First Drive: 2018 Honda Jazz Sport

First Drive: 2018 Honda Jazz Sport

The Honda Jazz used to be a firm favourite in SA, selling hundreds every month, loved by everyone from school run mummies to runabout grannies and everyone in-between. Then the latest generation came along and the sales began to slow. Last year, Honda SA sold 1,237, a paltry number compared with a few years ago.

The latest generation looks good, but it lacks the solidity of previous generations. Now made in India, the exterior chrome feels cheap, as do many of the interior plastics. It lacks the overall feeling of quality and longevity that the Jazz has always been renowned for. The Jazz used to be a car we would regularly recommend. We still do, but we recommend the previous generation.

In an effort to improve the situation, Honda SA is bringing a bit of jazz to the Jazz. It has launched a Sport version to replace the Dynamic and it is built in Japan. A Sport version is not going to appeal so much to the older set but Honda wants to get back to luring people away from Volkswagen Polos and Renault Clios.

The Sport is also the first model in SA to get the mild facelift for the Jazz, which should filter across to other models in time. It boasts LED headlights, a sporty bodykit, 16-inch black Berlina wheels and a new direct injection, normally aspirated 1.5litre petrol engine. This means 9kW more than the former Dynamic at 97kW and an additional 10Nm of torque at 155Nm, all channelled to the front wheels through a continuously variable transmission (CVT) with shift paddles.

Interestingly, Honda makes a thing in its press blurb about the power output being similar to some of its iconic models of the 1990s like the CR-X and Ballade 160i. Rather odd considering it is 2018 and a car has come out with the same power as a car from the 1990s but we think we understand their rationale.

The sporty theme continues inside with red stitching on the seats, gearstick and leather-trimmed steering wheel as well as red accents to many of the main trim components.

The Sport gets the touchscreen infotainment system mounted inside one of the worst parts of the existing Jazz, the centre console, which just feels as though someone didn’t really care about the design and perception of quality.

On the road the suspension proved rather firm. Regular Jazz owners who might have been considering a Dynamic model are unlikely to appreciate the Sport. The styling is not overdone, but the ride comfort has been compromised in the interests of chasing a different buyer. The engine responds well enough but the word sport may be a bit of a stretch for those who might have been looking at slightly sporty variants of rivals.

Here the price also becomes an issue because at R310 000 the Jazz Sport ain’t cheap. Yes it has interior practicality with a clever seating system, lots of storage and a decent boot but it fails to really deserve its Sport accolade and is firmly beaten by cheaper models such as the Renault Clio GT-Line and new Volkswagen Polo R-Line.

While the Type-R might have hit the right note, I’m afraid the Jazz Sport just seems to be playing out of tune. – Mark Smyth