First Drive Review: Honda Jazz and HR-V

I drive the new Honda HR-V and Jazz at the Irish launch

Honda HR-V
Honda HR-V: A good-looking compact SUV

There’s nothing quite like some shiny new cars to start the week, and when two come along together, it’s even better.

It must be a treat for Honda Ireland too and their associated Irish dealer network. With 2015 already bringing revised Civic and CR-V models, the arrival of a new third generation Jazz, and all new HR-V compact SUV, will add further options. For petrolheads, there’s a Civic Type R on the horizon, and the NSX must not be too far away either.

Honda Jazz – the ‘Little Giant’

The Jazz is an interesting one because while it’s classed as a B-segment supermini (Yaris, Fiesta and Corsa territory), it really packs a bigger punch in space and utility. In terms of interior space, the Jazz is roomy and comfortable, and rear knee and legroom has been increased by as much as 10cm.

However, the boundary blurring between the Jazz and the C-segment above is really obvious when you look at the figures for boot capacity. The boot in the Jazz is 354 litres. To put that in perspective, the Ford Focus has 316 litres, and a Volkswagen Golf has 380 litres.

There’s more than just a whiff of supermini/MPV blend to the Jazz, though it still manages to pull off the sleek silhouette of a hatch. The addition of Honda’s ‘Magic Seats’ allows the rear seats to be configured in a variety of ways, adding an extra injection of versatility to the Jazz.

I drive the new Honda HR-V and Jazz at the Irish launch.
Ready for departure: the Honda Jazz

The cabin is solid and well-built, and polished chrome trim accents add a touch of class. The new Honda Connect infotainment system is standard from ES trim level up and includes a 7” touchscreen in the centre of the dash.

The Jazz has a new platform, new suspension components and damper system, new steering, and is lighter than before. On a small drive, it still has that ‘easy to drive’ quality, but good road-holding ability makes it feel safe and stoic in the corners. Like the Civic, the Jazz has Honda’s Agile Handling Assist to improve the handling at speed.

Power comes from a new 1.3-litre petrol engine (102bhp) with a six speed manual gearbox that will return up to 56.5mpg, with annual motor tax of €200. A new CVT automatic transmission is also available, and in that configuration, the emissions are slightly less and the mpg return slightly larger.

With a starting price of €17,395, the Jazz has a higher entry level price than some key rivals. But bear in mind the Jazz has five doors as standard and is very well-equipped. Even the ‘base’ model (SE) gets air con, Bluetooth, cruise control, steering wheel mounted audio controls, auto lights/wipers, electric windows and mirrors, city brake assist and LED DRLs.

I drive the new Honda HR-V and Jazz at the Irish launch.
The Honda Jazz: Spacious and well-specced

For €19,345, you can step up to ES trim, which adds 15” alloy wheels, front and rear parking sensors, alarm, folding mirrors and the sort of safety kit I’m more used to seeing in a D-segment saloon – forward collision warning, traffic sign recognition, intelligent speed limiter, lane departure warning and high beam support.

The flagship EX model starts at €20,400 and adds keyless entry and start, 16” alloy wheels, reversing camera, climate control, leather steering wheel, front fog lights, privacy glass and six speakers.

The new Jazz is €800 more than the car it replaces, but with more kit and more power, it makes a strong case for itself.

Honda HR-V – the “Joy Machine” reinvented

Honda HRV
The Honda HR-V was first launched back in 1999 with the tagline ‘the Joy Machine’

Built on the same platform as the Jazz, the HR-V is the more ‘lifestyle’ of the two cars. Aimed at the crossover market, it has the good looks, and inside effort has been made to add a European finish to traditional Japanese form and functionality. It’s largely a success with soft touch plastics, chrome detail, and lashings of gloss black combining for a cabin that’s as pleasing to look at, as it is to touch.

Power comes from a 1.5-litre i-VTEC (130bhp) petrol engine or a 1.6-litre i-DTEC (120bhp) diesel engine, with the option of a CVT automatic transmission on the petrol powered HR-V. Depending on specification, the petrol engine returns around the 50mpg mark (up to 54mpg with the CVT gearbox), while the diesel will return up to 70mpg.

The petrol range starts at €23,995 for entry grade SE trim, with 16” alloy wheels, Bluetooth, city brake assist, climate control, cruise control, alarm, auto lights, electric windows and mirrors, and steering wheel mounted controls.  The same model with the diesel engine starts at €25,995.

Honda HR-V and Jazz Irish launch review
Honda HR-Vs lined up for driving!

ES adds 17” alloy wheels, Honda Connect infotainment system, front and rear parking sensors, dual zone climate control, auto wipers, electric folding mirrors, rear centre armrest, front fog lights, 6 speakers and the dynamic safety pack (forward collision warning, traffic sign recognition, intelligent speed limiter, lane departure warning and high beam support), all for an extra €2600. EX adds more trim again for an extra €4300 including leather upholstery, panoramic glass roof, Garmin navigation, heated front seats, reversing camera, roof rails and keyless entry and start.

Just like the Jazz, the HR-V packs in a good deal of interior space within a compact profile, but the ace card here is a 470 litre boot and of course the ‘Magic Seats’ that allow new possibilities for load carrying in the back by folding the seats up (cinema style!).

The HR-V is front wheel drive only. On a short drive, the HR-V feels agile and planted. Honda have done their best to make the body as rigid as possible to reduce body roll, which can be a problem in high riding cars, but the HR-V holds itself well through the bends with accurate steering.

Only time will tell if the HR-V can do enough to ‘disrupt’ the crossover market to really draw buyers away from competitors, but for those looking for a compact lifestyle vehicle within the Honda stable, the good-looking HR-V should well hit the spot.

Caroline Kidd

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