REVIEW | The 2020 Honda Jazz Sport is woefully out of tune

20 February 2020 - 07:00 By Brenwin Naidu
The Honda Jazz Sport feels like an opportunity missed - especially with a CVT gearbox.
The Honda Jazz Sport feels like an opportunity missed - especially with a CVT gearbox.
Image: Supplied

Honda seems to be faring pretty steadily in the local scene. That statement needs to be qualified with perspective, of course. Looking at sales figures from December, 2019, they managed to sell 425 units.

Not as unremarkable as countrymen Subaru, with its 53 vehicles, or Mitsubishi, with its figure of 91. Meanwhile, Mazda tallied 838 and Suzuki managed 1010, third after Isuzu and Toyota if we are comparing Japanese brands only.

Accounting for the bulk of sales was the Amaze compact sedan. It might not leave your mouth agape and your eyes twinkling with delight, as the name implies, but it offers good, honest and affordable mobility. The BR-V with its seating for seven was the next popular (109), followed by the HR-V (68) and then the Jazz, of which 56 were reported sold during that period.

We can bet you that only a handful of those were the so-called Sport model, which we tested last week. Sitting at the top of the model range, the flagship Jazz left us scratching our heads with its lofty asking price (R338,900) and character that was decidedly far away from the promise of the badge stuck on the tailgate.

The interior is on the bland side but comes equipped with a reasonable amount of features.
The interior is on the bland side but comes equipped with a reasonable amount of features.
Image: Supplied

But before we continue, let us preface this by saying that the Jazz, in isolation, is a product that one can recommend. Well-built, spacious, stylish and bound to be endlessly reliable, in all three of its generations the model has attracted a loyal following. But this particular example is one to stray away from.

They besmirched the virtue of a Jazz by bestowing upon it sporting credentials that are about as genuine as a website banner offering easy online MBA degrees. Admittedly, the aesthetic additions look the part: this is one fit-looking Jazz, with its aerodynamic trinkets, striking accents and black alloys.

Those are shod with 185/50 R16 tyres, a slightly lower profile than what you would get on the 1.5 Elegance model, which is a spot below on the rung. This had a noticeable effect on ride comfort, endowing the Jazz with added firmness.

On paper, the figures from its 1498cc, normally-aspirated, four-cylinder engine look enticing, especially mindful of the 1066kg weight. It produces 97kW and 155Nm, just a bit more than that 1.5 Elegance we mentioned.

A peaky 1.5-litre engine is crying out for a short-ratio six-speed transmission.
A peaky 1.5-litre engine is crying out for a short-ratio six-speed transmission.
Image: Supplied

And maybe those athletic pretences could have been more convincing if it had the right gearbox, perhaps with a clutch pedal. But Honda went and fitted a continuously-variable transmission. Allow me to spare you the old diatribe – you know what this variety is like.

That said it has certain, well-suited applications. But a car purporting some modicum of dynamism and engagement is not one. The Jazz Sport drones painfully under hard acceleration, to the point where it sounds broken. Hardly music to the ears. Best to just feather the throttle and finesse it along gently, instead of trying to hurry it along in a manner that it was clearly not really designed for.

Luckily, the Jazz line comprises other grades that represent far better sense and, more importantly, better value. If the choice were mine, I would have the middle-range 1.2 Comfort manual for R263,700, a specification that best complements what the Jazz was made for from the outset.


X