|Photos by Ulysses Ang|
Visually, the Jazz now loses what’s left of its cutesy styling in favor of something definitely more aggressive and modern. By and large, the new look works, especially in drawing attention. On more than one occasion, people commented on how great the Jazz looked (and take note, these are people from all walks of life from young professionals to gasoline station attendants). Employing Honda’s new design language, Exciting H!!!, the Jazz carries an unmistakably futuristic vibe, especially when viewed from the front. At the side, a strong character line rises dramatically on the front door and broadens from a point to a channel as it goes further up the Jazz’s profile. It’s a risky design cue, but one that definitely emphasizes the wider rear fenders. The Jazz looks less like a small MPV and more a proper sporty hatchback with a sweeping roof line. The back is perhaps the only fussy part of the new design. There are a lot of things to swallow from the split tail lamps to the faux brake ducts that look more like boosters.
Along with the sportier design, Honda is now offering a fresh crop of lively colors that work rather well with the Jazz’s funky character. The Vivid Sky Blue Pearl for instance, helps draw attention from a mile away and set it apart from the sea of other sub-compact offerings. This particular test drive unit is also equipped with a prototype MUGEN body kit (available starting third quarter of 2014) that adds a dose of aggression to the Jazz’s design. For an additional P 400,000 (yes, as in four hundred thousand pesos), the Jazz MUGEN gets you unique front and rear bumpers, a larger rear spoiler, two-tone 17-inch alloy wheels with 205/45R17 tires, LED projector fog lamps with daytime running lights, carbon fiber side mirror covers, hydrophilic side mirrors with turn signal repeaters, and illuminated side sills. That’s certainly a lot of cash and one you’re probably better off not plopping down for.
Like the Jazz’s aggressive but sometimes fussy exterior, the interior swaps the purposeful design for one that’s sophisticated, tech-laden, and confusing at first glance. The hard-wearing chunky plastics (now of better quality) are met with piano black accents, aluminum highlights, and even faux leather on the dashboard with faux stitching. Again, this is purely a love-or-hate thing, but at least Honda still gets the ergonomics right. The new Jazz’s cabin is much more driver focused with everything canted towards the driver. The clustered, two-tier layout is lovely and easy to use. Like the City, the Jazz comes with a 7-inch touchscreen that controls most functions including audio, Bluetooth telephony, and vehicle settings. Though touchscreens are generally not the best interface for tactile operation, the large icons and understandable menus make this an exception.
Priced at P 948,000, the Jazz 1.5 VX+ is certainly far more premium priced than ever before, but it more than makes up for it with better fit and finish, higher equipment levels, and the added safety technology such as six airbags, electronic stability control, and a rear parking camera with dynamic guidelines. It’s also some P 22,000 cheaper than the comparable City 1.5 VX+. However, looking through the specification sheet reveals that the savings is due to the fact that the Jazz isn’t equipped with even an ounce of leather. Not even on the steering wheel.
Cowhide or no cowhide, the Jazz’s single greatest competitive advantage remains untouched by its competitors: its functionality. Despite having dimensions comparable to its predecessor, the Jazz’s rear legroom grows some 122 millimeters—imbuing this sub-compact with as much legroom as an Accord. Combine that with a more upright seating position and you’ll find the rear seats to be extremely spacious. The seats, front or back, are comfortable with the right amount of support. The undisputed star of the show, however, remains the ULTR Seats that enables the Jazz to swallow almost any kind of cargo. In ‘Utility’ mode, the rear seats can fold in a 60/40 split to carry bulky objects such as luggage or groceries; in ‘Long’ mode, the front seat folds and forms a pass-thru to the backseats enabling the Jazz to swallow long times such as a surf board; in ‘Tall’ mode, the rear seat cushions fold up enabling it to fit high and sizable payloads such as plants; and finally, in ‘Refresh’ mode, the front driver’s seat and rear passenger seat form a continuous piece for a quick catnap on the road.
Elsewhere, the Jazz is fitted with an upgraded powertrain featuring some Earth Dreams technology. The 1.5-liter SOHC i-VTEC engine is largely carried over from the previous Jazz down to its 120 horsepower, 145 Nm output. Thus, you’ll need to dig at the accelerator to get some decent pace. As long as you don’t jab the throttle, it progresses with minimal lag. Floor it though and the CVT buzzes momentarily before smartly maintaining engine revs. The benefit of the wide ratio transmission though is very evident in the Jazz’s newfound fuel economy which is stellar: 13.83 km/L (10.1 km/L city, 17.8 km/L highway). The figures would have certainly gone higher if equipped with a less aggressive wheel and tire set-up. Likewise, Honda has improved the Jazz’s NVH isolation remarkably making it much quieter in terms of engine, road, and wind noise. Perhaps the only exception is tire noise and this is again down to the more aggressive wheel and tire set-up.
More than just quieting down the Jazz, Honda has also managed to address the biggest problem of the previous model which is poor long distance touring ability. The new Jazz trades some of its point-and-shoot directness for a much more comfortable ride. The Jazz’s suspension absorbs most road imperfections before it reaches the cabin. It feels remarkably softer than before going through bumps and there’s no degree of crashiness whatsoever. At higher speeds, it feels much more stable through crosswinds and undulating roads. On the flipside, as the straightaways turn to corners, the Jazz doesn’t like switchbacks despite the quicker, crisper steering. The Jazz also doesn’t like sudden dips which cause the rear suspension to load weight oddly. Braking feel is also fine but initial pedal feel could use some work.
The all-new Honda Jazz remains the small hatchback hero. Although it does trade some of its sharp driving characteristics for a more compliant experience, it does manage to beat out the competition in being the best all-rounder. With the previous model, it has already trounced its rivals in terms of functionality. And now, the all-new Jazz simply sets the bar in terms of refinement, on-board technology, and of course, packaging. In addition, it does look much nicer too.
2014 Honda Jazz 1.5 VX+ MUGEN
|Ownership||2014 Honda Jazz 1.5 VX+ MUGEN|
|Vehicle Classification||Sub-Compact Hatchback|
|Body Type||5-door Hatchback|
|Engine / Drive||F/F|
|Under the Hood|
|Layout / # of Cylinders||I4|
|BHP @ rpm||120 @ 6,600|
|Nm @ rpm||145 @ 4,800|
|Fuel / Min. Octane||Gasoline / 91~|
|Dimensions and Weights|
|Curb Weight (kg)||1,084|
|Suspension and Tires|
|Front Suspension||Independent, MacPherson Strut|
|Rear Suspension||Torsion Beam Axle|
|Front Brakes||Vented Disc|
|Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS)||Yes|
|Traction / Stability Control||Yes|
|Parking Sensors||No, Reverse Camera|
|Fog Lamps||Yes, Front (LED)|
|Steering Wheel Adjustment||Tilt/Telescopic|
|Steering Wheel Material||Urethane|
|Folding Rear Seat||Yes, 60/40|
|Power Door Locks||Yes|
|No. of Speakers||4|
|Steering Wheel Controls||Yes|