Crossovers dominate headlines, and car sales, in 2017 and 2018.
But for clever consumers who have never seen the need to follow fashion, or simply don’t have the urge for crossing over, it’s cars like the Honda Jazz that still deliver the maximum b-for-b.
In fact we’d go so far as to say the Honda Jazz has something of a record when it comes to improvement, as few other nameplates have come as close to such an unbroken record of successive excellence.
The current third-generation Honda Jazz compact hatch debuted here in 2014. It had the unenviable task of improving on a car that has only gotten better since its first-gen appearance in 2001, but didn’t drop the ball at all.
2018 sees a mild facelift for Honda’s popular compact. In classic Japanese facelift style, the front end looks a little different, with the lower half of gaining a more aggressive appearance.
There are also three new colours, the most obvious of which is Rouge Amethyst Metallic, a rather unique shade of magenta-pink that might pique the interest of individualists.
Of course these days, its cars like its own stablemate, the HR-V, and the Toyota C-HR, that are trying to steal buyers’ harts with a very different piper song.
However it’s a myth that SUVs/crossovers mean more space, as they’re often constrained by design – the C-HR’s rear seats are claustrophobic compared to the Jazz’s airy, spacious cabin, even the HR-V’s decent space can’t match its hatchback brother when it comes to sheer real estate.
That’s all a testament to Honda’s genius packaging and flat floor concept, the result being the Jazz is one of the few compact cars that can seat five adults without elbow-warfare breaking out.
Boot space is still class leading, at 360-litres – that’s just shy of a Volkswagen Golf and around 100-litres more than other compacts like the Mitsubishi Space star, and only 17-litres short of the Toyota C-HR.
The Jazz also packs extra jive with its ‘ULTRA seats’, that not only fold 60/40, but the seat bases also fold up and out of the way automatically to reveal even more cargo space.
For modern car buyers, cars in the sub-$100k price segment now offer plenty of amenities, and the Jazz is exemplary of that with its long list of standard equipment, even after three years on the market.
Keyless entry and start is something all Japanese cars pack these days, but not all of them have LED headlights, steering wheel remote controls, cruise control, paddle shifters, nor a seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system (Honda’s Display Audio) with Apple CarPlay compatibility.
It’s all easy to use too, with the typical Honda attention to detail. Easy access USB/HDMI and 12V ports, a steering wheel that adjusts for rake and reach,
The Jazz loses some points for its low airbag count (only two in both 1.3 and 1.5), but it’s had ESP and hill start assist from the beginning, unlike the Toyota Vios.
All of that would be enough to secure the Jazz lots of applause already, but it’s always been known for fun-to-drive qualities as well, and the 1.5 RS doesn’t disappoint, with a playful, zippy nature that doesn’t discourage spirited driving.
The big windows spell for a little more wind noise, but refinement is otherwise very good. While torsion beam suspension (in the Jazz’s rear) can be uncivilised, this doesn’t hold it back.
Unlike crossovers, the hatch’s 16-inch alloys means it doesn’t have to deal with ridiculously-outsized wheels and this reaps plenty of benefits in numerous areas, including ride, refinement and handling.
130hp is plenty of pep for a small car, and the 1.5 delivers zippy, spirited performance, even if it inescapably exhibits CVT drone and a little less zing than the power figures would suggest.
The flipside to that is keen drivers can get the excellent five-speed manual variant (same price), but even with this model, the quoted figure of 5.6L/100km being achievable in real-life with judicious driving.
Like all truly great cars, it punches above its weight in every single category and offers a lot more than its price tag implies. Everyone might be tapping their feet to crossover crooning these days, but only time will tell if that’s here to stay or merely bubblegum pop.
In the meantime, Honda’s capable compact proves that Jazz will never be short of fans.
Honda Jazz 1.5 RS
Engine 1,498cc, inline 4
Power 130hp at 6600rpm
Torque 155Nm at 4600rpm
Top Speed 180km/h
0-100km/h 9.6 seconds
Fuel efficiency 5.6L/100km
VES Band – B Neutral
Price $91,988 with COE
Agent Kah Motor
Verdict: Class-leading compact hatch still one of the best, most worthy cars for Singapore carbuyers when it comes to a blend of fun, practicality, cost and ease of use.
Also Consider: Nissan Note, Seat Ibiza, Volkswagen Polo