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Honda Jazz 1.4 i-DSI SE Sport

Honda

Review

Its 'chameleon circuit', which allows it to change its appearance was frozen in 1963 when police boxes were commonplace, so while it was compact on the outside it was much bigger inside because the interior, apparently, occupies a different set of dimensions.

It has become a cliché in motoring writing circles to describe spacious cars thus, but talking about the Honda Jazz is where its use is most apt.

Launched in 2002, the Jazz was freshened up at the beginning of this year with the addition of emergency brake assistance across the range making the ABS more effective, and disc brakes replace the drums at the rear.

The fantastic interior is left largely untouched. Our SE Sport test car has chrome-finished door handles and front foglamps.

Other standard features include air conditioning, electric windows, an electric sunroof, a fuel consumption computer, a CD player, four airbags, alloy wheels, electrically adjustable and heated door mirrors – so pretty much as high-spec as most superminis go.

The shape of the Jazz – tall with near vertical sides and tailgate – lends itself well to having a spacious interior, but the rear seat layout is nothing short of genius.

First, the seatbacks fold forward and with minor adjustments to the front seat position will go flat without the need to remove head restraints.

With the rear seats folded, luggage volume increases from 353 litres – already greater than most lower-medium hatchbacks – to 1,343 litres to the roof with the rear seats folded, which is more than in the Audi A4 Avant (1,184 litres), the Rover 75 Tourer (1,222 litres), the new Volvo V50 (1,307 litres) and comes perilously close to the BMW 3-series Touring (1,345 litres).

Longer items can be accommodated by reclining the front seat after folding the rear seats flat. For taller items that need to be kept upright, such as large pot plants, the rear seat cushions can be folded upright into the seatbacks.

The Jazz is genuinely innovative in the way it deals with how the maximum amount of luggage might be accommodated in the minimum space.

It owes its unique packaging to a fuel tank mounted centrally beneath the front seats, and its compact engine allowing the maximum interior space.

The Jazz uses fuel-saving electric power steering. Systems like this often suffer from a lack of communication and feel overly assisted, but in the Jazz its feedback is reasonably chatty about goings-on at the front, a good level of resistance at higher speeds and super-light at parking speeds.

With wheels pretty much at each corner, the Jazz has fine handling and a comfortable ride, which isn't marred by the 15-inch wheels on the SE Sport (the Jazz S and SE have 14-inch steel wheels).

It has a peppy 1.4-litre engine (actually, at 1,339cc it's technically a 1.3-litre), which uses two spark plugs per cylinder for more efficient ignition. It shows in the fuel consumption figures, which nudge 50mpg on the combined cycle.

With a torque peak at 2,800rpm, the engine is quite feisty for its modest power output and the standard 15-inch alloy wheels on our SE Sport test car provide plenty of grip.

Performance isn't going to set the world alight but I remember driving the Jazz on a racetrack in Leicestershire last summer, along with other Hondas.

I was just about hitting 100mph towards the end of the straight with a 160bhp Civic Type S in front of me and preparing to back ease off the gas to allow an NSX thundering down the straight through into the right hander at the end.

As the NSX zipped by, I was able to nip in front of the Civic before the corner, and it wasn't in a position to take back its place until we were half way round the track again.

Not as fast as a time machine, but fast enough for a spacious supermini.

Model: Honda Jazz 1.4 i-DSI SE Sport
Engine (cc): 1,339
Max power (bhp/rpm): 82/5,700
Max torque (lb-ft/rpm): 88/2,800
Max speed (mph): 106
0-62mph (sec): 12.0
Fuel consumption (mpg): 48.7
CO2 emissions (g/km): 137
Fuel tank capacity (l/gal): 42/9.2
Transmission: 5-speed manual
Service interval (miles): 12,000
CAP RV (3yrs/60,000 miles): £4,375/39%
HSBC contract hire rate: £246
Price (OTR): £11,413

CO2 emissions and fuel consumption data correct at time of writing. The latest figures are available in the Fleet News fuel cost calculator and the company car tax calculator.

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