Having overlooked the popular Jazz RS at launch, we confirm its credentials during a rigorous extended trial.

Collection  A brand-new Honda Jazz awaits. We accept the key, noting its perfect condition and impeccable presentation. The RS badge signifies an injection of Honda’s sporting DNA and it’s reflected in more dynamic styling at either end, attractive alloy wheels, and a smallish-diameter steering wheel wrapped in leather. It instantly delights as the primary touchpoint, more so than the slightly ponderous central infotainment screen.

100km  So far, so very good. First impressions are overwhelmingly positive. Ease of use is outstanding with keyless entry and starting, all controls are logically arranged, and proper buttons and dials for the air-con are a cinch to adjust on the move. Steering weight and accuracy is a particular delight, the brakes are easy to apply smoothly, and we’re yet to drop a single bar on the fuel gauge without striving for optimal economy.

200km  We’ve cycled through the drive modes in an urban environment and made frequent use of the wheel-mounted paddle shifters. Eco mode has become our ‘best of both worlds’ default for its outstanding efficiency and perfectly adequate performance. Slipping the transmission lever from D to B amplifies the regenerative braking feel and promotes battery charging. A light throttle prolongs battery-only running and is rewarding to the point of being addictive.

300km  48 hours in and 300km completed, many of them driven in near-silence at up to 50km/h, or in 80km/h zones with the petrol engine gently running. Yes, there’s a gruffness when the electric generator rumbles into action but transitions between propulsion types are always smooth and predictable. Front seats are generous in size, offer good under-thigh support and would be truly comfortable over distance if there was more support in the lumbar region. More lateral support is required if they are to be considered ‘sports seats’.

400km  By now we’ve noticed so many current-shape Jazz models on the road that our grey-coloured tester only stands out for its gleaming newness. Cars from earlier Jazz generations flood main centres, testament to the popularity of these cars as urban workhorses. Repeat owners we encounter routinely report unfailing dependability and praise the tardis-like sense of space thanks to sliding, flat-folding (and flip-up) rear seats and generous cabin width.

500km  We’re halfway to our odometer goal and the RS hasn’t put a foot wrong. We’ve had the chance to carry plenty of speed at times and aim the car at a fair few corners and have been rewarded with very tidy, satisfying handling. The hybrid hardware contributes to a kerb weight of 1320kg and with wheels pushed to the corners, the RS feels planted for a small car, a real bonus at motorway speeds. Given the mildly sporting suspension flavour, 55-profile Yokohama rubber on 16-inch wheels feels right: this Jazz steers beautifully, grips well and rides just fine with a light bump-thump over expansion joints and the like.

600km  We’ve finally made use of all the space, from the dual gloveboxes and dash-mounted cupholders to the various storage cubbies, including that concealed beneath the boot floor (ideal for camera and laptop concealment). Tall rear-seat passengers are easily accommodated without driver or front passenger having to compromise their positions. Everyone enjoys outstanding headroom, elbowroom and legroom, putting passenger comfort on a par with some small-to-medium SUVs.

700km  Apparently the rear magic seats can be configured in 18 ways with the 60-40 split no doubt doubling the options. With the rear seats upright, luggage space is modest, but with the seatbacks perfectly flat, loadspace is cavernous. The simplicity of the seat design and the ease with which you can create a flat floor are strong selling points. A solid ‘A’ grade for versatility, then, and close to an A for value. It does seem like $37,600 well spent.

800km  The Jazz RS continues to be engaging to drive and the instrument display is a constant point of reference for monitoring battery charge, powertrain efficiency and remaining range, which now sits at 250km. Another plus-point is that the driver assistance warnings that occasionally flash up on the panel are not intrusive and the calibration of the systems, while erring on the safe side, seems well suited for our Auckland driving environment.

900km  Could we live with a Jazz RS long-term? Definitely. We’re now convinced it’s a compelling small-car proposition, one in which we’d probably enjoy every drive. However, along with the front seat support issue, a few reservations have crept into the notebook. The panoramic forward-facing visibility is great but the height of the cowling at the screen base makes it hard to gauge where the nearside wheels are when parking beside a kerb. And that expansive front screen makes for a hot cabin when the sun is strong, putting some pressure on the air-con. Lastly, the colour palette is surprisingly limited for such a popular model.

1000km  The RS must return to Honda Cars having hit the 1000km milestone. Not only has it seamlessly slotted into our everyday driving lives, it’s managed to work its way under our skin. The parting of ways is not without regret. A brief fuel stop replenishes the 40L tank and restores the potential range to four figures. After a very light groom, the condition is indistinguishable from new. Our average economy figure stands at 4.0L/100km but we now know how to improve on this slightly without sacrificing comfort or impeding traffic flow. And we certainly wouldn’t turn down an opportunity to do so. In coming weeks there will be times when we would happily trade some of the performance of cars on our fleet for the practicality and fitness-for-purpose of the Jazz RS.


ENGINE 1498cc four-cyl petrol (78kW)

MOTOR 90kW / 253Nm electric


DRIVETRAIN Front-wheel drive

LENGTH 4.05m

WEIGHT 1320kg

WHEELS 16-inch alloy

TYRES 185/55 R16

0-100km/h 9.0 secs


FUEL CLAIM 3.8L/100km

PRICE from $36,700



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