Honda South Africa is pushing with a sporty theme early in 2018 and while the Civic Type R will dominate the headlines, the addition of a Jazz Sport makes for an interesting proposition in the compact hatchback market. David Taylor spent some time with the compact newcomer.
The Honda Jazz has a stellar reputation for offering the most incredible practicality and versatility in its class. This author has fond memories of purchasing a coffee table and effortlessly folding down the seats to swallow the item of furniture. There was also generous specification and the drive wasn't half bad either. However, in recent years, the Honda Jazz has lost some of its allure. The build quality wasn't as immaculate as its predecessors and the engines had become a tad gutless.
With the latter criticism in mind, Honda South Africa has decided to...um... jazz up the Jazz with a sportier derivative. Of course, all we ever wanted was a sportier Honda Jazz. That's not a sarcastic line at all and additional power is always welcomed in the compact segment, particularly seeing as nearly all of its rivals have moved to torquier forced-induction motors. This new Honda Jazz Sport comes with an all-new mill, in the form of a 1.5-litre naturally-aspirated engine.
Pushing out 97 kW and 155 Nm, this Honda Jazz finally has some on-paper go. Power drives the front wheels through a revised version of the continuously-variable transmission (CVT), now with paddle shifters located on the steering wheel. Honda claims its new Jazz Sport will break 10 seconds to 100 kph thanks to its lightweight body while consuming just 5.6 L/100 km.
It's not just an uprated engine which signals the Jazz's sporty intentions. The suspension has been reworked with new damper settings and the brakes have been revised.
With a white body, black wheels and red detailing, the Honda Jazz Sport looks like a bonafide JDM Kei car racer
Sportier looks and features
It also happens to look the part too, with a tweaked front end. There are new LED headlights with LED daytime running lights and some gloss piano black detailing. There are some red pinstripe details dotted around the bodywork, while the bigger 16-inch alloys are painted black for maximum JDM effect. There's even a little boot spoiler which is more cosmetic than aerodynamic. Thankfully the cabin is not as sporty as the exterior, with the only sporty touches being the red stitching and sports pedals. There are also some vibrant colours on offer, such as the Helios Yellow Pearl and Brilliant Sporty Blue Metallic.
The Honda Jazz has been a pricey vehicle, but you cannot argue that you're not getting value for money as its generously well specified. A push-button start, keyless entry, six-speaker audio system, 7-inch touchscreen display, Bluetooth connectivity, USB/HDMI connectivity and a rearview camera are just some of the features available. Safety has always been well covered by Honda and the flagship Jazz Sport is no exception. There are six airbags, ABS brakes with EBD, Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA) and Hill Start Assist (HSA).
The interior features and practicality are two redeeming qualities in the Honda Jazz Sport
What's it like to drive?
Honda South Africa launched the new Jazz Sport alongside its eagerly-anticipated Civic Type R. While all eyes were on the current Nurburgring record holder, there was a surprisingly dash to the Jazz Sport vehicles for the first leg of the drive from Durban Airport down to Port Shepstone on the KwaZulu-Natal South Coast. This author went straight to the Civic Type R and you can read the driving impression of this fearsome car here. The Honda Jazz Sport makes for an interesting offering in the Jazz family. For a car marketed as a sensible and practical offering, it has surprisingly not taken off with the younger generation. We'd put this down to two things, price and image.
The new engine is decent, once you abandon some restrained dignity and stretch its legs. Honda engines love to rev and despite the CVT trying to stifle things, the motor offers an adequate amount of shove for overtaking. Note that you'll have to put the transmission into Sport mode and use the paddle shifters located behind the wheel for maximum effect as the lack of torque is real. You'll find yourself mashing the pedal to stay in the powerband, which results in a coarse engine note and we'd put down to the CVT. What this car really needs is one of Honda's trademark slick-shifting six-speed manual gearboxes for proper involvement.
The Honda Jazz Sport ride quality is fine on the well-maintained national highways of South Africa, but on the poor, pockmarked backroads, it's quite firm and you can feel each ridge in the tarmac. The steering and brakes are good, and the steering offers enough feedback to be classed as involving. On some tight corners, there is some fun to be had, but driving thrills is not this vehicle's speciality.
The Honda Jazz Sport ride quality is adequate on the open road, but the sportier suspension and wheels mean its quite firm on coarser tarmac
The Honda Jazz Sport makes an interesting and colourful addition to the Jazz range. It certainly looks the part and as we said earlier, the additional power from the engine is always welcome. However, the price is suspiciously high for a car that's not offering more performance than, say a Suzuki Swift Sport (which cost R270 000 before being discontinued). The Jazz Sport just doesn't excite in the same manner that the Swift Sport does, but it absolutely trounces it when it comes to specification and practicality. Despite its sporty looks, the Magic Seats have been retained and you do one of the biggest boots in class at your disposal.
Herein lies the problem. The Honda Jazz Sport is inherently not a bad car to drive and it can be quite fun on the right roads. However, there are cheaper cars which are a bit more fun to drive and offer a bit more refinement. The best thing about the Jazz and the new Jazz Sport will always be those clever seats, the practicality and the specification. You get that big car feel in a small compact, you can carry four adults in surprising comfort and it's safe too. These are traits found across the Jazz range and while the novelty value of the Jazz Sport is high, we feel that one of the cheaper Jazz models will do the job nicely and be a more sensible purchase.
For sheer novelty value, the Honda Jazz Sport is right up there, but it's expensive and doesn't quite deliver the driving thrills
Honda Jazz Sport Price in South Africa
The new Honda Jazz Sport is positioned at the top of the Jazz range and replaces the Jazz Dynamic CVT. It comes with a five-year/200 000 km warranty and a four-year/60 000 km service plan, as well as a three-year AA Roadside Assistance package. Services are at 15 000 km intervals.
Honda Jazz Sport - R310 000