Honda's most successful supermini, the Jazz/Fit has grown taller, bigger and more chunky into its 2nd generation. It looks more like a ultra-compact minivan/MPV and would have been one if it has third row seatings. In fact, it is more akin to a monoblock hatch now, rather than the 2-box design of its predecessor.
What's new to this Jazz replacement model is the updated 1.5L motor which currently beats with Honda's famed i-VTEC variable cam-lift-and-timing trickery. In Malaysia, and much of ASEAN market - the JDM Fit still has CVT - its driveline is now a more conventional 5-speed A/T torque converter 'box. Honda claims that the local motoring crowd prefers a more 'exhilarating' aka 'sportier' drive (feel) associated with regular auto tranny. I leave it to you to be the judge of character here, because I definitely missed the smoothness of the previous CVT.
Though the uprated engine has higher output of 120ps enabling reasonable zippiness on the go, the 'new' 5 A/T was a tad too busy hunting gears, constantly wanting to get into the L15's powerband. And I have to say the exhaust ding of hollow notes and the booming engine as it gets past 5,000rpm were quite atypical of a modern Honda motor. One my close motoring pal (an editor) attribute this to the new catalytic converters in the exhaust system (meeting stricter emissions standards) "gagging" the powerplant but whatever it is, it was sensed to have lower NVH after I pumped up the volume of the audio system. Yes, with louder music cancelling or drowning out the nasty (somewhat Korean-ish and Toyota Vios-esque) hoarseness and roughness of its drivetrain, the Jazz was indeed sweeter to drive. And I dare say this has nothing to do with any particular song or upbeat audio soundtrack!
In all fairness, the Jazz has pretty decent handling and is sure footed around bends. Ride comfort is also good with predictable body roll. Interior space is wonderful and there are plenty of cubbyholes. Practical and versatile, no doubt about that. Boot space is very decent for a B-segment hatch (vs my wife's Mitsu Colt). While the interior plastics are nothing to shout about, especially in contrast to the almost similar-priced Civic 1.8S (CKD), Honda still has got the touch to making its textured plastic trims looked soft and thus, deceptively more premium than it really is.
Like I have said before in the teaser post earlier, this new Jazz will pretty much sums up (read: a preview) how the all-new City would behave on our roads come 2009. The Jazz' new 1.5 i-VTEC lump seemed lethargic and is caught easily breathless in 'D' mode. Flick the gear lever into 'S', the drivetrain gets a tad too highly strung, and can be heard protesting quite a bit as you stretch it to the redline, though palpably quicker getting there in this sportier shift program.
Get this only if you want the rarity of owning a piece of a fashion/lifestyle statement from Honda. Otherwise, wait for the new City. Here's hoping that the lengthier exhaust system (piping, mufflers et al) in the 3rd generation Honda City will smoothen things out a little bit.
Mini pictures gallery: click on pictures to enlarge