Japanese car maker Honda turned diesel at a time when everyone in India was shunning petrol cars. The trend started two years ago with the Amaze, then the new Honda City in diesel, and with the popular seven-seater Mobilio. Now, another Honda car is getting ready to go the diesel way in its new avatar. The new Jazz is getting set for a second innings in the Indian market. Honda says it has learnt from the mistakes it made when this premium hatch was first launched in India; it was priced very highly at the time, and was available only as a petrol model. This was at a time when India wasn't really ready to embrace the concept of premium hatches. Now, they've come up with a brand new design, a lot more features and a diesel engine. So has the Jazz changed enough with the changing times? You'll soon find out.
At first glance, the new Jazz looks like a leaner, smaller version of the Mobilio. It slots itself nicely between a hatch and an MPV, partly because of the upward sloping floor, thanks to the petrol tank now being placed under the front seat. The design is anything but conservative, and Honda designers have taken liberties and given you a car that looks out of the box. The narrow headlights remind you of the City and have been fused into the grille, where, for a change, there isn't too much chrome. The bumper design is appealing, but the mesh gives an unpleasant picture of the radiator, taking away from the Jazz's good looks.
However, it the rear where this hatch looks most striking; the 3D effect LED tail lights that nicely integrate into the tailgate make for a pretty picture. The missing chrome on the front makes its presence felt here in the form of a horizontal bar running across the tailgate, and the sporty spoiler is there to add to the car's character.
Further resemblance to the City is in order here. More than a few features inside the cabin will remind you of the sedan. These include the instrument cluster, the infotainment system and also the digital air-conditioning controls. The 6.2 inch touch screen infotainment system on the top variant provides a rear camera view from three different angles. The top variant also gets an all-black colour scheme, as opposed to the other variants, which get a beige and black dual tone scheme. The biggest trump card of the Jazz though, is its interior space, which you notice the moment you step into the car. Compared to the earlier Jazz, this one is longer and the wheelbase has also gone up. This has resulted in more seating space, especially for the rear seat passengers. The doors open almost at an angle of 90 degrees, which means getting in and out of the car is a smooth process. But what the rear-seat passenger may not like are the missing AC vents and a centre arm-rest on the second row. The boot, an integral part of any hatch, is likeable here with at least 354 litres available for storage. That can be increased to a lot more (881 litres) with magic seats that can be folded in four different ways.
The Jazz runs on the 1.5 litre diesel engine that gives a 100 PS of maximum power. This is the fourth Honda car to use this engine in India after the Amaze, the Mobilio and the City. It runs on a six-speed manual transmission and, according to the Japanese car maker, efforts have been made to control the NVH levels. Engine noise making its way inside the cabin was one of the bigger concerns on other cars using this motor, and frankly, the situation hasn't changed much here. But that is compensated by a claimed mileage of over 27 kmpl; if these claims are true then it makes this new Jazz the second most fuel-efficient car in the country. There's also a petrol engine in case you're interested; this one is the 1.2 litre borrowed from the Brio but offers a slightly better power output of 90 PS. Apart from a five-speed manual here, you also have the option of a CVT along with paddle shifters (big thumbs up to that). Both petrol variants deliver identical mileage figures of about 19 kmpl.
Ride and handling
A car can never have enough ride quality and handling. This holds true for the Jazz as well, which mostly gives you a comfortable ride, until one sharp edge makes you change your mind. It wouldn't be wrong to say that the suspension is slightly on the firmer side. Similarly, it offers a stable ride, but swirl it round a corner at some speed and the need for better handling becomes apparent. A redesigned exhaust system means that the ground clearance is better than before, so tackling those scary speed breakers is an easier task.
Barring a few niggles, the Jazz has most things working for it, and that includes looks, features and the drive. Last time around, its price held it back, but this time Honda needs to crack the code.
The Indian car buyer has now become more receptive to buying a hatch that commands a premium price tag. The runaway success of cars such as the Hyundai i20 Elite and Maruti Swift has proved that. Barring a few niggles, the Jazz has most things working for it, and that includes looks, features and the drive. Last time around, its price held it back, but this time Honda needs to crack the code. By how much we'll get to know early next month, when the new Jazz is launched in India.
Shams Naqvi is an anchor/producer for the News X motor show Living Cars.