2011 Honda Jazz Hybrid & CVT

Thursday 20th January, 2011
Today, I was very kindly invited to attend the Honda UK press launch of their new 2011 Honda Jazz models.
With reductions in CO2 output and improved fuel economy across the range, the key changes in the range are the additions of both a CVT model (replacing the relatively unpopular I-drive) and the new flagship 1.3 IMA hybrid.

Whether it's taking your child to the shops, or a trip to Ikea, there is usually a time during car ownership where cargo space is important and it's good to see the Jazz, and its "magic seats", pretty flexible in this department. With official boot capacity of 335 litres (plus 64 more in an underfloor cubby), the Jazz 1.4 CVT can be expanded to 883 litres, without blocking the excellent view from the mirror or 1320 litres if you open it to the roof.

The Jazz 1.3 IMA CVT adds hybrid technologies to the popular Jazz model. Unless purpose built, adding a load of rechargeable batteries and an electric motor to a car design can have a serious impact on practicality but Honda have managed to squeeze the IMA hybrid system into the vehicle almost seamless without ruining the versatility that has made the car one of the most popular in its sector. With the seats up, to allow a little for battery space and ventilation, capacity is only marginally reduced to 300 litres and, if you fold the seats, the hybrid model offers exactly the same capacity as the standard Jazz.

Adding the IMA hybrid power train increases fuel economy from 40.9mpg, for the CVT, to 61.4 - a massive 50% improvement. There's also a significant CO2 reduction, dropping from 128g/km for the 1.4 EX CVT to 104g/km for the hybrid models. Honda have worked very hard for these gains - improved aerodynamics, lighter alloy wheels and even a change in brake caliper design have contributed. Perhaps most visible was a change in tyres, which saw the Dunlops on the CVT replaced by Michelin Energy Saver tyres, decreasing rolling resistance and improving economy.

104g/km is going to be a major discussion point with this car - it even was in the press conference. The lower figure of 100g/km has become the Holy Grail of emissions standards, allowing the car to qualify for the lowest tax and London congestion charge exemption even if it's a stinky diesel. The Jazz lies just outside this benchmark and many comparisons were inevitably drawn to the Toyota Auris HSD which, although not a true Jazz competitor (the Auris is C segment, Jazz is B segment with the Yaris), offers significantly lower CO2 emissions of 89/km and qualifies for the London Congestion Charge exemption.

Most journalists (from the sample I have witnessed) think this was a mistake and feel that Honda should have made efforts to reduce this to required levels. Honda explained that this was obviously achievable, but doing so would compromise the design rules of the car. To achieve a lower emissions objective, the car would have required a larger, heavier, battery back along with a larger motor. Both of these could easily have resulted in a car that has a big chunk taken out of the boot space, as is the case in the Auris which even struggles to fit a bottle of beer under the parcel shelf.

I think Honda got it completely right here. If I didn't need the boot space, I simply wouldn't buy a Jazz - the sporty CR-Z offers a considerably more fun drive for buyers like that. Sure, if I drive in the ever shrinking London congestion charge zone, then I might appreciate exemption and avoid the Honda options but how many potential buyers of this car will that truly affect? I'm told that just 1 in 6 new car purchases in Great Britain are influenced by the London congestion charge. Most of the British population do not live in London and never travel there. For the 5 out of 6 buyers who simply don't care about it, I'm one of those with my hand in the air asking for a bigger boot, not a congestion charge exemption. The Jazz hybrid is already around £3000 cheaper than the Auris HSD, which means I'd have to drive into London 300 times before the Jazz wasn't the best option for me and, with the boot capacity, I can actually close the boot lid of the Jazz with my baby's pram inside.

Honda don't just sell this car in the UK, they don't just sell it in Europe - it's a global model and, in a vast majority of those markets, a 4g/km variance makes no difference at all. Even in the UK we're only talking £10/yr difference in car tax. With my eco hat on, they're presenting an excellent option to families and Ikea shoppers who need a family sized hatchback and don't want to be forced into diesel ownership to get performance and low CO2 emissions.

You'll find some photos I took at the event here

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