The Honda Jazz Sport is a new addition to the local line-up, and takes its place as the range-topper. We spent a few days with the little hatch to find out if it earns that “sport” title.
Honda’s Jazz is a great little car. It is good, honest motoring that offers the right blend of practicality, fuel efficiency and user-friendliness especially in the urban jungle. Over successive generations the overall shape has remained virtually unchanged, so too has the drivetrain and layout. It seems Honda isn’t keen to mess with a winning formula.
Click here to read about the Honda Civic bakkie.
Jazzing it up
It has been some time since the latest Jazz range debuted in South Africa, and to inject some excitement to its offerings, the Japanese automaker’s South African arm launched the Honda Jazz Sport here a few months ago.
If you are familiar with Jazz models then the Sport derivative immediately stands out. A sleeker grille is flanked by slim LED headlights with LED daytime running lights. A sharper front bumper houses fog lamps and there is a front splitter (we kid you not) that is highlighted with red pin-striping. The sporty demeanour continues with deeper side sills and black 16-inch alloy wheels. A larger rear spoiler and a diffuser, also highlighted in red, are the final touches.
Considering the cars small dimensions the extra styling bits give the Honda Jazz Sport the appearance of a bantamweight fighter, little, but packing loads of muscle.
More changes inside
As befitting a range leader this variant comes comprehensively equipped. Among its standard equipment the Jazz Sport counts electric windows, cruise control, climate controlled air-conditioning as well as a tilt and reach-adjustable steering wheel with satellite controls. Centre of the facia is occupied by a seven-inch touchscreen infotainment display. The system includes a CD player, radio, Bluetooth hands-free connectivity along with USB and HDMI connections. It is also linked to the standard rear-view camera and rear parking sensors.
A few sporty touches are found in the cabin to complement the racy exterior. These include red stitching on the seats and the leather-trimmed steering wheel. Sport pedals and a push button start system similar to other performance Honda models such as the S2000 and Civic Type R.
Thankfully the Honda Jazz Sport has lost none of its practicality. The folding/tumbling rear seats remain in place and the boot volume is quite handy in for daily chores.
Under the little bonnet
Under the stubby bonnet of the Honda Jazz Sport lies a 1,5-litre DOHC motor that produces 97 kW and 155 N.m of torque. This engine is specific to the Sport version and not found elsewhere in the range. The small unit features direct injection and Honda’s famed i-VTEC system, which offers intelligent variable valve timing and lift.
There is only one gearbox option for the Honda Jazz Sport, that being a continuously variable transmission (CVT). There are no gears as such, but rather the transmission continuously keeps the engine at ideal speed for economy and power. Drivers who require a bit more engagement can use the steering-wheel mounted paddles.
How does it go?
The motor, as with many Honda powerplants, is a willing, revvy companion. However, that CVT isn’t the best at translating the power delivery. As with any CVT, there is the constant sensation of ‘clutch slip’ and this dilutes the engine’s eagerness somewhat. When you give the loud pedal and good mash the transmission does let the engine rev all the way to the far side of the rev counter. But the fun is soon curtailed as the revs slowly dissipate to a lower level.
For the most part, the sportiest Jazz feels and goes like its siblings. However, those large alloys shod with low profile rubber do compromise the ride somewhat, particularly at low speeds.
A quick steering action and pert dimensions make the Honda Jazz Sport an ideal companion in the urban grind. We really appreciated the self ‘shifting’ transmission as we dealt with daily traffic.
We feel that creating a Sport version of the Jazz is ultimately unnecessary. That CVT, which should never be fitted to car with sporting pretensions, really dulls the performance. And the ride quality is less desirable than any other Jazz in the range.
If Honda had gone completely mental and fitted a size six-speed manual gearbox and given it a rock-hard ride with massive alloys and a screaming motor, we’d be able to make a case for it. As it stands the Honda Jazz Sport removes all the qualities that make the Jazz such good car, and adds no decent level of sportiness. Faced with buying a Jazz model, we’d give this a skip.
This what a Honda Jazz Sport should really be.
Model: Honda Jazz Sport
Engine: 1,5-litre inline four
Transmission: CVT, FWD
Max power: 97 kW
Max torque: 155 N.m
Top speed: 180 km/h
0-100 km/h: 9,8 sec
Fuel consumption: 5,6 L/100 km