up and go.
The new cars come in two versions, one with a 5-speed manual gearbox and the other with a continuously variable seamless transmission (CVT) that can double as a 7-speed sports 'box complete with steering wheel paddles.
We drove the cars in and around Johannesburg on a route that took in most of the situations you'll find yourself in while driving the Jazz, including a fair mix of traffic and highway, but, given the paucity of good driving roads on the Reef, not many challenging corners.
We were impressed by the car's flexibility, with good torque from relatively low revs as well as plenty of power at the top end, the later the variable valve timing VTEC's forte.
The gear change on the manual was also impressive, slick, smooth and with sweet ratios that allowed us to keep the engine well on the boil at all times.
The CVT is a horse of another colour.
You just put it into D, and drive.
The engine maintains high revs, well into the torque band, at all times, offering a smooth jerk-free drive akin to that from an electric car.
If you want to drive with a little more pizzazz you can put it in S, for sports mode, or you can select your own gear settings using the steering wheel paddles.
The Jazz 1.5 VTEC engine is a 1500 cc transversely mounted four-cylinder with 16 valves and Honda's patented variable camshaft timing.
It produces 81 kW at 6 000 r/min and 143 Nm of torque at 4 800 r/min.
Claimed top speed is 184 km/h while 0-100 km/h comes up in 10.9 seconds.
As far as styling goes, the Jazz's European-styled two-box shape features a strong taper line from nose to tail to aid aerodynamics.
Recently revised in the 1.4i DSI, it gets further enhancements on the 1.5 by the addition of a deep front air dam with large cutouts for better cooling as well as inset foglights.
There are deep side skirts to aid air flow along the sides, and it finishes, at the rear, with a big spoiler on top of the tailgate as well as a deeper rear bumper with diffuser-like moulding.
Door handles and mirrors are colour-coded.
One of the keys to the interior flexibility of the Jazz is that the fuel tank is positioned under the front seats. This has freed up extra space in the luggage area and rear passenger compartment, and enabled the fitment of an ingenious seating arrangement.
Honda calls it the "magic seat", and it allows you to tilt the rear seat cushions upwards cinema style against the backrests, creating a tall load area completely separate from the conventional luggage area, which in the case of the Jazz already measures a generous 353 litres.
With the 60/40 split rear seats folded flat this enlarges to 1 323 litres (to roof height) while flopping forward the front seat allows a 1 720 mm object to be carried.
There is plenty in the way of comfort and convenience features too. Air conditioning, remote central locking, integrated sound system with CD front loader and audio controls on the leather steering wheel and electrically adjustable mirrors are all standard.
There are electric windows all round, front and rear cup holders, and head restraints for both rows of seats.
Including the cup holders (one of which is occupied by a removable ashtray); there are nine distinct storage areas in the cabin.
Safety features include dual airbags, three-point inertia reel seatbelts for all five occupants, and anti-lock brakes with electronic aids to ensure swift and stable stops.
Included in the price is a three-year/100 000 km warranty, and a comprehensive 1-year roadside assistance program. Service intervals are every 15 000 km.
Honda Jazz 1.5 VTEC manual: R142 500
Honda Jazz 1.5 VTEC CVT auto R149 500
Honda SA has reached its target of 32 car dealerships, a figure the company says gives it the critical mass to grow market share.
"Our intentions all along were to be able to meet the needs of our customers in a trouble-free manner," explains managing director Hiroaki Shibata, "and while we could have expanded faster both in terms of retail outlets and product, we weren"t prepared to sacrifice the integrity of our brand by offering anything less than first class service," says Shibata.
"The Jazz is a modern car for modern needs, and it brings an unprecedented level of flexibility to compact motoring," says Shibata.
"As well as offering unrivalled versatility for a compact, the fully imported Jazz brings with it a large slice of style, which for many buyers in this segment is an important part of the mix," said Shibata.