Even the least powerful version is quicker than the previous version so you’ll be surprised by Honda Jazz performance overall. Honda offers a choice of an 89bhp 1.2-litre petrol engine, or a 99bhp 1.4-litre. The new 1.2-litre will accelerate from 0-62mph 1.2 seconds faster than the old model, covering the benchmark in 12.5 seconds. The 1.4-litre model beats the old 1.4-litre by the same margin reaching 62mph in 11.5 seconds. Both feel livelier on the road than the models they replace, with the larger engine feeling particularly frisky, although the 1.2-litre is more than adequate for nipping around town. The standard manual transmission is a reasonably slick five-speed gearbox but customers requiring an automatic need to choose the CVT (continuously variable transmission) which is only available in the 1.4. It blunts performance but you quickly get used to its behaviour. This CVT is the same one as used in the Hybrid model and replaced the previous jerky i-Shift auto ’box in late 2010. Paddle selectors on the steering column are standard and allow you to change up and down manually.
Where the standard 1.2- and 1.4-litre versions of the Jazz have a petrol engine working on its own, the Hybrid has an additional electric motor to supplement its 1.4-litre motor. The 1.4 Hybrid delivers 87bhp compared to the non-Hybrid model’s 99bhp, giving 0-62mph in 12.1 seconds to be a little quicker than the 1.4 CVT model’s 12.8 second time. The Hybrid uses the same continuously variable transmission as the petrol-only model, which takes the edge off of performance and also means the engine becomes quite rowdy when asked to accelerate hard, such as when joining a dual carriageway from a slip road.
The balance of economy and performance found in the 1.4-litre Jazz with a manual gearbox is hard to argue against, so it’s our pick.
The biggest change to how the Jazz feels on the road is down to a more composed ride. The previous model was criticised for it's unforgiving ride, but for the 2008 model, Honda has made significant changes to the suspension set up. Combined with a slightly longer wheelbase and wider stance this ensures the car provides much better on-road comfort. It's still firm and not as smooth as alternatives in this class, but is a marked improvement.
The steering has been made lighter at lower speeds for easier manoeuvring when parking, but feels more weighty when cornering at faster speeds for improved feel.