HERE’s a quiet tribute to engineering excellence.
Many moons ago, I was a front-seat passenger in a Honda Accord, a new-ish, high-mileage petrol model. Waiting at traffic lights, I asked the driver if the engine had cut out. The reply was ‘no’, and I leaned over for a peep at the rev counter for confirmation. The car was, indeed, ticking-over but so quietly and smoothly that I thought it had stopped running. It was an introduction to just how well-engineered are the Japanese manufacturer’s cars.
Fast forward some years (not telling you how many) and I re-lived that experience, but this time behind the wheel.
I was driving a Honda Jazz Si and, once again at the lights, was whisked back to that Accord moment, so quiet was the engine. I thoroughly enjoyed my week with the five-door supermini, a 1.4-litre petrol-engined model, and I’m not alone in that pleasure as more than 3.5 million have been sold worldwide.
Built in In Honda’s manufacturing plant in Swindon alongside the rest of the Jazz range, the Si is based on the 1.4 ES manual variant, but with additional sports-inspired features … front and rear sport bumpers and side skirts, and handsome 16in diamond-cut alloy wheels, plus privacy glass, front fog lights and Si branding on the boot.
To ensure the Si has substance as well as style, revised suspension settings have been adopted. New dampers are combined with a larger front anti-roll bar to improve straight-line stability and body control. The electric power steering system has also been modified for improved feel and response. There are smart, supportive black and silver cloth-trimmed sports seats in the high-specification cabin, which feels light and roomy, with great visibility helped by slim A-pillars, a large windscreen and front quarter windows.
The car certainly ticks the box marked ‘versatility’, with 2:1split rear seats, known as Magic Seats because of the ease with which they offer multiple seating and load-carrying configurations, dropping down in one motion without the need to remove the headrests or adjust the front passenger seat position.
Want to haul, say, a surfboard, or two 26in frame mountain bikes stood upright, or flat pack furniture? Send for the Jazz. Boot capacity is 379 litres with rear seats up and 883 litres with those seats down. There’s a generous helping of equipment, with features including cruise control, auto climate control, the aforementioned seat system, Bluetooth, CD tuner with RDS and auxiliary socket, USB (iPod compatible), leather trimmed steering wheel with audio controls, cooled glove box, electric, heated, retractable mirrors with indicators and front fog lights.
On the safety front, features include anti-lock brakes, electronic brakeforce distribution, emergency brake assist, vehicle stability assist and a traction control system. The driving experience is rewarding, with comfortable ride and assured handling, smooth power and a slick five-speed manual gearbox.
Fit and finish is first class in a car that is compact on the outside, while spacious and versatile on the inside.
Make/model: Honda Jazz Si 1.4 I-VTEC
Technical: 1339cc, 99bhp, four cylinder petrol engine with five-speed manual gearbox.
Performance: 0-62mph, 11.8 seconds; top speed, 113mph
Fuel: 50.4mpg (combined).
Price: £14,760 OTR
For more info visit www.honda.co.uk/cars