It’s probably very clichéd, however, from the moment Honda New Zealand called to see if I would be interested in taking the new Jazz RS for a spin, all I could think about was the song from the 1975 musical, Chicago. Now, I’m not exactly what you’d call ‘a musical type of guy’ but I did see the movie and the tune obviously stuck so the name association obviously brought it all flooding back. So much so, in fact, that I think I was even humming it when they passed me the keys: “Start the car, I know a whoopee spot where the gin is cold but the piano’s hot.”
Anyway, we’re here to talk about the car, not the song, so this is what I thought (cue the muted jazz trumpet solo, five, six, seven, eight…).
Known overseas as the Fit, the Jazz is now in its third generation since its initial 2001 launch, plus it’s had a facelift and now, for the 2020 model, Honda has upped the popular five-door hatchback’s tech and infotainment too.
With its sub four-metre length and 1.7-metre width, the Honda Jazz RS is a compact vehicle that’s quite simply ideal for inner-city living. But, and I can’t stress this enough, with its 1.5-litre EarthDreams i-VTEC engine (97kW/155Nm), RS Sports Quick Ratio Steering and ‘magic’ seats (offering luggage space from 354 litres up to a whopping 1,324 litres), the Jazz is as versatile as an SUV and easier to park. It’s efficient too, running on 91 octane, the Jazz RS gives you 5.6L/100km and emits just 130g/km of CO2.
My model came in Milano red, it’s a striking colour, especially in the Kiwi sunlight, and contrasts well with the black RS exterior accents and bodykit. There are seven other colour options also available, some less sporty than others.
The RS’s sporty theme continues inside with contrast stitched trim, leather-appointed wheel and gear shifter, plus well-bolstered sports fabric seats that come complete with go-faster styling.
Overall, the interior trim is well-presented and rather modern. A mixture of rugged, hard wearing and practical materials where necessary and softer, more tactile-friendly finishes where you’d like them. The compact hatch comes loaded with driver and safety aids, most of which are standard (a great reason to buy a Jazz over an imported Fit) and the 2020 Jazz now has a brand new touch screen display system with a customisable interface and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, and Spotify too.
Living in the ‘burbs of Auckland’s North Shore meant that much of my review of the Jazz RS was undertaken on far from the confines of the inner-city, think more country than city slicker. This gave me ample opportunity to get to grips with the nippy hatchback’s strong chassis and have its 16-inch alloys turning at 100km/h. In truth, it handles the open road with confidence and although a little road-noisy, it’s more than happy to go on extended runs.
The Jazz RS employs Honda’s latest evolution of the CVT transmission which, according to them, provides a sportier drive with a more natural feel. I’m still not a huge fan of the way CVTs sound, but that’s a personal choice — apparently, there’s a six-speed manual option available, although I doubt it will be very popular as gear-changing is a dying art.
On the flip-side, the Jazz does come with paddle shifters behind the steering wheel. It provides the option to convert to seven-speed mode (seven-speed shift-able, seven-speed tiptronic, and so on), allowing longer gear hold. The shift logic in manual mode delivers quicker, firmer shifts than in fully automatic mode — it’s fun for a while, but I ended up just letting the CVT do its thing.
I used the Jazz RS excessively for just under a week and still returned it with a half tank of fuel. Shopping trips were a simple affair with bucket loads of cargo space that’s easy to load thanks to the hatchbacks low loading lip, plus the vehicle’s compact size meant parking within the usually snug spaces was a doddle.