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Honda's fourth-generation Jazz is now on sale, with hybrid power and a more rugged Crosstar variant.
Centre airbag between driver and passenger, plus driver's knee airbag, front, side and curtain airbags, autonomous emergency braking with collision warning, intelligent speed limiter, lane departure warning with lane-keeping assistance, traffic sign recognition, electronic parking brake, electronic climate control, 'magic seat', Bluetooth with DAB, 5in dashboard screen, automatic headlights with high-beam assistance.
SE, SR, EX, EX Crosstar
Some of you might remember the Honda Jazz Hybrid. It was a variant of the second-generation Jazz, and offered lower CO2 emissions through its mild hybrid system.
Mild hybrids were uncommon in those days. It was Honda's preferred method of electrification, and used an electric motor to assist the engine during acceleration, and never powered the car alone.
Its CO2 emissions of 99g/km made it appealing to fleets with CO2 emissions caps set at 100g/km, and Honda had a strong presence among public sector organisations.
While Honda's electrification strategy went on hold after that model, it's back in full swing with the CR-V Hybrid launched last year and now with the new Jazz Hybrid.
Unlike the Jazz from two generations ago, the new model is a full hybrid - meaning it doesn't have a plug, but can run on electric-only for short distances, with the battery charged by the engine - and this is the only power choice available.
The Jazz has a different look from its predecessor. The third-generation Jazz had some similarities to the Civic and CR-V at the front, while the latest one does its own thing, with a vertical leading edge to the bonnet, and headlight units that sweep back towards the windscreen pillars.
There is also a Crosstar version, with lower, dark plastic styling and raised ground clearance, to appeal to those in the market for a Ford Fiesta Active.
All versions of the Jazz to date have maximised interior space by locating the fuel tank under the front seats. The fourth generation is no exception, and as a result it continues with Honda's flexible 'magic seats' design in the rear, where the lower seat cushions can be flipped upwards to accommodate tall items, or the seat-backs folded forward to offer up to 1,205 litres of volume to roof height.
Other small cars have improved in terms of the volume available in recent years, although the Jazz still has an advantage, as well as the flexibility its more versatile seats offer.
There is a transformation in front, with a neat digital instrument display in front of the driver. Our EX test cars had the full 9in dashboard screen with Garmin navigation, although anyone choosing the entry-level SE will just have a 5in screen with audio display. The mid-grade SR comes with the larger 9in screen but no integrated navigation, although it is compatible with Apple Carplay and Android Auto (unlike the SE), so the driver's preferred smartphone map apps would appear on the display.
All versions get the full suite of safety features - refreshing on a small car - including a new centre airbag between the driver and front passenger, which will ultimately become mandatory.
Visibility is pretty good, with the A-pillar forked, leaving a decent-sized window between the door frame and windscreen. The Jazz also uses a greater proportion of high-strength steel in its structure than its predecessor.
The Jazz Hybrid uses a 1.5-litre petrol engine in conjunction with electric power, the latter stored in a lithium-ion battery. It uses a CVT automatic, which many automotive writers hate (due to the high initial revs when accelerating and the disconnect with the car's speed), unlike customers, who don't seem to mind that much.
Hyundai and Kia have adopted a dual-clutch transmission for their hybrids, to make the driving experience more engaging, but the Jazz's CVT follows the Toyota and Lexus hybrid philosophy.
You can cause histrionics under the bonnet by flooring the accelerator for a burst of speed, although with a deft touch from low speeds it's possible to leave the engine in its slumber until needed. The revs soon subside as the car picks up speed, and for the most part the Jazz is very refined.
It also has decent handling that belies the stereotypical age profile people believe the car has. Steering into corners is always neat and composed, and there is excellent body control.
The Crosstar version, with extra suspension travel because of its higher ground clearance, is perhaps a bit more supple, but even its taller stature doesn't have a great impact on its handling prowess.
We intended to compare costs with other small cars that use a full hybrid powertrain. Toyota is launching a new Yaris, while Renault has recently opened orders for the Clio E-Tech. Unfortunately, as those cars hadn't been fully appraised by our running costs analysts just yet, we can't really do a full comparison. However, the Clio is a quicker car than the Jazz, with 140hp, using a 1.6-litre engine and drawing from Renault's Formula One heritage, as the current racing cars use a 1.6-litre hybrid powertrain. The Clio's CO2 emissions of 98g/km are slightly better than the Jazz', but any tax advantage for drivers might be offset by higher pricing - the entry-level Clio E-Tech is priced from £19,595 on-the-road.
The new Yaris Hybrid has even lower CO2 emissions, from 86g/km in the preliminary information, but with 91hp doesn't quite have the performance of the Jazz. With a lower price point likely, this could be more appealing from a costs and tax perspective, unless a driver needs the extra space of the Jazz.
Honda Jazz Hybrid SR
Residual value: 37%
Service, maintenance and repair: £1,488
Cost per mile: 30.9p
Fuel consumption: 62.8mpg
CO2 (BIK band): 102g/km
BIK 20/40% a month: £77/£155
Boot space: 304 litres
Engine size/power: 1,498cc/109hp
Spacious, fuel-efficient, safety features
Less elegant than some rivals, auto gearbox quirks