Parkers overall rating: 4.1 out of 5 4.1

We're living with a Honda Jazz Crosstar for six months.

Month two: Even the excesses of Christmas barely trouble our Honda Jazz - sci-fi meets sorcery with ‘magic’ seats and TARDIS-like levels of interior space

Month three: Beautiful on the inside - life with our Honda Jazz is pretty wonderful from the (water-resistant) driver's seat

Month four: The Jazz has many talents, but is driving well one of them? We find out

First report: Welcome

Honda Jazz Crosstar long-term - header

The golden age of Jazz was the 1920s, which coincidentally is when most buyers of the Honda Jazz were born. It’s rare that any one car becomes so irrevocably linked with an age demographic, but this is one of them – the Honda Jazz is a car for old people. The average age of a Jazz buyer in 2015 was 61 – seven years older than the national average car buyer, who is 54.

And those old people have always loved its three main features – incredible practicality, unwavering reliability and – harder to quantify – superb ease-of-use.

God knows Honda’s tried its very best to make its smallest car appeal to the yoof of today. Over its four generations, the design has become progressively sharper and funkier. It’s gained touchscreens and LEDs aplenty, and comes in all sorts of bright colours. The new model is even a hybrid.

And so the latest generation, the cleverest and funkiest yet, is the one Honda hopes will help it appeal to younger buyers – without alienating those older motorists who’ve been so loyal over the years. I, a 26-year-old millennial with a smartphone permanently glued to my hand, will be running one for the next six months to find out if it’s been successful in doing so.

Honda Jazz Crosstar long-term - interior

The Jazz’s job is likely to be made very difficult by Honda’s introduction of the e – it’s first fully-electric supermini, and one that’s had a hugely positive reaction to its style and tech from younger buyers.

Which Jazz do we have here?

You may have noticed that the new, fourth-generation (there was technically a Jazz in the 1980s, but we’ll refer to the model line that began in 2001 for clarity) Jazz comes with two very different faces depending on which version you go for.

The basic Jazz gets an interestingly featureless front fascia, which in the right colour gives it more than a whiff of Apple design about it. However, we’ve gone for the ‘lifestyle’ variant instead – the Jazz Crosstar.

> Honda Jazz hatchback review

With a slightly raised ride height, more conventional front grille and black plastic cladding on the wheelarches to protect against rogue supermarket trolley bashes, this is the range-topper of the Jazz line-up.

As a result, it’s loaded with kit – LED headlights, a 7-inch digital dashboard and 9-inch infotainment screen, climate control, adaptive cruise control and a suite of safety equipment.

Unique to the Crosstar is an upgraded stereo and water-resistant fabric on the seats.

Honda Jazz Crosstar long-term - header, above

Honda doesn’t offer many optional extras, and as a result our car has none except for two-tone pearlescent white paint with a contrast black roof and a reversing camera.

What’s under the bonnet?

Regardless of your trim level, all Jazzes have the same engine – a 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol paired up to a battery and electric motor to form a hybrid system.

I’ve just stepped out of six months in a Lexus UX (you can read my reports on that car here) which is also a hybrid, but Honda’s system works differently. I’ll go more in-depth in a later report, but essentially around town the engine operates solely as a generator, leaving the electric motor to drive the wheels by itself.

Then at higher speeds, a single-speed gearbox engages, and the engine links directly with the wheels. It’s a solution that promises impressive efficiency – a promised WLTP mpg figure of 58.8mpg and just 110g/km of CO2.

Unlike some earlier Honda hybrids, this system drives just like an electric car under most conditions – you’ve an automatic gearbox and two pedals, with the focus being on low running costs and isolation from the world around you.

First impressions?

I rather like it. I may be single and childless, but practicality of this sort still excites me, and I’m in love with the Jazz’s ‘Magic’ rear seats, which can either fold totally flat into the floor or lift their bases up to leave a tall, unobstructed load area behind the front seats.

It leaves a genuinely cavernous load area that’s already been well put to use with numerous eBay and Facebook marketplace purchases, both by me and by our very own Richard ‘Selectric’ Kilpatrick, who’s put over a thousand miles on the clock already purchasing old typewriters (and more sensible furniture) from across the country.

Honda Jazz Crosstar long-term - boot, loaded

Those long trips highlight the Jazz’s easy nature and comfort, too. Again, I’ll focus more on this in coming weeks, but this is a smooth, relaxing car to spend time in.

It’s proven cheap to run, as well, with the first couple of thousand miles bringing an average fuel economy of nearly 57mpg. I’ve managed to eke that up to 60mpg on some journeys, and will be attempting to beat that as the months go on.

As I write this, we’re heading directly into Lockdown, Episode 2, so the Jazz will be pressed into service for numerous grocery runs and perhaps the occasional visit to a shielding grandparent. I'm sure it will excel, but I'm glad I got in some decent miles before the country shut up shop...

Mileage: 3,167 miles
This month's economy: 56.7mpg

 


 

Update 2: Practicality 

2020 Honda Jazz Crosstar boot

We tend to parrot on about ‘clever’ cars all the time, but often that’s usually whichever model has had the most tech jammed into it by the manufacturer. And sure, big infotainment touchscreens and smart software are all very well, but shoving the equivalent of a laptop computer into a dashboard isn’t really innovation, is it?

With that in mind, I think ‘my’ Honda Jazz might be one of the most genuinely clever cars on sale today. Because in addition to its advanced tech (more on that in a later report) it’s truly innovative in its layout and construction.

And where this pays the biggest dividends is in practicality. Ever since the first Jazz almost two decades ago, Honda’s fitted what it calls ‘magic seats’. By moving the fuel tank from its usual space underneath the rear bench to a new spot further forward, it frees up space for the 60:40 split rear seats to fold down properly into the floor.

These seats were retained for this fourth-generation car, despite its hybrid powertrain, and they're as good as ever.

Every little seat inside is magic

Instead of the backrest simply tumbling down onto the seat bases, the whole assembly moves downwards, freeing up space to make for a cavernous boot.

Combine this with the Jazz’s MPV-like silhouette - taller and boxier than your average hatchback - and there’s room in here for a staggering amount of stuff. As mentioned earlier, a colleague moving house has already used it to shift plenty of furniture and appliances, and I got my own opportunity to put it to work collecting my Christmas tree just a short while later.

Not only is it the most wonderful time of the year, it’s my absolute favourite - and one I tend to go overboard on. And despite living in a small flat, I do have high ceilings. So the obvious thing to do is to buy an 11-foot Christmas tree, which tested the Jazz to capacity.

2020 Honda Jazz Crosstar christmas tree

And while a scant foot of the crown was forced to hang out of the boot, the amazingly capacious Honda took the rest without complaint. A +1 for Christmas cheer. And significantly easier than getting the tree up my stairs when I got it home...

The seats have another trick - the bases actually flip upwards too, making space for taller items, such as the vacuum cleaners I collect. I’d estimate I could fit four Dysons side-by-side in here. A niche use, I’ll admit, but the space lends itself to all sorts of items - pot plants, bikes, tall cabinets. It’s the kind of space you don’t realise how useful it is until you have it.

2020 Honda Jazz magic seats

And best of all, when the seats are in their normal position, there’s room for me (at a generously proportioned 6’2) to easily sit behind my own driving position. Back seat passengers are treated to their own USB ports, big windows to look out of and clever smartphone-sized pockets on the back of the front seats. No wonder we decided the Jazz was worthy of being shortlisted for Parkers Small Family Car of the Year, rather than the size class below where it strictly belongs.

>> Parkers Small Family Car of the Year award

It’s certainly a whole order of magnitude more practical than its hybrid hatchback rivals such as the Renault Clio E-Tech or the Toyota Yaris Hybrid.

Practical up front, too

The good storage stuff doesn’t even end at the front seats. The pointy end of the Jazz is just as useful - stuff like twin gloveboxes (a nice throwback to my first ever car, a Peugeot 306... ) and huge cupholders mounted right up on the dashboard remind me that this is an incredibly thoroughly designed car. Another hidden feature is what we’ve dubbed a ‘mini-megabox’ - an underfloor storage compartment, not as large as the Ford Puma’s Megabox where we’ve taken the name from but still highly useful for items you want accessible but out of the way, like de-icer or a first-aid kit.

2020 Honda Jazz gloveboxes

The only things I’m missing? Well, it would be nice to have somewhere tidy to plug my phone in - the USB ports are in front of the gearlever and there’s no covered cubby, so my phone has to sit in its tray with cables trailing. While I’m really having a moan, the large boot could do with some better bag hooks - I like hanging my shopping up. And screw it, let's get really nit-picky here - the boot light is a dim halogen bulb, while the rest of the interior lights are bright LEDs. 

Nevertheless, this sort of practicality is real innovation - I’m amazed no other manufacturer has ever copied it, and I’ll certainly miss it when the Jazz departs a few months into next year. Unless my next long-term tester is an articulated lorry, I’m not sure it’ll be anywhere near as useful for load-lugging.

Mileage: 5,196 miles
This month's economy: 62.4mpg


 

Update 3: Interior

2020 Honda Jazz Crosstar interior

I’ll be the first to admit my long-term Honda Jazz Crosstar isn’t much of a looker. The lower-spec, non-Crosstar Jazz has a pleasing sort of mid-2000’s minimalism about it, like an Apple iMac. But with its plastic cladding, glitzy alloy wheels and big fake grille jarring against its mini-MPV silhouette, my Crosstar looks more as though a group of disparate parts have formed an uneasy alliance in Honda’s factory.

But – as I’ve pointed out before – I don’t see much of the outside of my car. That’s something that’s true of most motorists, unless you’ve a particularly dramatic driveway or a lighted plinth in your garage. And from where I sit inside the car, there’s an awful lot to like about the Jazz.

As a colleague pointed out to me on Twitter a while ago, Honda doesn’t do things simply because other manufacturers are doing them. So while the Jazz has all the tech you’d expect from a hatchback in 2021, it’s put together in a package that’s just a bit different from anything else comparable.

Packed with useful touches

To the dashboard, then. You’ll find it’s covered in the same fabric as the seats, giving it rather a different vibe from the usual acres of shiny plastic found in most hatchbacks. That fabric is water-resistant, too – useful for the surfers and active lifestyle types Honda wants to buy its cars, though admittedly the butt of many a joke about incontinent octogenarians. Still, it’s proved as-yet unmarked by numerous small drink spills.

2020 Honda Jazz Crosstar gloveboxes

Storage, too, is done a bit differently. There’s the usual large door bins and covered centre cubby hole, but Honda also gives you two cupholders at either end of the dash. Why isn’t this a feature in every car? It’s making use of space that would otherwise be wasted and it places your drink in an incredibly convenient location.

Ditto the twin gloveboxes, the upper of which is easily reachable from the driver’s seat and provides ample storage for my sunglasses, gloves and a stash of face coverings.

I also like that all three sockets – USB connection, USB power and 12V – are located front and centre and easily accessible, though it’s a shame there’s no tidy way to route my phone’s USB cable like there was in my old Civic.

High-tech but not highfalutin

Too often these days we’re presented with vehicles that claim to be just your common or garden family bus – but offer-up features, controls and interfaces for common functions that are insanely opaque. Take the latest Volkswagen Golf, for instance, which routes its climate controls, volume dial and most other essential functions through its touchscreen and an unfathomable touch-sensitive strip underneath it. This from the brand that literally made 'The People's Car'!

2020 Honda Jazz Crosstar climate control

The Jazz eschews any of this trickery and it’s all the better for it. Take the climate control, for instance – it’s three dials, four buttons, and a completely idiot-proof, unobtrusive and legible display. Or take a look at the infotainment. The touchscreen is big, but not dominating – though it’s not very flashy, it’s responsive and easy to use.

The digital instrument panel doesn’t offer myriad display options – instead, it presents the information you want in an easy-to-read format. There’s even an obvious switch to control the brightness of the screens and cabin lighting, which is a real boon for drivers like me who prefer almost total darkness within when driving at night.

2020 Honda Jazz Crosstar dials

No, it’s not perfect – as I mentioned, I’d like a tidier place to keep my phone, and the steering wheel’s a bit of a button-fest. I also find traditional automatic stick shifters to be a waste of space in a car that clearly doesn’t need one – but Honda’s done what it has to do to make the interior as inoffensive as possible to those who aren't accustomed to the high-tech.

After a few months of ‘ownership’ the Jazz has proven a very reliable companion – and it’s rare that a car with this kind of immense practicality (detailed in my previous report) can also be a really pleasant place to spend time.

Mileage: 5,987 miles
This month's economy: 56.8mpg


 

Update 4: Driving 

Honda Jazz Crosstar long-term - front cornering

I’ve not really spoken too much about how my Honda Jazz Crosstar drives so far in these reports because, in a large way, I’m not sure it matters very much.

This little car has so many plus points that as long as it doesn’t drive badly I’d still feel comfortable giving it a wholehearted recommendation. 

But it doesn’t drive badly. In fact, in many ways it drives very well indeed – but it’s not going to be ideal for everybody. 

Firstly though, what are we dealing with under this car’s diminutive bonnet? Well, as I’ve mentioned before, it’s a hybrid - but it’s a different way of doing things than you might be accustomed to if you’re familiar with the sort of self-charging hybrid system that Toyota’s dominated the market with over the last 20 years.

Perfect for town

At low speeds, the Jazz is for all intents and purposes an electric vehicle with a petrol generator. The engine – a 1.5-litre petrol four-cylinder – never interacts with the wheels. Instead it simply charges a battery which proves power to an electric motor.

This makes the Jazz a truly stellar car for city driving. It’s smooth, it’s quick off the line, it’s quiet, and with no awkward CVT or jerky automatic it’s absolutely effortless. 

Honda Jazz Crosstar long-term - side profile

You can even slip the gearlever from its regular ‘D’ into ‘B’ mode, for Battery. This gives a touch more regenerative braking on lifting the throttle, rather like engine braking in a manual, and it gives the battery an extra boost of power each time you slow down.

Driven this way, the Jazz is also amazingly efficient, and on weeks where I’ve little reason to venture outside of Peterborough I’ve been seeing 60+mpg on the trip computer with ease.

If you live in a big city or do most of your commuting across town, you’ll love the Jazz.

Motorway driving

At higher speeds, the Jazz engages a single-speed gearbox and the engine comes into play, driving the wheels directly. This is how ‘my’ Crosstar spends a lot of its time operating.

I’ve been taking regular trips across the country to help my parents out following a car accident. I’m also a compulsive eBay shopper with a tendency to bid before looking at the locations (incidentally, every seller I’ve bought from has been wonderful about zero-contact pickups – a pleasant surprise).

That’s why, despite ‘normal’ journeys halting in their tracks, my cross-country mileage in the Jazz has remained pretty steady, and so I’ve got to know its motorway manners very well.

Sadly, I’ve also got to know its motorway limitations very well – this isn’t the Crosstar’s natural habitat, and it can be hard work at times.

Joining from a sliproad entails rather a lot of whining from the Jazz’s 1.5-litre engine, and the same is true if you attempt an overtake. It’s not dreadful by any stretch of the imagination, but other superminis are much better for this – even, dare I say, Toyota’s hybrid Yaris.

Motorway miles also see the Honda’s fuel economy tumble, and even sticking religiously to 70mph you’ll find 50mpg an achievement.

Its high sides are also rather susceptible to crosswinds and the adaptive cruise control – a feature that's usually a boon to motorway driving – is too sensitive even on its closest setting, braking the car while I’m still miles away from traffic in front.

But what about the twisty bits in between the towns and the motorways? There’s not really a great deal to say about this – the Jazz is competent, but it’s not exciting. The tall body rolls rather a lot, and while the steering is light and really pleasingly accurate the thin-rimmed steering wheel offers next to no feedback.

Honda Jazz Crosstar long-term - rear cornering

Combine that with very little grip available from the efficiency-biased tyres and the engine’s resistance to any sort of enthusiasm and it’s fair to say we’re not likely to see a Jazz Sport any time soon.

Does this matter? No, not really. Sensible is the name of the game, and sensible cars don’t need to be sporty. Sensible cars need to make boring journeys effortless, and by and large that’s what the Jazz does.

My time with it is rapidly drawing to a close, and my next car does most of its thinking inside the box that Honda so steadfastly refuses to put the Jazz in. I just know I’m going to miss it.

Mileage: 6,732
This month’s economy: 52.1mpg