If you are like me, and spent countless hours honing your driving skills on the Playstation driving simulator, Gran Turismo 6, it’s very likely you have heard of the Honda Jazz RS. It’s usually the starter car one chooses when embarking on their virtual racing career - and from personal experience – it’s hard to let go off even when you have a virtual garage full of cars.
For 2018, South Africa finally gets the sporty Jazz. While it’s called a “RS” in Asian markets, it gets the ‘Sport’ name here, to fit in line with the nomenclature first seen with the Civic Sport. Sure Jazz’s have always been the preserve of ‘mature’ individuals, Honda is hoping this ‘warm hatch’ offering – their first into the growing subcompact hatchback market – will entice younger buyers with its cool cabin, premium quality, sporty looks, and enthusiastic performance.
Speaking of performance, the biggest talking point of the Jazz Sport is what is under its hood - a new high-tech 1.5-litre petrol engine that is unique to the Jazz Sport. The four-cylinder DOHC motor features Honda’s patented and proven i-VTEC system and produces maximum outputs of 97kw at 6,600rpm and 155nm at a somewhat peaky 4,600rpm. If you’re a Honda-nut, you will recall that some of the 90s most legendary Honda’s like the Ballade 160e, and the CRX, were powered by a D-series DOHC motor that actually produced 97kw as well. The Jazz Sport stays true to the Honda tradition of a rev-happy naturally-aspirated motor, paired with a lightweight body. So much so that the Jazz Sport tips the scales at just 1,066kgs, for a CRX-rivalling power-to-mass ratio of 91kw/ton.
While the European market gets a 6-speed manual as standard equipment, our Jazz Sport comes with only one transmission option – the new Earth Dreams CVT gearbox – which thankfully has a 7-speed manual override. Being a CVT, with a wide spread of ratios, its actually pretty brisk off the line, hitting 100kph from standstill in just 9.8 seconds. But like most CVTs, the unit does buzz a little under heavy throttle. Not that the CVT is a bad one, but in something as fun to drive as the Jazz, a manual just makes more sense.
For a small, light car, the Jazz rides really well. It does get a little jittery over certain bumps, but overall bumps are well handled, especially since the car only weighs just over a ton. The suspension is firmly sprung by all accounts, which means you may end up driving it too hard at times, and treating it a bit like a go-kart, which is what we did on a make-shift gymkhana course. It’s an easy car to live with though. Its small size and high seating position makes for easy driving in any situation.
Honda has always had a tendency to incorporate futuristic design into its interiors, and the Jazz Sport is no different. One feature that’s a bit different for the Jazz compared to its competitors is the completely flat dashboard – there are no knobs at all. Standard equipment includes a 6.8-inch Honda Connect infotainment system, climate control, cruise control, a reverse parking camera, keyless entry and go, and a host of safety gadgets including six airbags and every acronym from ABS to EBD to ESS to HSA to VSA.
Honda has given the cabin the once over with the ‘Sport’ treatment, with the orange stitching on the steering wheel, gear-selector, front centre armrest and the seats creating a stark contrast to the somewhat dark-themed cabin. Reinforcing the sporty look on the inside are aluminium pedals that are also exclusive to the range-topper. There are some hard plastics however, but being a Honda, it’s generally made of high-quality materials, and fit and finish is top notch.
But a Jazz wouldn’t be a Jazz if it didn’t have that rather special claim to fame - a marvelously flexible interior - and the famed Magic seats remain a highlight in the new Sport. Through clever packaging, Honda has managed to create an interior that is capable of carrying four people in complete comfort. Riding on the same platform as the HR-V compact crossover, the 4 metre long Sport’s MPV-like styling means there’s 359 litres of available boot space with the rear seats in place. But drop the seats, and there is a cavernous 889 litres of loading space.
From the side view, the Jazz Sport’s wedge shape warrants its aerodynamic appeal. The high roofline and slightly curvy shape are clear to see and create a bullet like shape when viewed from the side. The sporty grill and new headlights give the car a sharper look from the front, while the new rear wing spoiler certainly adds to its street credentials. Apart from LED lights all-round, the Sport gets bespoke bumpers incorporating faux-carbon aero bits, new side skirts, a new rear diffuser, unique Berlina black 16-inch alloy wheels, and black-coloured mirrors.
Available in a choice of seven vibrant colours: White Orchid Pearl, Lunar Silver Metallic, Shining Grey Metallic, Milano Red, Brilliant Sporty Blue Metallic, Skyride Blue Metallic, and Helios Yellow Pearl, the Jazz Sport is priced at R310 000 - identical pricing to the Jazz Dynamic CVT it replaces. Inclusive in the price is a comprehensive five-year/200 000 km warranty and a four-year/60 000 km service plan, as well as a three-year AA Roadside Assistance package.