The instant fusion
Testing a hybrid automobile isn’t a very pleasurable experience for a motoring journalist and/or petrol-head. I would imagine it feels like a food critic having to evaluate an instant diet meal because the media alleges that we’re getting too fat and we’re running out of milk.
The car fanatic inside me wanted to put a big, fat scratch down the side of Honda’s new Jazz Hybrid but there was a problem: I love the Jazz. The motoring journalist part of me wanted to slate the toxic batteries, dirty construction and recycling issues but there was another problem: I like Hybrids.
Like. Not love. I don’t think that Hybrids are the future but I do believe that they’re a wonky step in the right direction. As soon as the poisonous battery issue has been solved, I’ll gladly remove the word “wonky”. I don’t mind electric helpers, as long as I can keep my internal combustion engine for occasional use.
Just like its bigger Insight stable mate, the Jazz offers an amazing mix of new-age hybrid witchcraft disguised by good old-fashioned versatility and sprinkled with some clever manipulation tactics. In short, two days into my weekly test I was driving the Jazz slower and more carefully than any senior citizen.
This behaviour alarmed most of my friends. A short demonstration put their minds at ease as to why I had been crawling around town at 44km/h: the Jazz (just like the Insight) encourages economic driving by means of multiple consumption and emission displays.
A consumption memory read-out records your last three trips, then there’s a hybrid cycle display, instant consumption meter, various averages and that stupid little screen with five plants in it. Drive like a hooligan and they gradually die. Drive like a saint and they grow back.
These items are stacked in a multi-function display inside the speedometer, which changes colour according to the inclination of your right foot. In close proximity sits a hybrid dial whose needle swings to “charge” or “assist” depending on your momentum and prevailing battery status.
It sounds like kid’s stuff but trust me, even yours truly with 95 Unleaded in his veins couldn’t resist pressing the ECO button and nurturing the five plants back to life. The cherry on top is, as mentioned before, that the Jazz is a great product and it drives like any other little car.
With the possible exception of its CVT (continually variable transmission) automatic gearbox; I could complain about the rubbery response or diabolical noise but the truth of the matter is this: the one-gear-fits-all principle suits the Hybrid Jazz perfectly.
There are paddles behind the funky multi-function steering wheel, but they simply simulate gear ratios and lose interest after a few seconds. The real advantage here is that the small 1.3 petrol motor gets a helping hand from the beefy electric motor to provide a continuous forward shove.
75kW (102hp) of combined power and 121Nm of total torque is enough to gently cruise along at 1,500rpm while everyone else is furiously stirring in their box of cogs. Once the petrol engine is warmed up, it will also shut down at traffic lights, thanks to its Start / Stop system.
This means that you’ll use an average of 4.4L/100km (we managed 6.4) and only emit 105g CO2/km. 0-100km/h takes 12.2 seconds (we managed 10.9) and top speed lies around 175km/h. Our figures tell their own story: the Hybrid Jazz was slightly faster and thirstier than we expected.
You could argue that a small Turbo-diesel will equal or better those figures, and you’d be right. But a small cluck-cluck won’t be as smooth and emissions-wise as the little Honda. The tractor motor might have more torque, but you’d be amazed at how brawny and instant the Hybrid’s power delivery is… no turbo hole.
As for the actual car and interior, I’m not going to bother with it much as I’m running out of space. The Honda Jazz is unbelievably versatile, well spec’d and well built. It’s much bigger inside than you imagine, the steering is light and fluffy, it turns 180 degrees in just 5.4 meters and has good road manners.
The Hybrid Jazz is unfortunately just as expensive as its siblings and just manages to be Namibia’s cheapest Hybrid at N$239,900. Included in the price are a three-year 100,000km warranty and a four-year 60,000km service plan with 15,000km intervals.
To sum up, the fusion of instant torque, instant gear and hearty Jazz won me over quite quickly. Plus, I drove around for a week on half a tank so it wouldn’t take long for your hybrid purchase to make financial and environmental sense. Just add petrol and a Greenpeace sticker.
Road Wet/damp tarmac, level
Occupants Driver, no passengers
Fuel level 1/4