SA Roadtests 2011 Honda Jazz 1 4 CVT

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LEXUS GS GS 300h SE E-CVT Continuosuly Variable

2011 Honda Jazz 1.4 CVT

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This is the home of automobile road tests in South Africa. We drive South African cars, SUVs and LCVs under South African conditions. It also just happens that most of the vehicles we drive are world cars as well, so what you read here probably applies to the models you can get at home.

We drive the golden route in the Honda Jazz 1.4 Comfort CVT

This car is known as the Honda Fit in some markets

Grandmom s pickup or funky little car?

Published in Weekend Witness Motoring on Saturday July 30,2011

We ll have one of these, she said on settling herself in. WHY? we asked in block capitals like those you have just read, having driven it a hundred kilometres already. It s cute and I can see out nicely, she replied. Can t argue with that, I suppose…

The new Jazz has had a minor facelift, aimed at reducing its drag coefficient to improve fuel economy while mechanical tweaks have improved ride comfort, handling and steering feel. The legendary magic seats now have a recline facility on the rear backrests to add headspace and knee room for the comfort of taller passengers.

This is in addition to the wealth of storage options they facilitate. You can fold the rear seatbacks down, or slide each cushion forward first in order to create a completely flat loading space, or simply fold the cushions up and lock them in position for loading taller objects — a pot plant perhaps, or a folded wheelchair, or a couple of mountain bikes. OK, you have to take the front wheels off first, but you get the idea.

  The back doors open up to 80 degrees to make loading of clumsy items easier. You can even fold the front passenger seat to accommodate longer items like a small ladder or a couple of fishing rods without poking stuff out through windows. It s a way for Gran to get herself a pickup while telling the world she has a funky little car — which might explain why the retirement set love them so much.

Honda s design philosophy with its smaller cars is to create maximum people space within the set volume and to fit the mechanical bits into what s left over. This explains why one sits rather upright, as in a bus, but head, foot and knee space is more than adequate for everyone. There are also stacks of cup holders, storage nooks and crannies and even a pair of quite reasonable glove boxes.

This, we might add, in an age when passenger airbags have stolen most of the available space and rendered the majority of cubbies poorly shaped and effectively useless. How Honda retains the left airbag and keeps two glove boxes is a lesson others need to learn.

Adding to the Jazz s perennial appeal is the fact that it s easy to drive and park, thanks to excellent all-round visibility aided by additional little windows on the front and rear pillars.

The version we had for review recently is the 1.4 litre Comfort version fitted with constantly variable transmission (CVT). It s one step upward from the entry-level Trend model available in manual form only, but not quite as smart as Elegance or Executive derivatives that use the 1500 cc engine and come with a choice of either manual or conventional automatic transmissions. Put simply, if you want CVT you buy the 1400 cc Comfort .

According to Honda, CVT was brought back in response to overwhelming customer demand and some improvements were introduced. A torque converter was added to ensure smooth, strong performance at low speeds and, coupled with the use of low friction components, improve efficiency. Like a conventional automatic, the torque converter allows the Jazz to creep forward when in gear, but brakes not applied, improving control in parking manoeuvres. A slope sensor allows the transmission to decide when the car should gently creep forward.


This sensor reduces creep force with brakes activated while on a level surface, keeping engine loads low and virtually eliminating vibration. When a slope is detected, creep force returns to full operation to ensure engine load is sufficient for a smooth pull away from standstill.

The characteristics of the CVT have also been revised to improve both fuel efficiency and drivability. In Drive mode, the transmission has been calibrated to utilise the engine’s low speed torque characteristics to improve fuel consumption and reduce emission levels. A “kick-down” feature provides immediate “downshifts” when required for overtaking.

Selection of “Sport” mode has the effect of selecting a lower gear together with higher engine speed, favouring performance and response.

Paddle shifters behind the steering wheel allow manual control when required. When used in “D” mode, they can be used to downshift temporarily to a lower ratio, with the gearbox returning to automatic shifting afterwards. In “S” mode they give full manual control over the selection of seven predetermined gear ratios.

Unfortunately, like most other CVTs, this one does not react with the kind of razor-sharp enthusiasm one expects when the chips are down. Treating it roughly when circumstances demand immediate action results in much noise and response most politely described as delayed. This is true in both Drive and Sport modes. The only difference is that, if you are already in Sport mode, it doesn t have to kick down as many gears.

To summarise: The Honda Jazz 1.4 with CVT transmission is easy driving, versatile and spacious. Its forte is gentle perambulation around the suburbs or graceful driving on the occasional freeway, but to satisfy your inner teenager, get a manual.

The numbers

Price: R187 123

Engine: 1 339 cc SOHC iVTEC 16-valve

Power: 73 kW at 6 000 rpm

Torque: 127 Nm at 4 800 rpm

Zero to 100 km/h: 14,0 seconds

Maximum speed: 175 km/h

Average fuel consumption (claimed): 5,4 l/100 km

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