25 Jan, 2018 9:45pm
As tales of the unexpected go, this is up there with anything that Roald Dahl could have conjured up. Probably the last word anyone would associate with the Honda Jazz was ‘Sport’. Yet, here we are, in a car that boldly combines those exact words.
The Sport is the new model at the top of the revised Jazz range, which was first seen at last year’s Frankfurt Motor Show. Like the rest of the line-up, the Sport has adopted a new look that’s designed to make the company’s smallest car fit in with the rest of its range – but then it gives it all a further sporty twist.
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Image 2 of 11
The Sport also makes some attempt to ape the Civic Type R, with a thinner front splitter below the grille, and red detailing on the bumpers. It also gets black alloy wheels, side skirts and a rear spoiler, while the headlights are posh full-LED units. Inside, meanwhile, the seat upholstery has a pinstripe pattern, there’s leather trim on the steering wheel and gear lever, and the finishing touch is orange stitching throughout.
This is no mere cosmetic revamp, however. While the rest of the range continues with the familiar 101bhp 1.3-litre petrol engine, this new flagship Jazz comes with a 128bhp 1.5-litre unit.
What that all amounts to is a list price of £17,155, making the Sport the most expensive version of the Jazz – which is already one of the more expensive superminis in this class. So, what do you get for your money?
Well, what you certainly do not get is a hot hatch. At a time when the engines in the Volkswagen Polo GTI and forthcoming Ford Fiesta ST are knocking out the best part of 200bhp, the 128bhp output of the Jazz Sport looks distinctly modest.
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Image 6 of 11
Instead, it’s best to think of it as just a relatively warm hatch that rivals the likes of the Fiesta ST-Line, Polo R-Line and SEAT Ibiza FR. What the Sport lacks in outright performance, the engine makes up for with a willingness to rev; and, although peak torque only arrives at a lofty 4,600rpm, there’s just enough pull at low revs to ensure you’re not embarrassed when the lights turn from red to green.
In fact, that basic nippiness, allied to the car’s size, sweet gearchange and light steering, mean it’s quite good fun around town. It even has a suitably rorty and sporty note to its exhaust when you accelerate hard. The one downside is that the ride is a little firmer than on other versions of the Jazz, but it’s never unbearable.
Once you get out of town, that relative lack of torque low-down in the rev range is more obvious; and, you soon instinctively start dropping down a gear to keep the revs up, which is when the engine is working at its best and responds the most keenly. This could both entertain and frustrate, depending on your preference.
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Image 8 of 11
To make matters worse, once the initial exhaust rortiness subsides, it begins to sound quite coarse. You might expect to be able to escape the noise on the motorway, but thanks to the short gears, the engine is still pulling high revs at typical motorway speeds and making a fair old din. As a result, a long journey could well end up being pretty tiring.
The Jazz can entertain on the right roads, then, but there are more complete warm superminis that are more engaging to drive. Yes, the Jazz handles securely and doesn’t roll too much when you corner enthusiastically, but it doesn’t have the blend of comfort and agility of, say, a Fiesta or Ibiza, and the steering that’s quick and easy around town feels rather lifeless when you’re pushing harder.
At least you don’t lose what is most appealing about the Jazz in the Sport: its space and practicality. This is a surprisingly big small car, with more space inside than many cars from the class above: you could happily carry four adults inside, and even five at a push. Excellent visibility also makes it easy to park and place in town.
However, all of this is also available in cheaper version of the Jazz; and we can’t help thinking that they will make rather more sense for more people than the Sport.
- Price: £17,155
- Engine: 1.5-litre 4cyl petrol
- Power/torque: 128bhp/155Nm
- Transmission: 6 speed manual, front-wheel drive
- 0-62mph: 8.7 seconds
- Top speed: 118mph
- Fuel economy/CO2: 47.9mpg, 133g/km
- On sale: Now
New Honda Jazz Sport 2018 review