Technically this new Jazz is a very different machine, a point that’s immediately obvious when you consider the powertrain. A hybrid for the very first time, this is a very, very complicated little machine, and, in that respect, some way ahead of any Fiesta. There are two electric motors (one ‘traction motor’, as Honda calls it, and one generator), a 1.5-litre, naturally-aspirated four-cylinder petrol engine, a lithium-ion battery pack and a clutch system that acts as the transmission. Put simply, the engine isn’t connected to the wheels, but instead turns the generator which then charges the battery and/or powers the traction motor that drives the wheels. Simple, right? Let’s move on…
The chassis is stronger than ever before, too, with twice the amount of high tensile steel but a weight reduction of 9kg. That means you’re more likely to walk away from a crash and there’s less flex in the spine of the car as you drive through a corner.
The driving experience is a little unusual at first, as with your foot hard on the accelerator the engine revs like it would if it were hooked up to a traditional auto (a step shift control logic, according to Honda) but the rest of the time it turns over at an rpm of its choosing to charge the battery. But it isn’t a bad experience – far from it – and given all that tech it is a very simple car to operate. The brake pedal feels a tad different from one time to the next, presumably because the brakes harvest energy and charge the battery, although there are many hybrids that are much, much worse, I can assure you.
Where does it struggle? The suspension feels sophisticated enough but the ride quality isn’t perfect. The whole car feels remarkably light on its toes (impressive considering the hybrid powertrain), not to mention more solid than before, but some breaks in the road have more of an impact than you’d want. And the steering, for want of a better phrase, doesn’t communicate anything at all. The throttle, once the engine revs drop back down after a burst of acceleration, takes a noticeable amount of time to wind back up again as well.