Jazz and all that
The newest hybrid is the cheapest. As it should be
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.
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.
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).
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.
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