The Honda Jazz, or Fit as it is known in some countries, has sold 3.5million since it was launched nine years ago.
Now in its third generation, the challenge for engineers was to maximise on the success of the early models while incorporating new technologies to keep the car fresh and relevant for today’s market.
Chief among these new introductions is hybrid technology. Fitted with a 1.3 litre petrol engine and electric motor, the Hybrid Jazz can, in theory, manage 62.8mpg, has CO2 emissions of 104g/km and costs only £10 a year in road fund licence (free for the first year).
In the very early hybrid cars, the battery took up the whole of the back end but in the Jazz it doesn’t encroach significantly on available space and you’d be hard pressed to know you weren’t in a conventional motor.
The Jazz is extremely versatile, thanks to Honda’s ‘magic seats’ which are standard across the entire range.
The rear seats recline and split 2:1 and can be dropped down in an instant without having to fiddle around removing headrests. The result is a completely flat floor and, if you also fold the front passenger seat, you can carry loads up to 2.4 metres long.
Like the Insight, Honda’s bigger hybrid, the Jazz is capable of running on the electric motor alone at low speeds for a limited time. Most of the time, however, it is used to support the 87bhp 1.3 litre petrol engine to keep economy high and emissions low. The ECON mode takes things a step farther. When the big green button at the side of the steering wheel is pushed, the Jazz goes into super economy mode. There’s a four per cent reduction in torque, accelerator input and CVT transmission are smoothed out, regenerative braking is increased and the aircon works more often in recirculation mode.
As with the Insight, the driver is encouraged to be as green as possible, with slow measured braking and acceleration the key to being awarded the most ‘trees’, the measure of how well you are doing. You can monitor performance and it quickly becomes a game to try and beat your last score.
There are very few visual cues to differentiate the hybrid from any of the other models of Jazz. The front headlights, registration plate and grille are surrounded by blue chrome trim and the colours available are a little more adventurous – lime green paint being one my favourite – and that’s about it.
The cabin is familiar to anyone who’s had a Jazz before, with leather adding a more upmarket feel. Standard equipment includes air conditioning and a CD, while options include alloy wheels, a navigation system, and top-notch entertainment system.
The hybrid is fitted with a CVT gearbox as standard – it’s also an option on the 1.4 petrol – but I have mixed feelings. Under harsh acceleration it was very noisy, although if the whole point of the hybrid is not to accelerate harshly, it’s probably my fault!
Price for the hybrid is £15,995, between £1,500 and £4,700 more than the petrol-only models.
Whether the low running costs make up for the increased purchase price will depend on how many miles you do but if you opt for a hybrid at least you’ll be doing your bit for the planet.