Honda Jazz 1.5 RS Navi: the perfect everyday runabout
The Honda Jazz started a revolution back in 2005 when it was launched. And I have a very personal relationship with it.
It was on a shoot for Top Gear’s Wrong Car, Right Car series. Having grown up being driven—and eventually driving around—in big cars, I had scoffed at the idea of such a tiny car.
A test drive in the first gen Honda Jazz, however, really blew me away, especially since I was beside my friend and restaurateur Mike Cua, who is an equally big guy like me.
I had never sat or ridden in such a small car with such a roomy interior, excellent build quality, and impressive feel and feedback.
The rest is history. We ended up buying the first two Honda Jazz generations (a 1.3, and later, a 1.5).
I’d remember every Sunday how I, my two sisters, and my Dad would pile into the Jazz, while my three other brothers would ride in another car.
The Jazz was the popular spare car, too. Everyone wanted to get their hands on it because it sipped gas like a miserly pauper, but drove exceptionally well—sharp, precise, and with no wasted motion.
I even bought aftermarket goodies for it because it just drove so well and looked so good.
It wasn’t just me that favored the Jazz so much. Many of my colleagues in the motoring beat also bought a Honda Jazz, and a good number of them still have theirs to this day.
The third generation Jazz continues that fine tradition today.
Part of the Jazz’s success is its highly versatile and spacious ULT+R interior (utility, long, tall + refresh).
It was one of the first cars to have a completely flat floor with the seats folded, and since the fuel tank sits beneath the front seats, rear space isn’t compromised.
Handling-wise, the Jazz minimizes yaw as the center of gravity is truly right where the driver is.
Not to mention it’s a flyweight: at 1,085 kg for the fully-loaded RS Navi variant, it’s very light even for a small car with this much safety tech.
That’s why, despite the modest twist-beam rear axle and Macpherson strut front suspension, the Jazz handles brilliantly even on poor roads, plus slick and slippery surfaces.
The steering is delicate and feelsome, and the suspension keeps roll, pitch and squat at a minimum but displays tactility and compliance on rough surfaces.
The brakes offer excellent feel, feedback and modulation to tackle your favorite mountain pass or track session.
The modest power also means you can keep driving the Jazz at 10/10 longer, preserving momentum, threading a fine line around corners, and weaving through slower traffic instantly.
It’s invigorating and liberating to drive a “slow” car fast such as the Jazz, rather than drive a fast and powerful car slowly.
The tall roof gives the Jazz a quasi MPV look, but it makes entry and exit easier.
Trust me, if you’re a clumsy buffoon like me that keeps banging his head on the door frame or window frame, the tall roof makes a huge difference, particularly when parked in a tight slot between other cars.
It also reinforces the feeling of roominess and luxury in such a small car.
Seating position is excellent, with a good range of adjustment for the steering wheel’s reach and rake. SatNav is standard, hence the Navi designation.
The Jazz continues on with the Earth Dreams L15 i-vtec family of engines delivering 120 hp and 145 Newton meters of torque, mated to a CVT with seven simulated forward gears in manual mode driving the front 16×6 wheels wrapped in all-season 185/55R16 touring tires.
The latest Jazz is also the safest: stability control, seven airbags on top models, and ANS-EBD brakes with emergency brake assist
A 5-star crash safety rating at the Euro NCAP tests means the Jazz is also one of the safest cars around and with a small footprint.
All these points to the Jazz as a future classic and an aftermarket favorite.
Support from tuners, aftermarket parts developers, and even racing outfits are quite extensive.
There are turbo/supercharger kits to transform your grocery-getter to a lightweight ‘tarmac terrorist.’
There’s a myriad of wheels and sticky tires available, and suspension offerings that can drop the Jazz to within a few millimeters of the ground.
Let’s not forget aesthetics: numerous bodykits from subtle, sophisticated and stylish, to downright garish are available.
If you believe that there’s no replacement for displacement, engine and wiring swap kits are also available to shoe-horn a K20 to K24 4-cylinder engine and really transform your Jazz into a fire-breathing, sportscar munching track villain.
Hallowed companies like Spoon, M-Tec/Mugen, J’s Racing, HKS and many others all have a Jazz (or Fit, as it’s known in Japan and the USA) tuning program.
Flooding, bad weather and bad roads have come to see the Jazz’s popularity (and the rest of its kind) decrease unlike a decade ago, but it is still—and always will remain as—a favorite amongst experienced enthusiast drivers looking for a fun, yet practical, and crucially affordable, value-driven car.
In my dream two-car garage, I’d have a Porsche 911, with a Honda Jazz alongside for the daily run.
The Jazz is just perfect. It answers all your rational needs of a fuel-efficient, versatile, roomy and spacious small car loaded with safety, but doesn’t let you down, thanks to excellent driving dynamics.
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