PetrolBlog reviews the ‘sporty’ and ‘fun to drive’ Honda Jazz Si to see if it lives up to its promise. At £14,500 plus options it’s very much a mid-priced Jazz, but its overall size and interior dimensions give it an edge over other superminis.
The Honda Jazz is one of the those cars you feel has been around since the dawn of the time. A bit like the Toyota Yaris to be honest. And I’ll admit to not paying them much attention. Unless of course you include the countless times I’ve been sat behind one of them on a B-road, praying for them to turn left. Or perhaps speed up.
I’ve always thought the Jazz was the kind of car you’d buy when your head had completely run dry of imagination and creativity. Think about it. You’ve foregone the Korean options with their billion-year warranties. You’ve also decided that verve and style are not your thing by shunning the Europeans. So you opt for the Jazz.
Fine. You also like beige slacks, magnolia paint and the music of Elaine Paige. For you, Fifty Shades of Grey is the section in the M&S clothing catalogue you turn to first when looking for a new cardigan.
When folk point fingers at Honda and accuse them of pandering to an older market, it’s the Jazz they have in mind. And no amount of mentions of the S2000, NSX and Type R will make them see otherwise.
So what’s the Jazz’s appeal? Over a quarter of a million people have taken a pootle down to their local Honda dealer and driven away in one, so it has to be doing something right. To discover just what it is I decided to spend a day in the life of a Jazz driver.
But not just any old Jazz. The ‘sporty’ Honda Jazz Si that promises to be ‘fun to drive’. It’s essentially an ES model with 16-inch alloys, frilly side skirts and bumpers, sports suspension, front fogs, privacy glass, cruise and some Si trimmings. It’s priced at £14,500.
On ‘Jazz day’ I woke up early for no apparent reason and spent the first couple of hours of the day listening to the sounds of Vanessa Feltz on Radio 2. It was very pleasant until that very loud Chris Evans chap made an appearance at 6.30. At that point I was forced to switch to BBC Local Radio.
After a breakfast of prunes, toast and marmalade, I took the Honda Jazz Si into town for a copy of the Daily Express. I was immediately struck by the Jazz’s bouncy ride. Compared to other superminis it’s a relatively tall car which goes someway to explaining this. It’s noticeably poor at high speeds and on long journeys, but acceptable around town. The sports suspension and lower profile tyres also give the Jazz a harsh ride over potholes. It’s not at Type R levels, not by any stretch of the imagination, but it will be alien to the core Jazz buyer.
Once in town the Jazz comes into its own. The steering is wonderfully light and all round visibility is excellent. The Jazz doesn’t suffer from usual problem of oversized A and C pillars. In fact, it’s rather like a mini MPV. You’ll also find a healthy 379 litres of boot space and generous rear legroom. It’s definitely the Jazz’s party piece – an ability to provide more space than other superminis without giving up manoeuvrability.
With a copy of the Daily Express in hand my attentions turned to where I should sit down to read it. Ordinarily I’d head to the beach with my National Trust flask and enjoy a cup of breakfast tea. But with a lunch arranged at my local garden centre and with time at a premium I headed for the local reservoir instead.
The journey to which involved a B-road which enthusiastic drivers may find fun. Sadly fun is not a word you’d use to describe driving the Jazz. It’s perfectly acceptable, but attempt anything other than a brisk saunter and you’ll be disappointed. The aforementioned ride is perplexing and the handling is nothing to write home about either. The steering is vague and the Jazz has a tendency to understeer when pushed hard. The overriding feeling is one of being disconnected from the road – something not helped by the lofty driving position.
It’s like the Honda Jazz Si is the answer to a question nobody actually asked. Surely the ‘sporty’ Jazz Si isn’t the result of a focus group? I can’t believe a typical Jazz owner was crying out for a hot or even warm version. And if they were, why didn’t Honda go a bit further? As it stands the Jazz Si is barely lukewarm.
Push the 1.4-litre i-VTEC engine hard and it responds with a tortured squeal suggesting you back off and stop being so daft. A readout on the dash encourages you to change up early and in doing so drops the Jazz out of its peak power band, making progress slow and laboured. A Honda that hates revving – now there’s a thing.
Never mind. I enjoyed a good cup of tea at the reservoir and counted as many as 14 gulls on the water. At one point I think I even saw a heron. It was also good to catch up on the paper’s ‘Crusade’, which also gave me some helpful tips to avoid getting stressed at Christmas. A real public spirited newspaper.
Feeling relaxed I headed to the garden centre for lunch and enjoyed a ham and cheese toastie and a cup of tea for £3.50. The cheese was a bit mature for my liking, but the ham was cooked to perfection. If I’m honest, a dash of pepper would have been nice though.
Over lunch I pondered the Honda Jazz Si. In a lot of ways it’s a hard car to love. The Jazz feels distinctly old-tech in an increasingly high-tech age and that’s despite this being the second generation Jazz, launched in 2008. It’s the interior that really lets the car down – a mismatch of plastics and scratchy surfaces that feel distinctly 1990s.
It’s little things like the ‘Cruise Main’ light which looks so dated and so at odds with the more contemporary white on black display on the centre of the dash. Or the car’s single piece of chrome-effect plastic that surrounds the climate control display which just looks like a huge afterthought.
Perhaps I’m being hypercritical and need to cut the Jazz some slack. Interior shortcomings aside, I think the Jazz has a lot going for it. I applaud the use of space and countless storage holes, boxes and compartments found around the cabin and boot. I also like the way its mini-MPV dimensions give it a unique place in the supermini sector. I can honestly see why 250,000 have chosen to spend cash on buying one new.
I just have a problem with the Si model. I wish Honda had either created something a little more hardcore or just left it well alone. As it is the Si is a little lost sheep – not entirely sure where it should sit and what it should be.
As my ‘day in the life’ drew to a close I popped into Waitrose for some smoked cheese and Yakult. Naturally I parked in a traditionally Jazzy manner.
It was an insightful day. I grew to like the look of the Si and even if I’m not a fan of the trim level, I can certainly see the appeal. The Jazz is a safe pair of hands, a car that will probably cost pennies to maintain and will never ever let you down.
I also very much enjoyed my lunch at the garden centre. But I’ll never be buying a copy of the Daily Express again.
PetrolBlog Score: Honda Jazz Si
Full details of the scoring can be found here.