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By Jonathan Crouch
Added 10th July, 2020
Honda's fourth generation Jazz supermini delivers more of a lifestyle feel in this Crosstar form. Jonathan Crouch takes a look.
There are so many compact SUV models now available on the used market that you wonder whether any of them can really offer anything different. Refreshingly, this HR-V does. It's a touch more spacious than other cars in this class, with superior practicality you can really make the most of thanks to the brilliantly flexible 'Magic Seat' system that offers MPV-style interior flexibility.
Alongside sophisticated design and class-leading safety, this set-up aims to justify premium pricing and if for you it does, then there's plenty else to like about this Honda. Essentially, this second generation HR-V is everything its predecessor should have been, attractive, refined - and efficient too, courtesy of the diesel engine option the MK1 model ought to have had but never got. That car was very much about style over substance. Here, in contrast, buyers are offered a much more complete product. It will appeal to those in search of the cleverest and classiest car of this kind from its era. For these people, this car will, in Honda's own words, be 'precisely, pleasingly perfect'.
'Kaizen', the Japanese approach to 'continuous improvement', characterises every aspect of this revised tenth generation Honda Civic. The smarter styling is welcome, but otherwise, it's as you were. The sharp handling is a selling point, as in this MK10 model's spacious interior. And it's made a big difference that Honda has finally got its house in order when it comes to petrol power, the 1.0 and 1.5-lite VTEC TURBO units good enough to go up against the class best.
A lot of boxes have been ticked then, yet it's clear that Honda has also worked hard to maintain this car's more characterful approach in this segment. Add in British build quality, a great driving position and strong standards of safety and media connectivity and you've got a potentially very appealing package. Dynamic functionality was Honda's goal in creating this car. They may well have achieved it.
Honda does things differently - and we can't help liking that. Whether the model in question is a Civic, a Clarity fuel cell vehicle or a Type R hot hatch, you'll find that it's been uniquely engineered and packaged - as is the case with this Jazz. This always used to be the supermini that motoring experts would recommend as the small car they'd buy with their own money. For us, it still is. We're not blind to its failings. Other class competitors are more refined and offer higher quality cabins with more sophisticated infotainment. But none of them can get near the interior flexibility made possible by this Honda's neat 'Magic Seat' flexibility and tardis-like cabin. We'd go as far as to say that in many ways, this supermini is a more practical choice than many Focus-segment family hatchbacks from the next class up.
As for the changes made to this third generation model, well to be frank, they don't greatly alter its sales proposition. The uptake on this top 1.5-litre 'Sport' variant was low and beneath it in the range, the package remained pretty much as it had been since 2015. Just as well then, that the packaging of this design remained so difficult to beat. By 2017, rivals had become classier, more dynamic and more up-market. Whether they're also better where it really matters though, is quite another question. For its loyal, dedicated band of buyers, this Jazz always will be. Try one and you'll understand.
Ultimately, what's important about this tenth generation Civic is the way it showed us how Honda has changed. This is now a brand able to continually develop cars people might really want to buy, as opposed to models that many of them would merely find technically intriguing. And a company able to understand the wants and needs of people beyond its home shores. With this MK10 design, it was finally clear that in both these areas, at long last, Honda had got the message.
'Kaizen', the Japanese approach to 'continuous improvement', characterises every aspect of this model's development. Or almost every aspect anyway. What was lost along the way was the unique loading versatility for tall items that previous Civics offered thanks to their clever 'Magic Seat' set-up. We miss that and think a lot of owners loyal to previous versions of this Honda will too, especially given that for this tenth generation range, the 'Tourer' estate body style was deleted. Still, this Japanese brand had to reach out beyond these people and the pay-off with this car's fresh interior configuration - space for more sophisticated suspension delivering an exceptionally compliant standard of ride - ended up giving this interestingly-orientated family hatch a wider appeal. Not everyone is so enthusiastic about this car's styling, but if you like it, you'll probably love it. What's not in question is the huge step forward this car took beneath the bonnet. Both the mainstream VTEC Turbo petrol engines more than make the grade - and it's been a long time since we've been able to say that about a Civic.
There's plenty else we were impressed with too; the huge boot, a brilliantly-slick manual gearbox and the sheer uncompromising purpose of the top Type-R hot hatch variant. True, interior quality isn't quite a match for best-in-class rivals, but the cabin's a lot easier to like and this Civic's a lot bigger inside than it used to be. Plus of course, this car was built in Britain - for what that's worth. In short, this model, at long last, came of age in this form, finally a car with sense on its side, yet one that retained at least a little of the kind of Honda charisma that every Civic ought to have. It made its segment a more interesting place.
Honda's HR-V 1.5 Turbo Sport brings a bit of 'hot hatch' to the small SUV segment. Jonathan Crouch tries it
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