Jazz all that

One of Honda’s long­est serv­ing cars is still its best

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Road Test - CRAIG DUFF craig.duff@cars­guide.com.au

THE term poverty pack’’ spe­cial no longer ap­plies to even the cheap­est kids on the city car lot. Honda’s Jazz Vibe is an ex­am­ple. The Ja­pane­se­built car starts at $15,990 and, per­for­mance apart, has most fea­tures buy­ers hope to see in a new car. It’s also easy to drive, has stand-out looks and the best re­sale value in the class.

VALUE

Com­pe­ti­tion is in­tense at the starter car level. The Jazz is up there but Mit­subishi leads the pack with a $12,990 Mi­rage. Most mak­ers op­er­ate in the $15,000-$16,000 range and it is here the Jazz finds its rhythm.

Stan­dard gear in­cludes 15-inch al­loy wheels, cruise con­trol, cli­mate-con­trolled air­con, Blue­tooth con­nec­tiv­ity and steer­ing wheel-mounted au­dio con­trols. The five-speed au­to­matic adds $2000 and in­cludes steer­ing-wheel mounted pad­dleshifters— not that light­ning gearchanges are a pri­or­ity for the 1.3-litre engine.

TECH­NOL­OGY

The Honda is dated but not un­duly dis­ad­van­taged against even its new­est ri­vals, which shows how good the orig­i­nal pack­age was.

The 1.3 is mid­stream in terms of fuel use and per­for­mance,

mak­ing the 1.5 fit­ted to up­per­spec mod­els a bet­ter propo­si­tion for en­thu­si­as­tic driv­ers.

Long, steep up­hill runs with four aboard tests the Vibe but ur­ban driv­ing is a breeze, es­pe­cially with the rea­son­ably in­tu­itive five-speed auto.

DE­SIGN

A lit­tle car with a big boot is al­ways handy. Throw in the Jazz’s un­matched abil­ity to flip and fold the rear seats flat and it be­comes a home-shift­ing mini-mover when re­quired.

The in­te­rior looks old school — and not in an in­ten­tional Mini kind of way— with hard plas­tics and mono­chrome dis­plays. On the flip side, oc­cu­pant stowage space is right up there and all-round vi­sion is a strong suit.

SAFETY

Six airbags, seat-belt re­minders and rock-solid chas­sis make the Vibe a strong per­former when you need it to be. ANCAP awarded it five stars in 2011 not­ing that ‘‘ the pas­sen­ger com­part­ment held its shape well (in the off­set crash test). There was a slight risk of se­ri­ous chest and leg in­jury for the driver.’’

DRIV­ING

Honda gets the most out of the 1.3. Still, per­for­mance is the only area where the lit­tle Honda lags class lead­ers such as the Mazda2 and Ford Fi­esta.

In its home en­vi­ron­ment of tight sub­ur­ban streets and traf­fic light queues, the Honda has few peers. The el­e­vated front seats give a com­mand­ing view of the road; the steer­ing is light with­out be­ing dead and it ac­cel­er­ates OKoff the lights, courtesy of a typ­i­cally revvy Honda engine.

The ride is firm but that doesn’t, sadly, trans­late into a sporty chas­sis. This is built-top­ur­pose trans­port for ev­ery­day driv­ers who don’t want to pre­tend they’re at the lo­cal track. And it ex­cels at it, tak­ing a pair of lanky teenagers and their gi­ant back­packs with­out con­tort­ing oc­cu­pants or lug­gage.

VER­DICT

Prac­ti­cal­ity dic­tates what most light car own­ers buy and it is hard to go past the Jazz on that front. It’s well built, ver­sa­tile and com­fort­able— just what most own­ers want.

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