Jazz and all that

The new­est hy­brid is the cheap­est. As it should be

Herald Sun - Motoring - - First Drive - JOSHUA DOWL­ING NA­TIONAL MO­TOR­ING ED­I­TOR joshua.dowl­ing@news.com.au

HY­BRID tech­nol­ogy has inched closer to ev­ery­day af­ford­abil­ity. Toy­ota low­ered the bar last year with the $23,990 Prius C— now Honda has re­sponded with a $22,990 hy­brid ver­sion of its Jazz city hatch. But not all hy­brids are cre­ated equal.

Honda has a more ba­sic and less pow­er­ful hy­brid sys­tem— it can­not move the car from rest on elec­tric power alone, as can the Toy­ota— and the Jazz is not as eco­nom­i­cal as its hy­brid peer. As with all hy­brid tech­nol­ogy it will take some time to re­coup the fi­nan­cial ben­e­fit of the Jazz’s fuel con­sump­tion sav­ings— 12 years by our cal­cu­la­tions.

VALUE

The bug-shaped Honda In­sight cost $48,990 when it went on sale in 1999. So Honda has more than halved the cost of its tech­nol­ogy in less than a decade and half.

But don’t break open the bubbly just yet: it will still take at least 12 years to pay off the $7000 price dif­fer­ence be­tween a Honda Jazz Hy­brid and the most fuel-ef­fi­cient petrol-only Jazz vari­ant. Based on the na­tional av­er­age of 15,000km a year, the Jazz uses 375 litres less fuel than the stan­dard Jazz, equat­ing to a fuel bill sav­ing of $562.50 based on pre­mium un­leaded at $1.50 a litre.

Some car­mak­ers load their flag­ship models with ex­tra equip­ment to jus­tify pre­mi­ums. But the only ex­tra equip­ment the hy­brid Jazz has over its topline petrol equiv­a­lent com­prises the hy­brid sys­tem and its unique in­stru­ment dis­play, grille and tail-lights.

The only op­tion is me­tal­lic paint: $445.

The hy­brid misses out on a full-size spare wheel. A space­saver is in­stalled be­cause the hy­brid bat­tery pack is nes­tled into the spare wheel well un­der the boot floor. The cargo area is shal­lower as a re­sult.

TECH­NOL­OGY

Is the Jazz in fact a hy­brid? It has a 10kW elec­tric mo­tor while that in the Toy­ota Prius C is 45kW. Some fork­lifts have more pow­er­ful elec­tric mo­tors than the Jazz.

Un­like Toy­ota’s pi­o­neer­ing hy­brid tech­nol­ogy from 1997, the Honda’s is un­able to move from rest on its elec­tric power alone. In­stead, the smaller elec­tric mo­tor boosts the petrol en­gine once the car is at cruis­ing speed. Cars use the most fuel in the in­stant of mov­ing from stand­still.

But the Jazz’s sys­tem is largely un­changed from the one Honda re­leased in 1999, al­beit adapted to newer models with re­designed bat­tery packs and low-fric­tion oil in the petrol en­gine. The net re­sult is a thirst of 13 per cent greater than the Prius C — 4.5L/100km ver­sus 3.9L. Far less ex­pen­sive non-hy­brid cars do bet­ter: Fiat 500 Twin Air (3.9L), Suzuki Alto (4.5L) and Mit­subishi Mi­rage (4.6L).

DE­SIGN

Far from new, the Jazz re­mains one of the smartest small-car de­signs, ek­ing am­ple vol­ume from its diminu­tive pro­por­tions. It has a roomy, airy cabin with clever seat­ing that can turn the Jazz into a van at the flick of a few levers. There are 18 seat­ing con­fig­u­ra­tions. And 10 cuphold­ers (two per oc­cu­pant).

With seats folded, it has a huge flat cargo floor that can swal­low a moun­tain bike with ease. The hy­brid sys­tem im­pinges on the reg­u­lar Jazz’s 337L/848L, re­duc­ing th­ese to 233L/722L.

All but­tons and di­als are log­i­cally placed and easy to use, with Honda’s renowned er­gonomics. Vi­sion is ex­cel­lent thanks to the large glass area and con­vex side mir­rors.

The hy­brid is distin­guished by clear grille and tail-lights with a blue tint. In­side, the dig­i­tal in­stru­ment dis­play en­cour­ages eco­nom­i­cal driv­ing. Qual­ity is fair (although most plas­tics are hard to the touch) even though, as with most reg­u­lar Jazz models, the hy­brid ver­sion comes from a Honda fac­tory in Thai­land.

Re­leased in 2008, the Jazz is start­ing to show its age among newer ri­vals. It’s slightly nar­rower than the newer crop of city cars and a lit­tle noisy.

SAFETY

Six airbags and sta­bil­ity con­trol are the in­dus­try norm th­ese days. The reg­u­lar Jazz has a five-star safety rat­ing and there’s no rea­son to sug­gest the hy­brid would not pro­vide the same pro­tec­tion in a crash de­spite the ex­tra 70kg. Honda

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