2008 Honda Jazz Review - Best now Better

The new Honda Jazz is now trickling into Honda dealers around Thailand, and is available for test drive. Having taken the car out to see how it drives, I'd like to share my opinions.

2008 Honda Fit - Yellow

Although the Thai press has already reviewed the car, the Jazz they tested wasn't a Jazz, but a Fit, complete with 4-wheel-drive and some other features not present on the Thai car, including run-flat tires.

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As far as packaging go, the new Jazz is pretty much the same as the 1st generation model, with only minor evolutionary changes, all of which seem to offer slight improvements in practically. The car is also slightly larger, and this has translated into a slightly larger interior also.

All of this is actually much better news that it might sound. You see, the first Jazz was so well thought out and implemented that in the seven years since it was launched, nothing has come close in the super-mini segment.

And since the outgoing Jazz was ahead of the game to this day, news that the new Jazz is only slightly better just means it is that little bit further from the closest rivals.

Comfort has been improved thanks to better seats front and rear, now offering thicker padding, and better support. The front seats are particularly good. Rear seats now have headrests that can fold below the shoulder line, allowing the rear seats to fold flat in a 60/40 split. In the old Jazz the front seats had to be moved out of the way first.

The rear seat backs can now also be reclined slightly. The driver seat can be hight adjusted, and most people should have little trouble finding a comfortable driving position.

The car has grown slightly too, but it doesn't feel much bigger than the old Jazz, which was already roomy for a small car. I had no difficulty fitting into the Jazz, and with the drivers seat moved right back along the rails, I was reasonably comfortable. (I'm around 185 cm tall.) As with the old Jazz, there is loads of headroom and the car feels much bigger than the Toyota Yaris.

Behind the wheel

The model I tested was the top of the range SV AT which is priced at THB 695,000. Although this seems like a lot of money for a small car, and it is, there are probably enough goodies to make it tempting. More on that later.

I found the driving position to be immediately comfortable, and after taking a few seconds to adjust the mirrors and familiarise myself with the controls I turned the key and the 120 hp 1.5 litre engine instantly came alive and then went completely silent. I actually had to check the rev-counter to be sure that it was still running.

The Jazz has electronically assisted power steering. Basically this means that the level of assistance offered by the system can be adjusted depending on speed. At low speeds, the steering is very light, parking and slow speed driving effortless. As you speed up however, the assistance reduces, and therefore the steering gets heavier, allowing for better procession and control at higher speeds. This works very well. Perhaps the biggest advantage of this system is the savings in fuel consumption offered over conventional power steering.

The Jazz feels at home in Bangkok traffic, and this is where I drove it. The first real difference over the old Jazz is the transmission which is now a more conventional 5-speed unit, replacing the CVT system in the outgoing model. Under acceleration the old Jazz had no shifting as the CVT just adjusted continually to keep the optimum ratio at all times. This meant very smooth power delivery and also helped conserve fuel.

But, the new Jazz has a very smooth 5-speed transmission, although you do know it is changing cogs. The top model includes Civic style paddles on the steering wheel to allow manual gear selection. This is a very cool feature for a car in this price range, and it is very well implemented.

Power has been increased to 120hp, up from 110hp in the old model. Bearing in mind that the CVT made the old model feel slower than it actually was (no stepping, just linear acceleration), the new engine offers significantly improved performance. Flooring the accelerator will result in the 1.5 litre i-VTEC unit getting a little grumpy, but the forward momentum that follows is pretty impressive for a small car.

Apart from the slightly raspy engine note under hard acceleration, the little engine is actually very refined and, with everything feeling extremely responsive, the result is a very easy and pleasant drive.

The ride is quite firm, but settled and quiet. The road surface I was driving on was poor, and I'd say the Jazz did a good job dealing with it. The SV model has 16" wheels, and lower profile tires, which probably don't work quite as well as the standard 15" rims offered on the rest of the range when it comes to soaking up bumps in Bangkok roads.

Instrumentation is very clear, and the ergonomics are very good. The Jazz now includes a trip display similar to the CR-V, which includes a real-time fuel-consumption meter. When cruising at 60km/h the meter showed 20-22km/l, while under acceleration this figure dropped below 10km/l. The test car had achieved an average of just 6km/l, but this is based on short test runs where most people want to push the car to see what it'll do.


The Jazz is a very nice car. Some materials don't feel the best, but everything feels very well put together. The new Jazz might only be a collection of little improvements over the old model, but there are so many little improvements, that the result is a substantially better car.

I'd go as far as to say that the Jazz is the best small car on the market in Thailand, and thanks to E20 pricing it is even better value than before. Although the range starts at THB 550,000 for the S MT model, jumping to THB 587,000 for the S AT, most will be looking to the V AT at THB 620,000 automatic model, while those requiring safety features like airbags and seatbelt pretensioning will be looking to the V AT (SRS) at THB 640,000. ABS brakes with EBD and BA are standard across the range.

At THB 695,000 the SV AT (SRS) has enough features to make it worth the THB 55,000 premium over the V AT (SRS) model. Paddle shift manual mode gear change, steering wheel mounted audio controls, 16" alloy wheels, electrically folding mirrors with integrated turn lamps, map lamps (can you believe this is only available on the top model), and driver seat arm rest.

But, as good as the Jazz is, you might want to pay attention to the Ford Feasta and Mazda 2, both due next year.

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