Honda Jazz — go hybrid or go standard?

The Honda Jazz Hybrid on the road. — Pictures courtesy of Honda MalaysiaThe Honda Jazz Hybrid on the road. — Pictures courtesy of Honda MalaysiaKUALA LUMPUR, Sept 11 — Now that Honda has introduced the Jazz Hybrid, the question in most potential buyer’s minds would be along the lines of which is more value for money. For the standard 1.5 litre Honda Jazz, there are three grades, the S, E and V grades, priced at RM72,500.00, RM78,540.00, and RM85,750.00 (On-the-road l price without insurance). The V grade is the highest spec of all, with half leather upholstery, leather steering wheel, six speakers, side curtain airbags and paddle shifts being the main upgrades, while the S or base grade makes do without many of the aforesaid list, plus many other items.

Throwing confusion to the whole line-up is the Jazz hybrid, prices at RM84,880.00, which is RM870 cheaper — in reality, if you do a full specification check, the Jazz hybrid is more of an E grade, but with cruise control, which is only available in the V grade. For some strange reason, only the hybrid has height adjustment for the driver’s seat.

However, the hybrid technology does add cost to the Jazz, and despite some relief from the Malaysian government as part of its effort to make Malaysia an EEV (Energy Efficient Vehicle) hub, there seems to be a premium — the question our potential buyers would ask then would be if it is worth it. Well, I have just come back from a long test drive that covered three whole days of driving, and here is my two cents worth, so please read on.

The main issue here is to compare the two and see which one comes out shining in the end — the truth is, there is no right or wrong, just what you prefer, or what motivates you.

A look at the interior of a Honda Jazz Hybrid.A look at the interior of a Honda Jazz Hybrid.

If you are one of those who dread the thought of replacing the hybrid system battery and are possibly a victim of horror stories spread by people who probably never owned a hybrid, you might immediately shut your mind to the Jazz hybrid and opt for the normal 1.5 litre 120PS engine. However, the good news is that the new Jazz hybrid system uses lithium-ion batteries that have a longer service life, and are more compact. Another piece of good news is that they are more affordable, the replacement cost being RM5,513, which covers the battery pack and labour costs. In fact Honda is so confident about it that it offers an 8-year warranty for the battery.

As far as Honda Malaysia is concerned, it has captured approximately 55 per cent of the hybrid market in Malaysia, and it intends to continue to grow this segment, and one of Honda’s strategies is to introduce hybrids that are highly fuel efficient, yet fun to drive. Another side strategy is to make available the most affordable Sports Hybrid in Malaysia.

Note the term ‘Sports Hybrid’ as opposed to just hybrid — the new Jazz and City hybrid (which we shall leave for a later session) share the same mechanicals and hybrid system. The Jazz body, being a hatchback is designed to appeal more to those who are out-door types having more active lifestyles. The versatility of the hatch allows for more versatility in stowage, while the famed ‘ultra seats’ at the rear allow for the rear seats to fold down, providing a really useful flat surface.

This 1.5 litre Honda Earth Dreams Engine uses the Atkinson Cycle.This 1.5 litre Honda Earth Dreams Engine uses the Atkinson Cycle.Just to bring everyone up to speed, as mentioned before in previous articles, the Honda hybrid system used in the Jazz and City hybrid is a quantum leap from the previous IMA system in the precious Jazz. The 1.5 litre engine uses the Atkinson cycle (which is more fuel efficient), and although it produces ten PS less than the regular Honda 1.5 litre i-VTEC, the total power when combined with the hybrid motor is 137 PS. Combined with a 7-speed ‘intelligent dual clutch drive’ (i-DCD), power delivery is crisp, and seamless.

The hybrid system always starts off in EV (electric vehicle) mode, and switching between engine and EV modes is fully automated, without any input from the driver — the ‘intelligent’ system decides the modes based on several parameters, such as battery charge condition, throttle position (which denotes the driver’s intent), gradient, load, etc, etc, and makes the call. In addition, the air-conditioner compressor is fully electrically driven, so even when your engine is on idle-stop at a traffic light or in a traffic jam, the air-conditioner remains cold — again, the system will turn on the engine if it senses that the battery is running low on power.

The combined value of the transmission, dual clutch arrangement and hybrid system more than makes up for the price difference between the E grade Jazz and the hybrid, but the real benefit is felt when you drive the car.

The additional power can be felt by the driver, that sensation of virtually no slip as you change up or down is something you only get from a dual clutch transmission — I recently drove two cars, exactly the same model, but one was equipped with a dual clutch while the other was equipped with an automatic transmission — believe me, it is two different worlds. As far back as 10 years ago, I already predicted that the dual clutch transmission would be the future, and true enough, we see major brands like Porsche, Audi, Volkswagen, Mercedes, Ford, and even Hyundai using dual clutch transmissions.

The next benefit from the hybrid system would be the extremely good fuel efficiency — I don’t think I need to go into details about how hybrids work, but we will let the results speak for themselves — the mooted fuel consumption is 4.0 litres per 100 kilometres for the Jazz hybrid — we did a little test run over 56 kilometres with the Jazz hybrid and the City hybrid in a test drive organised by Honda last week, and every car out of the ten units achieved better than the mooted average — granted that we were on a ‘competition of sorts, but we were getting results that varied from 3.125 litres per 100km to 3.8 litres per 100km. Given differing road and traffic conditions, and different driving styles, I would say that a sane driver, keeping roughly within the speed limits, would easily achieve 5 to 6 litres per 100 kilometres.

In terms of handling, there should be no difference between the hybrid and non-hybrid Jazz, but in passing I must mention that the Honda designers have put in quite a bit of work to develop the suspension, ride and handling, and the Jazz can be quite fun to drive.

In the area of safety, both variants are on par with each other, so there are no worries there. If anything, the V grade has side curtain airbags whilst the Jazz hybrid does not — remembering that we did mention earlier that the Jazz hybrid is more of an E spec+ car. However, Honda Malaysia does listen to its customers, and who knows, they may introduce the V spec Jazz hybrid later.

Versatile, fold flat seats in the Honda Jazz for extra space. — Picture courtesy of Honda MalaysiaVersatile, fold flat seats in the Honda Jazz for extra space. — Picture courtesy of Honda MalaysiaIn the area of maintenance, the cost of maintenance is the same for both the non-hybrid and hybrid — the engine oils, filters and other stuff is the same in both models. The hybrid battery pack and system is ‘maintenance’ free — Honda stated that the replacement rate for hybrid batteries for Honda models is as low as 0.103 per cent, and this is with the older system. With the new and improved system, the number has dropped lower than that.

All things said and done, would you take the Jazz hybrid or the normal Jazz? For about the same money, you can opt for the highest spec Jazz, or the hybrid. For me, it would be the Jazz hybrid, without hesitation. 

The Honda Jazz Hybrid on the road.The Honda Jazz Hybrid on the road.