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Test drive: Honda Jazz sets new benchmark in the segment

Six years on, the third generation hatchback returns to Goa, setting another benchmark

The first drive of the last Jazz was held in Goa and, this time as well, Honda Cars India organised the first drive of the new Jazz in the beach state. The last time, the Indian car market was not as mature and customers were not willing to pay Rs 8 lakh-plus for a premium hatchback. Today, there are a number of hatchbacks priced in excess of Rs 9 lakh, and some even have a waiting period of more than four months.

The new Jazz is a third-generation model. Honda has already sold 5.5 million units globally since this car first went on sale in 2001. The new car looks a lot like the previous one, since it is more a cross between a hatchback and a MUV rather than a straightforward hatchback. From the front it looks similar to the new Honda City. The grille at the front has a Piano Black bar running across with a curved chrome trim below and a Honda logo in chrome on top.

Handling is well sorted and quick changes of direction are a breeze. Pics/Sanjay Raikar
Handling is well sorted and quick changes of direction are a breeze. Pics/Sanjay Raikar 

The narrow grille merges into the wrap-around headlamps, giving the car a sporty look. It is from the side that the Jazz looks a little like an MPV. At the rear, it gets LED tail- and stop-lamps. To go with the frontal sporty design, there is a spoiler on the rear tailgate.

The interiors say that this is a global car, not just an India or Asia model. The quality of plastic and fabric is superior compared to its siblings, the Brio and Amaze. The three-meter display expresses a clean and sporty design.

To the left is the tachometer and gear-position indicator. The centre is dominated by the speedometer, which also incorporates an eco assist light that changes from green to blue-green to blue based on how efficient your driving style is. On the right, you have the current fuel economy, time and outside temperature.

The 1.5-litre diesel engine of the new Jazz has excellent low and mid-end grunt
The 1.5-litre diesel engine of the new Jazz has excellent low and mid-end grunt 

The audio system has a five-inch screen that can interface with a host of gadgets including your iPod, USB, MP3-player, screen for the rear camera and navigation system with DVD player. The air-conditioner is operated using the touchscreen. The sporty steering gets audio and hands-free control.

The interior space is the trump-card in case of this Jazz as it was in the case of its predecessor. Based on Honda's 'man maximum, machine minimum' concept, the car has grown by 55 millimetres overall and the wheelbase has increased by 30 mm. This has liberated a further three inches of front to rear seating room. Besides, the quality and size of the interior gives the car a premium look and feel.

The new Jazz is equipped with the same 1.2 petrol engine as the Brio and Amaze. It also shares its diesel engine with the Amaze, the Mobilio and the City. The i-DTEC is from the Earth Dreams Technology. The 1,498-cc oil-burner produces 100 PS at 3,600 rpm and 200 Nm of torque at 1,750 rpm.

The interiors of the Jazz are superior to those of other Honda offerings
The interiors of the Jazz are superior to those of other Honda offerings 

The engine is mated to a new six-speed close-ratio gearbox. There is no turbo lag and one can shift to the sixth gear at about 65 to 70 km/h; the car still pulls cleanly without a shudder or protest. With excellent low-end and mid-range power and torque delivery, the car is easy to drive within the city as well as on the highway.

One is not required to shift gears all the time to keep the motor on the boil. Overtaking on the highway goes like a breeze as the strong flat torque-curve does not require constant down-shifting to overtake slow-moving traffic.

The front suspension has a MacPherson set-up while the rear suspension is trailing arm. The car's ride quality and handling are well-sorted; it soaked up the rough surface and all the undulations the Goan roads could throw up without a problem.

The car is also stable at speed in excess of the ton mark and the steering does not become light as it does in its stable-mates. Even poor road surface does not upset the car while going round corners. The new Jazz sets a new benchmark in the segment. Now, it is up to Honda to price the car competitively.

Need to know
Honda Jazz- 1.5 i-DTEC
Engine- 1,498 cc, four-cylinder, in-line, turbocharged, diesel
Max Power- 100 PS @ 3,600 rpm
Max Torque- 200 Nm @ 1,750 rpm
Transmission- 6-speed Manual
Price- Rs 8.59 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi)

Jazz 1.2 i-VTEC version
We also drove the 1.2 petrol with a five-speed manual transmission. The petrol car is extremely refined as compared to the oil-burner. Although it does not possess the grunt of the diesel, it is no slouch either. The gear-shift of this five-speed box is better than the six-speed version.

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